Living the High Life

Leave the Trees Behind on These High Country Hikes

I admit it, I'm a junkie. Hopelessly hooked. Have been since the age of nine when I took my first breath of above treeline air.

Nothing quite gives me the same rush as the moment when I top a ridge after climbing all day and find a whole new world of rock-framed views laid out before me like a landscape painted by an angel. Sure, I love hiking in cool northern forests and southwestern deserts and just about everything in between. But tell me I could only go on one last backpacking trip, and I'd immediately head uphill, to the highest, craggiest, rockiest, windiest place I could find. Southeastern balds, southwestern sky-islands, the Colorado Rockies, Alpine meadows: I'm not picky. I'll take a wind-tossed crest, an easy ridge run, a series of maniacal ups and downs, or a high meadow decorated by snowmelt-fed flowers: anyplace where there's a view clear to tomorrow and nothing between me and the sky.

We come for the views, of course, but we also come for the feelings, for the strain of a good, honest climb and the chill of cold wind on hot sweat the moment we take off our packs. We come for the moment a storm clears and a sunbeam pierces the clouds like light in a Renaissance painting. We come for the clean smell of the air and the way it scours our lungs.

What follows are six rarified rambles, any one of them perfect for the next time you just gotta have a fix.


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