June and early July are my favorite times to explore the largest mountains that the Southern Rocky Mountains have to offer. While snow can still be found in the high country, trails are passable without winter gear, and the mid-summer afternoon storm season has not yet arrived. The day of the summer solstice, with around 14 hours of daylight, is the perfect time to take a long mountain hike.
The early morning sunlight penetrated the aspens, bathing the trail in a green glow. As the forest canopy thickened, it provided shelter from the heat of the sun.
As the elevation increased, the trees became more widely spaced. The transition into a different life zone was quite readily apparent as the trees were replaced by hardy wildflowers and exposed rocky slopes.
The first glimpse of the summit ahead and the surrounding peaks is an unexpected pleasure after a long trek to this point. The faint, rocky path ahead beckons.
While the journey and the experiences are really the purpose of a hike like this, reaching the summit is an exhilarating moment - even on familiar peaks. Being able to see for many miles in mountainous country is a rare treat.
Of course, the journey is only half over at this point, and the wilderness has many more experiences in store....