We were an hour up the mountain when we realized we had no idea how much further the trail would go, and that we were out of water.
To be truthful, mom and dad had waterbottles, but son and daughter didn't. They started the hike thinking we were carrying theirs, and we were doing nothing of the kind.
You're responsible for your own water, was my thinking. Their thinking was, "Can we have some of yours?"
We shared, of course.
This was the Lake Fork Trail, located on Highway 160, halfway between South Fork, Colorado, and Wolf Creek Pass. The trailhead led up into a grove of Aspen trees, then took a turn to the right. The path led us to a bridge that crossed a mountain stream -- snow meltoff from high above. It was our first real trail hike, and we were immediately hooked.
The photographs I took of the stream could not do it justice, but just imagine: a fast-running river, cascading down through the mountains, around bolders, over rocks, making mini waterfalls and small pools. Not wide enough to kayake on but wider than you'd want to cross. Not a meandering stream, but a stream with purpose and direction.
The trail itself was very easy to follow. At times it went through a cover of trees that kept the temperature refreshing; at times it opened up with sloping meadows on one side or dropoffs on the other; and then there was the fallen rock, the scree, with the trail leading right through it.
And all the time the river kept flowing within earshot and eyesight.
It was at this point that I realized I was enjoying myself. Me. Mr. Lazy. And I couldn't imagine that this and other trails had always been there, waiting to be explored, but I just didn't have sense enough to know it.
While my wife took photographs of wild flowers, I imagined a new life of hiking on the weekends, taking photographs, discovering new places, coming upon plateaus with breathtaking overlooks.
I vowed that this might be my first, but it wouldn't be my last.
An hour into the hike, we decided to turn around and head back down. I assume that at some point we would have reached Lake Fork, but we had no idea how much further that would be. And when you're running low on water, it's better to be safe than sorry.
But we will return one day. We will be more prepared. And who knows -- maybe we'll find the end.
More than likely we'll find a new beginning.