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771 Summer Stories
How Far is It?

trail leading to Ida

While visiting Rocky Mountain National Park last summer ('12) we planned a hike to Mount Ida. The summit sits on the Continental Divide over 4 miles from the Milner Pass Trailhead. After the long drive across the mountains on Trail Ridge Road we started the hike around 0730.

It was a great day and we made good time as we followed a relatively good trail across the alpine tundra to it's end. Continuing we hiked over a Class 2 boulder strewn slope as we scampered to the summit of Mount Ida. We were alone. After a brief break we started back toward the trailhead.

The trail was more crowded on the return trip. We spoke with several groups along the way. As a rule, we would stop and talk to anyone who seemed as if they wanted to talk. While still above treeline, but less than a couple of miles from the trailhead we spotted a young lone hiker. He wore a University of Tennessee hat. A teenager hiking alone in the mountains and wearing a U-T hat, well, that was enough for us to stop and talk to him.

We soon found out that he was not from Tennessee, but Florida. It was someone else's hat. He was not having fun either. His only question to us was asked rather abruptly, "how far is it?"

I immediately asked, "to where? Ida?"

He nodded his reply.

It is very hard to tell folks how far it is in relevant terms. Oh, you could say - two and a quarter miles to Ida, but I am not even sure if that was what he was asking. Reading his eyes, we saw that the trail was already harder than what he wanted.

Hiking alone is difficult. Even for seasoned veterans, it is usually easier to hike with a like minded hiker. The teenager had probably asked for recommendations for a good trail, read about the trail in a guidebook, or even just saw the trail at the trailhead. His parents had dropped him off and he was in the mountains alone. While hiking alone it is hard to keep things in prospective. Being inexperienced only compounds the issue. It helps for beginning hikers to have someone along to answer crazy questions - they'd never ask a stranger and to help keep each other challenged.

Clouds were building in the sky as we talked with the hiker and he did not look as if he was prepared to weather a storm. We could not encourage the hiker and did not want to discourage him either. We just told him that he was not half way yet and that the last slope was the hardest.

Leaving him, we soon left the trail and took a detour to see what it looked like on the other side of the mountain. On returning to the trailhead we saw some hikers we had seen on the trail and asked about the teenager. The hikers knew who we were talking about. They told us that they had spoken with him and he had returned safely to the trailhead.

Great. He had hiked in the mountains alone. He didn't get lost. He wasn't eaten by a bear or caught in a storm. He didn't injure himself. Of course he didn't make the summit of Ida, but he still probably had tales to tell of his adventure.

So how far is it?

When you are young, tired, inexperienced, and alone - "it" just needs to be someplace close, but not necessarily the summit.

Happy How Far is It trails

How Far is It? once before ...


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