Still a gentleman

In late May or early June my spouse and I headed into the mountains for a weekend away from Denver. Our domicile for the weekend was The Spa at Cordillera. We found out after our trip that this was the infamous place where Kobe Bryant's legal troubles began a few years earlier. It was a beautiful spot in the mountains just past Vail and the hotel was comfortable and relaxing (especially because of the deal we got for the weekend).

Our weekend was spent reading in the cool mornings and hiking in the afternoon. We hiked to Hanging Lake, a small alpine lake a mile or so off of the Interstate. I remember being surprised by the sheer number of people on the moderately strenuous trail. Moreover, it opened my eyes to the illiteracy problem in Colorado. The signs were clearly marked with the words "No Pets" (along with the requisite pictorial designation), but we passed our share of leashed and unleashed dogs along the trail. I love dogs, but dislike blatant disregard for rules, so I always feel as though I encounter a grave moral dilemma when these situations occur.

Regardless of my moral quandaries, the hike was beautiful and gave us ample time to test out our new hiking gear and Colorado lungs. I struggled a bit on the mostly vertical trail, but certainly felt rewarded at the end of the trail. If you are ever in Colorado, I would recommend taking the hike in the early summer when the snow melt makes the waterfalls thunder and the resulting mist chills the air. Nothing seems better after a long hike than standing the spray of a waterfall as it cools and soothes your weary muscles.

We chose to spend the final day of our weekend on a different trail near Minturn, Colorado. There is not much to Minturn, save for the large National Forest that backs up to it. The trail we chose to hike that day was meant to take us along a stream up to another mountain lake. However, a mile or two into the hike we found ourselves experiencing the Colorado mud season in all of its glory. At this point in the hike our trail disappeared, the multiple streams of chilled water swallowing it whole, leaving us guessing where to turn next.

Having absolutely no survival skills whatsoever we climbed a hillside and cautiously moved along a game trail that ran parallel to the streams below. When we could see the remnants of a trail below we slowly descended only to find that the trail ended a couple hundred yards upstream. At this point we decided that it was in our best interest to turn around and try another way. We sloshed our way back to the main trail and worked our way back to a fork in the trail.

Turning onto the new trail we were happy to see only one small stream to cross before we could enter a grove of Aspens and hopefully continue on to the lake. All that stood between us and the Aspens was a well-worn log that bridged the stream.

I was raised in the Southeast. I did not learn to say yes or no, but yes ma'am or no sir. I learned to open doors for women, give them my chair and walk on the outside of the curb so that they would not be splashed by cars driving through mischievously planted puddles. Much of this early childhood learning is still implanted on my brain, and on this hike it superseded common sense for some reason.

About halfway across the stream a rock stood solidly in the middle. I, ever the gentlemen, decided that I would plant one foot on the rock and one on the shore and offer my lovely wife a way to brace herself as she crossed the stream. You might able to guess what happened next.

My spouse is a petite woman who stands a good foot shorter and about sixty pounds lighter than me. However, at the moment she reached the middle of the log, the same moment we pulled one another off balance, I could have sworn she was an East German Weightlifter from the early 1980s.

My eyes widened as we began to tilt toward the earth. I could have sworn that something flashed before my eyes. Apparently, as we fell we did not let go of one another until we were too far apart to hold hands any longer. All I can remember now is the rapidly rising earth and my inability to get my hands in front of my face. The runoff of snowmelt in early June is frightfully cold, especially when you end up going nose first into a mountain stream.

Neither of us was seriously hurt. I still nurse two jammed fingers from that day, but they are slowly healing. My pride was wounded more than anything else. I am the guy who dumped himself and his wife into a semi-frigid mountain stream. We laugh about it now, as we did on that June afternoon, even though the mental scars still hurt every now and again. I learned a number of valuable lessons from that experience as well.

When your spouse says she does not need your help crossing a frigid stream, then let her cross it herself (or let him cross it himself). Being a gentleman has its limits. Snow runoff, while experienced in the mist of waterfall is exhilarating; snow runoff, while experienced doing a face plant into a mountain stream is just damn cold. Finally, it is a wonderful feeling to know that I can completely fail at a task and someone out there will still love me.

grace and peace...



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