Text & photos by Jack Olson

Alpine sunflowers on Shrine Ridge.

Around the year 2000 I read a wildflower hiking book for the Colorado mountains. It profiled a feature called Shrine Ridge and, furthermore, bestowed upon it the title of Century Hike. That would be at least a hundred different wildflowers in the course of a season. What the authors had shared would turn out to be life-enriching for me.

One day there was a low layer of clouds over Denver so a friend and I thought we’d drive up to the mountains to check the trail out. Sure enough, we got above the clouds at about 8,000 feet. We drove to the trailhead and found a garden of wildflowers right there. It was too late in the day to start but this looked very promising. Not long after that we drove up early and hiked to the top of Shrine Ridge. You cannot see anything to the west until you hit the last step to the top.

Then it’s a knock-your-socks-off view as you’re stunned by the spread of the northern Sawatch Range. But wait a minute and look down, all around down. There are wildflowers here, wildflowers there, wildflowers everywhere. Do you gasp, whoop, maybe even cry? I think those hundred wildflowers were blooming right near my feet. 

Lupine on Shrine Ridge.

It was so gorgeous that I couldn’t keep it to myself. But no way would I put it on a billboard. A judicious sharing of Shrine Ridge ensued. I wrote a column about it in this newsletter. But as quality a publication as it is, it doesn’t have the circulation of the Denver Postor New York Times.

I probably led some twenty people to the Ridge over the years. Each hike would be limited to two other people, excluding a dog. I was sharing but keeping it pretty quiet.

Secret Garden

Sharing with me, a friend led me to the Secret Garden which she and her husband had stumbled upon some weeks before. I, in turn, led a few friends into the Secret Garden.Nowadays I can’t hike. I wish I could but those days are over. It happens. But there’s nothing to keep me from sharing by utilizing Rocky Mountain Outdoor Writing and Photography.