Words to live by...

"A good teacher is like a candle - it consumes itself to light the way for others." ~Author Unknown

"A good wife is her husband's biggest fan -- no matter how crazy he is." ~Me

"May God give you.. For every storm a rainbow, for every tear a smile, for every care a promise and a blessing in each trial. For every problem life sends, a faithful friend to share, for every sigh a sweet song and an answer for each prayer." ~ Irish Blessing

Monday, August 11, 2008

Hiking in the clouds

Yesterday Chris, Turbo, and I hiked Pikes Peak. In the clouds.

Waaaaaaay back this winter, Chris took me on my first ever snowshoeing adventure on Pikes Peak. I'd never even strapped the things on before we attempted to climb a 14er with them. I ended up turning us all around halfway up with numb hands and a fear of being blown off the mountain by crazy winter winds. Ever since then, every time I see Pikes off to the south when I'm driving to work, it would taunt me.

So, of course, we had to go back.

Only this time it is summer. And I got to use my actual feet to walk. And I didn't have to bring my since-Pikes-dilema-purchased-everest-quality-MontBell-down-mitts (although I thought about it just for good measure).

The best part about climbing Pikes?

We get to go down the night before and hang out with my sister and her family. Chris and I got worked in Wii Olympics by our 7 year old nephew, Trevor.

While my sister and niece pampered us by making dinner, cookies, and good conversation (ok, so Kylie kicked our butts at the Wii too...)
After a really fun night, Chris, Turbo, and I got up early and were on the road to the trailhead by 5 am. We parked the car and started our hike at 6:40.

Ok. So our hike started at 6:40.

Then we missed the turnoff into the campground where the trail starts, and walked an extra mile or so up and back down the road. So then we got back to the trailhead, and really started hiking around 7:10.

Then we hiked and hiked up this beautiful flatish trail, enjoying the meadows full of sun rays and spider webs. It was so beautiful.
And peaceful.
And Turbo found the meadow to be great fun and quite invigorating.
We were in extraordinary moods despite our wrong turn up the road to start the hike. Oh well. What could ruin such a perfect day?

Oh wait.

We kept hiking, all the while Chris was lagging a bit behind, always looking over to his right at some big rock structures. Something was clearly bothering him.

Oh well. Lalala, what a nice trail. It's so smooth and nice, let's hike really really fast and get to the top quickly! Lalala.

Oh look! We're already at 11,000 ft! We hiked really fast and covered a lot of ground! Wow!

"Um, I think we're supposed to be on the other side of those rocks," says Chris, pointing WAY over to the other side of a giant revene.

Oh, S***T.

So we pull out the trail directions and yep, we'd missed our turn that we were supposed to make waaaaaaaay back, a few hundred feet past where the trail started. We hiked all the way up to the Crags. Which is not where we wanted to go.

There were some tears and a serious breakdown on my part, while Chris (as always) tried to put a good face on the *bonus* adventure.

Then we headed back.

This time the meadow was never ending and hideous. There was no Sound of Music lalala-ing. It was more like... well... let's just say it's not language a kindergarten teacher should be using.

So then we started our REAL hike at 8:45. Only two + hours past our intended start time. Nice.

Turbo led the way, bounding and happy to be hiking.

I grumbled up behind him, trying my best to change my mood around.
(don't worry, I'll spare you the cranky Marni pictures. No one needs to see that)

Chris pulled up the rear, clearly still very tired from the Colorado Trail. It's not very often that I can out-hike him. And I was out-hiking him. I asked a million times whether he was ok or not, but he had his mind set on making this mountain happen. He was tired, but not broken.
Wrong turn or not, we were still there, hiking up Pikes, in what seemed to be a beautiful morning. My mood turned around, and soon we were enjoying the climb again.

But always, in the back of both of our minds, was our start time. 8:40 is LATE for August in the Rockies. Especially late for an 11 mile round trip hike that takes most people 4 hours to ascend. If we were lucky, and hauled, we could make it to the top by 12:30 and our hard and fast rule is to be off the summit and back down to tree-line by the time noon rolls around. Much later than that and you are really pushing your luck with the weather.

I kept one eye on the trail, one eye on the skies, and my two teacher eyes in the back of my head on Chris to make sure he was feeling ok.

We made it up the steep part where we should reach a clearing near Devil's Playground (named that because of the way lightning likes to jump from rock to rock in a storm here) and be able to see the summit ahead of us.

Instead we saw this in front of us:

This beside us where a beautiful view of the surrounding hills should be:

So we stood around for a few minutes, examined our options and the sky, and continued up.
Parents (and particularly STLDad): Before you stop reading to pick up the phone and yell at us for continuing on, let me explain. There were absolutely no lightning flashes or thunder booms, and we continued on with the one condition being that one thunder boom would send us running back down. Also, it appeared we were simply in a cloud. No rain, no wind, no serious weather, just a low cloud. Any other mountain, I would've turned around. But, as you can see in the last picture, Pikes has a road that leads all the way up to the top. A very busy road. If the weather turned bad, it wouldn't have been any problem finding a car to hide out in. It was a very busy Sunday on Pikes despite the less-than-stellar view from the top because of the clouds.

So was it the smartest decision to continue on? Probably not. But it actually worked out fine and we had surprisingly good weather the whole time. We just missed some of the views on the way up because of the cloud.

We were cautious though, and wanted to get to the top quickly in case the weather turned on us. So we jogged part of it. Yes. Me. Jog. With a pack and poles. I'm sure it wasn't pretty, but it got us there.

We made it to the top in 3.5 hours. After having to turn around once on this peak because of the cold, then almost having to turn around again a few times on this peak this time because of route errors and weather, the last talus scrambling to the top was exciting and emotional. Then you come over the talus to the summit, and you realize just how anticlimactic Pikes really is. There's a parking lot and buildings on top for goodness sake.

And LOTS of tourists. Looking at us like we escaped from a freak show. A half a dozen people must've come up and said "you HIKED up this? Why? How long did it take?" and seemed shocked when our answer was 3.5 hours instead of 3.5 days. Children stared at us in wonder, people took pictures of us, most pointed and whispered.

Ok, it's a class 1 climb. Nothing extraordinary, hundreds of people probably do it each week.

We took the obligatory picture on the summit bench (why it has a building as the background, which I cropped out, is beyond me -- at least put it near a view):
Then we sat down, very quickly ate our lunch, and took a better summit picture:
Then we got off the summit by 12:30 and headed back down. Off in the distance the weather looked a little iffy, but where we were and the immediate future was actually really nice. We got to see some of the stuff that we missed on the way up!
This should've been our view near Devil's Playground where we debated whether or not to turn around. Pikes is the high bump in the back.
More people gawked at us on our way down from their cars. Some even took pictures. It's funny to me that someone out there has pictures of "crazy random hikers." Save your memory on your computer, it's really not that unusual or cool.

So, we hiked down. Kinda slowly. We were both pretty sore and tired at this point. Since, by the time we reached the top, we'd already hiked nearly 13 miles... and this trip was supposed to be only 11 total.

A collapsing pole resulting in a rolled ankle made me think I'd broken it, as the next 10 steps or so caused excrutiatingly sharp pains, but it now appears that it is merely a sprain or something. That was oh so fun.

When we were near the bottom we got our first rain of the trip. The rain sprinkled through the trees and brought the bright greens, pinks, and yellows in the rocks to life. It was absolutely beautiful... only I didn't take a picture because I knew it would never do the colors justice.

9 hours and 19.5 miles after starting, we both collapsed on the tailgate of the car and had a good laugh.

It was an unintentionally epic day on Pikes.

After driving through booms and rain, we had a delicious dinner with my sister before heading home. A billboard on the highway said "Reward Yourself: Starbucks." So we did. With extra whipped cream. And it was delicious.

Today? Naps. Food. Olympics.



Fonk said...

Heck, I didn't start my run/hike on Pikes (from the top) until 12:30, so you at leat had me beat! I ran down three miles from the top (on Barr Trail), then "ran" (power-hiked, really) back up - last ditch training for the Ascent next week. I probably just missed you guys at the summit...

I've learned to embrace wrong turns. I've done that a couple times with a friend of mine on backpacking trips, and once we discovered our error, we were content to just change our route to adapt to our error, perhaps even missing our original goal destination. "It's not the destination, it's the journey." Say you had never reached the summit (again) yesterday - it would have still been a beautiful day hiking in the mountains, right?

I remember a few years back my parents were out visiting and wanted to drive over Independence Pass to Aspen (from Frisco, where we were staying), as they had read much about it. Well, I accidentally turned on Hwy 24 instead of 82 (oops!), and ended up taking us over Tennesse Pass and Battle Mtn instead. My mom was so upset at first after we discovered the error, I almost couldn't believe it. Then I asked, "Was that not a beautiful drive, one you hadn't done before and more beautiful than any drive you get to do back in southern MN?" She had to reluctantly agree and then cheered up. :-)

So how many (14er) summits are you guys up to now?

Jeff Kerkove said...

That is good stuff guys!

Hope you didn't break the bank at Patagoina ;-)

Erin said...

I am enjoying your blog! I love that you and your hubby seem so cool. Bryce and I are an outdoorsy, pet-happy couple, too; our 5th anniversary was on the 16th. So it's fun to read tales of your adventures!

UltraRob said...

The summit looks much different than when Chris and I were there last. Even if the day didn't go as planned, you still had some good times.