Approximately two hours and thirty-seven minutes into our two hour and forty-five minute drive from Denver up to Hanging Lake outside Glenwood Springs, Ma said, “Wouldn’t it suck if we got all the way up here and the trail was closed?”
We laughed at the thought of something so miserably inconvenient and chomped on our apples that Ma had sliced up before we left on our big hiking excursion last Sunday. Ma was in town from good ol’ North Cack-a-lack, and I, fresh off the East Coast myself, was working to show her the best of what Colorado has to offer. Pretty much everyone I talked to raved about Hanging Lake. My love for any and all bodies of water combined with an appreciation for slightly ominous and mystical names put this lake at the top of my list, whether Ma was into it or not. Luckily, Ma is pretty easy-going and down for adventure, so she was raring to go.
The drive up was perfect. The fall sun was shining, the aspens were glowing and the mountains had a little dusting of snow on them. Ma alternately pointed out the window at beautiful features of nature and shrieked at me to keep my eyes on the road when I turned to look at them, while my poor little van chugged up and down the mountains, sometimes even reaching fifth gear.
We finally made it up to Glenwood Canyon and that’s when we started seeing “Exit Closed” signs. According to MapQuest, it was our exit that was closed, and it was confirmed when the fifty million blaring orange traffic cones were reflected in our sunglasses. Undeterred, we pulled off at the next exit, about four miles away. We found other thwarted hikers at the rest area, including one family with a hot dad. Ma got the scoop from him and apparently, all we had to do was walk on the bike path along the river for an hour and we’d be at the trail head. The Family went on ahead while Ma and I stocked up on snacks from the vending machine: trail mix for me, Cheetos for Ma, and M&Ms for Ma too, “For when I get crabby.”
“Whadya gonna get crabby for?” I asked with a wounded air.
“In case we get lost or something!” Ma said, as she zipped up our backpack, heavily laden with four water bottles and a Coke. She handed me the backpack. “Here you go my little pack horse!”
And, we were off, Ma occasionally skipping ahead of me on the trail. The cliffs of the canyon rose up on our left side, trees and bushes growing out of crevices or on ledges while the river moved steadily below it. On our right, cars, buses and trucks zoomed past us on the freeway. Every few feet on the sidewalk, we saw fuzzy brown, white and black caterpillars that look like little legless Ewoks. We chatted, we hopped over grasshoppers, we held our breath while we ran through tunnels for luck and we pretended old electrical wires were snakes, while what was turning out to be a very hot sun, turned our noses and foreheads bright pink.
At one point, we crossed under an overpass and I saw what looked like a hoof. I stopped to get a closer look. “MA, oh my GAH, it’s a carcass!” I gasped.
“What the fff, it’s a ZEBRA!” Ma exclaimed. “Oh, wait, those are ribs.” And she burst into laughter.
“Yeah, I’m pretty sure that’s a deer,” I said. “Sick. Poor thing.”
Finally, we rounded a bend and found a group of people standing by the Hanging Lake trail head. We picked up our pace as we started toward the trail and a fellow in the group said, “Trail’s closed.”
“WHA?” Ma and I exclaimed together.
“Preservation work up there. Try again tomorrow or Monday.”
I dropped some choice words for a second before we ambled off aimlessly toward the river. Some noisy children were there, skipping rocks with The Family and the hot dad, so I took off my shoes and went to dip my toes in. The water was so cold, it was painful but with the hot sun and the spicy smell of the bushes all around us, it was perfect—until I looked down and saw three shards of glass bigger than my hand inches away from my foot. I got the cuss out of there before I got tetanus.
I scraped the mud off my feet, Ma dropped the pack on my back and we headed back down the path to the car. Ma chewed on a shoot of prairie grass like a reg’lar hill billy, only it was three feet long, so every time she looked at me it shot straight up my nose. We got back to the car in an hour and we sank into our seats for the three hour drive home.
“Well,” Ma said. “Now we know for sure that it sucks to drive all the way up here to find that the trail is closed.”
We both laughed, and I thought about how much of the day we had spent laughing. I guess all we needed to salvage the day was some hot dad eye candy, good company and a little imagination.