Lucy's new nickname originated during a hike we planned to take during the early morning hours of our final day. We rose bright and early before the sunrise so that we could head out to the mountains and hike to the summit before the it became too hot for our pale, delicate skin. I wish I was referring simply to Lucy's sensitive epidermis, but alas Paul and I are more pale than both our girls. Our skin practically spontaneously combusts in the presence of direct sunlight.
Paul had selected a rustic hike that he found on some hiking blog. The trailhead, which we found by using GPS coordinates, was not clearly marked and little more than a tiny opening through a very dense, wooded forest. Once we entered the forests and began our climb upwards along the narrow trail, I was surprised by how incredibly dark it was. The tall pine trees shielded most of the sun, giving our surroundings an eerie twilight feel. On top of this, the forest was so quiet. There was not a sound other than the crunch of the pebbles and pine brush beneath our feet. The further we ventured up our trail, the more creeped out I started to feel. It was not just the darkness, nor the quiet, nor the fact that Paul and I had been pretty silent the entire time. I sincerely felt like we were being watched, stalked, followed.....by something. I kept looking over my shoulder, back over the trail we had just covered, half expecting to see an animal following close behind. I mentioned my fear to Paul and he laughed at me, saying that we should just keep chatting so as to not surprise a bear should there be one up ahead of us. We continued onward, nervously clapping, chatting, and singing. But, eventually, we both grew quiet and began listening for sounds. At several points, Paul, who was leading the way, stopped dead in his tracks to listen carefully for some "weird noises" that disturbed him.
I continued to feel watchful, piercing eyes upon me, my husband, and baby. It wasn't a bear that I was afraid of. I had the feeling that a cougar was stalking us. I shared my feelings with Paul and he gulped. He was nervous too. Somehow, seeing Paul nervous made things monumentally worse. Paul was always so confident and unafraid, making my fears seem silly and ridiculous. But now that he was sharing a bit of my terror, I suddenly began to panic. I didn't want to head back, we were about halfway to the summit and the forest was finally starting to see light once more as the trees became smaller as we approached the higher altitude. So, we continued onward while silently praying the rosary under our breath.
At this point, Lucy, who had been peacefully sleeping in her front-pack, began to stir. Paul, who was carrying her, began to bounce her while whispering, "Oh no...please stay asleep Lucy! We don't need your cries to attract the animals!"
"What do you mean...attract the animals?!?" I asked with fear.
"Oh sometimes if wild animals hear sounds they are unfamiliar with, like baby cries, it piques their curiosity and could potentially cause them to venture out to see what it is. Baby cries are terrific bear bait."
And from there...we began calling Lucy "little bear bait." Whenever she began to stir, we'd say "quiet down there little bear bait!"
When we broke out of the tree canopy and were out in the full sunlight once more for the final ascent to the summit, our moods improved drastically and we were no longer afraid. We actually relaxed completely and I spent quite a bit of time collecting beautiful pieces of granite, pyrite, and quartz for Matthew's rock collection. We eventually made it to the rock pile at the very top of the mountain and took in the stunning views. Simply beautiful. I took many, many pictures while nervously making sure to hold on extra tight to my camera for fear that it would slip from my fingers and smash on the boulders below.
We spent quite a bit of time enjoying the summit, but then agreed that it was time to head back down. The way down was not nearly as frightening as the way up. We encountered another group of hikers on our way down and it was also not quite as dark as it was when we began our hike. When we returned to the car and drove back into an area with cell reception, I looked up the area we had just hiked to see if it was an area commonly occupied by mountain lions. I was still convinced that something had been watching us. Sometimes you just know! My search revealed that the particular area of our hike was an area known for cougar sightings. In fact, over the past ten years there had been a few cougar attacks right in that same area. Not too many encounters at all, but it was still enough to make the skin on the back of my neck crawl. Obviously, we lived to tell the tale, even while carrying 14-pounds of bear bait.
After our hike, we picked up a few souvenirs for the kids, enjoyed a picnic in a park in downtown Boulder, and enjoyed a sushi dinner. We were pretty burnt out at this point and just wanted to relax. We ended up going to bed super early because we had an early morning flight to catch. Although we were sad for our vacation together to end, we were eager to get back and see our other two kids. It's amazing how you look forward to spending time alone without the children but then experience an intense longing to see them within less than 24 hours of being apart.
I don't think they even noticed we were gone. They were too busy having fun with "Indiana Grandma" and their many, many little aunts and uncles. They even camped out in the backyard one night. My two kids stayed in the tent all night long while one by one all their aunts and uncles went inside to seek the comfort of a mattress. By the end of the night, only Matthew, Emma, and Grandpa remained outside the whole night. Poor Dad was pretty darn tired and sore the next day, but his resilience and determination to chaperone the backyard camp did not go unnoticed by Matthew and Emma who have spoken of the event often!
|"Indiana Grandma" and Aunt Susanna with Matthew, Emma, and Lucy.|
|Uncle Bruce in an earnest moment with his nephew Matthew.|
If you are thinking of visiting Denver, I highly recommend it because it is a city that truly has something for everyone: arts, culture, hiking, biking, shopping, and pretty much every restaurant you can think of! However, if you are not used to bigger cities and hail from the modest Midwest like moi, be prepared to spend a lot of time in the car while getting from point A to point B. That was the one thing that really disappointed me because I felt like we spent quite a few hours in the car just driving. As someone who experiences car sickness readily, that was not too pleasant. However, the sights and those beautiful, gorgeous mountains make the trip well worth it!