Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pikes Peak

Today was the day for the house battery upgrade and slide out cover repair on the motor home.  We were to be at the Pikes Peak Travel and RV center between 8:30 and 9 AM.  Since it is only a mile from our campground, we didn’t have a rush this morning.

They replaced our torn slide out cover which got damaged in the wind last week.  They also upgraded our house batteries to two instead of one.  Although they are not a Onan dealer, the only thing Gene wanted done to the generator was oil changed, so they did that as well.

View of Pikes Peak from our campsite

This was not a carefree experience and we had to take the motor home back over there when we discovered after we got back to the RV Park that they only put in one new battery and failed to put enough oil in the generator.  I’m not even gonna make any remarks about that stuff.

Since we didn’t do much today but sit in the car and wait [I think Peanut got tired  of waiting cause he went to the back seat and stretched out in his litter box (I have no remarks about that either)], and since we’re probably not going to go up to the top of Pikes Peak, I dug out some old pictures from our last trip up that magnificent mountain.

It was back in 2003 and we hiked up Pikes Peak.  We spent most of the summer in Colorado that year and did a whole lot of hiking.  We couldn’t begin to climb that mountain today because we’re no where near the level of fitness we were back then.

Pikes Peak rises to a height of 14,115 feet above sea level.  Being a 14er, it’s a popular mountain to climb.  The Barr Trail, which starts in Manitou Springs near the Cog Railroad, is the most popular trail to the summit.  Barr Trail is about 12.5 miles in length and gains 7800 feet in elevation.  This is a high peak and prone to afternoon thunderstorms.  The wise hiker will be off the summit and below tree line by early afternoon.

There are hikers out there that can do this round trip in one very long day, but we had no intention of doing that.  Most hikers just hike one way and either use a car shuttle or the cog railroad for the other direction.  Gene and I decided to make this a 3-day backpacking trip and hike both directions.

We started out early, but not at the crack of dawn like those hikers trying to get to the summit by noon.  It was probably 7:30 or 8, I can’t remember exactly.  What I do remember is the bus load of teenagers who arrived in the parking lot about the time we did.  We set off at what we thought was a pretty good pace, but were soon overtaken by 40-50 youngsters practically running up the mountain.  Such energy.  Pikes Peak is rated as a very difficult hike and most of these kids had never been off the sofa.  How do they do that?

About the halfway mark, we came to Barr Camp.  The mountain is within the Pike National Forest, but Barr Camp is a private concession offering food and lodging for the night.  We stopped there for a much needed break before continuing on our journey.

Our destination for the day was a shelter just below tree line about the 9 mile make.  We climbed and climbed and climbed and at every turn in the trail I just knew we would see that shelter.  As is typical for a summer afternoon, a thunderstorm came up.  This was the early part of August, we had worked up quite a sweat and our clothes were pretty damp.  The raindrops which just poured down quickly turned to hail.  Since we thought we were very close to the shelter, we didn’t stop to put on warmer clothes.  We did put on rain jackets but not gloves and ear muffs or another layer of clothing.  It was less than 30 minutes from the time the rain started until we reached the shelter, but that was plenty time to become hypothermic.  In the shelter, we got water on to boil for coffee or hot chocolate or something, and Gene got out of his wet clothes.  His hands were so cold he had difficulty with the zipper on his rain jacket.

A-frame shelter 3 miles below the summit

The storm didn’t last long, maybe 45 minutes.  We pitched our tent perhaps 30 yards in front of the shelter.  The clouds moved out and we had a fabulous view of Colorado Springs and I could have sworn we could see all the way to Kansas.

We were up early the next morning.  We left our tent and climbed the last 3 miles to the summit.  We took our typical slow, easy steps, gradually closing the distance to the top.  On this day, to mess with our minds, we didn’t have those couch potatoes passing us by, but rather the runners practicing for the Pikes Peak Marathon race.  Holy cow!!   These nuts were running, (and I mean running) repeats of the 3 miles from the summit to tree line and back again.  They didn’t just pass us once or twice; we saw some of these folks four or five times.  Really makes you feel old.

After checking out the gift shop and having a snack, we headed back to the tent.  We wanted to go down as far as Barr Camp for our second night out.  I really can’t remember if we camped at Barr Camp or if there was another backcountry camping area.  From the shelter to the summit, back to the shelter, then to Barr Camp would have been about 9 miles.  I’m pretty sure we didn’t go much lower than that on the second day.  That would have left just 6 miles for the third day back to the car.

I have very fond memories of that hike; even the hail storm doesn’t seem so bad now.  I could only find 5 photos of that hike.  One was of the mountain, but instead I have included the photo we took the day we arrived.  It’s much prettier with the snow on top.

Speaking of snow, it snowed on the mountain last night.  Not much, but a little.

That’s my walk down memory lane.  Thanks for tagging along.

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