Who gets up early on Saturday morning, while on vacation, to hike?
And we lived to tell the tale.
Denver, also known as the Mile-High city, is notorious for high altitudes, but we already knew that. In fact, according to Wikipedia, the authority on all things, Denver is exactly one mile above sea level, making it one of the highest major cities in the US. Imagine that. Usually, and for those of us who are not quite in shape, physical activity in high altitude also means shortness of breath. Keep that in mind as you read on.
We get to the top of Estes Park via Aerial Tramway, take in the view including Lake Estes, snap a couple pics and start out on the trail. As we were walking along we noticed several little squirrel like animals boldly running around. Then we observed tons of peanut shells on the ground. We took a few more steps....all the tourists were feeding the peanuts to the squirrels! Then we put it all together....1) These weren't squirrels, they were chipmunks. 2) The little souvenir shop at the top of the hill was also selling small paper bags full of peanuts. 3) Tourists purchased the peanuts, not as a hiking snack, but to attract the chipmunks and feed them. 4) The chipmunks were snatching peanuts from humans hands left and right. We were intrigued. I must have snapped at least 20 shots of the chipmunks. They kept getting so close! And they're super cute...not exactly what I expected.
So after I temporarily satisfied my fascination with the chipmunks, by standing there, pointing and basically giggling like a small child, we started the hike forreal. We leisurely strolled up the hill, stopping to take pictures along the way.
We veered off the path a few times and took pics of some trees and a couple huge rocks. Actually, some of my favorite nature pics are from this trip to Denver. The weather was good and the sky was a crisp blue, we were really fortunate but it was hot...dry heat that will sneak up on you if you aren't paying attention.
For the most part, the trail was easy...and flat. There came a point in the path were that changed.....and the trail went uphill...yikes. (I wasn't ready) But, like the champs that we are, Kira and I trudged onward and upward. You can't tell from the pic below, but the people in the distance there were huffing and puffing like they had just been running the Boston Marathon. Now that I think about it, I probably shouldn't have laughed. It was a forewarning of events to come.
You know how when you're doing something that exerts energy, like jogging, and you can start off holding a conversation but then you start to run out of breath and whatever you were saying doesn't seem nearly as important as breathing? Well I do....It's actually kind of frightening trying to catch your breath in higher altitudes. You panic a little but then there's that voice in the back of your head saying, "don't freak out bro!" because freaking out while you can't breathe only makes it harder to breathe lol.
Alright, we get to the top, I find my breath and pat myself on the back because I made it to the top, I didn't fall off the side of a cliff, pass out, or get eaten by a bear....we were all in one piece. We poked around a little bit, found the view of an awesome summit and then decided to make our way back to keep on track with our itinerary. On the way back down though, we start to see the chipmunks again and I'm like a kid in a candy shop...so excited. These furry little creatures are so cute and totally captivating. They come close enough to take these peanuts and then scurry off into the woods. One would pop up on the trail and then his friend would appear over the rocks to the side. It was like the were playing their own little game of hide and go seek.
As we came around the bend, there was a man sitting on the ground. Of course, I'm judging him because I'm thinking, this man is gonna get his britches all dusty! But, as we got closer, I also noticed there were tons of peanut shells around him. Now that I had become acquainted with the area, I realized that where there are peanut shells, there are chipmunks. So as we move towards this curious man sitting in the dirt, I finally understood what he was doing! These dusty pants would be well worth the trouble! I got suuuuper excited... Can you why tell from the pic below?
Dude had chipmunks sitting in his lap! He sat really still like a statute, you know like those guys in Vegas and the French Quarter wearing silver suits and face paint? He quietly shucked the peanut and held it in his hand. At first, the chipmunk was reluctant. Then, after testing the waters, it crawled onto the man's leg and snatched the peanut! I could hardly contain myself.
Of course, I wanted to try it so I sat down too! The kind, dusty pants-ed man shared his peanuts with me and I waited.....but the chipmunks wouldn't come to me. (sad face) It's like this man was the chipmunk whisperer or something. The whole time Kira was looking at me like I had gone completely insane. hahahaha.
I gave up and we continued down the trail.
We made it back to our starting point but I was determined to get a pic with the chipmunks. So I enlisted the help of Kira to snap a pic...those little suckers are quick! They grab those peanuts as if from a burning fire and run off to share with Simon and Theodore....hahahah sorry, I couldn't help it and I'm laughing really hard.
I had saved some of the peanuts that the chipmunk whisperer had given me earlier so I used those as bait. Finally, after the little guy almost got my fingers a couple times, we managed to capture a magical moment! The little fella came right up to me and dern near smiled for the camera! Look at him! After that we got several pics of me feeding them. Here are a few of my favs.
I was totally satisfied. I fed the chipmunks, got my pic, successfully hiked the trail...I had the whole Estes Park experience. Overall, it was pretty awesome.
See, I told you Estes Park needed its own post. I hope you enjoyed!
**There's no where to go but everywhere...so get going! ~ The Green Eyed Venuist (hereinafter also referred to as "GEV")