“Know when to walk away“
We really love hiking. We live in Colorado, so there are trails everywhere with breath-taking scenery. It is necessary to get outside, smell the fresh air, and get in touch with nature. It is good for the mind and the body.
Hiking is social as well; you will run into people along the trails. It is like an unspoken rule to greet one another and offer encouragement ” Hi!” “How are you” “You are almost there. “
Normally our hiking trips are really enjoyable. We usually plan the hike and are entirely prepared for any scenario. However, today there mistakes made that marred the experience a bit. Let me walk you through our experience – the good, the bad and the ugly!
Deciding on the trail
We often use a hiking app to locate trails that match the right weather conditions, skill level, and our mood. There are days you want to get out, but you aren’t in the mood for more than a few miles. It is March in Colorado, so the weather is a consideration. It was 78F in the foothills, and knowing the temperature drops about 20 degrees in the higher elevation, we chose a shorter hike however, further up in the mountains.
About the trail
This weekend we chose Horsethief Falls Trail. Horsethief Falls Trail is a popular, well-traveled, scenic trail, on clear days, has nice views of Aspen. The trail is 2.60 miles and is described as moderately challenging.
MISTAKE #1. I’ll be honest, I missed the part of the description, of the trail, that said, “best time for this trial is May – October.”
The trail begins beside a closed tunnel located between Divide and Cripple Creek, Co. Interestingly, the trail got its name during the gold rush in Cripple Creek in the 1890s. Outlaws would wait for people to pass through this area and rob them of their money and horses.
When we reached the trailhead and parked, we noticed the temperature had actually dropped down over 30 degrees with increased winds. Usually, this is not an issue as long as our feet are dry and our heads are covered.
Since it was colder and windy
I looked in my pack for my head covering
(shown in this picture from
I could not find it – I must have
left it at home!
Before beginning the actual hike, the writing was on the wall. It was cold, windy, and I did not have a head covering. BTW I will mention my husband forgot his as well. However, we had driven about an hour to get to the trail, and we stubbornly continued.
BTW ignoring the signs to put this hike off for another day was MISTAKE #3.
Trail started with a bit of a slope & some snow
Next, the trail developed ice & incline got steeper
Snow, ice, heavy winds and the trail went straight up with sharp drop-offs on side
Our experience on the trail
The trail started with a bit of slope, but there wasn’t too much snow to impede traction. However, this did not last! Before, we continue this journey let me jump in and tell you what the next mistake was.
MISTAKE #4. Before we left the house, I couldn’t find my hiking shoes and instead wore my boots. Why is this a mistake, you ask? Rigid, heavy hard-soled boots don’t flex with your feet and make steep trails challenging.
As we continued on the trail, the side slope dropped away and offered beautiful views of the valley below us. However, ice developed, the winds picked up, and the trail narrowed and pointed straight up the rest of the way up.
NOTE: when you read trail guides, never believe “slight” incline descriptions. Always assume the worse!
We continued the journey for 30 minutes before turning back. Our ears were cold, we both were becoming breathless from the steep trail…and my heavy non-forgiving boots were not helping.
As Kenny Rogers sings in The Gambler:
“You got to know when to hold ’em,
Know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away,
And know when to run.”
Yes, I called it!
When you push through a bad hike, people can get hurt, and we both were hurting. The trip going back down the trail went much faster. Indeed, I stepped off the trail into the snow and hauled my butt down the slope. I couldn’t wait to get to the car.
The moral of the story is that hiking can be fun but can turn on a dime. Be prepared, and if problems arise….
“know when to fold’em”!