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Striving for the Peak

Lessons learned while hiking up mountains

Summiting Hallett Peak, August 2019.

Thanks to my brother Dan for joining me on this hike to the top of this 12,270 foot peak in Rocky Mountain National Park. The much more formidable 14,259 foot tall Longs Peak rises up in the background.

Yay!! We made it!

Hiking to the top isn’t getting easier as I get older, but my sense of accomplishment feels stronger.

Reaching the top of the highest Colorado peaks requires a bit of planning (to pack up and get to the trailhead the night before), an early morning start (often before dawn), and a few to several hours of resolute hiking. However high the peak, you have to put one foot after the other, over and over and over. The higher the elevation you aim to reach, the more difficult the climb. Your muscles grow more tired with each step upward, the air temperature drops, and the air gets thinner. Short breaks to rest and deep breaths to get enough oxygen are necessary if you want to take a few more steps. Onward and upward. Every step further, the hike gets just a little more difficult. But if you just keep after it, you will eventually be standing on a summit, taking in a 360 degree vista of mountains and valleys all around.


Interesting wildlife sightings are one of the rewards of hiking up mountains. I photographed this cute little pikas on my hike up Hallett Peak.

As a teenager and young adult, I attempted several fourteeners and summited a few, including Longs Peak. The benefits from these hikes were many: better physical fitness, spectacular views, interesting wildlife and wildflower sightings, and good times with hiking friends. But perhaps the most important result of these hikes were the lessons I learned about how to set and achieve a goal. Map out where you want to go, start early, go with friends, watch the weather, pace yourself, take time to rest and catch your breath as needed, and if, and only if, all looks reasonably safe, keep on going — one foot after the other.

That’s a recipe that seems to work not only for hiking up mountains, but in working toward any goal. My continuing life-long goal is to help conserve nature by doing whatever I can to help more people discover and appreciate nature’s beauty and complexity. That is what motivates me to write and illustrate books, create art, and teach others through presentations, classes, and guiding.  Helpful advisors have told me I need a web page, a blog, and social media pages to reach more people. For this introvert, a hike up a mountain seems relatively easy and a far preferable activity, compared to figuring out the ins and outs of social media and website building. Hopefully the lessons learned climbing mountains will help me here.

I know where I want to go, so onward!  One step at a time. My Naturalist/Author/Artist Facebook page is now live:

Susan E. Quinlan Naturalist/Author/Artist

If you didn’t get here from there, please note that I do need some fellow hikers (aka followers) there. I hope you’ll join me there too.  Together maybe we can get somewhere that includes lots of wildlife, flowers, and great scenery!