On the Trail: The third time’s always a charm | AspenTimes.com

On the Trail: The third time’s always a charm

Paul Conrad

The one goal this summer I wanted to secure was to finish a hike to Cathedral Lake. Sunday would be my day.After inclement weather thwarted two earlier attempts, I decided to hit the trail and make another go. A wonderful delight was waiting for me, both on the trail and at its terminus.About 10 or so hunters were checking out the area at the trailhead, and I noticed some hikers outfitting themselves and their dogs with orange ties or ribbons. I hoped I wouldn’t be mistaken for an eight-point buck and become a hunter’s trophy piece.Loaded with water, lunch and my camera gear, I hit the trail. The first half-mile or so passed through lush aspen and pine – typical summer forest in these parts. But the green aspen slowly changed to those with leaves fringed with gold. It felt as if time was speeding and the mountain was morphing from summer to fall.Then around a corner the trail was shrouded in the golden rays of the sun filtering through the backlit amber trees. A tunnel created by aspen, dressed in their autumn finery, lined the trail. An entrance to a great cathedral.Soon my goal was near. One last obstacle – the last set of switchbacks up a steep chute – and then the sailing would be smooth. But just then a dark, ominous cloud rolled overhead. The sky darkened and memories of past failures clouded my joy. How metaphorical, I thought.But I was not stopping there. Soon my second wind kicked in, brushing away the dark clouds of doubt.And there it was: Cathedral Lake. A brilliant turquoise blue shimmering in the high-altitude sun surrounded by steep ridgelines, scree fields and spires. Simply beautiful. After several moments of observing the silence, I sat to eat lunch. The silence was deafening, broken only by a fish splashing out of the water, a stone rolling down the steep hillside, chirping birds and wind.Just what I wanted, and just what I needed. Scratch one quest off my “to do” list.

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