Hockey in the Rockies

Originally posted on December 7, 2016

 

I didn’t plan to return to Colorado so soon, but I also don’t really make solid plans anymore so I guess I can’t complain.  I was hoping to stay in the desert for another week, but with the temperature dropping and friends leaving, I soon found myself driving back to Boulder. The first sight of the flatirons brought mixed emotions. On the one hand, I was looking forward to reconnecting with friends and laying low for a few days. On the other, it signified that my adventures for the fall had come to an end.

It didn’t take long to change that, though. My friend Audrey mentioned this fabled “Hockey in the Rockies” that was supposedly happening the weekend I was home. Apparently, a group of hockey enthusiasts plan a game up on Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park every year. The timing has to be perfect though – cold enough to freeze the lake smooth, but also before the snow comes to keep the ice clear. And we just happened to stumble upon the right weekend.

We left Boulder the next morning and drove up to Estes Park. It was a perfect day, sunny and blue skies, but as we reached the park we noticed that the mountains were totally socked in with a dark blanket of stormy clouds. We shrugged it off, added a few extra layers to our packs and began our hike up to the lake. We barely knew anyone attached to the event, but as we got closer to our destination we began to see hockey sticks strapped to the packs of others on the trail. We knew we were in the right spot. Soon enough we came over a crest and were greeted with gnarly winds, snow fall, and a perfectly frozen Emerald Lake.

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The valley was spotted with an array of skaters, a keg was being rolled onto the middle of lake, and goal posts were being screwed into the ice. I barely skate and was mostly there to take photos and witness the adventure, but Audrey grew up battling her brothers on ice and I could see the excitement in her eyes as she laced up. I’ve never seen someone more comfortable on ice. We were grinning ear to ear as I made her do jumps and twirls for me.

We quickly made new friends and Audrey traded cookies for a hockey stick and joined the annual game of Hockey in the Rockies. It was an incredible day of beautiful backdrops, suffering in the cold, and finding adventure in the most unlikely way. The rest can only be explained in photos. One thing’s for sure, it was a good reminder that there are still plenty of adventures to be had back in Colorado.