A good friend and I went hiking at the beginning of October, up Big Cottonwood Canyon. Above the Brighton Loop is a lovely lake called Lake Mary, which I remembered hiking to, oh, a decade ago. It was a perfect day to play. I’d had an intense week in all ways and couldn’t wait for the chance to catch up with my pal while working out.
The guidebook had been clear on the location of the trailhead sign, and we had no trouble finding it. We set off at a good clip, joined almost immediately by a huge yellow Labrador retriever. After some shouting by the owner, and some shooing by us, eventually order was restored. We continued our hike.
It wasn’t lost on us that what we were hiking up looked more like a service road and less like a trail. But we were working up a sweat, and we were heading up the mountain. We were supposed to be crossing under two chairlifts. Hmm.
We stop to consult the map. And catch our breath. Hmm. A backhoe drives by. We have to admit it’s a service road. Damn. We see a service truck, and approach it. My pal says in her darling southern accent, “Excuse me, y’all, we’re in a bit of a predicament…” The Brighton worker is kind, tells us we are nowhere close to the trail, but if we can hang on for a moment he’ll give us a ride over.
We bundle into his truck and he transports us laterally – we lose no altitude, and continue confidently.
We’re sharing, laughing, and getting more winded than we want to admit.
Lake Mary does not disappoint. We snap photos and continue to Martha, and while we are originally unimpressed, after seeing it from a different angle, are mesmerized. We stop for a granola break, marvel at our view, and then head off to the third sister lake, Catherine.
We pass a sign proclaiming “Trail” and follow the arrow. After scrambling up some rock, which we are just sure that Lake Catherine is on the other side of, we come out no closer and happen upon a hiking couple.
“Lake Catherine?” I ask breathlessly.
“You missed it,” answers the woman, tersely. “Back where it says, ‘Trail’ you should have turned off to the left instead.”
We laugh, assuming they’ve made the same mistake, but she’s not amused. Her partner is silent, and not smiling either.
We excuse ourselves and turn around, giggling about our lack of navigation skills.
“Get a map,” she snarls as we retreat.
Somehow, Lake Catherine isn’t so beautiful. We are troubled by the grouchy hiker, and annoyed that we somehow let her spoil our mood. We take a few pictures and head back down, our mood becoming more buoyant as we enjoy our accomplishment, as zig-zaggy as it was.
Ah, the mountains! The air! The gorgeous fire-yellow aspen and the juxtaposition of the dark evergreens! We revel in the ease of our friendship, and in a fall day that we used to its full advantage.
We only had two interactions in our four hours of hiking, and they were polar opposites. The Dalai Lama’s admonition comes to mind.
“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”