When I think of vacations I like to keep it simple. If it’s warm and there is a remote trace of something that looks like a beach even through squinted eyes, then that’s where I’d like to go. When my husband and I began planning our five year anniversary trip, he mentioned seeing and climbing mountains and all I could think was that it sounded like a lot of work and cold—especially cold. Turns out both things were true. What is also true is that it was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. The way the world below looks from the edges of cliffs, the way the sun sets between pine-covered peaks, the overwhelming sense of peace that comes in the silence of the valleys between the mountains, are sights and sensations that I will always carry with me.

Black Hawk, CO

Day 2: Red Rocks Park, Denver

Day 3: on Raccoon Trail and Black Bear Trail

Day 4: The big one. James Peak via St. Mary’s Glacier, a 13er. Nearly 10 miles out-and-back of uphill climbs through a rock-littered trail. The incline gradually increased as we neared 13,000 feet making each step feel laborious. Sweeping gusts of wind almost sharp enough to cut your cheek whirled through at steady intervals. If it sounds like a miserable time, it was. That is, until you reach the very peak and you get a 360 degree view of the valleys below and somehow all that hard work, the soreness in my ankles, the blisters on my feet and heels, felt like a necessary toll to enjoy something truly spectacular.

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