Summer Sunday: Sneffels Highline
In Telluride, dates out can be a little different. Those of us who live in the mountains are a strange breed. We love snow and ice as much as a cool chardonnay. We seek new trails like those in the city might seek out undiscovered bistros. And when we get the day off and a chance to spend time with our love (especially if we have young children), we want only one thing: an adventure outside.
Andy and I try to find a new summer date every year (hence I found myself gulping icy white water on North Carolina’s Nantahala River last weekend—different story, told later in the evening) but there’s one date we always repeat: hiking Sneffels Highline Trail. Those of you that have hiked this 13-mile loop that traverses upper Mill Creek Basin, crisscrossing waterfalls, and opening up into stunning alpine vistas know what I’m talking about. This is one of Telluride’s best. A trail where you feel as if you’ve stepped back in time. Where the modern world falls away and you get to lose yourself for the better part of a day in Telluride’s backcountry. A trail where you’ll just as easily wade through waist-high wildflowers as you will glissade down snow. On a trail that changes almost 4000-feet in elevation, anything is possible and this is perhaps its beauty.
As the pace of our lives accelerates, it becomes harder and harder to focus on just one thing. I watch my children color pictures with single-minded intensity (or even more recently, lose themselves making bracelets on rainbow looms—an activity that I have no idea how to do!) and I am in awe of the way the rest world is obscured when they do such things. Time, as we remember, moves very slowly when we are children—sometimes painfully slowly, hence Quincy asks me multiple times a day how far away her birthday is. Children do one thing and then they move onto the next thing. They’re not planning or budgeting the day, nor do they fret about the things on their to-do lists that they didn’t get to. A moment is just a moment. Falling—I think!—like one rainbow loom strand after another.
But, as we get older, it’s harder to just do moments. We have a certain amount of time to exercise, then we have somewhere to be. Even while we are exercising, our minds are filling and refilling, a ceaseless pool with the things we have to do, the things we have to get to.
Yet, the Sneffels Highline Trail is just long enough and just removed enough, that those lists fall away. It becomes just the trail in a sea of mountains. Just the sky, cloudless and opening in a thousand directions. And most importantly, it becomes just a day with your spouse, one that you’ll remember.
This is why Andy and I return to Sneffels year after year. It’s always a fabulous day outside. It’s always hard in a way that reminds us to be grateful that we are healthy and young. But it’s also a trail that gives us a taste of our childhoods, a taste metallic and sweet, almost like that of a penny, a taste lost and forgotten, until it resurfaces and stays.
If you want to go:
• There are several ways to do this loop. We like ditching a car at Mill Creek the night before and starting in town via the Jud Weibe. We hike it counter-clockwise.
• We’re often short on time (!) and usually run down, completing the loop in about 4-hours. If you have more time and a perfect day, pack a picnic and linger on the saddle for a while, soaking up that mountain view. Budget 6-hours—you’ll be happy you did.
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