I was grumbling from the minute I woke up. I had a humongous hangover—I don’t usually drink anymore, but our two- and three-year-old children spent the night at their grandparents so Blake and I could celebrate our anniversary. I guess we celebrated a little too much, because someone had knitted little sweaters on each one of my teeth overnight and my head was throbbing like a speaker filled with loud music. Only there was no music, just my inner chorus of what were you thinking? echoing over and over.

But I wasn’t about to fritter away the rest of our free babysitting lying around in bed. I was going to go on a hike, dammit, and my husband was going to hike with me. When was the last time we went on a hike together? Or did anything together without the kids? It had been a long, long time, and it was our anniversary, so there was no way around it.

We decided to head up to Ajax, the easiest peak around Telluride, and probably the only summit we could hit by the time we rolled out of bed and found aspirin, water bottles, and clothes to hike in. This is going to be painful, I thought. And it was—Ajax is a lofty 12,779 feet above sea level. Not the highest or most difficult peak in the area, but one of the most accessible, and a good option if you are getting a late start.

“Hey, Blake, this is not a race,” I called to him. He was a few steps ahead and feeling slightly better than I was. He turned back at me and smiled but kept up the pace, so I followed, muttering under my breath about his long legs and his superior metabolic rate of processing alcohol. At the top of Ingram falls, just north of Bridal Veil Falls, I looked out over the valley. It was breathtaking. Gold aspen leaves and red and orange scrub oak lit up the mountainsides and made the austere grey rock and evergreen trees softer, glowing. I am so used to hiking alone that I almost forgot to tap Blake. “Hey, look,” I said. We stared for a few minutes in silence, struck by the beauty of autumn, before we continued the upward slog.

We stopped briefly to take a swing out on the old tram cord—not the safest way to have fun, but fun, nonetheless. I haven’t swung on it in years. It is an old, metal cord, and dangling 30 or 40 feet above the creek and rocks from such a dilapidated piece of mining equipment is something you do when you are young and invincible. But when he hopped on it, grinning and whooping, it was too enticing to pass up.

From there, the jeep road turns into a trail, an unrelenting uphill climb to the summit. We were just a few switchbacks from the top. “How are you feeling?” he asked. “Great,” I lied. “How ’bout you?”
We talked the rest of the way up, another hour or so on the long, steady switchbacks. We talked about how many years we’d been together, about some of our struggles, and about some of our friends who were divorced or who had lost their spouses. We went past the memorial for a friend who had taken his own life a decade ago and gave a solemn nod. Life is hard, we acknowledged. Being married, raising kids, keeping a home, working… it isn’t easy. It is a long climb, just like this hike, and only occasionally do you stop and take a look around at the beauty of your life, maybe on your anniversary or when you get through something—your cancer goes into remission or your child survives a trip to the emergency room. We all get caught up in the rhythm of our life, the repetition of work and taking care of the miscellany, paying the mortgage, grocery shopping, giving the kids a bath, taking the dog to the vet. It all lines up together like one long switchback, and I tend to look down at my feet, one step at a time, onward and upward.


But I resolved on this anniversary, as we sat at the top of Ajax enjoying a precious few moments of peace and a beautiful perspective of the whole valley, to look up and look around more often. Because it’s not about each footstep, getting to the top, or even the hike. And only when we take a moment and look at where we are in this world do we remember to be happy and grateful for our lives and for everything around us.

  • John Wontrobski
    Posted at 05:15h, 03 October

    Great column, Deb. Happy Anniversary!

  • Jesse James McTigue
    Posted at 12:39h, 08 October

    Thanks for the poetic reminder Deb!