These mountains have to be one of the most awesome places in the world to be, and to have one really realize just how insignificant a person is.
We had spent some time in Denver, skied a few slopes at Keystone , Breckenridge, and a few others, so it wasn't like we were new to the mountains. But upon going to Vail while on a job assignment we decided to try our luck at elk hunting. We being one of my heavy equipment operators, a local hire from Colorado and myself.
To set the stage: Big game hunting in Colorado was staged in three seasons, The first being for elk only, followed by mule deer season and finally a combination season were you could bag either species. We had the combination license so we had to wait while all the others hunted the mountains, during the two first seasons. This resulted in us quizzing the first hunters as to where to go to find the elk. The consensus was, 'they are on the top of the mountain,' so our plan was hatched. We needed to go to the top of the mountain to find the elk, sounds simple doesn't it?
The hunt: We hitched a ride starting at 5:00 am with a 4 wheel drive jeep to take us up as far as a motorized vehicle could go. This took an hour creeping steadily up a steep narrow trail and got us to a staging area where outfitters took horses to continue up the mountains. There were no horses there at the time as they were only there for certain outfitters to take paying guests on hunts. We we were dropped off, we were then on our own and proceeded on foot from that point. We hiked steadily up hill for 6 more hours with the 'top' as our goal, it was now noon. We finally arrived exhausted to a kinda flat area just above the treeline, this was where we wanted to be, where the elk were supposed to be.
The snow, about 18 inches deep at this point, was trampled on every square inch by what must have been a large herd of elk, there was not a spot unmarked by their hooves. It was at this time we sat down to fathom the situation and it was at this point we got our grips on reality. We simply looked at each other and realized this was way bigger then we were. We had spent 1/2 a day just simply getting there, we hadn't even hunted yet.
Now an elk weights a ton so what the hell would we do with a full grown elk at this point, we had no way to move it, if we did get one it probably would take all night and another day to just get part of it down the mountain. ( The reason the pros used horses.) We didn't even have to discuss it, we just stared at the hugeness of where we were at and realized just how small we were, there was no other choice, it was, let's get outta here, we can never do this.
The summery: The other hunters were right, the elk were 'on the top' but it took going and being there to realize what a huge undertaking we were trying to accomplish and we came to realize this was way bigger then we ever imagined. It was dark when we finally walked out of that mountain and we never spent a minute
'hunting' elk. The experience was a lessen in the magnitude of nature and the grand supremacy of the Colorado Rockies.
A experience I'll never forget!