Hiking In The Rocky Mountains
What do Hawaii and Breckenridge, Colo.,
have in common? Both are former kingdoms. Of course, you know about the Kingdom of Hawaii. But a Kingdom of Breckenridge … What?!
The beautiful ski village in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, located about two hours west of Denver, has only a fanciful claim to the title. Apparently, back in the 1930s, someone found old government documents from the late 1800s that incorrectly left Breckenridge off the map. Enterprising townspeople, looking for a way to raise awareness of the town, claimed the area was never annexed to the United States, calling it “No Man’s Land” — and eventually the “Kingdom of Breckenridge.” Every June, one of the biggest weeks of the Breckenridge summer is when the town celebrates Kingdom Days.
My fiancé Sherri Kingsley and I spent a week in the colorful and picturesque town this July, taking daily hikes in the beautiful mountains, valleys and forests that surround it. Sherri is a local girl, born and raised on Oahu, and only in the islands have we seen such an exquisite array of wildflowers — everywhere we hiked in the Colorado mountains, we enjoyed blue, yellow, red, orange and purple flowers in abundance. You can’t hike Colorado without bringing along your camera to remember the magnificent moments.
Our favorite hike was near Breckenridge — the McCullough Gulch trail about seven miles south of town near Blue River and in the shadow of Quandary Peak, one of Colorado’s famous “Fourteeners.” As climbing enthusiasts know, the state has more mountains over 14,000 feet in elevation than any other state in the U.S. — 53 to be exact.
Our hike on a beautiful Colorado morning, with temperatures in the upper 60s and brilliant blue skies, started at just over 11,000 feet in elevation. We dressed in layers, as weather conditions in these parts can change quickly. The 2.8-mile hike up and back is quite popular — we met people from all over the country, including families with young children and couples who were well into their 70s. It’s considered a “moderate hike” by those who rate such trails because it’s a workout to manage your
way over rock and boulder fields in certain spots, and a climb through a dense forest in elevation by nearly another thousand feet. We stopped a number of times to gather our breath in the thin mountain air.
The first payoff of our journey came about a mile up the trail when we heard the roar of waterfalls. We were delighted by the sight of the beautiful White Falls that plunged in a tandem with a tremendous rush of water. The Colorado mountains had an especially strong snowfall this past winter, thus making the waterfalls even more powerful and glorious.
Several hundred yards higher, and after a more challenging climb, we came upon a huge field of snow (even in July!). In the middle of it, the rushing mountain stream had opened a huge puka in the ice — just an amazing sight. Finally, we reached our goal, and let’s just say it was Colorado showing off its magnificence. A large alpine lake, surrounded by picturesque mountain peaks, greeted us. We sat for long while soaking in the beauty and, yes, we took many photos. It was truly a day we will never forget.
Kingdom? Maybe not. But regal in every way? Absolutely! Count us as two true believers in the majesty of beautiful Breckenridge.