Story: Hiking Helped me Become a Better Counselor In the Long Haul

This is a lot like the labor day plans blog post.

Unbelievable as it sounds, school starts for my daughter in ten days, when she’ll be a Junior in high school. This seems momentous and premature on soooo many levels. It also seems like something I can’t do much to thwart and had better get used to.

To mark the end of summer, I asked my daughter if she and her friends wanted to go hiking above tree-line at Cameron Pass. She texted her friends about it. And then, she texted them some more (and her mother got involved in the recruiting effort), and in the end, three of her friends thought it would be a fun thing to do.

And so, yesterday morning we had breakfast at Las Salsitas (chorizo breakfast burrito Yum!), and picked up everyone between 8-8:50 am. The kids, of course, lived all over town – which made me wonder what ever happened to neighborhoods? Regardless, we headed out of town; took a left at Ted’s Place onto Colorado 14; and headed up Poudre canyon towards the Montgomery Pass trail.

The guide books tell you the Montgomery Pass trailhead is located at the Zimmerman Lake parking lot. What the books don’t tell you is that the Zimmerman Lake parking lot is the only unmarked destination on the entire stretch of highway up to Cameron Pass. As a result, we ended up at the Colorado State Forest’s Moose Visitor Center in Gould, ten miles on the other side of the pass, asking for directions. It turned out to be no problem. The Zimmerman Lake parking lot is located just to the west of Joe Wright Reservoir and on the south side of the highway, before you crest the pass. Once we got there, the trailhead was well marked and across the road from the parking lot.

So What Happened?

We took off. The trail follows an old track that represented the only way into North Park before the highway at Cameron Pass was built. For the first mile and a half, it’s an attractive hike and passes through a lodgepole pine forest. However, the trail does get a little steep. Some members of our group thought it was a challenge. We took it slow. Stopped often. Drank water – and I ended up talking about everything I know about how bark beetles kill lodgepole pine.

After a while, the trail continues uphill more gradually. About that time, we reached the remains of a cabin, which is said to have been built around 1900. Large mushrooms grew underfoot. The “cutest” one (my daughter said) was the one that might have been the poisonous and psychoactive Amanita muscaria (you can see the photograph of it below; and Google – which you’ve got to love – tells me that this very blog has referenced A. muscaria before, here, in the comments). There were remarkable Douglas fir trees growing just beyond the cabin.

About a half mile before the summit, the forest gave out. We were above tree-line. The usual rules and expectations didn’t seem to apply as much. It was steep and windy, with incredible views, and everyone had more energy. The kids took it all in and ate a lot of trail mix. We had lunch on the lee side of a rock outcropping, above the pass. I discussed the work we were doing with web design on

Then we decided to get going again..

The trip back was all downhill, which made everyone happy. We were in the car by 3 pm, and everyone got dropped off at their home by 5 pm (more or less). Altogether, it was a great hike for those who don’t hike very much but still want to know more about the mountains they can see from town.