50 hikes before 50 –
celebrating a milestone birthday
By Carin R. Kirkegaard; photos courtesy of Tina Howell
Two months ago, longtime Castle Pines resident Tina Howell celebrated 50 trips around the sun. Like many people before her reaching this milestone in life, it seemed like Howell needed a way to mark the moment. Some run a marathon, others learn to scuba dive or even jump out of an airplane. For Howell, she made the commitment to hike 50 trails in honor of her 50th year on earth.
With a birthday early in the year, the idea started when friends inquired about Howell’s 2021 New Year’s resolutions. Coupled with inspiration from a social media group called 52 Hikes/52 Weeks, her vision started to come into focus. She laughed, explaining that while 52 hikes – one hike a week – sounded daunting, knocking off a total of 50 in a year seemed more manageable.
Family vacations to Lake Powell and time spent at their place in Granby allowed for checking off several hikes in a row. Howell said she didn’t have a strict set of criteria for what made a “countable” hike. Her typical excursions were between four to six miles, but some were two-mile hikes. She remembers an exceptionally grueling 11-mile hike where she crossed paths with three moose near Deckers and ended at Bud’s Bar in Sedalia for burgers. All of her hikes involved dirt trails, and there was always a definite intention to hike. Walking the family’s two Chihuahuas along the streets and paved trails in Castle Pines didn’t count.
One of the more memorable hikes Howell recalled was hiking to Lake Isabelle near Nederland. They passed a wedding party along the way, where the festivities had paused because the groom had been chased by a moose. Some of the most picturesque hikes were in the Indian Peak Wilderness near Granby Lake. Perhaps the most striking was hiking through the North Inlet burn area in Rocky Mountain National Park. Howell said she was in awe. At the trailhead, the grass was lush and green and filled with marmots. She speculated that they had been displaced due to the fires. As she hiked further up the trail, Howell recalled that it was as if the canyon had melted. Standing among the skeletons of burnt trees was one lone moose.
A Colorado native, Howell said she and her family have always camped, incorporating the outdoors into their lives. Both her children attended Renaissance Secondary School in Castle Rock – known for Adventure Education, a curriculum that allows the outdoors to become the classroom. Howell said she learned a thing or two planning her own hikes from watching her kids prepare for their adventures at school.
In fact, a catalyst for her birthday goal was her daughter, Juli, leaving to attend college in Idaho. Howell says her husband, Michael, and her son, Tony, are fishing and dirt biking buddies, while she and Juli were hiking companions. Howell was feeling Juli’s absence as her daughter flew the nest. Having the hiking goal provided a focus. The girls did manage to complete 18 of Howell’s hikes together, despite Juli being away.
In total, Howell traversed 246 miles across five different states. She said that one of the best outcomes of this adventure was the connections and reconnections she made with friends who saw what she was doing and wanted to join her on a hike. She only had three solo hikes – all the rest were with hiking companions.