Cameron headed back to school this morning to educate the young minds of America. To bring our summer to a close, on Saturday we woke long before the sun rose from the Eastern Plains for a long hike out to Chasm Lake. About an hour and a half from Denver, Chasm Lake sits at the base of Long’s Peak within Rocky Mountain National Park. Unlike most spots within the park, you don’t need to pay an entrance fee to enjoy the trails around Long’s Peak.
The sun had just started to paint the trees with its cool, morning light when we started out for the lake. The parking lot was already packed with cars left behind by hikers aiming to summit Long’s Peak, one of the 53 mountains in Colorado that exceeds 14,000 feet.
The first part of the hike took us through Goblin forest, an area thick with evergreens and small critters looking for breakfast.
Along the way, we crossed over a cascading creek that was much bigger than I’m accustomed to during mid-August in Colorado.
We continued winding upward, until we reached the alpine tundra, an arid, wind-swept landscape above the normal timberline.
The landscape becomes austere by this point, speckled with gnarled, low-growing trees that go by the name krummholz. Continue further, and you’re higher than the toughest trees and shrubs.
After a short break, we turned on to the official Chasm Lake trail, leaving the Long’s Peak summit for another day.
We passed what I, at first, assumed was Chasm Lake, but when the trail continued onward, I chugged more water and tried to keep pace with my long-legged husband who scampered ahead as if he was on an afternoon stroll through the park.
By this point my energy was definitely flagging, but I was determined to reach the lake before the intense high-altitude sun burned a hole through the back of my neck. (Yes, I was wearing sunblock.) Fortunately, there was no shortage of marmot sightings and wild Columbines speckling the rocky landscape,
which was a nice distraction from the trail scrambling we’d have to do to reach the lake. Right here is when things got “interesting.”
To reach the lake, we’d have to half-hike, half-climb up a series of rocks. I don’t have a debilitating fear of heights, but not even the prettiest columbine can distract me from knowing that if I pull myself up huge rocks, I’ll be lowering myself back down those rocks soon or later. I tapped into my not-too-distant intrepid twenties and billy-goated up the rocks and into one of the more gorgeous wilderness spots I’ve had the chance to experience.
At 8.4 miles and an elevation gain of 2,400 feet, this hike is challenging but worth the work. We packed plenty of food and water in case we were caught in a storm and planned our hike to finish long before the afternoon when storms are most likely to hit. If you’re ready for a work-out, slather on the sunblock and get yourself out on the trail, but be sure to dress for the wind. Even in mid-August, the temperatures are markedly lower at that elevation.
After such an intensive trek, Cameron and I were wiped out and wound up grabbing take-out for dinner. The next day, though, I put together a simple Sunday taco lunch that made enough for leftovers for breakfast and lunch today.
As you can see from the ingredients list below, I chopped up a mixing bowl’s-worth of vegetables (substitute others that you prefer) and roasted them until they were caramelized. Other than that, you’ll need about ten minutes to assemble before chowing down.
Easy Veggie Tacos
(a Middleton and Turner creation)
Makes 8-10 tacos
– 1 bell pepper (I’d use a red, yellow, or orange variety.), julienned
– 1 zucchini, slice into half-moon medallions
– 1 small onion, chopped
– 1 garnet yam
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
– 1 pkg of corn tortillas (We used Trader Joe’s tortillas.)
– 1 15-oz. can of cooked black beans, drained
– 1 large tomato, chopped (Remember: don’t include the tomato in the roasted vegetable steps. It’s a fresh topping!)
– 4 to 6 oz. crumbled feta cheese (If you have cotija cheese on hand, by all means use that, but the feta went great with the taco flavors.
– 1 large avocado, chopped into small chunks
– 4 to 6-oz. prepared salsa or hot sauce (We had some left over creamy habanero salsa from take-out and used that as a hot sauce.)
– 2 limes, quartered
1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place a sheet of parchment paper or a silicon baking mat on a large cookie sheet.
2. In a large bowl, mix all of your chopped vegetables with the olive oil, salt, and pepper. Pour the vegetables on the prepared baking pan, spreading them as flat as possible on the pan. Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until lightly browned, stirring every fifteen minutes to help ensure they brown evenly.
3. Meanwhile, place the drained beans in a saucepan with 1/4 cup water, and simmer for fifteen minutes or until the sauce thickens. Smash some of the beans with a spoon to help thicken the sauce.
4. Assemble your tacos, and chow down.