Brent's take: Rocky Mountain Low? Exploring Colorado provides fulfillment below treeline, too
Perhaps my flatlander roots deserve the blame, but I find Colorado’s mountains breathtaking enough from perches well below treeline.
Within an hour or so of my home I can explore varied state parks like Cheyenne Mountain, Mueller and Castlewood Canyon. And, of course, there are other options like Ute Valley and Palmer parks and Section 16, Seven Bridges, Mount Herman and Garden of the Gods and on and on. Even my neighborhood, Wolf Ranch, has miles upon miles of wide, paved trails that fill our need for fresh air and views of Pikes Peak and have been a godsend during these past few cooped-in months.
Though I’ve lived in Colorado for 14 years, I never caught the itch to venture to elevations beyond the comfort zone established in my Kansas childhood. The reward, to me, didn’t make it worth the unpredictable and cold weather, high winds and all-around effort. I have major respect for people like my colleague, Chhun, who have long lists of 14ers to their credit, but I have no need to join them.
I’d feel differently, perhaps, if there was a shortage of other fulfilling ways to explore this state. I write this from vacation at Rocky Mountain National Park, where by foot and car we’ve seen so many breathtaking spots. My three elementary-school aged girls have always been troopers when it comes to joining my wife and I on long hikes. This spring and summer they’ve turned into nature photographers, capturing every unique flower, critter and landscape we encounter. They plan to put their work into photo books where they identify and showcase all they’ve found. It has been so much fun to watch them grow in knowledge and appreciation of this magnificent state.
Maybe someday we’ll trade hiking for climbing, but as long as there’s exercise, entertainment and wonder in it, I don’t see why we’d need anything more.
Chhun's take: Tackling the biggest, baddest adventures is the way to go, at least for now
Some say life is like a card game. If so, my wife and I have some very bad poker faces — judging by our happy social media posts of hiking trails, waterfalls and mountaintops.
We are not above the so-called easy hikes but we do jump on the chance to tackle the biggest, baddest adventures. We've conquered some of the tallest peaks in the Pikes Peak region. We have ventured to Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, California and New Mexico to, first and foremost, hike anything and everything. We've summited nearly 20 14ers together, often celebrating with a Colorado beer.
We've also spent hours on Colorado roads to check out non-14ers, like Hanging Lake near Glenwood Springs, Rattlesnake Canyon Arches near Grand Junction and the big "S" overlooking Salida.
We understand our lifestyle boasts some flexibility. (Translation: no children.) We often don't do much planning. We pick a destination based on a friend's suggestion, a Happy Trails article on gazette.com or an Instagram post. And within just a few hours, we wake up, pack our backpacks with a few treats and beers and hit the road.
It's as simple as that.
We want to start a family one day. So, maybe, it won't be that simple anymore. That's no disrespect to those with children. We don't think we're any better than anyone. Take, for example, this past weekend when we bumped into a family on a moderate, 5-mile roundtrip journey to an overlook above Silverthorne. They were sweet and friendly, and even offered to take a picture of us.
The dad walked up the mountain with his daughter on his back. But it was all smiles as the couple kept a close eye on their enthusiastic little girl who was walking along the edge.
The encounter made me think of a cliché saying: Life isn't determined by the cards you were dealt but how you play your hand.