After emerging from the woods from a 4 day trip, it can take a few days, or even a week, for everything to sink in. We wash our gear and ourselves, and attempt to merge back into the day-to-day. After a little reflection, here is the story of our Yoga Backpacking Retreat.
Recently, we had the amazing opportunity to partner with Backcountry Yoga and GOYO Global Yoga Retreats to host a group of folks from across the country in the Summit County backcountry. The theme was Yoga Backpacking, but in my opinion, our adventure together became much more than that. It’s always interesting how the combination of individual differences, group dynamic, and weather, really creates an experience. After a month without rain, the forecast for our 4 days in the backcountry was looking grim, but on day 1 we set out with our big packs (and rain gear) and made the climb to our base camp at 11,200 feet.
That evening, the yoga class was blessed with a glowing afternoon light on the surrounding hills. The green of the alpine meadows shone with brilliance above us as we stretched and breathed amongst the blooming wildflowers, a spectacular introduction to our little piece paradise.
On Day 2 we took a mid-morning stroll to a high alpine lake, a precursor to our big hike the following day and a good opportunity for everyone to become a bit more acclimatized to the altitude. The green-blue color of the lake welcomed us, and we sat quietly, snacking, reflecting, and enjoying the beauty of the high country. As the clouds began to grow and darken, we began our descent back to base camp, for another wildflower yoga session. With just a few raindrops to keep us cool, the blue sky reemerged to give us a wonderful window to explore our inner peace and connect with the earth.
After dinner, a majority of the group agreed to join on a simulated bivvy at treeline. I was shocked by the number of people who wanted to join on this adventure (especially knowing that many of them had never camped before in any capacity). A bivvy or bivouac is an emergency overnight (camping without planning on camping) and is rarely comfortable. With instruction, the group packed up their sleeping bags and pads, split up the communal gear; food for breakfast, stoves, fuel, and shelter items; and hit the trail for a sunset hike to treeline. We found a nicely protected spot at the foot of Grays Peak around 12,000 feet and erected a shelter to sleep under. The stars were blazing that night and we regaled at the production as we lay in the comfort of our sleeping bags.
As first light arrived, we emerged from the warmth of our hasty shelter to be greeted by the silvery dawn sky. Perched on stumps and downed trees, we sipped coffee as the sky turned from silver to blue revealing a perfect day to tackle a 14er. After a quick breakfast and fueled up with caffeine, we set out to ascend the remaining 2,200 feet of the climb to the summit of Grays. This is one of my favorite routes, scrambling up the southwest shoulder of the peak, climbing over and around rock outcroppings, and finishing with the challenging push to the summit on a steep and loose scree field. As I stood by and watched the group push through physical and mental challenges, I was reminded of our true calling as guides. I witnessed people helping their teammates by holding their hands, pointing out the best route, cheering each other on, and providing inspiring words to get each other through the tricky spots. There was plenty of love and zero judgement. To me, this is what the mountains are all about, to teach us about humility, respect, and overcoming challenges. I was inspired, to say the least, and very proud of everyone who dug deep to reach the summit, in all senses of the word.
As we descended from the peak, clouds began arriving from the west, dropping rain in visible steams in the distance. I could feel the relief, the calm, radiating from the group, a sense of accomplishment rang in their voices. The clear day turned to drizzle, and slowly the drizzle became rain, and as we arrived at base camp, tired and worn, we ducked into our shelter as the sky opened up and washed the earth with a spectacular downpour.
When guiding is your job. When you are climbing the same mountains time and again. Walking or riding the same trails weekly. It’s possible to become a little blasé about it. But, it’s experiences like these that remind you of how truly amazing it is to spend your days in the wilderness with folks who don’t have access the same opportunity. To watch as people gaze in amazement at their surroundings, who are left speechless by the starry night, who raise their arms and hoot with excitement as they reach the peak, who find a new respect for nature, who finish their adventure with a newfound sense of strength, or who simply learn something about themselves. Well, that has a unique ability to remind a guide of why they do what they do.
So, thank you Backcountry Yoga and GOYO Adventures for coming together to take this dream to reality. Thank you to all of the people who came from far and wide to experience our beautiful mountain home. Here’s to new friends, learning about ourselves, and a future filled with adventures. Namaste.