I sat on a twisted fallen tree, resting my pack near the upturned roots. I had taken my time on a leisurely snowshoe up to Nymph Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park, stopping to admire the views every so often. Instead of focusing on achieving a mileage goal, or bagging all of the lakes in the area, I stopped to rest on this tree. After only 2 miles, once around Bear Lake and then on my way up to Nymph Lake, it wasn’t so much of a physical break as it was a mental break.
The skies were a brilliant blue, a perfect contrast to the snowcapped peaks. With it being such a gorgeous day, the trails were full of people soaking up the sun while laughing as they crossed the frozen lakes. I watched tourists hike up the trail in loafers and jeans, way underprepared for the experience but motivated by pure awe for what looked like a once in a lifetime opportunity. I saw families building snowmen on the top of lakes that are usually covered by thousands of lilypads in the summer. People stopped by frozen waterfalls to take photos with the glass-like curtain serving as Nature’s photo booth backdrop. And I saw groups of friends coming down from treeline where they had earned their turns on disappearing glaciers.
I sat and watched life happen and felt the sun beam down on my face, warming my freckles as I realized that I had forgotten to put on sunscreen. I tried to swallow the urge of regret that I wasn’t using that moment to make it up to treeline, and attempted to focus on being – not doing. It was probably more challenging for me to do this than it would have been to make it to the top of the trail system.
I opened my pack to pull out snacks, first opening the gallon ziplock bag full of Cliff Bars, beef jerky, and almond butter packets, then placing the wrappers inside a sandwich ziplock. It’s a double bagging system I use in bear country so as not to smell like a walking vending machine, but a habit I keep up with whenever I load up my pack for any trail adventure.
With the rustling and crackling of the plastic bags, a flutter of feathers flew around me. Soon the trees were hopping with Gray Jays and Steller’s Jays eyeballing my snacks. The more I touched the ziplocks, the closer they got. We were mere inches away from each other as they curiously watched my every move, cocked their heads to the side, and hopped closer for a free meal. I didn’t feed them and they lost interest. I crinkled the bag again and they flew back, seeming to have forgotten that they weren’t going to get any food. It was a classic pavlov’s response – hear the sound of wrappers and fly right in for some food. I’m sure hundreds of thousands of people feed the wildlife, recreating the moment Snow White hangs out with the forest animals.
But there I sat, entertained by the birds, and taking that time to be in the Rocky Mountains.