It was time to take a rest day from climbing, so I scampered off to Rocky Mountain National Park to take advantage of leaf peeping opportunities. The Aspen are absolutely raucous right now, bathing everything in yellow. I arrived around 7:30, having mustered the grit to rise at 6:30 without anyone else prodding me. (This is a big deal.) My early arrival was worth the groggy start as I was lucky to enjoy birds singing sweet melodies and elk brawling with mournful cries. The sound of the elk echoed across the valley until the late-morning sun made submissive creatures of the massive beasts, retreating to shadier realms.
I have never enjoyed life at altitude, but having spent a month in Boulder and surrounding areas, I've acclimatized more than I realized. My first week in Colorado was a blur of headaches and breathy walks, but now I'm hiking without much ado at 10,000 feet. This is significant progress from the stroll I took along Boulder Creek just two weeks ago. Everybody was either running or biking along the trail, while I walked at a meager pace to match my thin skinned lungs. Notably, the only other people actually walking on the trail were homeless people dealing with various shades of mental illness. Damn the Boulder and the Beautiful! They have a way of making you feel sub-par, without actually trying.
I pieced together trails along the park probably tackling around 8 miles, and maintaining a burly pace to boot. That said, hiking without 15 lbs of climbing gear, a gallon of water, and camera equipment is rather tame compared to the scree slopes I have been scrambling of late. No wonder I'm eating 4 meals a day! (I just discovered that Whole Foods sells cookies by the pound. This has proven dangerous.)