Continental Divide in Colorado

This view of the Continental Divide from Brainard Lake, Colorado, was the reward for a 3-mile hike through the mountains.

I never expected to be having a snowball fight on my birthday, considering it’s on the 7th of July.

I’m still finding out that life is full of surprises and new experiences, and it looks like more are on the way.

The snowball fight came at 10,000 feet, where it turns out you can stand calf-deep in still-unmelted snow while feeling comfortable in an air temperature of 60 degrees.

All this happened just outside Rocky Mountain National Park on my latest visit to Colorado, which might be my last for a while.

Just when I was getting used to operating without oxygen.

Betsy and I feel proud of handling the altitude pretty well for flatlanders. Since 2014, we’ve been making trips to see youngest son Dan, who lives just outside Boulder with our ultra-athletic daughter-in-law, Lisa.

All that is about to change, because Lisa is kicking butt not just on a volleyball court, but also in the business world, which is sending her to Austin, Texas — at least for a while.

Two of our sons seem to think we need to see more of this country. Drew spent two decades in Chicago, showing us three fascinating neighborhoods with a rich city life you won’t see as a tourist.

Then, two years ago, Drew landed in a former farmhouse outside the college town of Athens, Georgia. Until then, I never took much interest in the South, but it’s pretty nice to eat lunch at a sidewalk cafe in December.

Dan introduced us to sunny San Diego before migrating to the mountains. Now, he’s going to teach us about Texas, even if Austin — also a college town — might not be typically Texan.

I’ll have to overcome a negative impression passed down by my father, who never had anything good to say about the Lone Star State. After he died, we found the complaint-filled letters he sent home from his World War II training base in Texas. A 100-degree summer is not the best time to take a liking to Texas or go through boot camp, although it probably prepared him well for the South Pacific.

Upon learning our son and daughter-in-law would be moving, I looked up an article on Austin. It advised that I shouldn’t even think about visiting in June, July or August.

July can get pretty intense in Colorado, too, producing the biggest hailstones I’ve ever seen in a storm on July 5.

The Rocky Mountains are the nation’s storm factory. A typical July day starts pleasantly cool without a cloud in the sky. By 5 p.m., you might be ducking for cover. Thanks to a quirk of mountain air currents, a storm can pass over you, then back up and pound you again.

Mother Nature gave us two perfect afternoons for hiking, however. Betsy and I went by ourselves up a steep slope at the edge of Boulder. We felt proud of setting personal records for altitude gain, except that a couple of sub-10-year-olds were keeping up, right behind us.

On my birthday, we started our hike at 9,500 feet, with my daughter-in-law teasingly taunting me, asking if the old guy was feeling all right. I answered by stretching out 50 yards in the lead, only to have to sit down and rest until she caught up.

Our reward for conquering a 3-mile, steady climb was reaching a mountain lake with the snow-capped peaks of the Continental Divide in the background.

They say the Texas hill country around Austin is scenic, too. I’m betting that if I visited on my birthday, I couldn’t make any snowballs.

Dave Kurtz is the executive editor of KPC Media Group newspapers. He may be reached at dkurtz@kpc media.com.

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