First off, I apologize for what I am about to say. I’m sorry if what I’m about to say sounds rude, offensive and unwelcoming.

I realize that I’m not being a nice host.

I’m sure you are well-meaning, decent people. And I fully acknowledge that I have played the same role in places like Alaska or Hawaii.

But I’ve had enough. Enough of the cars filling trailhead parking lots at all hours of the day, cars parked illegally on top of plants and grasses. People smoking, idly flicking their butts into the grass, completely oblivious to the fire bans in the place I call home.

I’ve had enough of the endless lines of cars going up and down Boulder Canyon, making my drive home with groceries impossibly long.

I want you all to go home.

Go back to Missouri, Illinois, New York, Florida and Texas. For the love of God, please, please go home, and let me have some peace and quiet where I live. Allow me to hike a trail without coming across your unmasked face.

After a year of no vacation, of working long hours in my job, my husband and I finally decided to take some time off last week.

Having no children of our home, we often choose to travel in fall. We prefer the cooler temperatures, lack of crowds and fall color.

We decided on some camping to keep us socially distanced from others.

I knew something was different when we rolled into the campground near Twin Lakes, Colorado on a Monday afternoon. You see, we’ve spent time near Buena Vista in fall several times before. With more stable weather and less chance of thunderstorms, it’s the ideal time to hike Fourteeners.

All those other times, we saw just a few people camping or hiking. In fact, three years ago we hiked Mt. Yale on a Tuesday and saw all of 10 people the entire six-hour hike.

But not this time. Almost the entire campground was filled by 3 p.m. A guy next to us in a jeep asked about paying the fee.

“Do you all know where we pay the fee for the campground?”

“It’s right up the road at the fork. You have to put your money in the envelope with the site number.”

“Thanks!” as a he rolled off. His accent was the dead giveaway, but his Texas license plate confirmed it.

A couple days later, we moved west going to Montrose and then Ouray. The same thing — motel after motel with “No Vacancy” signs lit.  Trailheads overflowing with cars — Oklahoma, New York, Florida. And on a rare occasion, a lone Colorado license plate.

As we hiked in the San Juans, we tried to be courteous, pulling up our masks when we passed others. With the exception of one other couple, no one else did the same.

Finally, we encountered the one couple who also had on masks.

“Thanks for wearing your masks!” I said cheerfully.

“Are you from Boulder?” the woman asked me.

“Just outside of Boulder — Nederland.”

“I know you!” It’s Varda from Boulder County. I knew you had to be from Boulder area, because we’re the only ones who wear masks.”

Turns out it was a colleague of mine who had recently retired.

Later we met three young women up by Ice Lakes.

“Oh, your dog is so cute! Look at him swimming!” said the woman in the tank top.

“Yeah, he loves swimming. Are you enjoying the hike? Where are you from?”

“Oh, we’re from New York City. It’s so boring there now, we thought we’d take a road trip, so we drove out to Colorado for three weeks.”

And so it went. Lines of cars inching along the Million Dollar Highway — an array of license plates from the south, the midwest, even California.  At least I had some sympathy for them, trying to escape the incessant smoke from wildfires.

Today driving down to Boulder to volunteer with the Humane Society, it was more of the same. The line of cars backed up almost to Ninth Street.

It’s almost the end of September, and it seems they are never leaving.

Doesn’t anyone have a job?

Did they rent a cabin through VRBO and are teleworking there? Are they ever going to leave?

Even kids who are doing remote learning shouldn’t be able to ride around in a car or hike all day.

I’m pinning my hope on a huge snowstorm in October and some cold weather. At this point, it feels like the only thing that will make them go home.

Maybe, just maybe then, I can have my peace and quiet on the trails once again.