Last week while driving to Parachute, Colorado, I tried stopping at a place called Hanging Lake. My friend Julie had just told me about it the night before and suggested going if I had the chance. When I pulled onto the road to the Hanging Lake Rest area there were cars stop in a line all the way to a bridge. She had warned me that there could be a twenty minute wait to park. I had hoped not. I stopped behind them waiting on the bridge. I had no idea how far it was to the parking lot and we were not moving. At all. The only time we did move was because a car in front of me did a 3 point turn and went back out. I ate my lunch as I waited but after a little bit I decided I did not really want to wait, I did not want to park, I did not want to walk. I wanted to continue on to my destination. I didn’t wait too long. I think it was around 20 minutes, but I was being impatient so I am not sure. I figured I could go back earlier in the day on my way home (to Denver). So I turned my rental car around and went on my way.
On my way back to Denver, I didn’t leave as early as I wanted, but I was only 30-45 minutes behind my planned departure time. As I got closer to the rest area there were signs saying “Hanging Lake Rest Area Parking Lot Full... Use Other Rest Area.” I ignored the first one thinking “maybe its not actually full... people have to leave at some point.” The second sign had me second guessing. As I approached the off ramp there was another sign and I quickly had to decide whether I would get off or not. Because of construction, if I got off at that exit I would be adding forty-five minutes onto my drive whether or not I was able to park and hike to hanging lake. Also when I waited before there were not any signs saying the lot was full so I wasn’t sure how full the lot had to be this time. and I didn’t really want to wait. I’m not good at making quick decisions, but I had to. I had to decide. I decided to not get off.
As soon as I passed the exit, I was disappointed and knew that right now was my chance and I was letting it pass by. I don’t know when the next time I will be in Colorado, never mind this area. I had noticed a bike path that ran along the Colorado River and sometimes closer to the highway. Figuring that the path connected these rest stops together, I thought, “if the next rest stop is within a few miles I will park there and walk. Its doable.” At that point, I glanced at my odometer and kept driving until I saw the next exit. I pulled off, parked, and started walking. I figured I would give myself about an hours walk then would turn around if I didn’t make it to the trail by then. Would I have really turned around? I don’t know. At that point I was determined to get there. I made it to the trail in just about my time limit so I didn’t really have to make that decision. Although I was unsure at many moments thinking I might have to turn back as I found myself saying, “Its gotta be around the next corner. Oh, not that one. Maybe the next mountain side. Nope. Its gotta be soon... I think.”
My total trip (to hanging lake and back to my car) took me about five hours: one hour to the trail, one hour up the trail, about an hour taking photos and eating a snack, a little less than an hour down, rest at the bottom with more photos, and about one hour back to my car. The walk back was the hardest. My feet were achy and at some point I just needed to take my hiking shoes off. So I did. I walked the rest of the way back barefoot. It felt so good and seemed like a good idea. The bike path was smooth and clean at first. Eventually it was falling apart in parts and was rocky to walk on. I kept on going though. As I walked I felt something under my feet and thought “Huh, it feels like I have something on the bottom of my heels.” I kept walking. A few minutes later I stopped and quickly looked noting that I had a blister forming on the outsides of both my heels. I kept walking wondering when I would make it back, wondering if I was going slower then before, wondering if I stopped would I start again.
A few minutes after I took a picture of a sign indicating to the cars on the road they were within half mile of the rest stop, a mother and her son rode by on their bikes. The mother and I caught eyes and smiled at each other. As her son passed me, he encouragingly shouted “You’re so close!!” His mom and I locked eyes again and smiled. I chuckled and was thankful for the encouragement. Although it didn’t seem like it was so close, I did make it back to my car to start my two hour plus drive back to Denver.
I’m glad I stopped. Was it a little crazy? Perhaps. If you want to go on hike to see Hanging Lake and the sights along the way, I recommend it. I don’t recommend starting from another rest stop (unless you have a bicycle) because at points you may be too tired to fully enjoy yourself, but it is doable if necessary. Just don’t have a small child in tow. I think that would be a real long five hours for them. and for you. Maybe a encouraging hiking companion who is willing to walk a lot would be good to have around. That could have been fun.
I think there are a lot more things, a lot more walking that I can do then I give myself credit for. I can’t say I was going very fast the whole time, but I didn’t give up. My decision was to make it there and back. And that I did. Tired. Satisfied. With lots of beautiful photos. and in Awe of our Creator. Our Sustainer. Our Turning Point.