Eager to attempt Estes Cone as the final hike of our family vacation in Colorado, we headed out early in the morning. The trailhead at the parking lot offered a deceptively easy entry into the day ahead. Our path began by gently climbing, winding its way until we came and crossed a rushing mountain stream. On the other side, the sky opened and we were were welcomed into a beautiful meadow.
We sat together under the lone tree growing in the middle of this flowering field cupped and cradled by the surrounding mountains. We steeped in the beauty of it all taking a pause before the challenge still ahead. The guidebook had warned: Estes Cone Strenuous Trail.
The path continued cutting across the field where it entered, once again, a dense set of woods. This time, we gained elevation quickly as if the trail warned the weak-willed, there was no time to wander. I was tired, taking step after step, ever upward, up and up and up.
Along the way, the path seemed to invite one to pause a bit when it swung wide, close to the edge of the mountain. I found it encouraging, and I imagine, others choosing to take this path, welcomed this pause as well. It offered perspective as to where we were along the trail and in this world. Each grand glimpse of the Rockies, more stunning than the last, encouraged us to climb even higher.
Our path eventually disappeared completely, leaving us to make our own way to scramble and crawl up steep hills of stone. The thinning air made it difficult to breathe and I needed to rest every 15 feet or so, simply to catch my breath, and courage, to continue. I was exhausted.
At last, the trees thinned at the mountain’s crest. We helped each other up to sit on a set of boulders, our monuments to mark the moment, to rest and recognize our accomplishment. We look out, down at mountain ranges sprawled in every direction, enjoying the splendor, beauty and undeniable feeling of fulfillment. We had made it to the top. I was elated.
After descending, still exhilarated at what we had just witnessed and accomplished, I paused in the parking lot and looked up at Estes Cone, so far, so grand, so seemingly unattainable. In that pause, I recognized the strength in simply taking one step at a time.