I needed change. Traveller John Muir said, “The mountains are calling, and I must go.” The mountains in New Hampshire are my home and they are beautiful, but I needed something new. New mountains, new faces, a new home for a little while. And here I am for my final semester of senior year in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I haven’t regretted my decision for a minute.
The weirdest thing about being in Colorado is breathing. The elevation in the town I live in is over 6,000 feet above sea level. The air is incredibly dry; unlike New Hampshire, humidity almost doesn’t exist here. Altitude sickness can come at anytime, even when doing something I do everyday with ease. I’ve heard it takes a year to adjust to it and just when I think I’m getting used to it, I’ll get out of breath walking up the stairs. But it’s worth it—especially when it comes to hiking.
One of my first weekends here, I signed up for a backpacking trip in the Rockies. I’ve hiked and camped many times before, but I had never been backpacking and I had no idea who was going on the trip or what to expect. But my experience here is all about trying new things. So we packed up on a Sunday morning at six and drove out to Rocky Mountain National Park. We hiked seven miles up to Thunder Lake and made camp and dinner for the night. Campfire burritos never tasted so good. It was thirty degrees when we went to bed and about the same when we woke up the next morning- normal for an elevation of 12,000 feet. That morning after breakfast, we hiked up to Boulder Grand Pass, and then to the continental divide. It was the scariest and most beautiful thing I have ever done. We were basically rock climbing the steepness of the mountain with these huge, weighty packs on our back. The wind was going about sixty-miles per hour—I actually blew over at one point. But once we got there, it was so worth it. It was the most incredible view.
Colorado is known for its 14ers. They have 53 mountains that exceed 14,000 feet in elevation. While it is a life goal of mine to climb them all, it would be difficult to do that in just one semester. I hiked my first one this past weekend, Quandary Peak. As the thirteenth-highest mountain in Colorado, it stands at 14,265 feet. It was such an incredible and challenging journey. I met some awesome people and witnessed another crazy natural view. And the next day, I was the most sore I’ve been in a long time.
I have met so many amazing people so far. The students in similar exchange programs love exploring just as much as I do. Getting to know new faces every day is one of my favorite parts of being here. I came here without knowing a single person and now I know how hard it’s going to be to leave them all come December.
This breath of fresh air has been a lot to take in, but I’ve loved every refreshing second of it. And I’ll be back for the 14ers I miss out on.