I figure I’ve hiked Boulder’s Mt. Sanitas trail somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 times during the 19 years I’ve lived in the Boulder area. I know there are many people who have hiked it a whole lot more than I have, whose counts are in the thousands and who regularly scale mountains 10 times as high — but I have to marvel a little bit about why I’ve kept going back over the years.
Each time it is a thigh-trembling, heart-hammering, oxygen-gulping experience. Often there is cursing.
Truth be told, the last three years have seen only two or three of those treks (something about having a kid, starting your own business, getting old…blah blah blah). So when I headed up two weeks ago — on one of those shining, 50-degree days we’ve been having this winter — it was like reuniting with an old friend.
I was reminded of everything I love and hate about the trail at once. I always choose the Western route up — it’s steeper, but shorter. Before long, I start to sound like a asthmatic bulldog. But just when I’m barely managing to place one pathetic, plodding step after the other, I’ll spot a welcoming little turnout, with that heartening view of Boulder sprawling out below. Or sometimes a flatter, more forgiving part of the path emerges. I catch my breath and start anew, thinking, “I might actually make it to the top today!” Only to be passed by an 80-year-old jogging up the damn thing. And the whole cycle starts again.
Until I get to the top. And then it’s just pure endorphins. I actually have to restrain myself from hugging all those other sweaty, smiling people perched on the rocky outcroppings, sucking down water and drinking in the views.
On the way down, my legs always feel like jello for the first five minutes, and I think, am I going to be the first person in Boulder history to have to be air-lifted off Mt. Sanitas? But then, miraculously, my legs get used to the pounding, downhill motion, and by the time I reach my car, I’m positively giddy and pretty sure I could do it all over again, right then and there.
So on this hike two weeks ago, I promised myself I’d make time to come back more often. In fact, I headed back yesterday, just before the snow storm moved in. It was much colder — and tougher — than the previous time. But in the end, I found myself sending up a little thank you to the clouds for holding off just long enough for me to make it to the top and back, one more time.