Hot! Lily Mountain





I’ve lived in the Northwest in the shadows of the majestic Cascade range, and I’ve lived in the open desert landscape of the Southwest. But I’ve never felt such a strange sense of place as I did in Colorado where these two familiar scene blended into one.

Every day, the towering Rocky Mountains created a wall to the west. To the east were nothing but flat open ranges. It was an unsettling feeling that I was very far from either coast, and even from my home only one state away.

It was hard to ignore those mountains, so I took a break from my brewery tours to tackle some of Colorado’s “hills.” Lily Mountain, just outside Estes Park, was calling my name… literally. Being a sea-level desert girl, I knew better than to try anything over 10,000 feet. The Lily was a maintained 1.7 mile trail, climbing 1,000 feet to a summit at 9,786 feet. It was a do-able day trip.

I set off to the west on Hwy 34 following the twists and turns of the Big Thompson River. Once out of the cities, the mountains loomed ahead of me. An hour later, I stopped in the tourist mountain village of Estes Park for lunch supplies, turned south and was soon at the Lily Mountain trailhead. It was a weekday, but the busy pullout implied others were out day-hiking as well.

I took my steps slowly up the groomed path and stopped to admire the views of open forests. As I neared the top, I was glad I hadn’t tried to do more than my 10,000 limit. I was feeling the elevation.

At the summit I could see the nearby Rockies mostly bare of snow in the middle of summer. I found a lounging spot in the rocks and ate my lunch fending off birds and chipmunks. The downhill trek was faster, but I still took my time. Once at the bottom, my legs were like jello as I worked the clutch on Ingrid’s Honda. As I left Estes Park and meet up with the Big Thompson, three mountain rams jumped down from a nearby hill to the side of the road. There was no time or place to stop for pictures. I continued on leaving the mountains behind me to return to the open range.

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