Today, I decided to re-visit my old nemesis, a trailhead called Mt. Sanitas. If you’re from around here, you know all about this little gem. It’s where locals go for a quick and dirty workout. In fact, the girl that blew by me with her Labrador puppy, mentioned on her way back down that she was going on a 16 mile run afterwards. WTF?! So anyway, depending on your fitness level, and how often you have to stop to catch your breath, this 2.6 mile out and back with an elevation gain of 1,253 ft. is considered a moderate level of difficulty, and could take an hour or three.
I call this trail my nemesis, because I hiked it for the first time a year ago after living here for less than a month. I moved from Austin, TX which has a elevation of 489′ (as in above sea level). In case you are wondering, the elevation of Boulder is 5,328′, so just a little bit of elevation gain from my previous stomping grounds.
I personally was very naive about the effects of such a vast change in elevation, and I showed up to meet some friends with nothing more than a bottle of Ozarka water and unbridled excitement to be going on my first real hike since moving to Boulder. It was a sunny and clear January afternoon, the kind that starts out chilly and results in sunburn, dehydration and the inability to catch one’s breath. At least that’s how it was for me. All I remember is that the trip down the mountain was actually more difficult than going up, if that’s even possible. In fact, now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure I did not make it all the way up to the top.
Fast forward to July when some other friends were in town visiting and we all decided to go for a hike. Now, these friends, just like the others, are hard-core hikers, and very fit. They were kind enough to pause while I stopped frequently to catch my breath, and this time, I made it all the way to the top. We took a photo so I have proof! We ended up going through to Lion’s Lair Trail which was a nice reprieve from the rocky climb up Mt. Sanitas. It is not however, a dog-friendly trail, not even if you have the special sight and sound tags required in Boulder City limits. If you didn’t know this and you brought your pooch, you have two options: go back down the way you came, or turn your out and back hike into a loop by following the Mt. Sanitas Valley Loop.
It took almost six more months before I got the urge to hike this trail again, and this time I brought my dog. I swear my dog is a better hiker than I am. He’s also pretty old for a dog, but you wouldn’t know it based on his energy and enthusiasm for dragging me up the mountain when I was hiking too slow. This time, I noticed that I had way more endurance than before and the stops I took had more to do with photo ops than for catching my breath.
I was also much more prepared, a bit too much actually. After many hikes all over Colorado this summer, I learned a few things, with one of the most important being that a picnic at the top is a necessary treat, and alcohol tastes better the higher up you go. Nowadays, my backpack is always in tow and filled with at least one, if not two 32 oz. Nalgene water bottles, snacks, micro-spikes, lip balm, sunscreen, a sweat rag, Kleenex, and a blister first-aid kit.
On this cloudless Saturday, the thing that challenged me the most was to need to avoid the rush. Instead of rushing up and right back down the mountain, I allowed myself to sit at the top, eat, take some more pictures, rest completely, and savor the warm scent of pine trees. I let myself get grounded and I let nature heal the stress and tension of the previous week.
Living in this beautiful place is a gift that I do not take for granted. I moved mountains to get here and took a massive leap of faith that it was where I was supposed to be. I left family, friends and a lifetime of traditions because I felt the pull of this place where I was born, but never really lived. Mt. Sanitas is no longer my nemesis. She is my teammate. and the first of many stepping stones along my path to reconnect to my most authentic self through nature.