It Must Be the Altitude

In Journeys.2016
A sarcastic and humorous story about travelling with my best friend to the mountains of Boulder, Colorado.

Maybe it was the mountains, the wide landscape and the numerous hiking trails that drew us to Colorado. Maybe it was the seemingly infinite amount of commercials trying to pull people in with slogans like, “Adventures are waiting around the corner.” I mean who doesn’t love a good adventure. And maybe when people ask us, “Why did you choose to travel to Colorado and make a documentary for your senior project?” We could tell them, “Well, you know, we’ve both wanted to travel there for a long time.” Or, “It’s just so beautiful and unlike anything we’ve seen, so we wanted to share our adventure with people who have never been.” Or even, “We wanted to spark an interest for travel writing.”

But in a realistic situation for two people who suffer from severe procrastination, it went more along the lines of: “This proposal is seriously due tomorrow–if we don’t decide what we’re going to do we won’t be able to do anything. Just pick a location already!”

And a hastened response of, “Forget the location! What are we even going to do for our project!”

And finally we decided, after what seemed like years of back and forth bickering, we would be documenting our travelling through the lens of a flip camera so our adoring audience back home could see and experience all the ups and downs of the trail seemingly along with us. Thus began the start of a very unforgettable and very spontaneous travel experience.

What would a professional traveller do? How does one even make a travel documentary? What would they bring with them on a great adventure? What do we need to know about the place we’re going before we get there? These, being just some of the very important and crucial questions to know and answer before traveling, were perfect examples of the questions we didn’t prepare to ask ourselves or answer. Consequently, the many lessons of spontaneous traveling were presented to us throughout the trip, whether we liked it or not.

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One of the first of many lessons we learned was quickly realizing trying to make a travel documentary, pulling out the flip camera, and explaining the essential information about the trails clearly proved to be a lot harder than we originally thought. This is especially true when you have no idea what you’re even talking about due to severe lack of prior knowledge and preparation when asked to give more information on what the Iron heads of Ironhead Park actually are. Preparation. Again, a big strong suit of ours.

Many of our clips for the documentary ended up, “So yeah I don’t really know what else to talk about do you have anything to add for the viewers back home?”

“Yeah I wasn’t listening to what you were saying. But they do look like Irons.”



Pulling up to the parking lot, we had such high hopes and goals (soon realizing both were extremely overshot). The mountain was nothing more than a backdrop and the trail didn’t seem to have a steep incline.

Even when doing our “expansive research” (a quick google search), we came across our second issue of not enough prior research and preparation. It said right under the name of the mountain, “A good family climb.”

“I mean at least we’re getting in shape!” Skillfully, I tried to hide my hard breathing from my friend and simultaneously convince myself I wasn’t tired at all.

“Alright, I’m already breathing hard. I might need to stop soon.”

“The whole point of our May project was to hike and you’re already out of breath!”

A few minutes passed and the breathing just got worse and worse. “Okay, that’s it, I can’t…I can’t do it anymore. I’m sorry, I need to take a break. I’m dying.”

I turned around, about to snap to stop being such a drama queen! But once looking at my friend bent over clutching her knees, making weird gasping noises and inhaling all the trail dirt air around her, I couldn’t help myself but burst into a fit laughter.

“Why… are…you…laughing!” she gasped in between breaths while moving over to sit on the nearest rock simultaneously and repetitively pulling at her backpack for her water. I laughed harder. How could I even think to call her completely overdramatic, when I was gasping for breath what seemed even harder! She noticed. “Oh you have no right to make fun of me right now just look at yourself!”

“I guess it’s just the altitude,” I quickly responded smiling. We both looked down at the path we had just climbed to give ourselves some sort of confirmation. The parking lot is still in sight. Moms are basically sprinted past us hand in hand with their young toddlers, cheery-faced at 10 in the morning.

“They probably do this every morning,” she unimpressively rolls her eyes and scoffs at the people flying past us up the trail.

“Yeah, and they probably live in Colorado! We, on the other hand come from the flatlands of America so technically they have an advantage.” Sensing where she was going, I start to add fuel the the existing fire, flooding a sense of relief and reassurance through the both of us. Soon, it becomes the both of us bouncing off each other and the symbolistic fire growing to the size of the actual mountain we had yet to climb.

“Exactly. They have no right to judge us. Who do they think they are.” She does that defensively sarcastic voice that makes us both laugh. “They’re the reason we’re doing this stupid trail anyway. Family hike? They lied to us!”

“They’re basically mountain goats anyway.”

After rendering our break completely useless by laughing so much, we get done taking our break and get up to continue our journey with the initiative that the people we saw walking up are now coming back down. As we climb higher, cracking jokes all the way up, we laugh so hard we both end up tripping over various rocks and roots, we eventually lose sight of the black pavement of the parking lot.

Steep drops with narrow walkways seemingly etched into the side of the mountain, no places to put your feet and sharp boulders on either side caused many discussions of possible death. It proved to be a reoccurring theme constantly worried about plummeting down the side of the mountain with the clumsiness of a misstep. Occasionally footing slips left us terrified and having to sit down to catch our breath. There were most likely multiple reasons for that but for the record, it was because we were scared.


“I think this is becoming a lot easier! We haven’t taken a break in over 45 minutes!” I say excitedly. Finally it feels like we’re spending more time looking up at the stunning panorama of the mountains we haven’t reached yet instead of wondering how far we’ve come. We lose ourselves in the trees stretching for miles, the cloudless blue sky and the seemingly endless twists and turns of the terrain that have surprises waiting around every corner. The unpredictability of what will be the next part of the adventure makes us more and more excited to turn around the corner and soak the brand new scenery in. The laughs turn to a silent awe. Briefly.

I’m feeling a little adventurous. “Let’s go up here!”

“You’re kidding, right? There’s no trail here, and you read the signs saying to stay on the path. I’m not trying to die today, sorry.” She looks at me in disbelief.

“Oh c’mon, live a little! What’s the worst thing that could happen anyway? I’m sick of looking at this boring path. I want to see the view!”

I begin climbing up the end of a small ledge, the dusty brown dirt getting under my nails and can barely hear her yell “Um. Death!” after me. As mentioned before, this was a constant theme. I’m still climbing when I can physically feel her roll her eyes at me and say “Well, if you die, you’re not doing it alone. But just know I will kick your butt in heaven.”

“I can live with that.”


Was risking our lives on a mountain trail in Colorado worth it? Even less than that, risking our lives for a senior traveling project? These questions ended our adventure. Along with final statements to the flip camera: “Overall yeah it’s fun, we like it, you should do it too.”

“Especially if you’re out of shape. This is not a forgiving mountain.”

I thought we could climb all the way up to the top, but now I know why we can’t”

Because yeah what are we, professional hikers?

A final piece of advice from two amateur hikers?  Sometimes being accidentally spontaneous can pay off in the end, because not knowing where you’re going can be a unique experience. And the second piece of advice, choosing the harder path can become extremely rewarding in the end, so whenever you want to give up, don’t. Unless you’re about to die, then you probably should.



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