One of my summer goals is climbing some (one at least?) fourteeners here in Colorado. My schedule is hectic but today was free, so I decided to practice with Mt. Audubon, a 13,233 peak only about an hour’s drive from our home in Boulder. The day was picture perfect, clear at sunrise and about 65 degrees at the Beaver Creek/Mt. Audubon Trailhead in Indian Peaks Wilderness Area (trailhead: 10,524’). I was alone but the trail is well traveled, so I was only anxious (the first big sign was a dire warning to beware of mountain lions) until I saw a few other hikers ahead of me.
The trail was described as easy, but with almost 2500’ elevation gain in four miles, it was slightly misleading. The tips of the pine and fir trees were newly green to match the lush ground cover. The welcome canopy slowly widened to a trail covered with roots and rocks that hugged the edge of the mountains, with almost 360-degree views depending on my position on the trail. The wildflowers were still in abundance: lupine, paintbrush, tiny bachelor buttons, yellow buttercups, clover and so many others. At the turn-off to Beaver Creek Trail, I was above tree-line, the mountain meadows alternating with granite boulders, then wide-open fields of rock.
The ascent didn’t seem difficult, breathing steady, legs (even those old hamstrings and left knee) strong, panoramas galore. And then I was bombarded with the exquisite summit with views of the Rocky Mountains peaks still lined with snow in the distance. The trail up the hardscrabble was marked in places with cairns, but people were scrambling every which way. I so wanted to summit but at the false one I chose the better part of valor to save my knees for the descent and turned around. (I know if one of my sons had been hiking with me, he’d coaxed me to the top and guided me back down.) Ultimately a smart choice: my watch says I made it to 12,844’…guess okay for a Friday in July.
The icing on the cake: four HUGE moose were munching the still fragrant grasses at the edge of the road just outside the wilderness area.