Yesterday a couple who listens to our podcast, drove here from Denver to give us the grand tour of the park. If anything they travel more than we do. They have an RV, but no home, but when they need some stationary time, they rent a place to stay in the US or in interesting parts of the world. Like me they both have spent the summer recovering from various joint surgeries and they rented a home in Denver within walking distance of their physical therapy. Her family built a retreat center here that has been grandfathered into the park and she has spent major portions of her life enjoying this spectacular place. The main park road goes up and over the mountains crossing the Continental Divide and rising to over 12,000 feet. The scenery on their tour varied greatly with the elevation. The western side of the park is greener, but has been hit hard by pine beetles. The dead trees looked sad and are a big forest fire waiting to happen. We stopped for lunch at a rustic lodge complete with big swings on the porch where you could linger and look down on the lakes below.
It seems like the thing to do here is hike and I was anxious to put my repaired foot to the test. We hiked up about 1,00 feet to Gem Lake, an aptly named oasis of moisture. My foot held up just fine, but the altitude really did me in. I expected to huff and puff on the way up, but I huffed and puffed just as hard on the way down. The incessant down, down, down did a number on my knees, which I expected, but the gasping and wheezing was not fun at all. I cannot blame the forest fires for my breathing problems. We've had some brief showers which cleared the air and the wind has shifted, so it looks clear. There are more hikes I'd like to take while we are here, but the gasping has given me pause. As soon as we got back to the car I felt just fine.
This evening we had dinner with a third set of listeners who have volunteered at the park for the last seven years. They liked it here so much they bought a condo. But today was their last day and they are packing for a trip to Europe. When we are at home, people make us feel like we are unusual with our travel addiction, but it is clear that we are not alone. They gave us advice about other hikes to take. I hope I will be up to them.