On the Trail: Retracing steps
August 9, 2005
I typically fall prey to a certain “been there, done that” attitude about local trails. With some exceptions, I’d rather explore a trail I’ve never seen before than find myself trudging in my own footsteps.The exceptions are the trails within walking or biking distance, including Hunter Creek, Sunnyside and the Ute Trail. They’re the sort of trails we’ve all been on so many times that instead of admiring the view, the creek, the climb, you can just keep your head down and feel your heart rate rising.Anything else, and I have a nagging feeling that a trail will never seem as perfect as it did the first time I set foot on it. There’s no substitute for the first time on a trail – even if the weather is lousy – when you reach your destination and lay eyes on the lake, the view or the summit you’ve heard so much about.I’ve changed my ways this summer, and all because of the wildflowers. I’ve walked on trails multiple times this summer at a speed normally reserved for people like my mother who stop every few yards to blurt out a plant name and explain how much or little success she’s had with it in her garden.Even on my favorite standard trails, I find myself looking just off the beaten path to gaze at groupings of white and blue columbines, bright red Indian paintbrush and bushes of pink wild roses, occasionally bending over and breathing in deeply just for effect.Last weekend I found myself on the trail to Conundrum hot springs – my second time on the trail. I planned simply to walk until I could soak. Instead, at the crest of a steep hill in a lush Aspen grove, I paused to catch my breath while gazing at a crop of penstemon, rising just above the undergrowth. From the trail, the bright flowers looked like a purple cloud floating above bright greens between graceful white Aspen trunks.I had rediscovered the trail, it seemed, and I’d go there again in a heartbeat.