What makes a 52-year-old man go on a two-day backpacking trip up one side of Pikes Peak and down the other? Beats the shit out of me but I did it : ) My Little Dwight voice has been harping harping harping on me to get out and Do Something. Little Dwight comes from way back when I was growing up in the country between two campgrounds and every day seemed to be an adventure. Anyway, to shut it up I decide what the hell. I think a lot of it was the norm was just the same old norm and I wanted to light it up in a big way – and Boom I did!
I’ve climbed Pikes Peak several times since moving out to this area in 1990, but in the back of my head, I always thought it would be neat to climb up and over. So Friday after work I had my daughter drop me off at the Heizer Trail in Cascade, Colorado elevation 7,379 FT. Mr. Pikes Peak sits at 14,114. This was the boom part plus the fact I hadn’t done any type of training for this adventure!
There’s no easing into trails out in Colorado and Heizer Trail sure didn’t disappoint. Straight up basically with very little switchbacks. The first few miles I could still hear all the car noise zipping up the pass from below plus all the “traffic” in my head. Yes, the monkey mind was in full force not to mention I couldn’t breathe and sweat was pouring out of me. Jumped right into the frying pan and I knew this coming in. That’s why I picked this route. It’s like the Stones crossfire hurricane and it’s just what I needed. No stinking my toe in the water here…just jump baby. This seems to work the best for me because I have no time to over think it. I had told some folks I was doing it and I wasn’t going to back down now.
I reached the 3.5-mile mark where the trail does chill out a bit and there I stood surrounded by mountains, trees, and silence. A well worth prize. Even within me, I could already feel a bit back to home. I do admit I do get that “runners high” doing these type of workouts…this was a good reminder. I hiked for 3 hours the first night and came around a bend to a wide clearing with a straight on shot of Pikes Peak. This was where I set up a camp. Not a cloud in the sky just Colorado Blue. All around me were mountains and forest and I couldn’t stop smiling. I got to leave my rain tarp off my tent, so that night I got to see all the stars sparkling down on me.
The next morning I continued on my trail which lead to Barr Trail. Barr trail starts in Manitou Springs and goes all the way up to Pikes Peak. There was a sign for Barr trail that said 2.5 miles. Someone had crossed out the 2.5 and written in 4. Unfortunately, they were right…it was more like 4. I wasn’t quite sure at what point I’d pop out onto Barr trail and when I did my heart sunk. The sign said 7.4 to Pikes Peak…ughh. I was hoping I would have been higher up. Did I mention I didn’t do much research for this trip? I knew too much thinking would just be too much thinking and not enough Doing.
7.4 miles to the Peak and I still had to go over to the back side and reach treeline. In my mind, I knew it was going to be a long day and in the end it took over 10 hours of hiking. I got to stop at Barr Camp to rest a bit and refill my water containers. Thank god someone let me use their water filter, since the last time I was there…over 10 years ago, I was able to get water from a well. The well was no longer operating so all the water there came from a stream. Like I said I’ve climbed this mountain many times. Two times I even Ran/Walked it in the Pikes Peak Ascent. One thing I’ve never done though is hike it with a 27 pound pack on my back.
Coming out of Barr Camp I usually feel refreshed and can knock off the next few miles before treeline with very little issues. Not this time. I’d already hiked for 5 miles and had 6 more to go to the summit. I was sucking air already and new it was going to be a long day. One step forward. One step forward. Sit and rest. Sit and rest.
All around me was beauty, but all I can manage to do was keep my eye on the trail trying to keep my feet moving. I did manage to though to take this shot for my peeps : ) When you are on Barr Trail above treeline you have 3 miles to go and for each mile, you gain 1,000 feet in elevation. Not a fun way to summit. There were all kinds of people on the trail. I came across this one runner who passed me both ways several times. I stopped and talked to him and he was training for the Pikes Peak Marathon. He rode up in his car and was running down to treeline and back up 3 times to help train. Inside I was like %$#@ you…yes I was impressed, but still %$#@ you. I was barely making it. I think I spent at least 4.5 hours trying to get to the summit in those last 3 miles. Somehow I made it to the top even after going over the 16 Golden Stairs at the end. Now, what kind of shit is that to have to do? I could barely lift my legs!!!
I rewarded myself with a cheeseburger and a gatorade at the top visitor center. Did I mention you can drive to the top? Now you must really think I’m a nut case! Clouds were coming in so I filled up my water containers and headed out on the next trail which led to Devils Playground on the back side of the Peak. My feet didn’t want to move, but I didn’t want to get caught in a storm.
I set up camp just at treeline. And when I say just at treeline I mean it. I couldn’t go any further. For some reason it’s hard to find a flat campsite on the side of a mountain – weird : ) I wedged my pack under my blow up mattress which helped a bit, but still it was a very rough nights sleep. I was tired and I didn’t smell nice.
The next morning I packed up and hiked down the 4 miles to the end of my journey. My plan was to just catch a ride home. The only problem with this plan was it was 8 in the morning…so not a lot of traffic. I hiked down the forest road a half mile with no cars at all. Finally, I heard a car behind me. I was prepared. I had put on all clean clothes in the morning, deodorant, and even brushed my teeth. I turned around to face them, put on my best happy face, even though I was dead tired…and they stopped. I told them I was heading to Woodland Park and they cleared a spot for me and told me to jump in. They were a married couple from Oklahoma out here camping and just the friendliest people. When we got to Woodland Park I told them they could just drop me off in the middle of town, but the insisted on taking me right to my house. The husband had done several backpacking trips in his past and could relate to getting out for an adventure and plus he didn’t want me walking another mile home…I must have looked tired out.
So that’s it my friends. This is nothing I would suggest for anyone else to try without training. This is a highly personalized concentrated dose of reconnecting and getting out of my comfort zone and it worked. There may just be more adventures to come!