Longs Peak was my first attempt at a major summit. I remember my heart pounding as my wife, Cary, and I left the trailhead and trudged into the forest, our headlamps sending streams of bobbing light out in front of us.
I was in the best hiking shape of my life and I found myself charging ahead at a ridiculous pace until Cary reminded me to slow down and pace myself because it would be a long night.
Hiking one of the state's more famous mountains brought a sense of excitement, anticipation, fear, exhilaration and, ultimately, exhaustion. That's why we attempted it. When we stopped at the Keyhole, about 1,000 feet below the summit, and turned around we were disappointed. But it was always about the journey. And a decade later we still consider it one of our great adventures and most memorable hikes.
It's rare in life that I get to ride such a sensory roller coaster. And that's why I love to hike, bike, ski, raft and go four-wheeling in Colorado.
Each time I reach a mountain summit, I get a wave of satisfaction and a rush of achievement. I won't forget standing on the summit of my first fourteener, Mount Bierstadt, and peering over at Mount Evans.
Not a hiker? Take your mountain bike up a ski lift and ride down. I enjoy it almost as much as a winter run on skis.
Or try out your four-wheel-drive vehicle in the back roads around Aspen or Breckenridge or Telluride.
Cary and I have explored those areas extensively. We've made the treacherous drive up past Marble to the old Crystal Mill. It was a harrowing drive. So much so that Cary got out and walked part of the shelf road just beyond Lizard Lake. It didn't help that we saw the rusted carcass of a 40-year-old station wagon wrecked far below us.
But you don't have to scare yourself silly to enjoy the back roads. Go west from Buena Vista and take Cottonwood Pass over to Gunnison. While you are in the area, buzz up to Crested Butte and take the road over Kebler Pass for a great tour of wildflowers.
Then there is the joy of holding a paddle in your hand and furiously plowing river water to help your raft navigate rapids. We've done several raft trips on the Arkansas and we've run the Colorado through Glenwood Canyon.
First comes the anticipation as you see frothing white water and hear the roar as it churns through granite boulders the size of Volkswagens. For me, the fear hits when I hear the urgency in my guide's voice telling everyone to paddle hard toward the cold, wet chaos.
Suddenly, the boat drops into the abyss and you are drenched in ice cold snowmelt and sweating at the same time. Finally, the raft emerges from the mayhem and you rejoice as your muscles relax and your fingers uncoil from the paddle. But before you can dry off, the whole process starts again.
Whatever interests you, get out and revel in the beauty that surrounds us.