The Trail Ahead and the Trail Behind Us

About 1/3 of a mile into a hike up a mountain, I had to stop and let the stitch in my side subside.  I took a drink of water and a few deep breaths, trying to hold the tears back as my husband and my 6 and 9 year old looked down at me about fifty feet up the trail.

My view for much of our hike

My view for much of our hike

“Why can’t I just do this?  I have been working towards this.  Why is it so dang hard?” I thought as I felt like my body made an acute angle with the ground.

I had read that the first mile of the trail is tough for even the fit folks.  It winds its way up the mountain through a forest of aspens and other trees that I can’t name.  At times, it felt like the trail was straight up.  My thighs were on fire and we were only at .38 miles.

How was I going to make it to the top?

One step at a time, apparently.

herman gulch1

As I trudged up the trail behind my kids, my husband stopped and gave my shoulder a squeeze.

“Take your time,” he said, “we have nowhere else to be.”

Easy for him to say.  My husband took up Brazilian Jiujitsu for fun.  He hadn’t even broken a sweat yet.

I glanced at the app that was tracking our mileage, speed, and elevation, and realized that I had already gone another half a mile.  I looked behind me, down the mountain (hill?  I am going with mountain) and could see the bottom of the trail.  I knew from my research that I only had another quarter mile of the uphill before it should level off a bit.

As I stood there and looked ahead, I saw meadows filled with the end-of-season wildflowers and a rushing creek.  I had read that this trail is sometimes nicknamed the 100 Wildflower Trail because there are over 100 species of wildflowers blooming at one time during the season’s peak.  My 6 year old got her Colorado wildflower book and we rested for a few minutes as she tried to name the different flowers.  We ate a quick snack and decided to press on.

herman gulch5

At the three mile mark, we spoke with someone that said we still had about half a mile to go and much of it was uphill.  My knees were aching, my back was throbbing and I was ready to give up.  Had my children wanted to press on, we would have continued but it was obvious the hike was wearing on them as well.

We found some shade and rested while my husband hiked the rest of the way to the lake, which was our endpoint.  While we sat there, my 9 year old turned to me and said that he was glad we were resting.

“You were really tired mom and so was I.  I am glad that we didn’t go all the way up because we still have to go all the way back.  Do you see how far we came?”

Oh, the wisdom of a child.

He was right.  As we sat at the top of a rock at the top of a mountain, we could look down and see how far we had come.

herman gulch3

As we sat, arm to arm, looking down the mountain, I remembered something my sister said to me a few weeks ago.  We were chatting on the phone and I told her we were going to try to go hiking that weekend.  She said that she would never have put that on the itinerary for me in all of my previous visits to her house and that she was so proud of me.

Before moving to Colorado, I was happy being sedentary and inactive.  If my sister had tried to get me to go on a hike, I would have laughed in her face.  My children and I spent our days indoors complaining about the heat and not moving around too much.

Since moving to Colorado, I have embraced our new outdoor lifestyle and have made the decision to get healthy.    I have been walking and swimming daily and at least once or twice a month on the weekends we try to ski or hike as a family, depending on which season we are in.

The weight isn’t necessarily coming off as quickly as I had wished it would, but I can tell that I am making a difference in the little things like my clothes fitting a bit looser, my ability to walk more than a few steps without getting winded, and the look in my children’s eyes when I tell them we are headed outside.

herman gulch2

The trail forward is still a long one and as I look up that mountain, I wonder if I am ever going to make it to the goals I have set for myself.  I want to give up sometimes but I need to remember the wisdom of my son.

I need to look behind me and remind myself of how far up the trail I have traveled.

For those interested, here is our hike in numbers:

5.73 – Total miles we hiked

1194 ft – Elevation Gain

10340 ft – Starting Elevation

11627 ft. – Max Elevation

5:06 – Time spent on the trail (we rested a lot)

2 – Knees that are aching today

4 – Family members that are pretty proud of ourselves


  1. 1

    Awesome! I too have set new goals for myself except here I am laying sedentary inside in Texas (visiting)… you’ve made me want to go out and swim which is really the only thing to do in this heat. Great observation to always look at how far you’ve come! Thanks for the inspiration 🙂

  2. 2

    Yay you! Don’t forget it’s harder that high up too. The oxygen deficiency and all that. You are doing awesome! And just look what you’re teaching your kiddos.