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During one of our trips this summer, we came upon the following charming scene. It was an idyllic place: the sun was sparkling, the meadows were lush and green, and the surrounding mountains seemed as if they were waiting for Julie Andrews to start singing. "The hills are alive...."
And there, in the middle of the meadow, were a couple of pack llamas taking a bit of the breather. Nearby, a young family was taking a bit of a breather as well. The kids, aged from about 4-10, were having a snack in the shade, and mom was pulling a few more tasting morsels out of a pack for them. They looked hot, tired, and reasonably happy.
But as we approached them, the father of the family came out to greet us as we descended down from our cross-country adventure to Return and Soldier Lakes.
"Is that the trail to Virginia Pass?" he asked, a not of worry in his voice.
We assured him that it was not. It wasn't really a trail at all, although it led to some beautiful country. It sure wasn't on the way to anywhere else at all.
"Can you tell me where the trail to Virginia Pass is?" he asked, a little desperately.
We remembered passing a large cairn on the trail below where his family was resting and mentioned it to him. The cairn also had a huge arrow next to it to point the way.
"Yeah, it's not very easy to follow." he said. "I guess it might get better as you get higher up."
We would like to have helped, but our route was in another direction, and he didn't seem to want to hike with us down to the cairn...so we offered him encouragement that we were sure that was the trail.
And then we hiked off and left him in the middle of the idyllic meadow, with his llamas and his little kids. We hoped that he would find his way up to Virginia Pass. And we made a note to tell the Rangers in Bridgeport where we had been hiking, and to check the backpacking websites when we got back, to see if a family was reported missing.
All has been quiet, and we are happy that it must have turned out well. Still...it was awkward to just leave them there. Maybe we should have hiked the route past the cairn with them, until we were sure that they could find the trail.
But then...it wasn't on our way at all. And the kids had food and water. And the trail to Virginia Pass could really only lead one direction---up over the ridge and down to the trailhead.