Hiking through the valleys of the Rocky Mountains was an unreal experience. On either side of me there were huge edifices of rock blanketed in thick clouds, sharply cutting through the fog. Incredibly tall coniferous trees rose beneath the walls as if reaching up to the rock. The only sounds I could hear were the cascading waterfalls and the pitter-patter of rain falling besides me. I was cold and wet, yet so comfortable. I was at ease, alone and surrounded by a powerful environment. As the valleys broke away, I found myself walking through vast meadows. Elk grazed alongside me; they stopped only momentarily to look up with curiosity before continuing on.
On my second night in the park I set up camp at the Cats Lair, then proceeded to hike to Lone Pine Lake. The whole way I strained my neck looking up at gigantic rock walls enveloping the trail. Robins flew around me by the dozens. I walked through Forests of Old Man’s Beard, dead branches covered in a fog of green wool. The lake itself was gorgeous, lined by walls of cold stone and the wet grass; it showed off a brilliant color of green that glowed against the white sky backdrop.
On the Tonohutu trail I walked through the aftermath of a huge forest fire. The air smelled smoky. What was once thick woodland was now a forest of burnt, branchless trees charred with a black coat. On the floor was a layer of fertile soil around burnt stumps that gave birth to young flowers. It was a vivid image of death yielding a new generation of life.
The alpine zones, the meadows and the timberland left me in constant awe. They inspired and motivated me to think, examine, explore and learn from what this incredible environment had to share.