Of all the differences between people in this world, there are a few things I think we can all agree on:
1) Election season is the absolute WORST. This fact is absolute. There is real danger in being crushed by a TV thrown out the window after hearing for the billionth time how “so-and-so” is a racist and hates babies.
2) Sample day at the grocery store makes you as giddy as a five-year-old in a toy store. Especially when there are samples of booze. Yes, this does exist!
3) A running basset hound may very well be God’s gift to earth:
But perhaps most universal is how frustrating it can be to hear your alarm go off at 5:30 AM. It’s as frustrating as the Detroit Tiger’s during playoff season. It takes every ounce of my being to peel off the comforter, force my sleepy body upright, and swing my feet onto the cold hardwood floors. Even more frustrating, however, is how jovial Rob can be with very little sleep. It honestly makes me want to karate chop him right in the throat. So far I have managed to resist. So far. He claims it’s because of his baby face. I’ll let you be the judge of that:
So what’s the reason for this pre-dawn alarm? The mountains. The mountains were calling so we had to go. Specifically, Mt. Evans.
Due to its proximity to Denver (60 miles west), Mt. Evans is a popular mountain destination for tourists and residents alike. The road to the trailhead is an adventure of its own right. As the highest paved road in North America, you can drive just shy of the 14,264 foot summit. If you were to drive from Denver, you will climb nearly 9,000 feet from the seat of your car. Along the way, you’ll transition from a forested green land of pine patched with pockets of aspen – aspen that, once fall awakens, turn a vibrant yellow that insists of your attention – to the harsh life of the alpine zone with little vegetation. Wanting a bit of a challenge, we parked at Summit Lake and planned to hike to the summit.
Since it was a Saturday, the entire population of Tokyo had the same idea. The parking lot was already full by the time we arrived so we had to park at the overflow lot down the road. It added a whole QUARTER MILE to our day. Sheesh! Eager to get outside after a picturesque drive, I hurriedly opened the truck door and felt like I walked into a block of ice.
It… was… freezing.
I knew from the weather reports that it would be chilly but the high winds dropped the temps what felt like an additional 10 degrees.
I practically ran to one of the bathrooms we saw near the main parking lot to layer up. Somebody could easily have gotten the wrong idea of the purpose of my run but I didn’t care. I had never been so eager to get inside a bathroom. These were the traditional outhouse-style bathrooms one could find at any state or national park. You know, those concrete cubes with a chimney to release the fumes out of the defecation station. When it is cold out, there are no fumes and you happily go about your business hoping you lucked out with one that has a hand sanitizer pump on the wall. When it is warm, you are hot-boxed in that concrete cube. Not with the stuff you’d like to be hot-boxed with but with the fumes of hundreds of other people’s… well… you catch my drift.
The route to the summit loops around Summit Lake, climbs Mt. Spalding (13,842 feet), drops in elevation a bit to cross the Evans-Spalding saddle, and makes its final ascent up the west ridge to the summit of Evans. After layering up, we made our way around Summit Lake and started our climb. We ran into another hiker who already hiked 7 miles that morning from another campground and will be climbing Evans before day’s end.
It was MAYBE 8 am.
It brought me back to some runners we saw on Pikes Peak, who elegantly call their sport “Sky Running”, and who literally run up and back down the mountain. We had one pass us during that hike who looked like she was bored with the challenge. We’re dying and she’s running with a smile on her face. That’s Colorado for ya. I looked up the sport, not realizing that it was actually a thing, and it is defined by the act of running above 6,600 feet where the incline exceeds 30% and the climbing difficulty does not exceed an 11° grade. It’s simply amazing what these people can do! I feel like I need to raise my aspirations. If you don’t believe me, check out this video:
FYI, 80 kilometers = 50 miles!
Compared to Pikes Peak, we felt surprisingly good. The elevation still kicked our ass but that’s beside the point; we knew it was coming and handled it well. We were not the slowest people on the mountain this time!
Climbing Spalding felt like a constant cycle of dodging people and moving out of the way for others – sort of like a weird game of leap frog. We brought along our trekking poles to help distribute some of the work off our legs. It helped for a bit but we then attached them to our packs for the remainder of the day as the bouldering and rocks deemed them useless.
The terrain is unlike anything we’ve hiked before. Not so much the trail itself but the features of the jagged peaks surrounding us. This is truly the Rockies. This is truly beautiful.
Admittedly, I psyched myself out more than once during the final push to the summit up the west ridge. The heights got to me. Acrophobia set in. There were some spots which had a slight incline – enough to which the rocks you traversed slanted away from the comfort of the mountain into what seemed like the abyss. In actuality, the drop was likely no more than 5 feet but it triggered visions of falling and cracking my head open leaving my brains to litter the rocks below. In front of me, Rob moved across with ease while I am clinging to whatever I can with feet that refused to move. I can state with pride that I talked myself out of my fears and bucked up (with the occasional pep talk from my wonderful husband).
After summiting, we were congratulated by these awesome fella’s (and relatives to the guy above):
To get back down to our starting point, you have three main options:
1) Go back the way you came (boring)
2) Go down a steep side trail straight down the face of the mountain (which Rob and Luke did)
3) Go down the road (which I did, regrettably)
Later on, we witnessed a WAY more fun alternative. One I wish to do in the future:
It will make for a much quicker trek down the mountain to finish our day and visit these guys (Er, gals. Sorry ladies):