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Rocky Mountain National Park- Debbi thought she was in good shape and so told the friendly ranger at the visitors’ center that she wanted a recommendation for a substantial hike, of about 10 miles. Something epic. “Oh,” said the ranger, “you are a real hiker!”

“Yes,” Debbi said modestly, but with pride. After all, she did survive the Highline Trail in Glacier National Park… (see previous blog posting)

“Then you must do Sky Pond!” the ranger exclaimed. “You will LOVE it! It’s a lot of fun. And those two 18 year-olds you mentioned? They will think it’s terrific.”

Oh, and she also warned Debbi that they needed to start the hike no later than 7am because rain storms were predicted for the afternoon and they would need to get down below the tree line before the predicted rain hit.

Fast forward 24 hours. Debbi is lying face down on the floor in the hotel room, unable to move her body. The boys step over her, cackling and giggling (if boys giggle). They are very amused to see a grown woman admit that she is beat.

What happened during this epic hike? These things:

We started the hike at 7:45.

Gorgeous views of mountains.

Alpine Lakes, several of them.

An altitude gain of 1,710 feet. (that is a lot)

More gorgeous views.

And then: steps made of rocks climbing the mountain. And more stairs.

And we saw elk

And then we had to rock climb (literally) up a steep waterfall. This was the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. As I was climbing the rocks, looking for my next foothold and finger hold in the rocks, I said to myself, “Debbi, this is the craziest thing you have done in your life.” One slip, or mis-judgment, and I would tumble down the rocks and into some abyss I was afraid to look at. Trust me on this, as I did not take pictures at this point. But here is one that Jeremy took. (thank you Jeremy!)

Jay and I made it! (of course, the boys clambered up as if they were mountain goats. Not even breathing hard)

And then we had to walk on some rocks, as the marked trail kind of ended, but the trail-blazing boys discovered where the trail was, and led the way on to yet another “pond” of water.

We had been cautioned that many people thought this was Sky Pond, BUT IT WASN’T, and we had to continue on for another ¼ of a mile to get to the final destination.

As we walked, people returning from Sky Pond reassured us that it was worth it and we were almost there, but, “keep your eyes on the weather, as you can see the dark clouds gathering over the mountains.” (notice clouds in the picture above)

“Can’t we stop here?” I thought to myself, silently, my legs still shaking from the climb… But I kept on trekking, knowing that I had to reach the end to feel that sense of achievement. I would not admit defeat.

And finally, after another round of steep stone steps up, we came to the end. And what did we see? …

Another mountain lake, surrounded by steep cliffs, and dark clouds gathering around them.

“OK, we made it this is beautiful but we have to get down,” I worried. But the boys were all starving and wanted to sit by the lake and eat their packed Nutella and cheese sandwiches. Several other climbing groups had reached the top and were doing the same, and I reasoned that if no one else was worried about the weather, why should I?

So, we picked a rock and sat on it and started eating, and were immediately harassed by a couple of brave marmots who clearly were expecting a little treat.

They got a bit too close for comfort, so I had to shout at them, which barely made them move, and then resorted to pretending to throw my camelbak at them, which did the trick in scaring them away.

“Uh oh,” said Jeremy. “I just felt a raindrop.”

OK, that’s it. I stood up and announced that we were leaving RIGHT NOW!! And so we did.

Of course, you know from previous blogs that going down the mountain is supposed to be easier, but the boys basically run down the mountain and I run to keep up with them. This time I was not mad about it because I envisioned us climbing down that damn waterfall in the rain, which was not a comforting thought.

We quickly made our way down those stone stairs and got to the waterfall and I have to say that climbing down was way easier and less scary than climbing up.

After we passed the rocky area where there was not a clearly marked path, it started to drizzle. And then after a few minutes it started to really rain. We all stopped to put on our raincoats, and continued to walk down.

At this point we were basically below the tree line, meaning there were tall trees all around us so I was not as worried that we would get struck by lightning. (by the way, there was no lightning) Then it started to POUR. And HAIL. Like with little pieces of ice.

The path we were walking down was quickly turning into a stream, as the rain made its way down the mountain. Down and down and down. It had been a long 5 miles up to the top of the trail, but it was a super fast, but seemingly never-ending rush down that same trail. Rain was streaming down my face and my glasses were all fogged up and covered by raindrops. My pants became soaking wet as the rain streamed off my coat. At this point I realized how helpful rain pants could be on a hike in the mountains. Too bad I didn’t have those (I had left the one pair we had in the car)

And then I got very tired. Kind of exhausted. My feet hurt. I was wet and cold. We passed by this one area called Alberta Falls, (this picture is of the falls on the way up. Notice how happy we all were at this point.)

which was only 1.3 miles from a trail head and so was filled with pleasure-seekers who did a short hike in flip flops and tank tops and who were being poured on.

They all looked at Jay and me looking all sodden and waterlogged, and probably kind of pitiful. They gave us a wide berth as they sprinted back up the trail to get out of the rain. Jay and I continued to slog on, putting one foot in front of the other, knowing that theoretically, this should be getting us closer to the end of the trail.

Finally, we reached the last half mile of the hike. We knew this was the end because it went UPHILL. On the way out, that morning, about 5 hours earlier, we had commented that this would be a pain in the butt, going up at the end of the hike. And here we were. Going UPHILL. And it was a pain in the butt.

And finally, finally, we finished. It was POURING rain. And my raincoat ended up being not effective at all. I was wet from top to bottom, and cold. Drenched.

Jay had to peel my coat off me, as it was stuck to my body.

And that brings us to the end of the story, where we returned to the hotel after gobbling up a pizza in the car on the way back,

and there I am, lying on the floor, waiting my turn for a hot shower, as the boys step over me, laughing.

As a side note, we finished the hike in about 5 ½ hours. I slept from 3:00-6:00, woke up to eat dinner, and then slept from 8pm-7:00 the next morning. That hike OBLITERATED me. But I LOVED it. And look at what a great story it made!!!

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