I remarked as my adventure buddy James and I embarked for a glorious day hike in Rocky Mountain National Park.
I said “stupid” because my windshield wipers were defective and we were driving into the unpredictable Colorado wilderness.
Windshield wipers are one of those modern day luxuries you take for granted. If it’s raining you simply flick a switch and it’s a non-issue.
However, the value of windshield wipers was a lesson that I apparently needed to learn the hard way.
Our lack of wipers was not a problem for us heading into the park, as we drove up unimpeded to the trail head on an overcast May afternoon. The tourist craze hadn’t fully saturated the Park yet, so there was ample free space to park, and most importantly, romp around.
After we parked in what seemed to be a preposterously big parking lot at Bear Lake Trailhead, we asked an elderly Park Ranger what path would take us most quickly up to the top of Hallett Peak, one of the more picturesque and iconic peaks in the entire Park.
The Ranger looked at us skeptically and asked, “You’re going to the top of Hallett Peak?!”
James absorbed the Ranger’s ominous vibrations with the confidence of an experienced mountaineer and responded "As a matter of fact, yes, where should we go?”
This Ranger was certainly not trying her best to make us feel at ease for this snowy, cloudy summit hike. She said, I don’t know if that’s a smart idea with the conditions the way that they are.”
We are experienced hikers and we understood the risks and trials associated with this ascent. We politely bid her adieu and headed out for the main Bear Lake trail full of energy after wholesome breakfast burritos.
We anticipated a lot of post-holing on the hike, but turned out to be pleasantly surprised when we realized most of the snow was tightly packed and suitable for hiking. We didn’t wear spikes or crampons and we didn’t have to employ trekking poles.
We made it to the top of Hallett Peak in a couple hours, passing only 10 or so fellow hikers on the way to the top. At the summit I was granted some of the more epic mountain vistas I had ever had the pleasure of experiencing.
The majestic Long’s Peak was a prominent feature of our view. It’s the largest peak visible from Denver on a clear day. It, along with Pike’s Peak, is the quintessential front-range Rocky peak.
The drive back is where the adventure truly began in some ways. Like I said earlier, I had dysfunctional wiper blades and the Rockies are infamous for their afternoon flash storms.
Storm clouds were gathering on our descent, as it became clearer by the moment that we might actually be stranded in the Park for a while.
Rain started to patter down on my Saab and I, white knuckles and all, noted to James that we might have to lay low in Estes Park for an extended time. Rain lead to more rain, which lead to slushy sleet, the devilish combination of rain and snow. We ended up parking in Estes Park for about an hour and waited out the worst of the conditions
I booked it up the highway like a banshee out of hell trying to make it home avoid further wet danger. Eventually we made it home, but not before we made memories that would last a lifetime and experienced another Prime Adventure in the Front Range of Colorado.