Top o’ Vail

When a good friend needs to take a day or two off and have an adventure, I’m happy to oblige. Twist my arm, let’s go somewhere cool!   And so the adventure begins. Nancy and I quickly decide to hike Vail, Colorado and after some quick online research, we book a room and head west on I-70. But of course we have to explore en route. We stop at Herman’s Gulch (Exit 218) and hike for a couple of hours. The trail is hard packed and a little slippery at times with scree (loose rocks) and dry dirt. The sound of the traffic wafting up from the interstate is distracting and we are happy it dissipates the farther we hike.

Sheer Beauty

Once we are higher and hiking through the grassy fields, it’s all too easy to stop and stare. Delicate wild flowers, lush trees and a perfectly, quintessentially, babbling brook surround us. I had thought brooks only babbled in the movies or in fancy poems, but apparently not. Thankfully it is lunchtime so we sit on rocks by the water’s edge and munch on our homemade sandwiches.

On to Vail, the main destination of our get-away. I mostly know Vail as a popular ski resort in the winter, so exploring it in July is a very different scene. Hotels, restaurants and walkways look so different with flowers, flowers everywhere, and people wearing flip-flops instead of ski boots. The outdoor ice skating rink is currently non-existent but the Lionshead gondola and trails are still open.

It’s “only” 85 degrees, and since we are wearing hats and have water bottles, we are sure we can hike up 2,000 feet to the top to find a trail with huge views. We will follow the dirt path under the gondola, we wonder why The Other People are riding up (why not hike?).

Hiking Vail and a U-Turn

We hike for 20 minutes. It is hot and humid. It is steep and slippery. It is not fun. We agree on a U-turn, and 30 minutes later we are joining The Other People on a nice ride up the mountain in the gondola. Two thousand feet later, we see hundreds enjoying summer fun: mountain biking, ropes courses, lunching, and hiking.

We head west along the ridge and the vast beauty is astounding. It’s everywhere! At the top of Vail and Nancy and I both breathe in the fresh (albeit thin) air. Unlike winter, when everything is blanketed in solid white, the scenery is green and thick and lush. We hike a few miles, happily staying off all the black diamond (advanced) trails, which the signs gently remind us are actually closed.

It feels good to finally start wandering down, down from over two miles above sea level. Our collective brain cells miscalculate the time it will take to descend, but we eventually make it to mid-Vail. We celebrate with a tasty lunch and a good cold beer at a mountain side restaurant. And even though our legs recover, we are short on time so we take the gondola down to Vail Village, shuttle back to Lionshead and wrap up our Top o’ Vail Adventure.

I look forward to the next time a friend needs to take a day or two off; a new adventure awaits!

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