My first backpacking trip was on The Lawn Lake trail in the Rocky Mountains, on my first visit to Colorado, July 2011.
Up till this point, I had about 1 year experience with hiking and camping. I was nervous about being in a new state, with much higher elevation. I had never ventured so far into the wilderness before, with my only supplies being carried on my back. I was terrified, but up for the challenge.
I made the typical first time packers mistake of over packing. I remember my first thought as I put my pack on, and took the first few steps on that trail “I can’t do this.”
Very positive, right?
At that moment though, I was so thankful I had marathon running experience under my belt. I reminded myself how many times I thought that exact thing during training runs and races, and somehow, just somehow, I always managed to get through it alive.
I continued on the trail and started getting used to my pack. Soon enough, the absolutely breathtaking views distracted me from my fear and the weight on my back.
The trail was just over 6 miles long, but all uphill. I remember getting to the edge of the lake, throwing off the beast of burden on my back, and laying on the shore, exhausted. I felt a tremendous sense of accomplishment.
We set up camp, and basked in the relaxing beauty around us.
The next day was another feat. We decided to hike up to the saddle way beyond our campground.
The trail kept ascending, higher, higher and higher. We were already pretty far up in elevation as it was, and the further we went, the more scared I became. I am pretty terrified of heights, and we were heading towards expanse above tree level.
Then there was my “best friend stream” crossing to contend with, a few times. Even to me, this looks small in the picture, but at that time, I remember being terrified to jump across, in order to reach the next part of the trail.
Yet, I did it!
There was a point where the trail begin to disappear in snow pack, yet we still pressed on, higher and higher. I kept telling myself not to look back, because I would get dizzy with fear from how far up we were.
Finally, we reached the saddle. I cannot begin to describe how amazing it was to be SO far removed from any type of civilization. There was nothing or no one around us for miles. We had ascended higher than were trees grew and entered tundra region. It was amazingly silent and beautiful.
And, of course, I had to spin around and sing, “the hills are aliiiiivvvveeeee” from The Sound of Music.
I don’t remember a trail scaring me as much, up until this point, but I was so glad I had pressed on. The marvel and awe I felt at the top was unparalleled, and could not be replicated without first hand experience.
We spent another glorious day relaxing at Lawn Lake, then hiked back out. The hike out was pretty easy. Our packs were much lighter since we had eaten most of the food we brought, and the way out was all down hill.
I felt incredibly accomplished that I, the big chicken, the girl who is terrified of heights, the person who had previously shied away from new experiences had taken the opportunity to be uncomfortable and scared, and put myself in an incredibly new situation.
I will always remember Lawn Lake fondly as my first backpacking trip. It was marvelous in it’s beauty and teachings.
Next up: The Grand Canyon