Mission 1: Complete a challenging hike to a magical place (Ice Lakes) alone.
General: Channel a sexy, independent mountain goat while being wholly captivated by local scenery.
Personal: Replace a bittersweet memory of hiking to the main Ice Lake with my ex-boyfriend, and create an extra-rewarding memory by hiking to other lakes in the area.
Mission reportThe memory of this hike with my ex, Tom, clings to the forefront of my mind, like a static-riddled sock to a fine pair of sweatpants; wanting to “replace” it may be too harsh … I just want the memory to belong to me. I want the ability to mentally transport myself to the paradise that is Ice Lakes, and return without any souvenirs of residual sadness. While overlooking the lake together, Tom held and smooched me until Clark Gable seemed brutish by comparison. We were only casually dating then, but that affectionate episode (coupled with the overall shared experience) felt like a peak level of intimacy. For that reason – and my pressing desire to luxuriate in the beauty of alpine lakes – this was the most urgent mission.
Getting any sleep proved difficult the night before the quest, as my brain was abuzz with pre-adventure jitters. “Did I pack that bison bar for protein? Should I unpack that bison bar? The cranberries in it seem like a questionable textural component.” I passed some sleepless hours by making an emotionally charged, thoughtfully curated hiking playlist. It turns out Nicki Minaj really speaks to the core of my personal identity at this stage in the breakup. Shortly after dawn, I loaded up my hiking pack and drove through dense morning fog to the trailhead.
I had hardly taken my inaugural stride before excitement bubbled up and flooded my face with a broad smile. The sun had freshly risen and cast a golden haze over this verdant, dew-coated wonderland, abundant with trees and flowers. I was powered up on potent coffee, and began my ascent at a relatively ambitious pace. Upon reaching the first water obstacle of logs bridging a stream, I swiped my foot across the large log and deemed it “dangerously slick.” I humbled myself to crawl across the log on all fours, just waiting to be heckled and called a “lil’ bitch” by some nearby chipmunks.
About halfway in, I passed a tall guy who appeared to be in his early 30s. He commented that I must have some good music propelling me to go as fast as I was going (bless you, stranger). I confirmed as much (bless you, Nicki Minaj), and trekked onward with my smile still intact. Eventually, I stopped to rest and reminded myself not to let exertion trample enjoyment. Tall Hiker (TH) caught up to me and initiated a conversation while we hiked in concert. He even entrusted me with retrieving the cover for his camera lens from his backpack. Have you experienced the electrifying thrill of rifling through a good-lookin’ stranger’s backpack, and unearthing secret treasures of trail mix and sunscreen? It’s crack for your inner gumshoe. When we crested the final section of incline and drew closer to the lake, I spotted a sopping wet man putting a shirt back on. I realized it was my friend Blake, and he informed us that we had narrowly missed his skinny-dip in the frigid water.
The main Ice Lake looks stunning (when unsullied by a man’s naked tush). Its dynamic water assumes hues of turquoise rivaling island lagoons. Set against the backdrop of striking peaks, and enveloped by lush greenery and wildflowers, it’s awe-inspiring. I informed Blake and TH about my plan to explore the other two lakes (Island and Fuller), and everyone was game for the adventure. Continuing the mission with auxiliary troops was at odds with my original strategy, but I was having a blast and felt fortunate to be in such great company.
Island Lake was outrageously beautiful and worth the little climb to see another aquatic jewel. While Fuller lacked the brilliant colors of its neighbors, it had its own merits, acting as a mirror for the surrounding, snow-capped peaks, and a private refuge from the popular lakes. We all hiked back down together and exchanged information. To my surprise, TH invited me to coffee the next day when he was passing through Durango (Arizona-bound). I fully committed to spontaneity, and met him within 10 minutes.
This hike rewarded me with a sense of physical accomplishment, enchanting sights, and by happenstance, fun times with friends (old and new). I love my new Ice Lakes memory and my heart feels fuller for it.
Next Mission: Attempt stand-up comedy at an open mic.
Outcome: Mission Accomplished, though not completed alone
Skills improved/commendations: Social Skills, Spontaneity Skills, Adventure Badge, Mountain Goat Badge
Heart-mending effectiveness (out of 5 hearts): ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
Cassidy Cummings is a local who recently achieved the optimal humidity setting for her crisper drawer, two years in the making. She has exceeded her family’s expectations.