“Today I choose to take a stand.”
An explanatory podcast interview about what happened with Across the Atlantic & where things currently stand amongst the band moving forward.
“Today I choose to take a stand.”
An explanatory podcast interview about what happened with Across the Atlantic & where things currently stand amongst the band moving forward.
At the moment I’m riding a delayed flight from LAX back to Houston to hopefully pick up my car and maneuver myself back to San Antonio through the flooded highways. At the same time, it’s important to note that as it stands we’re also roughly 16 Hours away from the release of our label debut ‘Works Of Progress’ and about a week away from our first tour in Europe. All exciting stuff right?
Well as cool as it all may be and sound, you might think I’m crazy to admit I’m not thinking about any of that in this moment. Yeah, that’s right none of it.
I’ll be real with you I almost feel guilty in a way, I know the significance of all this great stuff and how rare things like these happen to people like me & I definitely know we’ve worked a long way to get here but I still can’t help but feel a little undeserving. I know, I know this sounds a lot like humble brag but seriously the whole sentiment of all this awesome stuff coming my way hasn’t necessarily satisfied me in the way that I expected or that it should.
Bare with me here before you storm off about how ungrateful or naïve I might be sounding right now but honestly the thing that’s been dominating my thoughts the last week, the thing that’s been weighing me down in bringing me the most excitement/anxiety combined is the people.
The people that have sacrificed, invested, believed & busted their asses just so I could be here. You see, I recently came to the realization of something I probably already knew but didn’t necessarily accept until my visit out to LA…
The times that I’m happiest are the times I’m able to impact someone else life for the better.
In the band that means booking our tours and growing our brand, in my relationship that means taking my girlfriend to new places, as a son that means giving my parents something I hope they can be proud of me for.
Oddly enough its been particularly strange for me over the last year or so because I feel like now more than ever I’m taking more than I’m giving in the grand scheme of things. A lot of awesome stuff has been happening to me since the signing. It’s always about “SO I can succeed”, “SO I can put out a great album” “SO I can have this status of luxury but never about the people who are putting me in this position.
I can’t help but feel grimey about it. I know this is probably me feeding into the melodramatic emotional dude I am but it just feels unwarranted. In all honesty the more I think of the things I’m proudest of, the more I realize that my own personal responsibility in those things isn’t all that significant.
Let me elaborate:
The point I’m trying to make is that, contrary to popular belief it’s no coincidence that I got here. Look at the people around me, look at the work they’ve put in. It was never me, it was them… It is them.
That’s why as all these accolades and milestones start coming my way I can’t shake that bitter sweet feeling… It’s nice to be recognized and it’s cool to be the dude in front of the camera but you got the wrong guy!
Those people are the ones who should be praised. The people who believe in me, the people who constantly put themselves second so that I can prosper. The ones that are constantly grinding there asses of solely for the benefit of something other than themselves. The true unsung heroes.
I haven’t written much in here recently because quite honestly I’ve been shook. Ive been asking myself at times recently if I’m doing the best job I can? If somehow I am letting these people down by getting a little to comfortable or enjoying my poisition just a little to much?
I don’t think most people understand just how much has been invested in my success, or just much has been sacrificed for the opportunity.
It’s sometimes daunting to think that I could fall short.
I wanna be the guy that always does right by everyone.
With the internal clock of the album release ticking down from months to weeks to days and now hours, I just hope that sentiment can ring true.
If there is one thing I wanna say before Works Of Progress comes out, it’s thank you.
All of you.
Even you reading this right now.
There’s been countless people who have attributed to this single moment and I just hope you can share in the pride and glory of tomorrow just as much as I can, because honestly you deserve it.
I don’t know how it will be received or how many units it’ll sale but my only hope for this album remains the same as it’s always been.
I hope it inspires you.
I want to make it publicly known that aside from life in my band I hope to one day make a living out of helping other people conquer the once thought impossible.
I’m really interested in both the PR & A&R sides of the music business and I hope to one day pay forward even a portion of all that has been done for me.
Thanks for the read, see you in Europe.
“Honest, Raw & Unapologetic, 24 Hours is one of the most aggressive tracks of the entire album & lyrically the most personal.”
So its been a while…
And man do we have a lot to catch up on. I feel like the last 4 weeks have gone by in the blink of an eye. Country after country, flight after flight, limited internet & broken water heaters. Europe was wild!
On another note, things have started to get really busy really quickly in the life of the band & all things Across the Atlantic. We’re gearing up for tour announcements, prepping distribution for the new album & yes, releasing new music videos!
As some of you guys may or may not know we released a music video for the first single of the new album “24 Hours”. This is undoubtedly a heavier jam but I feel it is as powerful as it is loud. 24 lyrically, is one of the most personal records on the album to me so I was excited to hear that this would be our true introduction to the world under Sharptone. In a nutshell, I’d like to think of the song as a time capsule of the last 2 years of my life & a nice prefix to a lot of the common themes that are going to be visited throughout the rest of the record.
“Writing 24 hours was an absolute necessity.”
For my self-confidence, for my wellbeing & for my spirit. This was a song that had to make the album. Originally entitled “24” this song is the direct response to life catching up to me & facing the impending challenge of balancing the pursuit of my dreams & fulfilling my responsibilities as a man.
Simply put, I feel like 24 is the age where people kinda expect you to get your shit together. When your younger you really get the benefit of the doubt (Shuffling through school or bouncing around jobs) but personally speaking, when I turned 24 I felt like I just got hit by a fucking freight train. It seemed like from one day to another everyone around me, all my friends & peers had found instant success. People were pursuing careers & buying houses, starting families and drinking expensive wine; WTF happened! It wasn’t that I felt envious or covetous of my friends, really I felt incapable.
“2016 was the first time in my life I felt like I had fallen behind.”
I questioned my ambitions. I questioned my investment in the band. I questioned my judgement. Over those last 5 years I had no greater love than writing of songs & performance of music, was I being greedy by dedicating myself to pursuing my passion rather than living practical? These thoughts flooded the inner-workings of my head. I started to feel a sense of guilt & embarrassment. So I dabbled with jobs & tried to focus a bit more at school, I tried any damn thing I could to find the passion in these “traditional roads of life” that I had for music. There was no comparison. There was no alternative. Sitting in a cubicle from 6 to 3 made me lethargic. Day in and day out, I was making money but I was losing my heart. For 7 months I tried to convince myself that these were just growing pains & that I would eventually find that it was not so bad but such day never came. For 5 days out of the week I was much the same of a walking corpse, going through the motions, clocking in & clocking out, answering phone calls & spewing water-cooler rhetoric. I was out.
Believe it or not though, it got worse. I became even more disgusted with myself. I looked around and saw so many people loving their jobs, embracing the routine & I just felt inadequate, mentally broken I guess would be a better way to describe it. Why could I not just fall in line & find my own happiness while doing this traditional life like everyone else?
I pondered, I sulked, I contemplated & I surrendered. I accepted the fact that this was growing up. Worn & weary I sought to find some seasoned words of encouragement from my family and from my friends. I don’t know what exactly I wanted to hear but I guess I was searching for some sort of affirmation that I could eventually fall into this traditional life (without music) and find happiness. Reluctant and desperate I called.
Conversation after conversation, phone call after phone call. The stories were different but the sentiment was the same:
“Yeah it sucks but it’s just something we gotta do.”
“Well it could be a lot worse.”
“Welcome to the real world.”
“Time to grow up.”
“What kind of man are you?”
The common tone throughout these conversations was not one of favor.. or even content. It was best described as settlement.
I did not feel as though I was talking to the champion who had “won the fight” & paved his own lane of happiness but rather it was like I was talking to the fighter that had got his shit rocked for 12 full rounds and eventually just went numb. There was no passion in their tongues, no excitement in their bones. There was regret disguised as content. Victims of this trance like state that was clouded under words of sorrow and even resentment.
We then spoke of prior loves or passions in life. Ambitions they had to abandon, “Sacrifices” as they were commonly addressed as. I asked how hard it was to walk away? To essentially “Give Up” on their dreams in substitution for their livelihood.
“That’s just what happens when you grow up.”
“I was forced.”
“My father said, son your wasting your time.”
“It’s a part of life.”
“These conversations changed the trajectory of my life forever.”
Instantly, (I’m talking before the phone calls were even over) I was back. A light had been switched, I felt alive. I felt angry. At that moment, I knew that I was not going to quit.
For better or worse, if a deal came or not. I was going to ride this dream until I made the decision that it was time to walk away. Not my peers, not society or cultural norms, ME.
You see, I was enlightened. The most painful singularity between all the stories I had just heard was that the decision to walk away from their passions was never their own doing.
They were nudged;
By their peers who said they were never good enough.
By the media who said they were to old.
By their parents who said they were wasting their time.
By society who said they did not fit.
By this predetermined notion of what constitutes “Success” in our country.
I thought deeply, about how it could be considered so inappropriate to pursue your dreams or how intolerable it was to be “different”. The hypocrisy of it all in “the land of opportunity.”
If you walk into a elementary school today & ask a child what they want to be when they grow up you will undoubtedly have hundreds and thousands of different responses; maybe a professional athlete or an astronaut, a lawyer or a doctor, a musician even…
No matter the reply though, In the voices of these children you will hear promise, you’ll hear conviction and you’ll hear excitement.
You see, when we’re young were told we can be anything, we can do anything. The sky is the limit and anything is possible as long as you believe in yourself and remain dedicated. But as time goes on, as we age, our hopes and our dreams are slowly corrupted. All of a sudden “You can do anything” becomes “You can do anything BUT..“. We are now hit with disclaimers & suppositions.
We’re taught to dream… (But don’t dream too big).
Follow your heart.. (But only within reason.)
This half-hearted support system is crippling. And the irony is that our nation was founded by dreamers who shared the very same ambitions that we seek to discourage.
Somewhere a long the way we’ve lost our way. We snicker at those who seek to do things differently, we doubt dreamers & our ambitions are now seized by glass ceilings.
24 Hours is a anthem for anyone who has ever been brave enough to do things their own way, no matter the odds & no matter the critics & It’s a middle finger to this hypocritical preconceived notion of what it means to be “successful” in America.
“We’re moving on to higher-ground, we’ve gone too far to turn back now.”
“Trust the Process”
It was 6am in Orlando Florida. We had about a week to the completion of the album, mostly finishing up things like extra vocals & little details, by that time in the process it seemed like days were never ending. Honestly, the only reason I was awake so early was because of the free breakfast in our hotel lobby. It was then, I got a call from a number who’s area code I’d never seen before. I was tempted to just let this one go to voicemail & proceed to enjoying the rest of my blueberry muffin but I did not. Skeptically, I answered. After hearing the heavy accent present on the other side of the phone I was 100% sure this had to be a prank call, it wasn’t. “Is this Jay? I really would like to talk about your band, are you free?”. This was my first contact with the Sharptone Records office located in Germany & the first event, in a chain of many that would change my life forever.
In that phone call lasting well over a hour I spoke with Shaprtone about who we were & our journey. I tried my hardest to do the cliff note version of the last 5 years & explain all that had occurred in a humbling fashion. It turns out though most of what I was saying they already knew about. Sharptone was familiar with the EP, they were familiar with the first album & they loved it. It was clear then, this hadn’t been a coincidental call or inquiry in the band they had been following us for quite some time. They had seen the tours, the member changes & the adversity. They had listened to records, watched the music videos & seen the promos. For virtually the first time, all our hard-work all we had built for was noticed by someone in a true position of prominence in the industry & that within itself was a powerful moment for me, personally.
“So your currently recording a new album?” Immediately they wanted to hear all that we had been working on over the last month at Wade’s. Which at that point in time, wasn’t mixed and wasn’t ready. Ironically enough the only thing that was “The Prelude” or intro of the record. So ironically enough just how the public & you guys are getting exposed to the album now, the label did in the same order!
We sent over the intro & that was cool and all but of course they wanted the whole thing, the album in its entirety. At that point in time we still needed about 4 days (at the absolute least) to tie this thing up into a presentable fashion & we were already crunching down to the finish line trying to complete everything by the time we left Wade’s anyway. But again, Andrew being the absolute robot that he is found a way to not only make it happen but make it happen beautifully & within 3 days.
I have to tell you though these were the longest 72hrs of my life!! The tension was so high amongst us 5 during that time that every email, every text, every phone call or every Facebook Message was like walking on eggshells. I wouldn’t say there was ever a disbelief in ourselves or in the album itself but there was just a healthy amount of skepticism that maybe the content of the record wouldn’t be quite match up to what they were looking for. You see it had become clear Sharptone loved the last album, they could tell us the names of the songs & the parts of the songs. It was crazy, literally felt like the twilight zone! And though this record definitely picks up where the last one left off, it also takes quite a few steps forward in new directions entirely. And like most things in life the thought of the unknown is intimidating.
Simply put, this was the album WE wanted to make. We had no prior idea or notion that these songs would be courted by labels or that it would even be commercially available we just sought out to make music that we liked. 100% free of any agenda. And much like our journey as a band the record was made inimitably diverse. Nothing was filtered & nothing was off limits. And the thought of that was fucking scary.
Night after night I was losing my sleep asking myself why now? Why couldn’t they of at least told us a month before so there would of been at least some collaboration possible to make this album attractive to them, What if they wanted more heavy songs? Or what if they wanted more pop songs? We truly were in a position where all our cards were on the table and the rest was up to fate.
Within 2 days we formally received our offer from Sharptone Records.
In retrospect, this was the only absolute way things could’ve possibly went down. It had to of been this way, our way. We made a album that I am confident in saying is filled with the best songs we’ve ever written and we made it all free of any judgement or outside influences. It was important that this partnership we were about to embark on with Sharptone not only suited them but suited us. We were very lucky to find a label that shares the same aspirations for our career as we do and I think the initial listen to the album and feedback characterized the support and allure of Sharptone. This connection and this significance was genuine. Sharptone doesn’t just believe in us, they believe in our vision & our ambitions. We share the same goals, we share the commitment & we share the same love for music. And coming from a label, I don’t think theres anything more we can ask for.
For so many years and through so much bullshit it seemed like this day would literally never come. Time and time again we were passed on, overlooked, or downright rejected. It took a lot to continue, it took a lot to move forward. If you ask any of the guys in this band I am 100% sure they will tell you that quitting has never been an option but I know the mental toll of continuing this marathon with no real finish line in sight had weighed on all of us. But it also humbled us, success wasn’t granted overnight we didn’t get picked up our first year or second year. We had to grind, we had to sweat and we had to bleed for this and I think thats what makes this so much more valuable to us. As cliche as it sounds I feel as though things happened at the exact right time they were supposed to with who they were supposed to. The match with Sharptone feels tailor-made. From the international infrastructure, to the leadership & the team , to the roster and the innovation that is going on right now from such a young company we couldn’t of asked to be in a better position at a better time. I know there’s still a lot of work to be done and I know we’re still far from where we envision ourselves but I am fully confident in the band and in the team at Sharptone that the question at hand isnt a matter of “If” but “When“.
Always moving forward, always trusting the process, the best is yet to come!
Time to work.
“Death & Discovery at the Wade Studio”
First off, let me just take the time to exhale & say this is news that has been incredibly hard to keep under wraps for what seems like ages! (But realistically has only been a few months.) So please excuse the personal gratification and enthusiasm I’m about the spew over the next few posts.
The easiest way to explain the significance of this & all that it means for the band & I is to give you the crash course of our history & the path we took to get here. If you’ve read past entries you probably already know that the band started out primarily as a hobby and a outlet more than anything else for me & things grew organically over time.
We played our first show show together at the start of 2013 & soon after that it was clear that this ambition was no longer just a hobby but a investment & a commitment for ourselves in the true pursuit of a music career. Consequent months were filled with lots of trial & error. “Bad music, lineup changes, empty venues & self doubt” about sums up the inception of Across the Atlantic. But all that began to change, the first time we went to Orlando.
Undoubtedly, the single biggest event or decision I can attribute to the inital success of this band was recording with Andrew Wade.
Making the decision to record with Wade always seemed unrealistic. I remember looking up his contact information and thinking surely we won’t get a response… We got a response & were immediately forwarded over to his agent. Then I thought surely he’s not going to have the time to fit us in his schedule during our Spring Break… Again I was wrong. It was only then that this apparent “Pipe Dream” actually seemed like it might have a real shot at being made a reality.
After discovering that recording with Andrew was actually a option the decision to go to Florida was unanimous. Undoubtedly, this was our #1 choice of studio in the world. We briefly thought about staying closer to home as most bands do- Of course, there were great producers and engineers in our reigon but no one that we felt suited us and our style of music as well as Andrew. So we decided it was the Wade Studio or bust.
The biggest concern and challenge for us now was funding the investment. Shocked by the opportunity and intimidated by the cost my focus immediately shifted to what had to be done to pay for all this. Wade already had a extremely established name & track record for putting out many of the most successful acts in the genre, so we anticipated the cost we just never really anticipated actually how we would actually gather up the money. We immediately started hustling in anyway possible. Selling merch, picking up extra hours, taking on loans. Whatever it took to make it happen, it was game-time.
I remember the build up & anticipation to actually recording was so short it seemed like we were nowhere close to being ready to record a song, let alone 4. Regardless, eventually the day came & somehow someway we made the money required. All 5 of us squeezed into my Mistubishi Lancer and we began the 16 hour trek to Orlando. We drove direct on limited sleep but I wasn’t tired. Mile marker after mile marker I became more and more nervous. I actually had hoped a spontaneous hurricane would just flood the road or stop the trip but alas we arrived in front of the studio. I was absolutely nauseous. I can still vividly remember parking the car, turning it off and literally just sitting there scared out of my mind, so many emotions so many doubts. This was the producer responsible for recording so many great bands, what if we weren’t ready? What if we got thrown out & had to drive back to Texas empty handed?
Reluctantly, we got out of the car and rang the door bell.
Promptly & nonchalantly Wade answered. This was it. I remember his initial demeanor being quiet but confident. Immediately it was business, We showed him our demos, talked briefly about the band, the direction of the music and off to work he went…
Keep in mind, those songs were absolutely terrible with zero structure- we had a song with 5 bridges and 1 chorus…
Somehow, someway Wade had managed to piece together absolute trash and formulate it into pretty damn good songs. The instrumentation was drastically better, melodies were much more fluid and overall for the first time ever these songs actually had life. All that was left was recording the vocals & putting actual lyrics over it all.
You know how sometimes people say in fights or in much more appropriate intense moments in general they just zone out and cant recall what they did or anything that happens they just “black out” . Well, this was my blackout moment, for sure.
I remember two things being sweaty & being hungry. But other than that OUT.
After vocals were done I remember listening to the songs off that EP for the very first time in Andrews studio & being completely overwhelmed. It’s hard to describe the transformation of the band that happened over those 2 weeks we were in Orlando but for the first time ever it felt like we now had a true direction & foundation to start building from.
We came back home & studied everything we could from our experience with Wade. From the recording techniques to the formula of the songs & the valuable insight he had shared in marketing the band. The months after recording were probably some of the most prominent in terms of growth inside the band. Not only this but we now had a EP we could be proud of! We paid a professional artist & had true casing and we were surprised at how well it preformed after being released.
Over the years we’ve made to trek to Wades a total of 5 times. To work on various things from new albums to cover songs and still after every experience we are always left with invaluable takeaways and information that we have used to make ourselves that much better and that much more prepared for the next time. He constantly has pushed us to improve & helped us find a identity and pace that has kept us as relevant & productive as we could hope at this stage in our career.
The relationship we have now is still very much collaborative. We are fortunate in that his vision is so well-aligned with ours that we can often entrust him to take all creative liberties necessary to shape our songs into their best form. But we also have the respect & comfort with one another to openly discuss and debate changes that may or may not be best for the songs.
I cannot tell you how many times he’s reworked a melody or we’ve brainstormed a new lyric that makes a song 1000X better than previously.
As far as Wade’s significance to the record deal & the partnership with Sharptone, I can tell you this. Without him we would of never gotten the offer, period. He is the equivalent of what 6th member to this band would be & he’s been through enough with us over the years that I truly believe we could not of asked for a better producer/engineer/advisor or friend than Andrew Wade.
In my opinion, the new album is a capstone representing not only the evolution of our band but the evolution of our working relationship with Andrew throughout the years. Over a month of hard work was put into this record & I can only hope that it can give back a sliver of the credit that is deserved to Andrew Wade & do some justice to the support he is given us for the better part of 5 years.
“My weekend R+R in the Rocky Mountains”
This is my first of two entries chronicalizing my weekend trip to RMNP & Denver over the past weekend.
After the stressful ordeal that was last week it was the absolute perfect timing for this getaway to Denver & RMNP over the weekend. I took the trip with Carmen & a small group of friends and acquaintances that brought the head-count up to 6 total. Admittedly, it was hard to turn things off into “Full Vacation Mode” but as the weekend went on I could not help being truly captured by the serenity of the mountains.
We flew frontier airlines from San Antonio to Denver International, if you know anything about Frontier you know they’re no frills to the max. Given the strike late last year I was a little bit skeptical but other than the ant-size table top I really had zero complaints about the flight, it was on time & relatively clean which is more than I can ask for on a $100 round trip ticket.
Shortly after arrival we picked up our rental car from Hertz, a Nissan Rogue 4×4. Definitley a bit roomier than the Corolla I was expecting & a nice touch for the trek up the mountains for later in the day. I gotta say I was completely impressed with the rental process from that Hertz. Upon landing I received an email with a stall number where the rental was located & the keys were in the ignition ready to go. Literally no hassle & no time wasted! Having fell victim to hour long rental waits before this was truly valued to make the most of vacation.
The first trip we made after getting settled into Denver was first picking up a 2nd rental from another Hertz location and then a local cafe called “Waffle Brothers” for breakfast. The fare was good & really set the tone for the overload of carbs I was about to consume for the rest of the weekend. I had the “Full Monty” & was not disappointed with taste but the serving side was a little underwhelming. From here we went directly to Mount Evans. About a hour and half from the city center of Denver & home to the highest paved road in the USA, we hoped to make it to the summit but the snow was just too heavy the road was blocked off for the season (probably till late May/ Early June). Still though, we made a lackluster effort of heading to the top on foot but got about a quarter mile till we turned around. The snow just wasn’t packed & the depth mixed with the altitude just made for a real challenge. ON TOP OF THIS, my snow boots that were ordered from Amazon earlier in the week did not come in on time so I was roughing the hike with some “Old Reliable” Nike Basketball shoes that got wrecked by the water & absence of ankle support. Still though, the drive was scenic and we saw a couple of foxes on the way so no complaints there.
From Mount Evans we made our initial commute towards Estes Park where our hotel would be over the next couple of nights. We stopped in Central City on the way & ate at this literal ghost town restaurant called Millies. When I say we were the only ones in there, we were literally the only ones in there. The decor was a mix of Moulin Rouge & your grandmas house & ironically the wait for the food was LONG. For the six of us we probably spent a total of two hours at the restaurant. I had the bison burger (a must) with sweet potato fries, so I was satisfied but definitely ready to get out of there by the time the checks was given. Immediately after this we stopped at Century Casino right across the street. The advertisements promised “Many” Table games so I was surprised to find one room containing a table each of Blackjack, Craps & Roulette. I thought about enticing my roulette addiction but ultimately held off- The Europe trip is in 3 weeks so cooler heads prevail, at least for now. Back on the road!
The drive to Estes was beautiful. We passed an abundance of small-towns and ski resorts and the peaks & valleys coupled with the wildlife made for a rather entertaining trip. It took about 2 hours but we finally made it to Estes Park. Our hotel was “Murphy’s Resort” a modest mid-tier motel. The staff was all super generous upon check-in and the room was definitely cramped for 6 (with just 2 queen beds & a sofa sleeper) but given budget and the time we were actually going to spend inside the room it was doable.
By the time we got settled in and dinner started calling it was about 8pm. Our flight arrived at 8am so it had been a long-day & so gathering the energy to leave the room was quite the task. Eventually we did & we took our first tour around Estes it was a perfect time to visit as crowds and traffic were virtually nonexistent and the charm of this small town really shined at its brightest. Having only been to Estes once before in the Summer it seemed vastly different from the traffic-jam tourist trap it appeared to be then. Still though we searched for somewhere to eat and were surprised to find out that about 90% of all business were closed and had been since 6pm. Maybe this is due to the off-season but the only options available in the evening seemed to be Bars & Pubs so we made our way for Lonigans- an Irish Pub & Grill that would be a nice place to end the night. Here I had the Elk burger. The taste was pretty gamey & the food overall was sub-par but the rest of the party enjoyed it after ordering a couple rounds of “Car-Bombs” to drink. There was a bit of a fiasco as a credit card was lost after the waiter picked up our tabs but the staff was very helpful and eventually checked the cameras to find it has slipped out and fell on the floor after being processed at the stand. We went home for the night and prepared for day 2.
Saturday was all about hiking, the snow and weather really limited our options but research told me too of the more accessible trails in this time of year would be Gem Lake & Emerald Lake. We started our morning with a 3 mile venture up to Gem Lake at about 8am. Ironically enough this was probably the hardest hike of the entire weekend. Getting acclimated to the elevation was a challenge and though the hike itself was calm with modest elevation gain and no snow it ended up being quite the work out. This trail-head for this hike was actually located in Estes & not RMNP so the views were tremendous & the trail was mostly vacant. On the way up there were a couple of Chipmunks & plenty of opportunities to go off trail & rock climb but the trail was clearly marked to get on and off at your leisure. We finally reached Gem Lake close to the summit and found it to not be having one of its better days. The season brought a lot of debris and murkiness to the water but the trail was still a great way to start the weekend & the views really helped set the context for what would be coming next at Emerald.
Immediately after Gem Lake & right before Emerald we stopped to regroup & have lunch at Smokin Daves BBQ. Residing from Texas I can sometimes be quite the BBQ snob but I was pleasantly surprised in the quality from Daves. Carmen & I shared a 3 meat platter featuring Brisket, Ribs & Pulled Pork with sides of Green Beans & you guessed it! Sweet potato fries. I just gotta start off by saying the Brisket was PHENOMENAL and probably ranked around the top tier of any brisket I had back home. The taste and the texture were perfect! Everything else was good but not great but overall the ambience and pricing for the food would definitely leave me highly recommending Daves to anyone who finds themselves in Estes with an empty stomach.
Back to the Hiking! After about 30 minutes getting through the gates of RMNP & the trek up to the trailhead at bear-lake we met up with the rest of our group who were just leaving the trailhead for Emerald. They told us the trip was just not possible without snowshoes or spikes & they were done for the day as their hiking experience proved to be too much for them… Naturally, I talked Carmen into a little adventure and back down we went to rent our Snowshoes ($5 a day from Estes Park Mountain Shop). By this time it was 2 so we knew that daylight was waning so we made our way back up quickly in hopes of finishing the hike before night time and things got even colder. Reluctantly we started.
Immediately we found out this hike would be a lot more difficult. Winding in and out of the woods & up and down in elevations was definitely not easy. But things got most rickety when we lost sight of the trail. With so much snow and different tracks it was difficult to navigate. This was vastly different from Gem lake earlier where everything was so clear. Eventually, I pulled out my phone (typical) and found that the trail was actually labeled on Google Maps! This helped out so so much. There were very few people on the trails and even fewer headed to Emerald so I am not sure we would’ve been able to find our way without the phone. Though the deeper we got into the trail the more challenging the hike became.
Inclines got steeper, paths got narrower. Physically & Mentally this was intimidating. I was certain that at any moment Carmen was going to say “Lets Turn Around”. To my surprise she never did & every time I would ask how she was holding up she said fine. I know that prior to the start of the hike she was skeptical we would be able to complete it so seeing her persevere and power through those 3 miles was another major reminder of why I love this girl.
We crossed Dream Lake and then eventually made it to Emerald lake which was without a doubt the highlight of the trip. As Carmen put it pictures just cannot do justice for the moments we spent there. Physically, I was drained but still I felt a strange sense of serenity. It’s hard to put into words the freedom & euphoria you get exploring places of isolation like this in nature. It’s just so damn easy to get caught up in the hustle & grind of everyday life that getting some REAL time away with the people you love helps put things into a different perspective. You gain a deeper level of appreciation for life as a journey, you reflect on the things you’ve experienced, the places you’ve been and the people you love and in those moments I feel you find yourself at your absolute best.
Humbled by the oppurtunity, awed by the experience.