Dogs and old men on a Colorado trail

Red Dog Smith and I ventured out of the office late this morning for a walk down to the river. Mrs. Smith was out hiking with some friends after ignoring my sage advice to always have a pocket knife when hiking. Who doesn’t carry a pocket knife into the wild?

Red Dog on a Colorado trail.
Red Dog on a Colorado trail

Anyhow, the river isn’t far, and we got all the short way there without seeing another human being or another canine. We decided we are OK with having a trail completely to ourselves now and then.

On the way back, it got busy. We saw a total of three human beings – one walking his black Lab, two others going different directions on their bicycles.

To be more specific, we saw three elderly guys. All three had what some would call white hair, but I prefer to characterize as silver.

Sensing a pattern here?

Seeing three people in half an hour or so is what passes for busy in our rocky little chunk of Mesa County.

We also saw:

Two quick-footed lizards.

Butterflies.

Contrails criss-crossing the clear blue sky.

An enormous flat-topped mountain to the east of us.

On the way back, almost at the front door, I realized I have become some guy who writes about his lunch break now and then. I am OK with that. Red doesn’t seem to care.

Mesa County morning

Marsh in the foreground with cliffs and bluffs in the distance, looking south from the Colorado Riverfront trail. The river is beyond the marsh, at the foot of the cliffs.
Mesa County morning

If you had been out for a walk this morning before breakfast with me and Red Dog, we would have shown you this spot. It’s hard to capture with a smartphone, or with any other sort of camera for that matter, at least for this amateur photographer.

The cliffs above the Colorado River were mostly gray for the first few images I grabbed. I sorted through them for a few minutes as I sat on a bench and Red waited patiently. When I looked up, the sun had broken through some clouds to our left. I shot a few more.

We walked home, thinking about the people we will take to this place on the Colorado Riverfront Trail in just a few weeks. I’m not sure Red understands, but he seems happy enough with the idea. He wagged that tail he is so proud to show off.

Couldn’t get much higher: Top of the Rockies

Mt. Elbert 2
Mt. Elbert 2 (Photo credit: thefrazh)

Update: We reached the summit about 15 minutes after this was posted. Not a bad guess, since it was written a couple of days ago and scheduled to hit the blog at 11:59 a.m. Aug. 17. Mrs. Smith actually got to the top first and we had a nice little party when the rest of us caught up with her. Perfect weather. It was indeed strenuous, both ways. My feet did hurt (still do) and I did not whine. No more than was appropriate, anyway.

* * *

Assuming that the weather has cooperated and everything else has gone well, Mrs. Smith and I are now at or near the summit of the highest mountain in the Rockies, Mt. Elbert, at 14,443 14,440 feet above sea level.

Daughter Sarah and her boyfriend, Patrick, are with us, or probably up ahead somewhere. We are celebrating Sarah’s birthday (yesterday) and mine (today). This hike was Sarah’s idea. By now I have probably decided that it was a good one.

This is not mountain climbing. It is what is described as a “strenuous” hike on some web pages and “easy” on others: 4.5 miles one way with an elevation gain of 4,500+ feet. Thin air.

Seeing as how we have to go both ways rather than just one, I’m going with “strenuous.”

My feet hurt, but I am not whining.

To answer some typical birthday questions:

  • No, I actually feel younger than I have in 20 years, maybe more.
  • You already know how old I am: over 40.
  • I’m pleased to be here, and more than a little surprised.
  • What am I going to do on my birthday? I just did it.

Pedal on.

Or hike on, if that’s how you roll.