Deer Mountain Anniversary Hike (June 5, 2020)

Friday, June 5th, 2020, Susan and I hiked to the rocky summit of Deer Mountain, a 10,010’ foot peak in Rocky Mountain National Park.

We hit the trail a little before 6am, and it took us a bit over one and a half hours to reach the summit. We were the first people on the trail that day, and on the summit, which we had completely to ourselves for the first 30 minutes or so. 

View from the summit of Deer Mountain

We took our time enjoying the near-panoramic vistas of Estes Park, Moraine Park, Longs Peak, and the mountains of the continental divide. 

View of Chapin, Chiquita, Ypsilon, and Fairchild mountains

But the 6.5 mile hike, with over 1,000’ of gain was much more than “just a hike” for us — it was also how we celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary.

Susan and I met in early spring of 2002, and our second date was a hike to the top of Deer Mountain. 

For us, Deer Mountain is a very special place, as we got married on the summit on Sunday, June 5, 2005.

Here’s the story of how that came to be.

When we decided to get married, we discussed what we both wanted, and rather than a planning a big complicated wedding with family and friends, we decided on something very personal and private. We decided getting married on Deer Mountain was exactly what we wanted.

Fortunately, Colorado is one of two states that allows people to marry themselves, without an officiant or a witness. All you have to do is get a marriage license, decide on a date, exchange your vows, sign the license, and then file it with the county.

We got our marriage license on May 31, 2005, but we hadn’t actually set a date. As we discussed it, we decided that since we weren’t inviting anyone we could choose to do the hike and get married “on a nice day”. The first few days after we got the license were rainy, so we just woke up each day and looked at the weather.

On Sunday, June 5th, the weather looked great, so we packed our hiking gear and headed into Rocky. It was a beautiful and warm day and we took our time, enjoying the wildflowers, birds, and mule deer along the way. Some mountain bluebirds put on an especially nice show for us.

Mule deer we saw along the trail

When we got to the summit, we found a nice spot to hang out, rested, snacked, and then exchanged our vows, and *poof* we were married!

As we were taking pictures and celebrating, we noticed a group of three women, and it turns out I knew one them — Teri, and when we spoke about what we were doing, she was excited for us, and offered to be our "wedding photographer."

Teri (center), who took a few photos of us, and her companions

We didn’t have smartphones or great cameras then, but we take some snapshots and selfies and we recorded a waypoint with the exact time and location on the GPS device we had. 

Our wedding's GPS location :-) 

We started the hike as unmarried partners, and finished the hike as a married couple. 

Newly married Susan and Mike, with Estes Park in the background

We got back to our car at the trailhead just before 3pm. We went home, cleaned up, and went out for a celebratory dinner at the Dunraven Inn restaurant in Estes Park.

Deer Mountain is a prominent and uniquely shaped mountain in the Estes Park area, and we see it nearly every time we go out or into town. And we always enjoy seeing it from many different perspectives on roads and other hiking trails in the area.

Since our first hike in 2002, and our marriage there in 2005, we’ve done this hike together 8 other times, including one time in the winter

Now you know why Deer Mountain is such a dear mountain to us. 🙂💕

Mike and Susan on our 15th Anniversary Deer Mountain hike 

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