We love it when baby boomers keep doing things we all want to do ourselves. And that’s the case with photo artist Eli Vega. He lives in Colorado, and what do you do when you live in Colorado? You hike! And Eli does it with a camera ‘round his neck. Now, with Summer coming up, we want to give you Eli Vega’s ideas for a few sensational-looking boomer hikes.
My love for hiking and my passion for photography are a perfect marriage.
So some of my favorite professional photo images are from hiking trips. And the good news is, these hikes are just fine for baby boomers! If you’re a baby boomer, here are some tips on how to prepare for any hike, especially hikes longer than two hours.
First, start early to beat the high-altitude sun, and to avoid any late afternoon storms. I’d start around 6:00-6:30 in the morning. Take plenty of water—I love my Camelbak® water container. Dress comfortably, and wear a hat! I put a damp towel around my neck to keep myself cool, and then re-wet it along the creeks. Take some basic first aid items, like small bandages, just in case.
There are hundreds of trails in Colorado, and I have taken many of them. I will share three, the three I would classify as examples of 1) difficult, 2) intermediate, and 3) easy-to-moderate.
The most difficult and longest hike is the Mt. Elbert Trail, which leads to the highest peak in Colorado, at 14,443 feet. The trailhead is about ten miles south of Leadville. I started at 6:00 a.m and got back at 6:00 pm! Eighteen miles, round-trip. It’s not for the faint of heart. The trail starts at about 9,000 feet and ends at almost fourteen-and-a-half—quite a vertical rise.
However, it is worth every mile. Where else can you get an eagle’s view of the lakes and valleys below? For the first mile or two you pass along canyons of tall aspens, and other canopies of nature’s umbrella trees. At about 11,000 feet, you start reaching tree-line, above which you’re hiking on just rocks—so wear good shoes. Although you lose tree cover, the views are spectacular! You begin to look down at 10,000-foot peaks, and later at 12-thousand footers.
There are usually other hikers along the trail, which adds to the feeling of safety and security. It’s like an anonymous club. Everyone respects each other, directs each other, and supports each other along the way. Whenever I’m on the way down and see weary hikers on the way up, I motivate them by saying, “It’s worth it! The views up there are awesome!” I can see their faces light up.
There is so much to see and experience along the trail. I love looking back and seeing how far I’ve come, and seeing other awesome mountain peaks nearby. There is also animal life like picas and marmots. Birds, sometimes large hawks, can be seen hovering and fluttering above you. Then there are also wildflowers along the way. My favorite is the elegant columbine, my state’s official flower.
Since Mt. Elbert is a long, strenuous hike, I recommend making reservations in advance at the nearby Cottonwood Hot Springs, near the town of Buena Vista. Get a full body massage after your hike, and then soak in the natural hot springs. Ahhhh!
The Lone Eagle Peak trail is not as difficult, but it is long—fifteen miles round-trip. The trailhead is on the west side of the Continental Divide, just a few miles southeast of the town of Grand Lake. Yard-per-yard, this is my favorite trail. Besides the sound of peaceful running water from creeks along the trail, there are four waterfalls along the way that are worth taking a time-out.
Unlike the Mt. Elbert trail, the entire hike is below tree line—plenty of trees along the way. Like most trails in Colorado, you’ll see wildflowers, animal life, birds, and the music of creeks along the way to keep you company.
Although it is a long trail, the destination to the almost 12,000-foot Lone Eagle Peak is worth the hike! It looks like what we might see in other countries, totally unlike any mountain peak in the Rockies.
The trail to Long Lake can be hiked by children. It is the longest lake in the Indian Peaks Wilderness area, toward the east side of the Continental Divide, west of Boulder. From Highway 92, also known as the Peak-to-Peak Highway, take the Brainard Lake exit, which is near the quaint historic mining town of Ward. My favorite time of year for this hike is August, when the wildflowers are in full bloom. This trail duplicates the mental image of mountain streams, scented pine trees, wildlife and wildflowers, lakes, and jagged peaks in the background. Now, that’s what Colorado is about—and this trail provides it.
If you have some energy left, after the hike to Long Lake, I encourage you to go an extra 2-3 miles up to Lake Isabelle. It is absolutely beautiful–where heaven and earth meet.
Enjoy your hiking in Colorado. I certainly do … me and my camera.
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