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The adventure started with a 3am car ride to the airport for our trip to Denver. Erik and I were super excited and a little anxious for our first plane ride EVER. I did get a little scared during the take off, but after that, it was smooth sailing. I remember thinking once we landed how weird it was that it only took us 2.5 hours to travel halfway across the country and how it was still the same time in Denver as it was when we left Atlanta... time is funky when you fly.
As we walked through the Denver Airport, we were overwhelmed with excitement to be in a new city so far from home - we couldn't wait to get out there and see the sites! Since we couldn't check into our hotel until midday, we decided to go straight to Fort Collins where Erik's high school friend was getting married later that evening. Before the wedding, we explored the town and played a little corn hole at New Belgium Brewery.
The next day, we made our way to downtown Denver to get breakfast and found ourselves in an awesome donut shop. With our blood stream filled with the proper amounts sugar, Erik and I rented some city bikes to see more of what downtown Denver had to offer. Just before calling it a day, a storm rolled in over the distant mountains, so of course, Erik and I had to snap a few pictures before seeking shelter.
Now as much as we loved exploring a new city, hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park was the main reason that we wanted to visit Colorado. Our first hike was to Chasm Lake located on Long's Peak Trail, almost 12,000 feet above sea level and an 8.5 mile round trip. We could instantly feel the effects of the high elevation. We stopped a lot for the first part, but felt much better once we got above treeline. That's when the beauty of this hike really sunk in.
About 2.5 miles into the hike, it started to get really cold and the rain turned into hail. A lot of people on the trail headed back down, but Erik and I decided to keep going. With only 1 mile to go, the landscape became all the more dramatic. Although we were cold and tired, our eagerness to reach the top made the last bit of the hike super fun and exciting!
The last section of the trail is a scramble up some steep boulders with Chasm Lake at the top.
We finally made it! Almost instantly the clouds parted ways and sun came back out, almost as a reward for our perseverance. After all of that, we were finally able to stop and take it all in... Chasm Lake is honestly the most beautiful place that I have been in my entire life. This place a has a way of making you realize just how truly small you are in the world. Of course Erik and I immediately tried to capture the beauty of this place with our cameras and cellphones, all while also trying to delicately balance enjoying the moment and capturing the moment for future us to enjoy. Being able to relive special moments like this is incredibly important to us and part of why we both love photography so much.
Which brings me to the part of the story that was kinda a bummer... So, I was sitting precariously on a rock beside the water, taking pictures with Erik's iPhone (it has a better camera than mine). After a few minutes, Erik came over to show me a picture and that's when I stupidly sat the phone halfway under my butt (because I didn't have any pockets).
As I turned around, the phone slipped out from under me.. and before I could react, in was sitting on the bottom of the lake. Erik immediately tried to calm me down, but in a complete state of panic, I took off my boots and waded in the icy water. Erik tried to convince me to get out of the water saying that the phone was already a goner, but I was too upset to listen. Now I don't know the exact temperature of the water, but Chasm Lake is fed by melted snow from the mountain top... so to say it was cold is an under statement. I got in up to my chest and could feel my heart beating like crazy. That's when I realized that the lake is a lot deeper than it looks and I would have to dive at least 7 feet down to reach the phone. That's when Erik's common sense started getting through to me and I let him pull me out. Once I got out and the adrenaline went away is when I realized just how cold I was. My skin started to feel almost like it was burning.
The main reason I was so desperate to get the phone back wasn't completely because of the phone itself (phones can be replaced), but because of the pictures and videos on the phone that I cherished so much. It was really tough getting over the fact that I'd never get those pictures and videos back. In the end, I guess it's best to be like Elsa and just "let it go". Also, did I mention how calm and loving Erik was during all this?! He's the only reason I was able to "let it go" and enjoy the rest of the hike.
After the hike, we spent the night at a nearby campground in the park. It rained for most of the next day, so we traveled back to Denver for some much needed rest. Our last hike was Mount Ida (on Milner Pass) which is on the Continental Divide. Most of this hike was above treeline - which means it's very windy and cold, but also that it offers panoramic views unobscured by trees. Once again, the altitude came into play with Erik getting pretty disoriented a little over halfway there. He already had a sore knee for the previous hike, so he and I went back down while Erik's brother Zach kept going (and eventually made it to the top!).
And with that, our trip was over. The next morning we packed our bags and flew home, already daydreaming about our next trip to Colorado!