It is 1:00am with some torrential downpour happening outside our car; through the flashes of light from the lightening, we see the first signs of the Rocky Mountains. I'm not fond of driving in the rain, especially when the streets lack appropriate lighting and sharp turns approach without forewarning; both of us were fairly anxious. Signs passed us by every few minutes with an elevation increase, warnings about avalanches, falling rocks and animal crossings. What is going on out there? Is there snow? How big are these falling rocks exactly? It was pitch black but we can tell that a steep mountainous range was on either side of us. This unfamiliar landscape was eerie and we simply wanted to get to our airbnb home safely; and we eventually did.
Waking up in the morning and going outside was eye-opening. What were we so scared of last night? This place is absolutely beautiful! Sheets of trees greeted us from the mountain range, dry warm heat wrapped us up wholly and the wonderfully smelling fresh crisp air filled our lungs.
We were staying in the Rocky Mountains for 3 nights in the region of Vail. The people of Vail are adventurous by nature – snowboarding, Heli skiing, mountain biking, mountain climbing, Hiking, Zip Lining, Water Rafting, snow tubing, kayaking, Bob Sledders - you name it, they do it all. Having that craving for adventure myself, I couldn’t wait to let my valiant spirit loose. "It is in all of us, to defy expectations, to go into the world and be brave and to want, to need and to hunger for adventures - to embrace change and chance and risk so that we may breathe and know what it is to be free."
Mountain biking – After exploring Lionshead Village, we headed to Charter Sports and rented a mountain bike with a gondola lift ticket to get on top of Vail Mountain. With an affordable price of about $50.00, you really can’t go wrong; and it beats having to ride up the mountain yourself! Vail mountain is a very popular winter destination getaway for its winter sports. In the summer is boasts tons of scenic hiking and biking trails, each with its own level of difficulty. Getting off the gondola on our first ride down, I was reminded by the operator to “Have fun but take risks!” Perhaps I took his advice too seriously because after about 15 minutes of exhilaration at a speed too fast for my own good, I wiped out around a corner. Sara came to my side after what felt like a few minutes, worry and terror in her eyes. I laid there, unable to breath properly and wondering if I should tell her I love her for being a great friend to me all these years. It felt as if I broke my spine or ruptured a lung; a few minutes of catching my breath, I gratefully thanked the universe that I was still alive. With medics driving around the mountain constantly, I got a bit cleaned up, mentally checked and did as the citizens in Vail do – they get up and keep going! Badly bruised and cut, I put my helmet back on and realized “Holy Crap, I caught all of that on my GoPro! THAT IS SO COOL!” Unfortunately the file was corrupted upon returning home that night. I still got some cool videos of us riding which I will post on a later date. Needless to say, the experience was incredible – breathtaking views, adrenaline pumping and feeding my adventurous soul; Plus, the cut up face is a GREAT ice-breaker when talking to the boys in Vail; They dig that sorta thing :) ;)
Note: We were also invited by some guys to join them for a game of Frisbee Golf on the top of the mountain. From Thursday to Saturday, the gondola lift ticket is good until 9:00PM, so grab some new friends, some beers/wine and get on the last chair lift up to witness the village lightscape and play a round of golf!
Piney River Ranch/Piney Lake - One of the highlights of the trip was going to Piney Lake, Piney River Ranch. With mountainous landscapes surrounded by Birch & Pine Trees and a pristine lake, the photography opportunities are endless. No wonder this magical place is host to weddings and events. Sara had the pleasure of photographing a couple (Melissa and Eric) at dusk and the pictures turned out beautifully! Check them out here. I spotted a family of 4 and thought it would be nice to provide them with a still memory as well. They were so cute and very appreciative! Piney Lake, a place of beauty & relaxation - enjoy the photos below!
Climbing the Rocky Mountains - Gray's Peak – One of the main reasons Sara and I wanted to go to Colorado was because we wanted to climb an epic mountain and the Rocky Mountains in Colorado was the closest option. The Rocky Mountains were formed 55-80 million years ago and span more then 4,800 kms from BC in Canada to New Mexico in the US. There are 54 Fourteeners in Colorado (mountains that are over 14,000ft high). After talking to some locals, we decided that climbing up Gray's Peak was a great choice.
Agnes’ Hiking essentials:
Hiking Boots - Do not hike up a mountain in running shoes. You will highly regret it. Sara learnt this the hard way.
Trail mix – Nutritious and yummy!
music - no brainer - although, taking the time to walk in silence and listen to the sounds of nature is beautiful as well.
Water - and lots of it! Because of the elevation, you need more water to replenish your system.
Camera gear – Yes, camera gear is essential for a photographer like myself. The views were absolutely breathtaking & the flora was very diverse and unique – but packing 7 kilos of camera gear into a backpack was the worst idea I've had yet. Next time I will most likely pack either a point and shoot camera or my Canon 6D with a 50mm lens (the cheap and light plastic fantastic) and of course my GoPro.
Binoculars – I was REALLY hoping to spot some Mountain Goat. Unfortunately that did not happen - our neighboring hikers saw a few and showed us pictures though. Jealous.
Convertible pants – The weather on a mountain can change drastically with the elevation increase. It was 30 degrees Celsius at the start of our hike but once we reached the top, it was snowing with a temperature of roughly -10 degrees. Bring a light weatherproof coat so you stay dry and warm.
The 12km hike up the mountain was the hardest endeavor I've accomplished to date (It's difficulty was mainly brought upon the weight I had in my backpack). I know a few people can get AMS (Altitude Mountain Sickness caused by a lack of oxygen at high altitudes) so you might want to pick up some pills at the drugstore if this is of concern to you. The trail was filled with hikers: young, old, solo and groups of friends. One of the coolest things was this comradery between the hikers; the one-ness we felt was incredible. There was also this one man with a white brimmed hat which basically hiked up and down the mountain with us. His smile & aura reminded me of someone extremely special to me and when I needed courage, I would look for him in the distance and would get that boost.
Bucket List – Climbing a mountain – CHECK!
The thought of being in the mountains makes my heart skip a beat. Vail Colorado, I hope to return one day for some amazing winter sports! >>>>> Like this >>> How cool is that!
Check out the pictures of our mountain adventures below!