Luckily, I didn’t have to wait for long. A girl I had met at a local beer festival invited me to hike a favorite trail of the locals: Mount Sanitas. I eagerly agreed to meet her at 7:00am the next day, unaware of exactly what I was getting myself into and oblivious to the impact the elevation change would have on my underworked, cobweb-filled lungs.
The sunshine, the mountains and the friendliness of the locals are what drew me to Colorado. After months of preparations, I had finally made the big move from San Francisco (elevation: 34’) to Boulder (elevation: 5430’) and I couldn’t wait to get out and explore.
We met in the parking lot at the base of Mount Sanitas just as the sun was beginning to peak over sleepy Boulder, and Leanne’s first words to me were, “don’t be scared, it isn’t as hard as it looks.” Not quite the reassurance I was hoping for, but since I hardly knew her I didn’t want her to know I was doubting my own ability to do this hike.
So off we went towards the trailhead, happily chatting away. When we turned the corner to start our hike, I was greeted by an endless rock staircase, which was intended to lead me up this much-larger-in-person mountain. As I began my slow ascent, Leanne flashed a big smile at me while putting her headphones in, and said, “see you at the top!” And off she ran. Wow, okay. Not only was I terrified that my lungs might explode on this obviously unforgiving trail, but now I had to pray that I could actually keep on the trail and even more importantly, make it to the top!
I continued to trudge up the trail, stopping nearly every 5 minutes to catch my breath and take a grateful sip of cold water, all the while pretending to be enjoying the view when other hikers passed me by. After nearly half an hour of this cycle, a hiker that was on her descent (lucky!), stopped me and said, “I just wanted to warn you that a mama bear and her cub were spotted further up the trail, so be careful.” Be careful?! Who would continue going up after hearing that?! Apparently everyone, because the news didn’t seem to phase the other hikers that received the same warning.
I reasoned that Leanne was waiting for me at the top, unless she had already encountered mama bear, and that I couldn’t let her down by turning around now. So I pressed on in much the same way I had the past 30 minutes, hoping that every peak that I could see in the distance was the top, only to be disappointed when I got there and saw the next big peak in the distance.
Luckily, I didn’t have to prove how hardcore I was, as soon enough, Leanne came running and hooping and hollering down the trail. Was she seriously enjoying herself that much on this dreadful trail? I told her she was crazy, and she told me I had done great for my first time and that we could turn around and head back down to the trailhead. Thank goodness!
Although we practically ran the entire way down, I was so glad to be headed downhill, that I could hardly complain.
I am proud to say that I have since completed Mount Sanitas two times, and I made it all the way to the top! Call it an adjustment period with my lungs and the crazy elevation change I put them through, or call it persistence. I am just glad that I accomplished it, and I look forward to exploring and completing more trails in the near future. I will, however, need to up my game if I intend to keep up with my fellow Boulderites on any future hikes!