Are you guys sick of my Colorado posts yet?  Hope not, because I’m back with part 5 and then will be back shortly with part 6, which I promise will be the last one!  In case you’ve missed the first few:

Hiking in Chautauqua Park

We started off Sunday morning with another day of continental breakfast at the Residence Inn.  First, a fruit bowl with plain yogurt.

Next, a piece of wheat toast with peanut butter and some scrambled eggs.  We needed to fuel up for our big day of hiking!

After we ate breakfast, got ready, and packed our backpack, it was off to Chautauqua Park!

Chautauqua, from what we read and what everyone in Boulder told us, is Boulder’s must see/try hiking spot.  So we went!

When we got there, we went to the ranger cottage to ask for assistance in selecting a trail.  We wanted something that would give us a good workout but wasn’t TOO steep and wouldn’t take us all day since we were checking out of our hotel at 3.  I’ve heard (and read from other bloggers) that the Royal Arch trail is a must see, but the ranger told us that it takes on average three hours to hike that trail.  Since it was a super hot day (100 degrees!) and we were braving the heat on limited time, we decided to choose a different one.

To the flatirons we went!

Honestly, the beginning part of our hike was really hard.  It was a lot of incline at once, and this part was ALL directly in the sun.  I was huffing and puffing within a few minutes into it.  Our bodies not being used to the altitude didn’t help either, I’m sure!

Oh yeah, and that whole being 100 degrees thing didn’t help either.  We had to break a lot for water.  First shade break!

Once we got further into and up the mountain, it was much better and it cooled down a lot.  There was more shade, and up we went!

Now, let’s talk about my fear.  Of open edges.  I am completely fine when it comes to heights.  I can be up on a tall skyscraper, elevator, plane, etc. as long as there is a guardrail or railing enclosing me.  If I’m on an open edge, forget it.  I don’t know if it’s something off with my vertical perception, but I freak out and feel like I’m going to fall.  I hate driving in the outside lane of bridges, I get nervous sometimes even walking across jetty!  It’s completely irrational and unreasonable, but I am often overcome with a paralyzing belief that something horrible is going to happen.  I freeze, I tense up, and I get extreme anxiety.

But… I survived our drive up Old Fall River Road in the Rockies.  You know, that curving dirt path that took us to the top of the mountains with no guard rail.

So I figured I’d be absolutely fine hiking up one of the flat irons.  And you know what?  I was right.  Hiking UP was no big deal.

Look at me go!

But as we started gaining more height, and I started looking DOWN… I started to panic a bit.

I kept going.  Focused on just getting up that path, and some photo ops of course.

I didn’t look down, instead I focused on the path in front of me.  One step at a time.  With an occasional glance out to what was OUT and below.  Not DIRECTLY below.

Look, a cactus flower!

There were a few spots I felt shaky because of the open edge, but generally I think I did pretty well.  Until we got to this.

Which doesn’t look scary, but it was!

The path we had taken so far had a distinct trail to follow, a man-made footpath if you will, and was a winding path / stairs to take.  This?  Not so much.  This required getting to all fours and climbing, and it was at this moment I truly did panic about having to get back down.  Seriously, extreme fear took over my whole body.  I didn’t think I could do it.  Tim was very patient and offered to go back down with me, but I didn’t want to FAIL.  Ineeded to get to the top of that mountain.

And slowly but surely, we did!

Look how beautiful it was at the top:

Tim was pretty much in awe, and in his glory!

We ate lunch at the top of the mountain to fuel for our way back down.  I rested on a rock for a while.

Then I stood up.

Looked down.

And froze.

I thought to myself that I’d never be able to get back down.  I kept thinking about all the parts I panicked about on the way up.  I felt overwhelmed and nervous that I’d be stuck up there!  How would I ever get down that climbing part, how would I cross all those crazy rocks where there were literally no trees to block me?!  My first few steps, okay probably more like 20 minutes of steps, were so small and miniscule.  I felt nervous to take a big step in fear my foot would slip.  This is how irrational my fear of edges is!  Tim had to hold my hand, and was very patient with me, but I knew he was thinking that if I didn’t pick up the pace we’d be there all day and miss our check out time.

So I started moving a bit faster.  And a little faster.  And my confidence grew.

Then we came to THAT PART.

And even though I was SO NERVOUS, I did it!  Without Tim’s hand!

And then he proceeded to make fun of me for the rest of our trip down the mountain because he said after I overcame my fear on my own I pretty much strutted down that mountain like I owned the place.

He’s kinda right.

I was so happy after our hike that I conquered my fear and didn’t hike one of the easy flat trail options!

I was also so happy that our hotel had a pool, because this was a much-needed and refreshing dip after all that exercise!

Speaking of, hiking as exercise is unreal.  As we were approaching the trail that morning, we overheard people chatting on the way down who had already hiked that they were glad to have gotten their day’s workout over with already.  Imagine having these mountains in your backyard as your gym!?  Hiking is a great option for cardiovascular activity — it’s outdoors, it’s pretty, it has a meditative effect (once you get over your fears that is!), it’s cost efficient, it’s a great social activity, and it burns mega calories.  Also, the uneven terrain does force your body to use much different muscles than it’s probably used to — think of all the abdominal muscles you need for balance and how much you are engaging your core!  Who needs a gym!?

My legs were definitely feeling it the next day — I’m not used to that much uphill cardio!

Does anyone else have any irrational fears?  Ever overcome a fear?  Ever hiked up a mountain?  What do you think of hiking as exercise?