I am searching for the perfect place to hike. The date has been set. My hiking group — the same chums who ushered me to the summit of Pikes Peak in 2018, and with whom I’ve shared many half marathons — is committed.

We even know we’ll be driving the Schlueterville “14’er Ford,” Hunka Burnin’ Hubby’s F350 that hauled us to/from that epic adventure.

The only thing to be decided is where. Time is growing short, so I’m a tiny bit nervous.

Colorado, with its manageable drive time and prolific selection of peaks, is our state of choice.

So … I’m searching for the perfect hike in Colorado.

Colorado can pull you in a dozen directions with its splendid views and crisp, skinny air. Without focus, one could easily land in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park by far-away Montrose. That’s quite a haul from home.

(Black Canyon is stunning, by the way, and well worth the trip. I swear my eyes bugged like Slinkys at the first glimpse of its grandeur.)

We have four days to complete this year’s adventure, including travel, so a further reduction of scope is required.

I need a perfect Colorado hike no further west than say … Georgetown or Frisco. Both are charming historic towns, so that’s fine with me. Georgetown has a loop railroad with a bona-fide steam engine, too, which would be a pretty cool side trip.

My hiking group is one member short this year due to an injury, so we’ve vowed not to tackle another 14’er until she can join in the fun. Breaking up the 14’er band is not an option.

So … I need a perfect Colorado hike no further west than Georgetown, with an altitude under 14,000 feet, and easy access to a steam engine loop railroad.

I doubt we’re ready to tackle a full-blown, haul a tent to some remote cliff and sleep with mountain lions, bears, or Bigfoot-type of expedition. Plus, I recently attempted to light the backpacking stove I bought on a whim and nearly fried off my eyebrows.

Plus, PLUS my hiking chums will require me to shower after hours of sweaty hiking. (No one in her right mind would willingly share a tent with that kind of stench, regardless of friendship.)

So … I need a perfect Colorado day hike under 14,000 feet, no further west than a steam engine loop railroad, which allows me to keep my eyebrows while avoiding bear and Bigfoot encounters, and access to a functioning shower with an enormous water heater.

This is getting complicated.

The trail must be challenging, but without the need for climbing ropes, dog search teams, and a rescue helicopter.

The hike must be long enough to tax us physically, yet short enough to enable us to make it below tree line before Colorado’s deadly lightning storms roll in.

I also hope to see a bull moose from a safe distance, preferably while he’s taking a swim in some serene, jewel-colored lake surrounded by snowy peaks shorter than 14,000 feet. There should be wild flowers and colorful mountain birds to make our pictures extra lovely, too.

So … here’s where we are: I need a challenging Colorado day hike, below 14,000 feet with a beautiful lake, swimming moose, chirping birds, minus the need for helicopter rescue, with easy access to a steam engine loop railroad and a shower, and which allows me to avoid Bigfoot and keep my eyebrows. Is that too much to ask?

But wait, there’s more.

Since I’ll be manning the wheel of the 14’er Ford, I’d like to reduce the chance of having to maneuver a one-ton, long-bed beast of a truck through crumbling switchbacks built for tiny Jeeps.

My chums, after all, might frown upon rolling off a precipitous ledge and crashing into an emerald lake with a startled-then-cranky swimming moose.

So … the search continues. Suggestions are appreciated. Please let me keep my eyebrows.

ONWARD!

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