Monday: Plans have changed, last-minute, and the original concept for full packs in the Zirkel Circle needs adjustment. Weather forecasts indicate that Wednesday will include snow above 8500 ft, 40 mph winds, and a high of 41. Hence, we’ve decided to forego the camping portion and begin, instead, with a day-hike to Mica Lake and a possible summit of Little Agnes. Wednesday will take place on campus, and we may need to invent Thursday on the fly (or even cancel it, alas). 
Tuesday: Excellent hike. Arrived at Mica Lake at 2:10, following blustery conditions and developing storms in the saddle below the final crest. Did not attempt the summit, given the time, though student attitudes were splendid, and each functioned well in rotating leadership roles. Completed 11 miles in good spirits, then camped back at school. Students prepared, served, and cleaned up a glorious feast of homemade mac and cheese, salad, and apple crisp under Kristen’s guidance. I will sleep well tonight.
Wednesday: Completed propitious harvesting in the garden before the storm arrived, securing potatoes, garlic, squash, carrots, and a variety of herbs. Delicious. The afternoon included more good news: Lindsay offered accommodations at her ranch near Steamboat Lake, which gives us the chance to complete the full Circle tomorrow. During dinner, Jack regaled us all as narrator/dungeon master for a fantasy role-playing game. Though difficult to condense here for its various intricacies, it’s much like Dungeons and Dragons, sans dice and game books, and, amazingly, the entire encyclopedia of knowledge exists in Jack’s mind, which he offers to each character, by turns, as various options and results based on their decisions. I go to bed as a centaur named Redwood, having acquired a toxic potion and a mead in the local tavern. Curious to know if my plot develops further in the morning.
Thursday: Awoke at 4:00; on trail by 6:15 and off to a fast start. Jack’s game came back into full gear by 6:30, and the entire group engaged thoroughly. I spent a few more turns in the tavern, while others received various and sundry quests, prizes, and strategies. Alliances were formed, fortunes made and lost, and (in reality) the entire hiking party benefitted from the game’s unity, as we hiked through splendorous but wet conditions. Snow indeed was plentiful above 8500 ft, and the cloud cover reduced visibility to perhaps 150 ft on the ascent above Gilpin. We seemed to be meandering through the fantastic vistas of the Cascades while simultaneously wandering through the fantastical options of a magical realm. The game paused for 45 minutes on the decent to Gilpin, which required careful footing through a few inches of snow spread across the scree. It resumed beneath Gilpin as the snow thinned, and the spirits of the group remained high throughout. I paraphrase, here, though a few scattered highlights include: “I use my inverse toxic potion to freeze the ogres and free the druids…. We don’t really want the barbarian, since barbarians have no alliance…. I teleport you to the 17th floor…. Mahala stole Doug’s owlbear.” (Assume long minutes per ellipsis.) Around 12:30, Jack granted me a special skill: ‘angry hermit breaks casks.’ Honored, I decided to save it for a later date, since, when we arrived back at the trailhead at 1:50, we had only reached Level 3 of 10 in the game. Amazing: I could not imagine a better means of keeping a group productively distracted from the inherent difficulties of a demanding hike across nearly eight hours. The whole group was outstanding throughout, mindful of their water and food consumption, responsible for their pace, close-knit and cheerful. Good decisions were made. We completed 12.5 miles today; nearly 24 miles over three days. Arrived back to school in time for dismissal, healthy, and with several tales to tell.