When I was growing up, my family had three alternating vacation spots, one of which was Rocky Mountain National Park, in Estes Park, Colorado. Each trip, we stayed at Machin’s Cottages in the Pines, a comfy little resort at the bottom of Eagle Cliff Mountain. Not being an athletic family, we didn’t do intense mountain climbing, but Eagle Cliff was perfect because it was a beginner’s mountain with a great view of the surrounding, snow-capped peaks and cozy valleys.
(Random photos I stole from Google.)
My family hasn’t been there in more than ten years, since my grandparents died and the rest of us went there to spread their ashes. Amazingly, while Keith and I were in Denver visiting his newlywed friends, we also had the opportunity to drive out there for a few hours on our last day of the trip. Since we had such little time, I had to choose one favorite activity to do, to showcase my childhood fun. Of course, I decided that we would climb Eagle Cliff.
(Okay, these are my photos now.)
There’s no parking lot for climbers, so we drove up the little resort road, anxious to discover if Machin’s was still in business. The road winds through the trees up the base of the mountain, and I beamed when we rounded a corner and saw the cluster of brown cottages with green roofs. It was still there.
We parked and walked into the office, where Lee Machin himself was still working behind the counter. We talked to him a bit, and he remembered my grandparents fondly.
A dirt path leads for a short way before veering back down, at which point we had to pick our spot to hop off the path and start climbing. The mountain is small, but for a beginner such as myself, it’s a major challenge. I went from sedentary to mountain climber right then and there. The ascent is quite steep, and the thin air makes it especially hard to breathe. There were a handful of moments when I seriously considered stopping, turning around and heading back down. But I remembered that I had climbed that mountain many times before, even as a little kid, so it had to still be possible for me. I was motivated, and I needed every last bit of that motivation to make it up there. The high altitude gave me aches in my head and face, my lungs were sore, and my legs were tired.
But somehow, I made it to the top, where I obviously needed to pose for some cheesy zen photos.
Heading back down, we got caught in a downpour. As it is, going down is tricky enough because the gravel is slippery, and the rain increased that. It was cold now, too, having gotten cooler when the clouds came over, and our clothes were quickly soaked. Surefooted Keith jogged his way down, while I cautiously stumbled along, trailing far behind him.
From there, once we reached the bottom and were completely drenched and shivering, we went into downtown Estes Park and visited my family’s favorite shop, Laura’s Fudge Shop. I bought some candy and mailed it home to them.
Then we headed back to our friends’ house, they dropped us off at the airport, and we were back in Long Beach before bedtime.