Personal Finance column: The trail, the flood and my quest for a new route — parallels for your retirement journey |

Personal Finance column: The trail, the flood and my quest for a new route — parallels for your retirement journey

Danielle Howard

My family has a cabin in a small hamlet outside of Estes Park. For over 40 years, we have spent time gathering with friends and family, and exploring amid the granite rocks, pristine lakes and whispering pines of my beloved Colorado. We often hiked “around the mountain.” Starting where a small creek fed the fishing community, the trail climbed up and behind the mountain to the west. We would traverse the trail to an old homestead road which then connected up to another small creek along a fire road at the other end of the meadow.

On Sept. 13, 2013, a flood of Biblical proportions completely changed the landscape of our community and the surrounding areas. The innocuous flow of water that felt so good to soak your feet in turned into torrents that stripped trees from their moorings and exposed bedrock 15 feet below. The past seven years have been spent reconstructing the damns that created our fishing enclave and the roads that provided access to the serenity of this place.

I have tried to find a way “around the mountain” again but have always been thwarted by time constraints, felled trees, deep ravines or lack of spirit. Over time, a new trail has emerged along both of the small streams and chainsaws have cut away dead trees to open more and more of the path at both ends of the route.

Recently, I decided to find my way “around the mountain” again. Rousing my adventurous spirit, the day unfolded the unbridled time.

I had my phone’s map app ( — highly recommended) and could see I was headed in the right direction on the old trail when it petered out in a small meadow. I decided to head up the mountain and skirt around the flood debris along the creek bed. The Rocky Mountains are aptly named. I encountered some granite walls that looked negotiable. I asked myself — which is the best route for a 58-year-old, athletic woman to take? Not the same one I would have readily scaled 25 years ago, that is for sure. Cautiously, I put one foot in front of the other. I got to the top, assumed the power pose and let out a big “I did it” at the top of my lungs.

Looking at my app, I saw a road started a short distance away. Hiking around a hunting camp, I connected up to a well-traveled jeep road. I felt at ease. This road lead in the direction I knew I wanted to go. It had a faint air of familiarity, and I hoped that I would cross paths with the creek trail from the other side of my starting point.

Ahead on the road, I saw a nicely appointed Airstream trailer, the door open with chairs outside and newer Dodge Ram truck off in a meadow, and I took pause. The thought crossed my mind, “What is a middle-aged lady doing out here by herself?” I passed by gingerly, not wanting to surprise anyone. Continuing around the corner — I encountered a wood pallet with a sign “road ends.” As I walked past the sign, I saw reasoning for the signage. The carnage from the flood left ruts 3 feet deep that will be quite the challenge for a road grader someday. I followed the remnants of the road and kept my eyes peeled for the trail that I hoped lay ahead. I was rewarded. Recognizing familiar terrain, I followed the trail back down to the far end of the meadow. I had made it “around the mountain.” When I shared my story with my mom and some of her friends — they got excited about having me take them on my next adventure. Scouting passages…..

As always, I have comparisons to your financial journey. Has COVID, the economy, your work environment or other life circumstance blown out or diverted your “planned route” to or in retirement? You can navigate a new way through it. I had a map — my destination remained intact. I just had to do it differently that what had been done in the past. What is your “vision of true prosperity,” what is important about your adventure? I had to take some risk, emotionally and physically, and was rewarded for doing so. I had to explore and push through the fear. I pressed on — one foot in front of the other. While I didn’t need any equipment for this adventure, you want to make sure your financial tools are all performing as intended or adjusted as warranted. It is time to awake your adventurous spirit and create the future you will feel good about.

Danielle Howard is a CFP® and CKA® with Wealth By Design LLC in Basalt. Check out her retirement podcasts and blogs at

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