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  • Writer's pictureWhitney Clarkson

Trailside Margaritas

Our family 14'er hiking adventure in July of this year 2021 turned out to be one of the most fun adventurers we've ever had. We planned to hike Mount Columbia, which is down by Buena Vista and is about a 40-minute drive to the trailhead from The Silver Rose of Leadville. We had hiked Mount Harvard many years earlier, intending to hike the traverse over to Columbia, but we ran into a snowstorm that thwarted those plans. The nice thing is that we got to go back to the area to attempt Columbia on its own, and it is so pretty that we were glad to do it again.

The hike started early as all 14'er hikes do. We left the house at 3:30 AM to try and get to the trailhead early to be off the summit before noon to avoid any thunderstorms rolling in. About 3 -4 miles into the hike, we noticed a banner that had been hung up in the trees, "Trailside Margaritas"? What could that possibly be? After about another mile, we ran into a guy with a huge smile on his face that said in a Texan drawl, "We sure hope you'll join us for a margarita this afternoon." We smiled back and said, "Sounds good," but we didn't take him seriously.

As with most of the hiking in Colorado, the scenery was gorgeous. But what impressed me the most was the trail! The Colorado 14'ers initiative finished an extensive project to upgrade the trail finishing in 2016. I've heard about their efforts and wanted to wait to do the hike until after they had finished since having a good trail can make or break a hike. I'm glad I did; they did an exceptional job. I ran into an older gentleman on the trail who remarked on the fine job as well, and we both agreed that this year we would be donating a little extra money to their cause.

The summit was extraordinary, and we were able to give a high five for making it to the top. It wasn't five minutes later before we noticed the clouds rolling in and decided we couldn't stay for long. It was a good thing we made that decision because as we started our descent, we could see lightning off in the near distance.

At treeline, the rain started, and we could hear thunder. Oh boy, we need to move faster. My husband and daughter were still up on the mountain, nowhere in sight. My son and I started to panic. Finally, after about 15 minutes, we could see them making their way down the mountain. Eventually, all of us could soon get into the trees as we continued our way down, making us feel a little safer.

A few hours later, the rain subsided, and I had to stop to shed some layers. I let the family go ahead of me on the trail. I took a little break to breathe in the smell of pine, which is always so fragrant after a mountain rain. As I continued to meander on my way, I turned a corner on the trail, and low and behold, there was a margarita party happening! My family had joined in on the festivities holding glasses and chatting with what looked like a group of new friends.

I was a bit taken aback. I mean, when have you ever seen a party happening in the middle of the woods with about 25 strangers? For me, never. It ended up being one of the most fun, random, spontaneous social gatherings I have ever been to.

It turns out our new friends started this annual event in 2014 while hiking Mt. Holy Cross here in Colorado. As they were hiking down, the comment, "A margarita sure would be nice about now," stuck and turned into an annual party event. This group of friends from many states gets together every summer to climb a 14' thousand-foot peak while lugging in gallons of margarita makings, ice, and brats with all the fixings. My kids liked the added addition of dessert coming from a bag of M&M's and gummy bears.

The whole experience put such a smile on our faces. How fun to come upon a party in the woods provided for anyone passing by on the trail. What was most impressive was the effort to lug in all that extra weight on top of standard backpacking gear. The ice alone was a luxury that someone had to haul several miles from the trailhead. This is a perfect example of a concerted effort of good-hearted people giving just for the sake of giving and having a good time while doing it.

I'll be sure to follow #trailsidemargaritas to see where they will be gathering up next year!

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