Sunday, October 9, 2016

walkin' with Zeb

Pikes Peak was named after Zebulon Pike, an explorer in Colorado in the early 1800's.  Good old Zeb tried to reach the summit of Pikes Peak, but ended up having to give  up the arduous task.  Today, people can drive a paved road to the top or ride the cog railway.  OR, they can hike it since there is the lovely 12.6-mile Barr Trail that Zebulon didn't have.

Katherine Lee Bates wrote "America the Beautiful" (originally titled "Pikes Peak") after taking a train ride up and being so inspired.

For years, I've thought about hiking to the summit and knew that "someday" I'd go.  I FINALLY got around to it yesterday.  And, OMG, it was beautiful.  I know just how Katherine felt!

A view of the summit from the trail, once the sun came up

I went  up with Chaco, who's hiked it twice before with friends.  Wolfgang has also gone up twice when participating in The Ascent.  The three of us originally planned to go in early September, but that was right when my allergy-induced balance problems hit me.  It was a task for me to just walk out to the mailbox, let alone climb a mountain, so we kept moving our trip date out.

Wolfgang, in the meantime, used a couple of those "lost weekends" to instead take mountain biking trips with the university.  He ended up coming down with a bummer of a cold, so thought better of making the Peak trek this weekend.  Chaco and I decided to go ahead with it, though, as the nice weather days are slipping away.  Meego would've gone, but he's deep in the throes of marching band season, and alas, Magnum wasn't sure if his knees could put up with it.

So, Chaco and I hit the trail in the wee morning hours, temperature around 35 F.  The stars were still out, and it was actually kind of awesome hiking in the dark.  Despite our headlights, I did bite it once when I forgot to watch where I was going and tripped.

It was a beautiful fall day to be out.  We took our time enjoying the trail, and Chaco shared with me stories from his previous hikes and information he'd learned while researching.

After about 9 miles, we hit treeline at around 10,000 ft.  In a lovely clearing just off the trail is an A-frame shelter that, I think, the forest service built in case of getting caught in storms or just wanting a way cool spot to hang out on the mountain.

A plaque there is dedicated to this woman who died near this spot just shy of her 88th birthday during her 14th hike of the mountain.  I thought a lot about her as I worked at dealing with the hike and the elevation, thinking she'd died doing something she obviously loved doing.


I knew that the final three miles were pretty much a boulder field, and expected it to be a rather desolate place of no vegetation.  Oh, how wrong I was!  That portion of the hike proved to be the best part for me.

What looks like a lifeless area of grey rocks and dirt from below is  actually a beautiful environment of unique geological formations.  It was absolutely breathtaking, and I'm pretty sure it wasn't just the lack of oxygen making me feel that way!

Taking in the scenery

Cell phone photos can't do justice to the area.  The rock formations are like nothing I've seen before.  Couple that with the amazing views to the east, and it was a sort of magical place.  Everything even sounds different.  We weren't sure if the thin air has something to do with that, or if it's just that it's just so quiet there.

We definitely felt the effects of the elevation by this point.  We continued to slog along the trail's many switchbacks.  Our movements would easily qualify us for jobs as extras on "The Walking Dead".

With about two  miles left until the summit, the trail skirts the deep Cirque, to which my acrophobia doesn't allow me to give the appreciate it deserves.  Chaco said it's a great view into the 1500' glacial formed bowl.  I'll take his word for it and instead take a pic with the sign while facing away.

Note my vice-like grip on that sign!

Continuing onward, we eventually made it to the "16 Golden Steps", the final series of switchbacks until the summit, so named because the climb becomes a bit steeper.  Nothing like scrambling over rocks at nearly 14,000' with legs that just say, "Stop already!" into your oxygen deprived brain.  But I thought, "what a lovely name".

Here, Chaco warned me that there were "a lot of false summits".  Just when it looks like we'd made it, we'd switch back and realize we hadn't (I wasn't bothering to waste energy on counting golden steps).  "You're not at the summit until you see the train", he continued.  This the cog railway train that we would ride back down.

And soon enough, there it was - the train!  We'd made it.  Thank you, baby Jesus, and much thanks to Fred Barr, whatta guy!

What an amazing day.



LL Cool Joe said...

Wow the views look amazing. So no camo pants for you then? Looks like the weather was perfect for the hike too. Glad you had such a good day.

Abby said...

No camo pants for me. I think Chaco wanted to help the mountain lions and bears see me first. And yes, the weather was perfect!

Tee said...

It sounds like an amazing experience! Absolutely beautiful! And to have that time with one of you boys? Priceless.

If it makes you feel any better, I would have faced the same direction as you at the Cirque. Yikes! But the photo proves what a beautiful place it really is.

ShadowRun300 said...

I'm so happy you finally got to go! I knew you'd been thinking about it for a while. Glad the stars finally aligned. :)
What beautiful views. It's nice to hear YOU describe how beautiful it was. I always feel I'm ranting and raving over views that are just every day sites for you. It was fun experiencing your first time at something.
So how long did it take you? Cuz I got some plannin' to do....

Linda Hensley said...

It sounds like an absolutely wonderful day. I'll bet you slept well after all that! Good for you for making the climb and spending quality time with your son.

Abby said...

It was hard enough to look at Chaco looking into the Cirque! And yes, having him as my guide/hiking companion is what made the trip memorable.

Abby said...

The views were even more than I expected, that Fred knows how to cut a trail! We took just about eight hours, which is pretty typical. We coulda taken longer - there's so much to explore and appreciate along the way, but... had a train to catch.

Abby said...

You're right, I slept like a rock. And it was a nice day of bonding - I hope the feeling is mutual.

Marcy said...

Awesome job! Love the photos :) I got to visit there years ago with my family. We got a ride up and then rode bikes down (hitting the brakes a lot). It's so beautiful! It must have been an amazing hike.

Abby said...

THAT sounds brave - riding bikes down. I've seen videos of road cyclists flying down that road. I'll stick to zombie-walking it - really nice hike!

Larz said...

I rather enjoyed that hike. I like that though the trail is long, the majority of it is pretty level. I also liked the bits right above tree line, it was a really pretty spot for sure. Liam got really altitude sick on that hike, so it wasn't so enjoyable once we got above 13000 feet.

Abby said...

Ugh, altitude sickness. Bummer for him. That will really throw a wrench in the fun.
It seemed to me that Barr wanted to create a route that let hikers appreciate the journey rather than just make a quick dash to the top. So yeah, long but not steep.

Ramzu Zahini said...

The scenery is beautiful. I hope you have lots of pictures saved.
I'd die halfway up the summit, I guess, hahaha.

Abby said...

I did get a few more pics. As for dying halfway up, that's been known to happen too! :P