My All Trails app has been key in helping us to find some pretty great hikes. It shows you the distance and skill level along with reviews which is perfect because with 3 kids under 8, we don’t want any surprises. Kruger Rock is an out of the way hike in Estes that wasn’t in RMNP and is really well reviewed and very out of the way. Little do the girls know that I’m actually terrified of hiking.
I knew this whole RV adventure would push me the most out of anyone when it came to being outside of my comfort zone. I wasn’t raised with a dad or a mom who was interested in outdoor things so the first time I actually went on a hike was in my 20’s. Mike and I have lived in homes with parks, bluffs, hills, and now a trail system literally outside our front doors for 12 years and I’ve only been on them a handful of times. And now, here as we hike this remote location where we only saw 3 other groups along the way, I’m wondering what happens if one of the girls is bitten by a snake, or if a bear or mountain lion crosses our path. My mind becomes so cluttered with worry and panic that I can feel my chest tighten. The feeling of not being able to seek help in the event that something bad should happen to my girls overwhelms me. I start just counting steps; one, two, three, up to twenty, then back to one again. One, two, three, four…
The trail was often a single track with rocky terrain. Wildflowers were everywhere and the switchbacks swirled around a huge grassy meadow. It’s a 4 mile out and back and once we passed the 3rd group coming down they said they were the only ones on the trail, so now we were alone on our assent.
Mike, who knows me well enough to understand exactly how I was feeling, began talking to the girls about what types of flowers they passed, why some trees were downed, and tips for preserving their energy on a long hike. During this time I wanted to untangle my thoughts in hopes of forming peaceful ones while we walked. I started with ‘I’m grateful for..’ then filled in the sentence. ‘I’m grateful for this day. I’m grateful for our health so we’re able to take this hike. I’m grateful that we’re able to have this time as a family.’ This replaced my soundtrack of fear and uncertainty and I began to feel calm and actually enjoy the scenery around me. I realized that this was just the beginning and come September I would be more comfortable on a trail knowing we’d be doing this a lot more frequently as we traveled.
We were about 1.5 miles up, close to the beautiful plateau and a panoramic view- our reward for the work when we noticed the clouds rolling in. Within the span of minutes, threatening clouds began to blanket the sky with bright lightening in the distance. An actual threat greater than the ones I had imagined. (Of all the silly things I worry about, why did I not think of lightening?) We told the girls we had to get back to the car and started the steep descent back. I was filled with relief knowing we were on our way back, the descent is always so much easier than the incline which was considerable- over 1.100 feet of elevation gain. Something clicked on the way back down and I felt calm. I want to love hiking and being outside, I want to do this as a family. I want the girls to remember me hiking with them, and I don’t want them to be like me, finding my way as an adult doing something so simple that most people think nothing of.
The girls (who hike a ton more than I do) loved our hike and were bouncing and laughing all the way to the car from the trailhead, picking up interesting little rocks to take home. Everly, who was beaming with pride, grabbed my hand on the way back to the car and asked me “Did you have fun, Mommy?” I looked down at her and honestly answered “Yes, I really did.”