We started up the trail to Engineer Peak, which crosses through Alpine forests and meadows with incredible mountain views. Anne and I stopped by a pond to give our horses a break on the way up, and I learned more about her background and business. She used to lead pack trips, but now leads day ride and helps pack people in and carry them supplies. Anne also is a movie wrangler, who sometimes does stunt riding for Western films. She is a neat lady, with a true passion for the outdoors and her horses. (read more about horseback riding in Colorado)
I could feel the air grow colder as we ascended up the mountain. The trail that we rode is only good for riding about two months out of the year. I could see why, as Cinnamon slipped a little as we walked up. It's monsoon season and this area has been getting a lot of rain. This is good, because they need it, and it makes the area green, but it can wash away a lot of soil on the trails.
As we passed meadows of wildflowers, Anne pointed out some of the various flowers that grow along the trails. The clouds in the distance looked ominous. I zipped up my fleece vest and hoped that it wouldn't rain. Rain is not ideal for film equipment.
The views at the base of Engineer Peak, at almost 13,000 feet, are spectacular. We looked into the distance to a large lake and various mountains. If it had been clearer, we may have been able to see all the way to New Mexico.
Of course, just as we began to enjoy the views, the thunder began to roll. Large chunks of hail fell down onto my cowboy hat, freezing my bare hands and making Chip's horse quite anxious. I could hear the patter of the ice on my hat, as I began to shiver. I needed more layers. I wore my chinks, which helped my legs from freezing inside my jeans.
Anne began to explain that this was a mild storm. For me, hail is never mild. We are in Colorado though, so I actually felt like the hail was part of the experience. Now I see why people wear cowboy hats. It was really protecting my head from the elements.
The storm stopped long enough for me to throw on a layer and to consume several granola bars. Riding sure does make you hungry. Anne and I talked a bit more on camera, with gorgeous edge-of-the-world views in our background.
Our descent home was a little more treacherous. The trails were slick and rocky. Cinnamon slid more than a few times. Chip's horse heard more thunder and got pretty agitated, but overall, we made it back to the trail head safely.
This was one of the highest rides that I have ever taken. It was beautiful and so different than the high views in Wyoming.