Camping and Hiking at the alpine lakes of the San Juan mountains in Western Colorado.
by WES WALKER
I find myself writing this blog in Colorado Springs, CO. I'm at the Wild Goose Meeting House/Coffee House and I'm listening to La La Land...so really it's the most perfect day so far. Colorado people are all around me, they seem like Texas people, but I'm guessing all smoke the devil's lettuce. I just got back from a short family vacay in Watercolor, Florida and it was incredible. Before I really dive in Ice Lake here's a few from Seaside.
The middle has some of the most beautiful clouds I've ever seen, although I can't remember the name of them, Professor Logan would be ashamed of me. The two photos on the outside are long-exposure, I wanted to make the sunsets colors dance across the water. It's hard to know which way is better to shoot...whether that be with a super high shutter speed, like you would shoot sports so as to catch the water frozen in motion...or to use long exposure and let the water show its true colors and path. Kinda funny how the same concept is just as true in our lives. When one perfectly still shot of our life is seen from the outside in, it's as if we have everything together, no mess, just perfect with white teeth smiling. But, when you get to know people over time, you see everyone's true colors, and just like the ocean it can be beautiful like a sunset, or scary like in a perfect storm. Social media only shows the most perfect pieces of our lives. The "best" of whatever we trust the world with seeing. We only let ourselves be vulnerable with the ups, the peaks, the purple and pink colors. Love over time heals everything if we let it. It calms the storms, makes the coffee sweet, and takes away the heat and brings in the cool air. The best part of life is when you get past all the mundane small talk and dive deep into each others lives, I didn't really understand that until I had a friend tell me not to long ago that storms are just as beautiful as sunsets. They just take a lot more grit to fight through and see the beauty. These words helped to change me and it seemed to change my perspective on life.
Above is Clear Lake Colorado, A high alpine lake that is high up in the San Juan Mountains. I had been scouting three alpine lakes for about a year, looked at maps and read reviews...I had pictures and hand-written notes and ideas all tacked up on a wall in my bedroom, with string running from paper to paper, like I was cracking a drug cartel case or something like that. I would stand and drink coffee and stare at the wall and try to imagine what this place would be like in real life. As a boy from Texas who didn't grow up in the mountains this place seemed like a another planet, like how could a place like this possible exist. For those of you who haven't been to Texas, the people are great, the Mexican food is lovely, and it's most hot...and there is nothing lush about it.
I took off from Colorado Springs, I was planning on going to see Maroon Bells in Aspen, I wanted to camp beside that famous lake where I had seen so many pictures with the bells towering above the world dusted with snow and yellow aspens singing all below them as they glided down to the waters edge. I got to Aspen and it was a zoo...tourists flooding the whole town trying to get the best selfie with the Bells. Overcome with sadness I drug myself to Whole Foods and got a vegan snack like all good vegans do when they don't get to see Maroon Bells. Once loaded up with free-range fig bars and juice boxes I pressed on with one goal in mind...to make it to Island Lake. Alright Buckaroo my goal was to see Island Lake and I never made it, it's fine...I'm not sad *wipes tears off keyboard* let's move on with the story. Island Lake is the real place I was trying to get to for the past year. You see there are three magical lakes that sit at the top of the San Juans, Ice Lake, Island Lake, and Clear Lake. I'll Show the 3 below.
So the middle photo shows the best example of how these 3 lakes sit in the mountains. Island Lake sits in the middle, right on the other side of the ridge sits Clear Lake...that's where I camped before I got up and hiked to Ice Lake. I got up early that morning thinking I could just pop over the saddle and be at Island Lake..but upon further inspection and climbing halfway up the ridge I decided it just wasn't for me. So I sat on the side of the mountain and watched the sun peak up and shine down on Clear Lake...also shoutout at Oboz footwear...sponsor me?
Island Lake was the one lake out of the 3 that I really wanted to make it to, and is the only one I didn't get to stand on the banks of. Right when I reached the freakish blue shores of Ice Lake a huge storm rolled over the top of me. Lightning struck not far from me and snow started to dump down everywhere. A couple others happened to be on top when I was and they grabbed their gear and bolted down the mountain. I had heard stories from both my Mother and Uncle about being in lightning storms above the tree line both saying there is no way that they should've made it out alive...I started to feel the same.
I sat there with my drone 500 meters in the air snapping as many pics as I could knowing that every second I was standing there was a worse and worse decision. Lightning and snow continued to pour down all around me, I dropped my drone down as fast as I could, I'm honestly shocked that it wasn't somehow struck by lightning. I got the drone down, threw it in my bag and took off down the mountain. Once I got to where I wasn't the tallest object I slowed to a brisk walk, and then was able to just take in all the beauty that was around me.
Sometimes in life I find myself wondering how I get into situations. Why the road led me here? If life is really all just a game of chance. Honestly I'm writing this paragraph and have no clue what the topic is or what I even want it to be about. But isn't that the way life is? We aim, we make plans, and then some alternative happens that we had no idea even existed. Does God just laugh at us, not like a gloating laugh...but a chuckle, like a parent who knows their kid will fall and hurt their knees, have their heart broke but yet they will always be loved, no matter what. You can't run away from love, God's path is always the best. We travel across the world in search of something that is inside of every person that we see everyday. Some hushed more than others, but never gone.
I put my guard up when there's nobody to fight off, I pick myself up when there are hands everywhere wanting to help me up, I sing a song alone when there are voices everywhere that want to join in. The more I live and travel and see people and places the more and more I realize how strong real love is. It's bluer than any water and stronger than any cup of coffee.
When I reached the start of the trail I saw a display that talked all about the lakes and climb. One example had 2 empire state buildings stacked on each other, and that was the estimated elevation rise over about 3 miles. I started laughing and then looked to my right like there was a camera there, like I was being filmed on a tv show. I gave a quick shrug and wink at the camera and then took off on a sprint like I was going to run the entire way up...I obviously stopped once I was out of sight of all the people in the parking lot who were starting behind me.
People are always saying it's not how you start it's how you finish. My dad said it, my coaches (idiots) said it, and even Jesus said it. But it's for real. In a world full of angsty people who don't wanna commit to anything we need a climb instead of a sprint. We screw up, we fall, and then we fall again. But, something or someone is always there to pick us back up if we decide not to walk alone. I meet one little Indian man on this hike to Ice Lake. The snow poured down and the lightning struck all around him but he had no fear. He walked like he was in a field of wildflowers with bees buzzing all around him and tiny fawns smiling at him as he passed and smiled back. The snow was no problem, it built up on his shoulders and he brushed it off and kept on going. Made me wonder if he knows and is a friend with the Maker.
Even though I put off a very chill vibe on the outside I can be full of worry on the inside. Our inside voices and emotions can't be held together by anyone but God. There's no way I can walk this life alone. Nobody can, and if they say they can they're lying.
God is hope.
And hope...is everything.
It's not that I didn't make it to where I was going, it's that there was a whole other place I was supposed to be.