Try as I might, I keep getting older. I realize that this is better than the alternative, but it’s still daunting to see the tens-digit roll over. Oy! Fortunately, I have my health, a stalwart set of friends, and plenty of places to assuage my misgivings with some good old sweat and wilderness.
Step one: On my last day in my 30’s, Ben, Mike, and Jason joined me for a nice run of the Lumpy Ridge Loop in Estes Park. We set a mellow pace counter-clockwise around the loop, enjoying the snow, the sights, and the early-winter nip in the air. A side trip out to Balanced Rock made it an even 13.1 miles with a couple thousand feet of elevation gain. I wish I could say my legs felt like the springy sticks of a man in his thirties, but I was actually pretty sluggish. At least I was in good company. Thence to Ed’s Cantina for some gnoshing and imbibement.
Step two: I was disinclined to go in to the office on my 40th birthday, so I headed in for a mellow, solo, contemplative climb of Bear Peak. The plan was to trot up Fern Canyon and spend a while cogitating on my wisdom and aches, but things never quite go as planned. Instead, I found this faint trail along the base of the massive Slab flatiron at the entrance to Fern Canyon. “Hmmm, I wonder where this goes?“…
As so often happens, one thing lead to another, specifically a deer trail (or perhaps a climber trail to some really obscure routes) along the base of The Slab and up a steep gully to the south, over logs, through dense ferns, always up up up. Snow on the ground didn’t help, and sometimes the most logical route lead up short, 3rd or 4th-class scrambles and once through a breakdown cave. But I was rewarded with beautiful glades, towering rocks, unexpected ledges, and fantastic views for sitting and contemplating.
When I finally reached the summit, I had the place to myself. I picked a spot out of the wind and had a very leisurely snack while looking out over my life over the past decade both literally and figuratively. A lot has changed, but I’m convinced that 40 is only as old as I let it be. Yes, I’m older, balder, and maybe a little thicker than I was when I first came to Colorado. I can’t pack away food like I could when I was 25 (and it now hurts if I try) and it takes a lot longer to recover after a big day in the mountains. On the other hand, the big days are generally a lot bigger and more ambitious than they used to be. I have no actual numbers to back it up, but I like to think I’m faster, tougher, and smarter Charles circa 2002. In addition, I have a wife, kids, a house, and a host of new abilities, competencies, and experiences to draw from. All in all, it’s a pretty good life.
What will the next ten years bring? It will be a shame to leave Colorado, if indeed that turns out to be my fate and fortune. We have put down many deep roots here and will always be drawn back. But there are many other places in the world which will come with their own adventures and charms and, comfy as they are, I am not ready to rest too long on my accumulated laurels just yet.
Someone asked if I was going to have a midlife crisis this year. I told her I might plan one later when I’m half-way done living.
I’m now officially old enough to know better but still young enough to do it anyway. So here’s to another ten years of doing it anyway, finding adventure in whatever I can, and letting one thing lead to another.