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596 Summer Stories
Not Even a Mile?

Roaring Fork ravine

In late July of '11 we went on a backcountry trip to the Mount Ypsilon area of Rocky Mountain National Park. Leaving the Lawn Lake Trailhead, the trail climbs steady for over 500 feet in just a mile's distance to reach a point over the Roaring River's ravine. The course is sure to get any flatlanders heart pumping.

After spending a couple of days in the Mount Ypsilon area we had to return. That morning we spent some time playing around the Spectacle Lakes and then returned to camp. We packed our tent and began the hike out. After three miles of mostly downhill hiking, we crossed the Roaring River.

With only had an easy mile and a half to go to the trailhead we speeded downhill. After a half of mile of a gentle grade, the trail leaves the river and descends steeply first across a long traverse and then through a series of switchbacks.

As we continued across the descending traverse, we felt good. Of course we were not without our pains; but overall everything was good.

Down the trail a good distance ahead of us, we saw a group of four resting alongside the trail. As we approached, they started walking again.

Three members of the group were doing fine; but one was having trouble. They were dressed as tourists, not hikers.

They kindly stopped to let us pass as we neared them. We stopped and started up a conversation. It was clear that the one hiker was having trouble breathing. We wanted to make sure that it was nothing more than altitude or fitness related difficulties.

The foursome were from central Illinois. The one who was having trouble was a farmer. He was a large, strong, man that looked as if he had spent his life in the fields.

I immediately asked, "did he raise corn?" My mother-in-law has always said that the best corn was grown in Illinois.

Panting, he said, no, he grew soy beans.

He then looked at the trail ahead and asked how much further it was to the lookout.

We did not really know that there was a lookout, but in a brief conversation we guessed they were talking about a viewing point of the Roaring River's steep ravine.

Whipping out my GPS, much like a gun slinger, I told him that he had been seven-tenths of a mile from the trailhead and they had three-tenths of a mile to go to the river.

My answer almost brought tears to his eyes as he asked sincerely, "you mean, I haven't even walked a mile yet?"

We laughed with the group and joked around about the effects of the altitude on us flatlanders.

They were still gong up when we left them. Hopefully, they reached their destination.

The effects of altitude are different to everyone; however, a flatlander with little aerobic fitness will almost always have trouble in the mountains for the first mile and beyond.

Happy Not Even a Mile Yet trails


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