I’m from North Carolina. Good ol’ North Cackalack. We don’t have mountains there. Sure, we’ve got the Appalachians, but ask any Westerner, the Appalachians are not mountains compared to the Rockies. When my friend from the Cackalack, David, said he was coming to visit, I decided I would have to take him hiking in Colorado mountains. After an extensive search for the perfect hike (or a Google search resulting in the look-no-further article titled, “Top Five Hikes near Denver”) we settled on Chautaugua Park in Boulder.

The drive up was lovely; Nicki Minaj’s“Superbass” was bumpin’ in my Caravan’s speakers, we chomped ice cream from the gas station and then we pulled into the parking lot at Chautaugua—and it was packed. I guess it was to be expected, as it’s finally acting like summer here and it was Friday, but geez, I didn’t think about having to share nature with so many people. David and I stared at the map for a few minutes while parents tied their children’s shoes and couples led their dogs back to the parking lot and backpack-toting hikers recycled their maps in the drop-box. Eventually we decided we didn’t really know what we were looking at, so we started up the trail and would pick the trails as we came to them.

Now, I consider myself to be in pretty decent shape. However, part of being from North Carolina means I just spent ten years of my life living on the ocean, at sea level. This also means that the altitude here is killing me. I thought I was getting adjusted to it, but after walking the part of the trail that’s in the field before you get to the tree line, the part that’s not even strenuous and I’m getting smoked by, like, grandparents and toddlers? I was breathing like I was running at my 5k pace.

The main trail had a bunch of thinner trails branching off of it. Some snaked around the contours of the mountains, others cut through different parts of the woods. We crossed over little bridges and passed half-hidden picnic tables tucked in alcoves of trees. I had to stop after a little bit and peel off layers of clothing and chug half the contents of my Nalgene, then I looked up and perched on a boulder were two very elegantly dressed, black-haired women, surrounded by little children and a picnic basket and the women were drinking wine out of real live wine glasses. Not even plastic ones; I heard the clink when she put her glass down. I could have ralphed just thinking about wine at that point.

see the climbers?

We started passing signs for the Flatirons Trails after a few more minutes, and I couldn’t tell you which ones we actually went on because we never made it to the top of anywhere. We clambered out on to a boulder where we took in the view and eavesdropped on some girl’s conversation where a fellow bent her spine in two (eek!) and then we continued up our trail. We made it to a rather rocky portion of the trail where there was no longer solid ground and we just climbed on the flattest rocks. We got cut off by a sign that said there were birds nesting, so we altered our trail so we were going as straight up as we were able. We decided to stop about three-quarters of the way up the rocky part, so we found some sunny rocks and ate our PowerBars while we looked at Boulder spread out below us. David pointed out some rock climbers way, way above us and I got vertigo looking up at them.

On the way down, we passed a couple with a sweet dog named Tokyo who was just not havin’ it on this trail, and another couple who were just as lost as we were. All the downward stepping had my quads shaking by the time the ground leveled out and we were both nicely browned by the sun and ready for some delicious grub. We headed to Pearl Street and the West End Tavern promised good beer and good burgers. David and I devoured yummy yam chips and guac before our smoky burgers and relaxed in the sunshine after our Rocky Mountain hike.