I usually find my hikes on AllTrails or through recomendations from friends and had never been on a guided hike before but the YMCA of the Rockies offers a guided hike for free when you’re staying there.
One of the best parts was that I didn’t have to worry about finding a hike or researching trail conditions – Our guide Pat did all the work for us! She checked in before and asked if there was any place I wanted to go, but I wanted to see what trail she picked for us. We chatted about the length and skill level then she said she’d scope out trail conditions as it got closer. We ended up getting quite a bit of snow the week before our hike so she ended up swapping plans and hikes because the trail would be a little too difficult. So we settled on Mills Lake and it was gorgeous!
She started by giving us spikes to wear which ended up being incredibly helpful and necessary after all the snow. Although – be careful! I caught the spikes on shoe on the other shoe and totally fell – which I’ve heard from a lot of people happens a lot, whoops!
Pat asked if we wanted a quiet hike or for her to chat and point things out along the way, we obviously wanted the latter. So we’d be walking past a rock and she’d casually drop information that it happened to be 1.7 billion years old, then she made us smell the Ponderosa trees because they smell like vanilla when you get real close.
Normally when I’m hiking I’m constantly pulling out the map to make sure we’re on the right track, so this was probably the most relaxing hike I’ve done in a while. I didn’t have to worry about anything other than putting one foot in front of the other.
Pat was the absolute sweetest and even brought hot chocolate for enjoying at the lake while we were hanging out. She’s incredibly passionate about hiking, Rocky Mountain National Park and also about keeping the trails exactly as they are. We talked a lot about Leave No Trace and respecting the trails and animals (don’t feed them no matter how much they beg!) One thing I didn’t realize is that carving your name into the Aspen Trees is not just tacky, but illegal. Pat was a wealth of knowlege and it was fun to have a few hours to ask endless questions. Plus, she absolutely killed the hike recomednation and I can’t wait to go back!