5 Things I Learned About The Mountains So Far

I originally wrote this post back in August, but I never posted it and it's been sitting in my draft box until just now when I opened it and read it. Why didn't I post this?! I think things were just so crazy & confusing back then that I wasn't sure if I wanted to write and share. My life has seriously changed since being here, A LOT has happened and I've grown mentally and emotionally in many new and different ways. Looking back, just a few years ago, I never would have imagined that I'd be living in another state - 2,000 miles away from everything that I've ever known. This has been a journey to say the least and I think it's about time to start opening up. So here goes, starting with this post from August 2014. Hopefully there will be more to come...

It's been 6 weeks 10 months now! since we've been in Denver. Can you even believe it?! Time really flies when your days are filled with exploring a new place and we've definitely been super busy. I want to start updating my website a little bit more and blogging about my adventures here in Colorado so hopefully I can find the time to actually do it. I've been full-time freelancing so it's been such a crazy transition and A LOT of work but it's work that I'm really proud of and can call my own (I'll update everyone on that as I blog more).

For now, Matt and I brainstormed some things we learned from living in the mountains so far. This post is mainly for when we hike up in the mountains, not when we're in downtown Denver, so keep that in mind because a lot changes when you're up at different elevations.

For some perspective, Long Island's elevation is less than 100 feet in most parts (Franklin Square 66ft, Malverne 36ft, Long Beach 0ft) and Denver is at 5,280ft so that's a huge difference! The highest Matt and I have hiked has been 8,100ft 13,000ft! and the tallest mountain in Colorado is at 14,440ft (almost triple the 'mile high' it is downtown!).

1. Get ready to test your limits.

I've never experienced anything like the Rocky Mountains until moving to Denver. Long Island doesn't really have much to do in terms of hiking mountains.... so people go to the gym to stay active instead. Here in Denver, I see a lot more people biking, hiking, and doing outdoor activities to stay fit. So far we've been on several hikes and bike rides; we've even been ziplining! All of the mountains in Colorado are different and each trail is unique so you really need to know if your skill level matches the trail before heading out otherwise it'll be too much to handle and you can be seriously injured if you're not advanced enough. 

Somebody hiking a muddy & snowy trail in November without shoes. 

Somebody hiking a muddy & snowy trail in November without shoes. 

2. Drink up! Be aware of your body & well-being.

It's not uncommon to hear residents of Colorado tell newcomers to drink a lot of water to help you adjust to the elevation, and they aren't kidding! You won't think that it's anything, but the elevation does take a few days to get used to when you first arrive in Denver, and you can go a couple of thousand feet higher when you're in the mountains.  Exercising requires a little bit more work, you feel shortness of breath easier, and you need to take more breaks and rests to conserve your energy. It's important to drink plenty of water before heading up to the mountains and to keep sipping water throughout your hike. I also learned that it helps to bring a little snack for when you reach the summit. After going through all that hard work getting to the top, a granola bar or some trail mix before heading down is really worth it. 

3. If you hear thunder, get to your car.

Getting caught in a thunderstorm when you're up in the mountains is not fun, I would know, it's happened to me twice already! If you ever need to know anything about the weather here in Colorado, just know that it might be sunny right now but give it ten minutes and you can find yourself in the middle of a hailing downpour! If you hear thunder or see dark clouds looming, especially when you're hiking up high in the mountains, seek shelter. If you ever get caught in a thunder storm, there will be lightning too, and it's extremely dangerous to be outside. A safe position is to crouch down with the balls of your feet ONLY touching the ground until the storm has passed, or you can just hike early in the day to avoid afternoon thunderstorms!

A double-rainbow after a mountain thunderstorm.

A double-rainbow after a mountain thunderstorm.

4. What you see in the wild, is really real.

Okay, obviously the wild animals that you see when you're hiking in the mountains are real, but when I say real I mean REALLY real. I mean, if you veer off the hiking trail and climb some rocks to get a better view, you might hear the terrifying rattle of a rattlesnake only to look down and see that you were inches from stepping directly on it. Yep. Exactly. There are snakes, bears, mountain lions, deer, elk, big horn sheep and more! And these aren't your New York City street rats scavenging for the crumbs you drop on the subway platform, these are real life dangerous, yet absolutely beautiful, animals. Stay out of their way, know what to do when you encounter one (hint: there's a different approach for each animal!), and respect their land because that's their home and you're just exploring for the moment.

A rare black fox I saw running through the snow, very unusual to spot and difficult to photograph.

A rare black fox I saw running through the snow, very unusual to spot and difficult to photograph.

5. Finally sitting down after hiking all day is an awesome feeling.

Completing a hike has proven to be a really fun experience. Matt and I always come away feeling really proud of ourselves like we accomplished something great. Symbolically, I think we did, or at least we're on our way to accomplishing great things. Each hike just reminds us that if we work hard it will pay off either in success or a growth in knowledge and character. We love exploring our new state and the beautiful mountains within and we are looking forward to the adventures ahead of us.