On the trail: A quiet Cathedral Lake
October 4, 2010
ASPEN – Solitude at Cathedral Lake south of Aspen last Friday should have been as hard to come by as a parking space in town was later that evening, but my solo outing to the lake, and Electric Pass beyond it, was blissfully quiet.
It all started on Thursday, when my Camelbak triggered a change of plans. The hose pulled away from the water bladder, I discovered at the trailhead. I had a soaked car seat, a soaked packful of contents and no water. Just as I was leaving to go do something else, an SUV pulled up and a bunch of chatty hikers spilled out. I was happy to save the hike for another day when I might be alone.
A day later, my hydration system intact, I pulled up to an empty parking lot and enjoyed the three-mile hike to the lake without another soul in sight. I lingered at the water’s edge, peering into the emerald depths and listening to the breeze rattle the amber grass and what was left of the leaves in the willows along the bank. Then the breeze grew still and I heard it: nothing. No sound whatsoever.
It’s moments like these when I try to cease the stream of scattered thoughts coursing through my brain. It’s not easy. Whenever I try to meditate, I wind up chanting in my head – quit thinking, quit thinking – or something like that. I think about how I shouldn’t be thinking.
Since I was there, and it was there, I huffed and puffed my way up to Electric Pass, as well, extending the hike to 11 miles, round-trip. The lake is at 11,880 feet (the trailhead is at 9,915 feet), and the pass is at 13,500 feet. I could feel the altitude as I trudged up the long series of switchbacks toward the ridge, apparently named for lightning strikes, though only the blue sky could be described as electric on Friday.
In the thin air, it happened. I quit thinking. About anything. It was as though my oxygen-starved brain couldn’t waste any energy on useless musings.
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