Adventures Colorado life mountains United States

Frozen Pines

By on September 21, 2017

Have you ever felt the irresistible to just get outside. To feel the air burning in your lungs and the muscles in your legs quivering from effort? That’s a feeling I’ve missed the past five months. Just like any addiction (yes healthy things can be addictions), just one taste of that feeling during the Pikes Peak Challenge had me yearning for more. After a week of flip-flopping on what we were going to do – I voted for Black Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, Jason voted for something that didn’t involve paying $80 for a National Parks Pass – we finally came to a decision late Friday night. We were going to head up to Brainard Lakes Recreation Area in Indian Peaks Wilderness to visit Crater Lake on the west side of the Continental Divide. 

Deep into the night with the moonlight as my guide
I go wander through the pines and make my way to nature’s shrines
and I look up to the sky and I know you’re still alive,
but I wonder where you are I call your name into the dark.

When I woke up to walk Moose, it was COLD and the sky was covered with clouds. I quickly checked the weather again to confirm that it still said “decreasing clouds” in Indian Peaks, and threw my rain pants in my pack just to be safe. On the drive up through Lefthand Canyon, the sun rose but didn’t improve the weather situation. As we neared the top of the canyon, it started pouring rain and Jason and I just looked at each other with “well this will be an adventure” look on our faces. After paying our $11 to enter the recreation area (it’s free if you have a National Parks Pass), the rain turned into snow and soon we were in a winter wonderland. There were lots of other crazy people up there and we had to park at the Mitchell Lake trailhead, a mile away from the Long Lake trailhead that we wanted. As we walked towards the correct trailhead, the snow slowly stopped and we found ourselves walking through a perfectly silent forest.

I wake up in the morning and I don’t know where I’ve been.
All alone on a mountainside, and huddled in the wind.
And it feels like I’ve been away for an era but nothing has changed at all.
And it feels like I was with you, but what did we do and where have you gone?

As we climbed higher, we were treated to a rare clash of seasons. The mountainsides were covered with bright yellow wildflowers blanketed in pure white snow. I missed most of the wildflowers this season and this brief glimpse was just what my soul needed. The sun mostly hid behind the thick layer of clouds, but occasionally graced us with moments of brilliant light. My lungs didn’t mind the cold bite in the air and my legs were relishing with the strain and burn of the steep uphill climb.

On the night you disappeared, I wish I had seen it clear.
But a strange light in the sky was shining right into my eyes.
There was no one else in sight, just the endless frozen pines.
but I wonder all they know ’cause they don’t die and they don’t grow.

As we climbed still higher, the wind picked up to a ferocious intensity. At times we had to stop and crouch low to the ground to avoid being blown off the trail. Many people turned back with the wind, but we kept pushing higher. We were hopeful that the weather would improve on the other side of the divide and we wouldn’t know until we made it to the top of Pawnee Pass. I will admit that I was very doubtful that it would improve. It seemed like the top of the pass was shrouded in a snow cloud and the sky was dark to the west.

I am ready to follow you even though I don’t know where.
I will wait in the night until you decide to take me there.
Cause I know I don’t wanna stay here forever, it’s time to be moving on.
I don’t wanna be the only one livin’ when all of my friends are gone.

Near the top of the pass the wind stopped us in our tracks. The clouds were quickly blowing in and out and Jason wanted a picture of the valley below us. In the brief moments it took for the clouds to clear, the wind stripped us of any body heat we had accumulated on the climb. All it took was one glance at each other and we decided to abandon our plans and head back down the east side of the pass.

I will be waiting for you on the other side of the frozen pines.
I’m gonna find a way through there’s another life beyond the line.
I will be waiting for you on the other side of the frozen pines.
I’m gonna find a way through there’s another life beyond the line.

By the time we made it back to the trailhead, the weather had improved significantly. We had stripped off most of our layers and were hiking in t-shirts. We briefly regretted turning around but that regret quickly disappeared when we looked towards Pawnee Pass and found it still obscured by thick snow clouds. Crater Lake (and the famous Long Eagle Peak) would have to wait for another day. At least I was able to get my mountain fix!

Also if you enjoyed the lyrics interspersed with this blog post, check out the music video below. Jason and I have been fans of Lord Huron for a long time (we listed to the Lonesome Dreams album on repeat during our Great Western Roadtrip) and were lucky enough to see them in concert in Beaver Creek back in July.