Beaten by the path: A 12-step story |

Beaten by the path: A 12-step story

Andrew Harley

t takes many steps to arrive. Some steps require thoughts, plans and diagrams, and others, a pair of feet. And some steps are danced, bought and taught, and sometimes you need a seat.

I wasn’t thinking in terms of steps until what was supposed to be a restful Sunday afternoon hike on the Pitkin Creek Trail in East Vail turned into a calves-burning, knee-scraping trail-blazing journey.

Step-by-step, I will attempt to describe ” in second person ” how photographer Coreen Sapp, Kaya “Cleopatra” Wagoner and I found ourselves on a road less traveled by.

Do not eat too much whole wheat pasta drenched in garlic-butter wine sauce with side of asparagus beforehand ” risk of vomit.

While washing face in creek, do not allow water covered in yellow foam to travel down throat ” risk of chronic diarrhea.

To sum it up beforehand, if you want to stay on Pitkin Creek Trail there are two paths to choose from, 20 feet into the trail. Veer left and cross the bridge instead of going straight up the deer trails that we followed.

Coreen is a former Vail Daily photographer with a keen eye for insects and an infatuation for Yonder Mountain String Band. Her current passion is her new job, studying permanent agriculture.

Kaya is a keeshond (dog), who bears the nickname “Cleopatra” because she is a lazy, couch-laying, butt-shaking tease of a woman who has yet to find a lover that can satisfy her.

And, I am a music hound with the hairy-headed appearance of a new-age hippy and the scotch-swilling soul of a sour, old reporter.

Step 1

Stretch your legs and booty because the initial quarter mile averages more than a 45-degree incline.

Step 2

If you are hiking with more than one individual/beast, space yourselves out on a dry afternoon, or the person in the rear gets a dust sandwich. Not to mention the possibility of rocks in the shins and branches in the face.

Step 3

After the initial, grueling climb, continue north regardless if there are any hints of the path.

Step 4

There will be many signs of waterfalls, but the most accessible comes a mile in, 50 feet below the ridge you’re on.

Step 5

The falls are 6-feet tall and 25-feet wide. So, if the day is hot and the sun oppressive, splash your face and feet in the small pool.

Step 6

Head back to the ridge and keep an eye out to your left. In 200 yards, there is a falls that takes a 30-foot drop. From the ridge, you will see only a thin layer of whitewater above the edge of the falls that looks like rapids of white smoke.

Step 7

If it has been two miles of trail-less wandering, consider crossing the creek with the dog in your arms to a wildflower-spattered meadow, and a clear peak at some of the Gore Range. After all, the hound has grown dog-tired of getting high-centered on all of the fallen trees off the beaten path.

Step 8

The actual trail lies 100 feet northwest. Go there.

Step 9

On the beaten dirt path, things are easier. You can even play tic-tac-toe in the dirt with your hiking staff, unless your dog decides to take a stand against competitive interactions by laying in the middle of the diagram.

Step 10

Hike some more and then head home for some more pasta, a shower and to take a seat off of your feet.

Step 11

Berate yourself for getting temporarily lost in the woods.

Step 12

Congratulate yourself for not getting permanently lost in the woods.

Andrew Harley can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 610, or at

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