I'm still searching...

Yes, I'm still searching for The Ultimate Question and until I find it, I have decided that 42 is what I will be.

As you might have guessed, it is that day again. It never fails to amaze me how it creeps up on me so quickly after the last one. The past year has been full of successes and that makes me incredibly happy. Big contracts and small contracts at work; each one fulfilling in its own way. On the personal front, new and old friends have provided much laughter and support. My family remains my rock and the center of my world. Sometimes, I am the center of my own world and that is a lot of fun, too.

Today, I will attempt to scale my first peak. Not a fourteener but a strenuous and tough hike nevertheless. Flattop Mountain stands at 12,324 ft; the round trip is 8.8 miles; the elevation gain is 2,849 ft. The last two miles (I think) are brutal and above treeline. It's not necessarily a big deal in these parts but it is for me.

Looking down at Emerald Lake
Emerald Lake Overlook, from D's hike to the summit, 2008

We attempted this hike as a family at the beginning of August of last year. By the time we crossed treeline, Medha was a little pale from the quick gain in altitude and the wind wanted us to sail with it. We trudged on for a while but gave up just short of the Emerald Lake Overlook.

This hike and our time together is my birthday gift this year. The goal is to make it to the summit, of course, but it will be just fine with me if I make it only up to the Emerald Overlook. Join me wherever you are by setting aside some time for an outdoor activity with your family and friends.

Happy Birthday, me!

I don't have a recipe for you today. What I have are pictures from our 5th annual Elk Bugling camping trip in Rocky Mountain National Park. Every year, we camp in Moraine Campgrounds at what we think will be the height of the rut. We book up to a dozen campsites, hike the trails over the weekend and get together for a massive potluck. It's a neighborhood tradition, with some families doing it year after year for over 16 years. It is considered so important that some families come up in shifts, hand over children at Lyons, or make two trips so that each child spends at least one night camping to the bugling of bull elk. Others come up just for the potluck. We are called the Bennett people, because the Bennetts make our reservations each year. Driving into the campgrounds is like driving into our neighborhood, tents instead of houses. Hey! Hi! You're here already? Got a hike planned for tomorrow? I forgot to bring salt again, can I borrow some from you?

In 2006, we were snowed on and the wind tried to whip our tents from under us.
In 2007, it was windy and cold. We also saw the top of our tent at close quarters several times the first night.
In 2008, it was pleasantly cool and it was also the first time Medha and I hiked without D. Medha, her friend and I hiked the short but steep Gem Lake hike and were rewarded with thunder, overhead lightning, rain and hail.
In 2009, it was warm and we hiked to Lake Haiyaha and had a blast clambering over the rocky shores of the lake.
In 2010, it was as hot as summer and very dry. There were splotches of color but nothing spectacular. Our region is known more for its gold hues - Colorado gold - rather than the range of colors that adorn New England. Nothing beats gold aspen leaves waving in the breeze, saying their final goodbyes.

I forgot that I can do video with my new camera and used my P&S instead. I still think it is beautiful though.

We found these young aspen trees along the Alberta Falls trail to Mills Lake.

Up an aspen

young aspen stand
Young aspen

We hiked beyond Alberta falls to Mills Lake, nestled in a rocky basin just shy of 10,000ft, with glorious views of my favorite fourteener, Longs Peak.

Dropping through the gorge
Some colors as the trail dropped through the gorge

Mills Lake
Mills Lake, 2.8 miles from Glacier Gorge Trailhead

The sun was high in the sky, creating a blue haze around the peaks. I think this is the closest I have come to Long Peaks.

some reds
Some reds at Mills Lake

Jumping rocks at Mills Lake
Jumping rocks

Are you thinking what I think you're thinking? If so, the answer is yes. And he almost fell in this time.

Mills Lake drama


GB said...

Well Happy Birthday! Your birthday present sounds like a lot of fun-hope you do make it to the summit!


Finla said...

Happy B'day Dear Manisha and have a wonderful hiking day.
Wow i am so jealous that you can do it :-)
And i think it is one of the best gifts , to spend time together with your family on this special day.

Desisoccermom said...

That is a great way to spend your birthday. Happy Birthday Manisha. Now I wish I lived in Colorado instead of boring, flat Tx where there are no mountains to climb and no interesting trees.

Kalyn Denny said...

I hope you'll have a great birthday, and it certainly sounds like you will!

Anjali Koli said...

Happy Birthday! Have a memorable hike.

Cynthia said...

Happy Birthday!

Gosh, your images are always captivating. The one with looking up to the sky from under the tree has me mesmerized.

Sulagna said...

Happy Birthday dear !!These are beautiful photos..Love them..

Best Regards

A-kay said...

Happy Bday Manisha! What a coincidence as we hiked Mission Peak yesterday - not sure if you can call it a mountain but a peak nevertheless - and it was great! Hope you had a great day too.

AA_Mom said...

Happy Birthday Manisha

Poornima said...

What a nice way to spend a birthday. Unforgettable. Wish you a very happy birthday and thank you for all the lovely pics.

archana said...

Happy Birthday Manisha !
My wish for you for a dashing next year..

"Climb every mountain, search high and low
Follow every byway, every path you know.
Climb every mountain, ford every stream,
Follow every rainbow, 'til you find your dream!

Hugs to you, i simply adore your blog.


TKW said...

Beautiful pictures and a beautiful birthday, it looks like. You are fierce, Miss! That's a big hike!

Jen Yu said...

I'm late to the party, but Happy Birthday, my dearest Manisha! I'm very proud of you for the accomplishment! I'll be sure to bake you an extra special cake someday :) xoxo

Tasty Eats At Home said...

Happy Birthday! This looks like a breathtaking hike, and gorgeous photos!

Miri said...

Happy Birthday! hope you had a great time - the bday gift sounds wonderful! :)

Indian Food Rocks said...

I did it! It took us 8 hours but we did it! It was tough and there were times when it felt like it was endless but it was a great feeling to finally reach the summit! We also had the world's best boiled eggs with lots of salt at a little over 12,000ft. An experience that now surpasses eating idlis in hot sambar for breakfast, at 8500ft with a mix of snow and freezing rain melting into the sambar.

GB, Thank you! It was mind over body for all of us. We're not necessarily very fit so this was a huge achievement not just for me but for Medha, too!

Happy Cook, thanks! The hike was very special because my family was with me. I also met two of my dear friends on the trail who gave me the best birthday hugs!

Jaya, thanks! I think it was a great way to spend my birthday and I'd do it all over again! You don't need mountains. It's the challenge and who you do it with - at least that's how it is for me! The other thing to do is visit Colorado. There's something to do all year around!

Kalyn, thank you! I did. It was very special.

Anjali, thanks! Very memorable! I was very sore for a couple of days thereafter!

Cynthia, thank you! Colorado is beautiful like that! I love it here!

Sulagna, thanks! Glad you enjoyed my pics!

A-Kay, thank you! Coincidence or not, I'm so glad you went on a hike! I've read about Mission Peak and it's not an easy hike! The altitude gain is more than that for Flattop as is the one-way trip. Maybe now that I have done Flattop, I might want to try Mission Peak! Lots more oxygen on that hike!

AA_Mom, thank you so much! I hope your twins are doing well and driving you nuts!

Poornima, thank you! It's a birthday hike none of us will forget easily, that's for sure.

Archana, thank you and likewise, my friend! Your creativity blows me away but you already know that! Hugs to you and I hope you are doing well!

TKW, thank you and I'm looking for a hug IRL from you soon! It's an awesome hike. It's mind over body. It's "do I have feet cos I can't feel them so how am I still walking" kind of a hike. Luckily the wind held still and the clouds didn't threaten on the way up else it would have been even more brutal!

Jen, thank you! Anything you make is always special! I'm so proud of me, too! See you as soon as you give those traveling feet a rest!

Tasty, thank you! It was wonderful with great views. There could have been better views from the top had we chosen to walk around the edge of the summit. But we had clouds approaching us from the west, the wind was picking up too and at least 2 miles before we were below treeline. So we headed back down. No regrets though!

Miri, thank you! I had a blast! Couldn't have asked for anything better on my birthday!

Anita said...

I did join you in spending time out with family last weekend...Oct 3 we climbed a hill at Shravanbelagola to see the Gomateshwara statue there! :) Yes, not a patch on your climb but nevertheless. We also visited two spectacular, really old (some 800years!) temples built in the time of the Hoysalas!
Did you make it up all the way? (Yes you did! just read your replies! Congratulations! Well done! Again! I can relate to how you felt - just like all of us did when we reached Ghangria, the base camp for Valley of flowers - the last bit was excruciating.)

Manasi said...

Belated Birthday wishes ,Manisha, hope u had a lovely day hiking.
Hope the year ahead is full of happiness and success and good health.

Sreelu said...

belated birthday Manisha, what a beautiful way to celebrate the day.
Love the change of colors, must visit colorado sometime.