On the Trail: On the up and up (and up) | AspenTimes.com

On the Trail: On the up and up (and up)

Charles AgarAspen, CO Colorado

BUENA VISTA Morning light brightened the walls of the tent.I heard my friend Keith slide his van door open and rattle pots, then the pop of a Coleman stove lighting up.After a cup of hot water and bitter flavor crystals and a short drive, we were trudging toward Mount Yale in the Collegiate Range near Buena Vista.I found a good stride early, pacing and observing my breathing.Somebody pointed out to me recently that if all you can hear is your heartbeat and your pulse throbbing in your head, you’re going too fast. And I’ve slowed down on recent hikes and bike rides and notice I feel a lot better and see more, take time to (cliché alert) stop and smell the flowers, worthwhile when crossing Yale’s broad fields of red paintbrushes and brilliant blue columbines.We followed a steep, cascading brook through tall pines, and breaking through the tree line we faced miles of switchbacks dotted with hikers leading up to the steep, rocky peak.And like that it-doesn’t-get-any-better-than-this beer commercial, I just couldn’t picture a better scenario: sun at my back, a cool wind, a Camelbak full of water, plenty of layers, power in my legs and a head full of songs, memories and ideas to entertain me for the day.Keith’s dog, Sol, was a little confused and upset by the whole business, and I think the sharp rocks near the peak hurt her feet, but she still smiled her unique little grin. (I’ve never known a dog smile like Sol.)Inch by inch we moved up the face, and before I knew it I was eating the Johnny McGuire’s sandwich I brought (the “Buddha,” made with turkey, Swiss cheese, sprouts and sunflower seeds) and surveying a sea of high peaks under a bright, bluebird sky.The hike down made me wonder if I have enough cartilage in my knees to do the other 50 fourteeners on my list, but if these mountains are teaching me anything, it’s to just pace myself.