There was a large, glass covered, indoor swimming pool in Boulder which, I think, was maintained by the city tho it may have been the property of the university. We all had our bathing suits with us; girls suits were more modern tho two piece suits for women were still much too daring. Marj and Midge were both good swimmers. We didn’t spend much time at the swimming pool, however, as we wanted to explore the surrounding country. Boulder is backed right up to the Rocky Mountains, a new environment for all of us.
The first thing we did, however, was toughen our leg muscles for mountain climbing by ascending the Flatirons, flat rocks standing on edge just beyond the western city limits. We did it the easy way by assaulting them from the rear where a well-worn path took us to the top where we could overlook the city and the plain beyond. Being greenhorns at mountain climbing we all had to stop and rest frequently except Yoland; she was always way in the lead. Alan was always ready to stop and rest as we had brought chocolate bars along to replenish our energy. It was about a two-hour hike thru mountain meadows and pine groves to the top. Tho it took less energy to descend, we discover the descent to be about as hard on our legs as going up. It required a different set of muscles, those just above my kneecaps were about ready to collapse by the time we reached home.
Our second mountain climbing expedition, a week later, was to Arapaho Glacier, a small glacier on the continental divide directly west of Boulder. By that time both Marg and Midge had boyfriends, two nice young college students, brothers, and both quite husky. “Red,” the one with red hair, was Marjorie’s pal while Carl, with black hair, attached himself to Midge. We thought it would be too much of a climb for Yoland and Alan so we left them with friends at home and took the two boys instead. To reach the road to the glacier we drove up the canyon of Boulder Creek, a small mountain stream fed by the glacier - the source of the city of Boulder’s water supply - until we came to a small level spot where we could park the car. It was all all-day trip this time and we had packed a lunch for the five of us, sandwiches and a thermos of hot chocolate plus candy bars for dessert. As the glacier was above 11,000 ft. we all wore the heaviest clothes we had along and we carried a big rubber poncho and matches to start a fire.
Our muscles had recovered from their stiffness caused by the climb up the Flatirons and we were in better shape. It was a popular climb and the path was easy to follow, going up at first thru a pine forest until we got above the treeline. Emerging from the last grove of trees, not much more than six feet tall because of the high altitude, I nearly stepped on a prairie chicken. It moved only a short distance away so I began examining the ground where it had been. At first, I could see nothing, then I saw a bright little eye peeping out from under a leaf. I called the others over and we all began looking. I think we eventually discovered seven little chicks lying under low leaves without moving a muscle or batting an eye. We left them all where they were and went on, much to the relief of the hen. We say no large animals but ground squirrels and marmots were everywhere.
It was about noon when we reached the top of the climb and looked down to see the glacier lying in a semicircular opening which had probably once been the mouth of a volcano. A cold wind was blowing and we tried to find shelter behind a huge rock to make a fire and eat our lunch. Both boys did their best to get the fire going but there wasn’t enough oxygen to keep it burning. Yvette and I put the poncho over us to keep the wind off while we ate. The lack of oxygen bothered Yvette more than the rest of us. While we were eating it began to snow, and quite hard.
The first ten or fifteen feet of the slope leading from where we ate down to the glacier was rocks but from that point on down it was smooth and covered with a deep layer of snow. We had read of glissading, sitting down, raising your feet, and letting gravity do the rest. That was our first thought but someone suggested that, as long as we had the rubber poncho along it ought to make a good bobsled. We spread it out at the top of the slope which was quite steep, all of us sat down on it, one behind the other, and at the word “go” we lifted our feet. It took me only a half a second to realize that it was not such a hot idea after all. We were going a mile a minute and headed for a big pile of boulders at the bottom and there was no possible way of stopping or even slowing up. I had visions of being piled up on the boulders. Fortunately there was a slight rise just before we came to the rocks and by digging in our heels we came to a stop.
We spent fifteen or twenty minutes examining the glacier then began wondering if we could get back up the slope again. I think we could have done it but go up and then come back down again? It seemed to make more sense to keep at the same level and work sideways until we met the path. So we started out. The idea was logical but carrying it out was not as easy as we had anticipated. There was no path and our way led over big rocks and boulders and thru thick shrubbery. At one point we had to waddle thru a forest of three-foot high pine trees growing so close together there was no place to step. If we hadn’t had those two husky boys along we might not have made it back, at least not that day. Yvette became so exhausted she begged us to leave her there and go on. We had to climb over boulders higher than my head. Red would climb to the top by getting his fingers into cracks and holding onto projections then reach down and haul the rest of us up one at a time. I kept thinking of rattlesnakes on top of the rocks but didn’t say anything to the others. It may have been too high an altitude for them anyway.
Zipping down to the glacier had taken just a few seconds but getting back to the path by the way we had chosen took us hours of hard labor. We wondered if we could get back to the car by the time it got dark. We wasted no time resting on the way down; kept striding along as fast as we could without falling. That was the problem; the constant braking at each step began to make my muscles sore, then painful. By the time we got into the big trees of the pine first I was afraid the next step would find me falling on my face. We were all relieved when we came out of the woods and saw the car where we had left it in the morning. The sun had gone down and the last half-mile in the woods had been too dark to see well. The stars were out by the time we reached home in Boulder. We were tired and our muscles were very sore but we had enjoyed a new experience.