No matter what time of year you find yourself in Colorado, Sage Outdoor Adventures has something to get your adrenaline pumping. In the summer months they offer everything from Horseback Riding to Sporting Clays, Whitewater Rafting to Four wheeling, and much more.
Robert Townsend wrote "Getting there isn't half the fun, it's all the fun." After our drive, I am pretty sure that he wrote that after visiting Sage Outdoor Adventures. It starts off with a simple drive from Vail straight up Highway 70 to Wolcott. The website provides the following directions; "At mile marker 3 turn left onto Horse Mountain Rd. (dirt Rd.) – Follow SAGE signs for the next 3 miles on dirt road, then you will encounter the main Sage Activity sign." The "3 miles on a dirt road" was a dust bowl filled with heavy climbs and steep descents coupled with hairpin switchbacks. The final climb had us looking at the sky and wondering aloud if we were going to fall off the mountain. As we leveled out, we were treated to some amazing views of the valley and surrounding ranges.
Nine of us had decided to take on their Sporting Clays course, which is widely know as one of the most picturesque courses in the country. I won't divulge my score - let's just say I was overcome by the beauty of my surroundings. The course was both beautiful and technical, everything you could want in a Sporting Clays course.
I would be amiss if I didn't give a huge shout out to the extremely friendly and helpful staff without whose advice my score would have been even easier to add up.
With our acclimation more or least complete, Erin and I looked for our first trail to conquer. In this 21st century world, one of the first places I go for information is the internet - it's a great tool to check conditions and reports from other hikers. One of my favorite sites is AllTrails.com. There you can find detailed information on thousands of trails, complete with updated user trail conditions and pictures. It also has a great downloadable app that helps you find trails close to you. That said, nothing beats asking the locals. Be honest with them about your fitness level, your experience and what gear you have available - they can put you on to some great trails that you may not find on your own! Conversations had and research done, we packed up our gear and headed to Booth Lake Trail, a moderate to difficult out and back trail in East Vail.
The trail follows a raging river of white water complete with several waterfalls as it snakes its way into the vastness of the snow covered peaks above. At certain vantage points Erin and I stood in total silence captivated by the sights and sounds, a percussive power radiating through us from the pounding of this near freezing water. For those that have met us, especially me, that is no small feat. We did our best to capture it's essence on film to share with you, but I promise they do not do the experience justice.
At this point, I need to confess - remember how I mentioned talk to the locals? One of the things that nearly every local mentioned was get out early because the weather becomes unpredictable later in the day. Welllllll, Erin and I got kind of a late start, and just to prove the locals right the weather decided throw a nice little thunderstorm our way. We sheepishly hid out under a dense clump of pine trees and waited it out. Thankfully, the rain abated before too long and we continued on our way.
The trail itself provides nearly every type of terrain you could ask for. We started out on narrow hard-packed dirt through dense trees. The initial climb was fairly aggressive and quickly made me wonder if we had spent enough time acclimating, but short time later we found ourselves breaking through the trees into the valley surrounding us with breathtaking panoramic views. We hiked through large batches Aspen trees and across creeks of freezing cold mountain runoff, stopping several times to catch a better view of the falls.
The real adventure started about 9,500 feet above sea level. The constantly building snow quickly gobbled up what was left of the trail. Determined to reach 10,000 feet Erin and I began trailblazing through knee high drifts. After a great deal of effort and a couple of curse words, we reached a bald head rock at 10,174 feet. Although we never reached the lake, which is situated at 12,000 feet, we consider the day a raging success. If you find yourself in Vail around July or August I am sure this would be a absolutely beautiful hike and much easier to make it to Booth Lake at the top.
So a few recommendations:
It has been many years since I have enjoyed the awe of gazing across the Rocky Mountains. Adventuring at these altitudes takes some consideration. In preparation I spoke with Casey and Sarah (Classroom Worldwide's VP and Secretary) as they are both avid mountain climbers, I read several articles on the old interwebs, and I took a few test hikes to test out my gear and its configuration.
Erin and I left Raleigh yesterday morning (elevation 580 ft above sea level), landed in Denver Colorado (about 5,200), and then drove the final leg to Vail (about 8,100) - for those who have never been at these elevations it can be a humbling experience. The first thing that I noticed, and had been warned about, was that I was almost insatiably thirsty.
These minor discomforts aside, Erin and I joined our friends and family in Vail and enjoyed an evening of catching up, crazy stories and amazing food. Note, if in the area, you have to check out the Vail Ale House. Tired from our journey - you know sitting on a plane and watching movies - we were quick to bed.
The next morning, we woke up anxious to take on our majestic surroundings. After a hardy breakfast, I prepared our gear for our acclimation hike along the Gore Valley Trail. Although our planned hike only had an elevation change of 400 or 500 feet, it quickly became apparent that my mind was more interested in this excursion then my body was. I battled a slight headache and my lips felt constantly chapped. I also learned quickly that you can get sunburned much quicker at this altitude. The stunning views and some encouragement from Erin kept me going. We returned to the cabin for lunch and a little relaxation and to plan our next adventure.
So my advice for acclimating to such a drastic elevation change is simple: drink all of the of water you can, try to limit how much soda and alcohol you consume, rest often, bring your chap-stick, don't forget your sun block, and take it slow - the mountains will still be waiting for you in a couple of days!
See our upcoming blog on tackling the Booth Lake Trail.
The staff of Classroom Worldwide are all adamant travelers and adventures. This blog was designed to share our campfire stories of Races, Cruises, Costa Rican Adventures, and even climbing Mt Kilimanjaro.