Rocky Mountain High (part I)

Hey, gang! So, as you may have noticed, for the first time in well over a year I've gone over a week without blogging. For that, I'm so incredibly sorry. Let's just say the past 13 days have been a whirlwind of fun, with a bout of debilitating sickness sandwiched in the middle. And it all crescendoed to an action-packed trip to Denver to visit my brother last weekend.

Eric and I arrived in Denver Thursday afternoon, greeted at the airport by my older brother, Rob, who graciously presented us each with one of these:
Except they were fresh out of "Eric" mint tins, so he was forced to accept one that read "Erica." What a man.

Now, from the time we were picked up from the time we were dropped back off at the airport, the weekend was packed nonstop with fun. In today's post, I'll share the most beautiful part of the trip (which surprisingly was not the high-school-style attempt at ordering food while walking through a Taco Bell drive through. Only the classiest with us, folks): our hiking trip to Rocky Mountain National Forest.

I'm not sure what I expected for our hike, but I was in awe of the mountains' beauty. How pristine everything was. How so many of the views (or "vistas" as my brother kept referring to them as) looked like paintings. How I could have sat on the boulder at our hike's destination for hours at just stared at the impossibly blue sky and bright-white mountain peaks, had we enough time to do so. It was peaceful and perfect. And there were plenty of "Dumber and Dumber" quotes ("Yeah, we're in the Rockies...") flying around throughout.

So today I present to you, with limited commentary, a pictorial of our hike through the Rocky Mountains, via trail from Bear Lake to Emerald Lake and back.
We took off from a visitor's center and rode a shuttle about 20 minutes up the mountain.

My brother's girlfriend, Megan, and I were obviously double-thumbs-up pumped about our hike.

I couldn't get over how blue the sky was up there. I also loved watched the shadows of the clouds rolling across the mountains.

After our shuttle ride, we arrived at Bear Lake, where we began our hike to Emerald Lake.

We hiked by waterfalls...

Pretty little lakes, ponds and small babbling brooks...

And from time to time we stopped and climbed up boulders to better take in the views.

I was in awe of all the snow throughout our hike. For some reason I just loved the fact that I was walking around in shorts and a t-shirt and over huge piles of snow. Some jokester even built a tiny little snowman!

It was not actually cold up there... which is why I was so fascinated by all the snow still up there!

Don't mind my awkward pose here... we were avoiding getting wet feet, and also I almost fell backwards into the stream. I am not the most graceful.

Rob and I even found a tree with our initials on it! (Don't mind that in the photo it looks like it reads "RD" rather than "RB...)

And finally, we made it to our destination: Emerald Lake.

Everything so so incredibly picturesque. 

Bob Ross ain't got nothin' on the real thing. (RIP)

Along the way, we even saw some critters!
Like a camera-friendly gang of marmots (this one totally pulled the "Dramatic Chipmunk" on us).

Of course, Eric had to bring his trusty Dill Pickle sunflower seeds along for the hike.

Which caught the attention of a happy little chipmunk friend, who was not afraid to get close.

At first, the chipmunk just licked the dill pickle flavor from the seeds.

But soon figured out how to crack them, and absolutely went nuts (pardon the chipmunk pun) for them. We couldn't believe how comfortable he was just nibbling on them from Eric's hand!
We could've watched that little guy snack forever.

But eventually we caught up with some larger critters.

Like these elk, which were awesome to see in the wild. There were about four others in this pack.

But everywhere we looked, there was something gorgeous to see.

I wish we could've spent more time in the mountains, but the altitude got the best of (I think) all of us - we were whooped by the end and ready for the next adventure. But I really did love it up there - the peaceful and relaxed feeling I had throughout the hike was like I'd just finished doing yoga. There was a happy calm in me that promptly knocked me out and made me doze off in the 1.5-hour drive back to Denver. Rocky Mountains, you're alright with me.

Come back tomorrow for part two of my Denver vacation recap, which promises to be less beautiful, but more full of quirky bars and other city nightlife.

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