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Colorado: in search of Big Agnes

Recipe for a nearly perfect day:
  1. Start the day off with delicious bagels AND coffee from Colorado Bagel Company.
  2. Set out for an adventure through remote, quiet lands.
  3. Find a (not-so-) secret and beautiful public wilderness.
  4. Hike with your family to a pristine lake bounded by a rocky cirque and a criss-crossy pass.
  5. Barely make it off the summit before an immense but short lightning, wind and hail storm.
  6. See a bear from afar.
  7. End up dry before arriving back at the car.
  8. Lazily enjoy a craft brew.
  9. Jump in the pool and then the hot tub.
  10. Meet random friends for adult conversation and play (kids and adults, of course!)
That was our hike to Gilpin Lake on the Sunday of Labor Day Weekend 2016.  Near perfection! 

I tried not to cry for summer-almost-gone. Instead, we basked in the fall foliage: red, orange and green with a sprinkling of golden aspen leaves on the trail.

The Gilpin Lake trail forks left at about a quarter mile from the trailhead parking lot.

We set out in search of Big Agnes Peak and we saw her from afar along with ridges, ranges and passes, flowers, creeks, trees with golden leaves, giant rocks and...did I mention a bear?

I chickened out and didn't take a picture of the bear.

Clouds raced across the sky, changing light and color. 

  We arrived at Gilpin Lake after about 3.5 miles, multiple stream crossings and...the bear.  The sky was bright blue. We stopped for a snack and enjoyed the sunshine while innocent, puffy white clouds turned black, flat, threatening and started falling out of the sky. We hustled back down the mountain, hoping to dodge the worst of the storm. 

No, we were not able to dodge the storm but thankfully, we were low in the canyon when the worst of the storm passed.  Our gratitude goes out to a few gracious trees for "shelter" from pelting rain and hail.  I tried to count the time between lighting and thunder; a futile effort as several strikes hit the slope just above us. Of course bad mommy thoughts abounded as we crouched and ran as fast as our feet would carry us (really) through hail, away from the lighting, on the trail-turned-stream.   

What doesn't kill you makes you stronger?  All in all, the rain lasted about 15 minutes, the lighting about 10 minutes, and the hail about 5 minutes. The storm left behind hail-capped peaks, steamy rocks and angry red marks on my legs.  The kids were so thrilled to have another story to tell.  I'm still wondering if we should have, or could have, done it more safely.

And sunny, blue sky stayed with us for the rest of the day.  Well-deserved beer, pool, friends and play: here we come!  Happy Sunday of Labor Day Weekend 2016!