I fell in love with the mountains in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Our summer vacations consisted of camping, hiking, getting dirty in the woods — vacations I loved then but appreciate more now. As a middle school student, we visited Rocky Mountain National Park. That’s when I first felt the mountains’ pull.
It’s no secret I’m definitely more of a mountain and forest girl than a water lover. Give me a hiking trail leading into the woods over the beach any day of the week.
What is the allure of the mountains? We are not in control; there’s something bigger in the world than we are. Weather is unpredictable; something may be hiding beyond the next bend. Nature challenges, and it embraces. The path weaving through the trees leads somewhere — but where?
As the years have gone by, I’ve traveled throughout most of the United States. In fact, there are only four states I haven’t visited. But I had never been back to Rocky Mountain National Park, despite passing through Colorado numerous times.
This summer, I finally revisited the place that solidified my love for the mountains.
I guess it goes without saying the things we picture as memories change shape over the years. I remembered the Rockies as looking like the single printed photograph I had in my bedroom growing up. With tall pine trees and hazy mountain peaks in the background, I suppose it could have been any mountainous destination. But this was the one photo I chose to print after our summer trip, and it’s the image that always stuck with me.
Certainly, the national park has both pine trees and mountains, but standing among them felt like an extension of my body. The air, clean and fresh. Dirt soft beneath my tennis shoes. Two-lane winding roads led throughout the eastern part of the park, but we rode the bus to a trail head and just started walking. We saw people, then turned down a much quieter trail, which led us deep into the woods.
I don’t even know where we were — not really. We didn’t dwell on picking the perfect hiking trail or the one with the picturesque viewpoint. We just started walking.
Sometimes Cory and I talk about where we’ll retire when our expatriate adventures come to an end. Those conversations often include a place of solitude and serenity, with lots of trees and hiking trails and mountains acting as the perfect backdrop for a sunset. I want to sit on a porch with a cup of coffee and a book, surrounded by nothing other than the smell of earth and bird songs.
Walking along our chosen trail, we were silent. In these moments, I often don’t think about anything at all. I just let the moments happen. But I also sometimes think about how, 30 years from now, I hope we can slip out our back door and just start walking like this. No words necessary.
We found a lake at lunchtime and had just pulled sandwiches from our day packs when it started to rain. It rained and rained, and we walked on, faster than before, but we’d already lost the battle with Mother Nature.
What can you do but laugh? And enjoy the moment? And appreciate being here, in this incredible place, with the person you love? The person who, someday, will share that little getaway in the woods with you.
I’ve never forgotten Rocky Mountain National Park. It’s always been lodged in my memory. As a child, it was a place of new possibilities and opportunity, a horizon I never even knew existed. Returning this past summer rekindled the desire to keep walking a path deep into the unknown, where something unexpected hides behind every corner.