Friday, August 23, 2013

Colorado - Part 1

Where to begin? Colorado was, obviously, so insanely awesome and David and I had such a blast out there; by the time it had ended and we were heading back into Denver, I seriously felt like it had just begun... It would take years to explore all the mountains Colorado has to offer! I feel as if I ought to warn you, by no means will I convey everything that I would like to about our time out there, but I'm sure this post will still be uncomfortably long - even with me breaking it down into two posts.

Friday morning, the 2nd of August found David and I waking up at 2:30 to head to Harrisburg to catch our flight. We gave hurried goodbyes to Reisling, who would be staying with Becky and Jeff for the two weeks... oh how it breaks my heart to leave that girl, and how much we missed her while running! But she was in good hands and we were out for the adventure of a lifetime! So we drove the hour and a half to the airport to catch our 6 a.m. flight... we planned the early departure to ensure that we still had some of Friday to enjoy in Colorado, but I must admit, getting up at 2:30 really sucked!

The travel was uneventful. We arrived in Colorado, brimming with excitement, and got our new home for the next few days, a red Subaru Impreza. David's friend from high school, Kyle, lives in Denver where he goes to grad school, so we planned on spending the evening with him before heading north. We had a few hours till he was off work though, so after checking a map, we decided to hit up Green Mt. near the city, which rises to an elevation of 6858', pathetic in terms of what Colorado has to offer, but 1500' higher then David and I had ever been before! I must admit, I was somewhat nervous about altitude before this trip... having heard horror stories from some. I really wanted to be unaffected - so here was our first test! The only thing I noticed however, was that the air was much drier then I was used to. It was 96ish degrees according to our lovely abode, but it really didn't feel it. Just very dry. Anyhow... perhaps we had to get higher to reach altitude effects! We spent the night at Kyle's house; I'm sure we were very boring guests due to how tired we were! He lent us a tent for the trip and we headed out early the next morning for Boulder.

We headed to Chautauqua Park. David really likes Anton Krupicka and follows his blog, so we came here to check out a few of Tony's regular haunts - Green Mt. (another one! Its ridiculous how many Green Mts there are in CO!) and the Flatirons. We hit Green first, just over 8,000' this time. 

David on top of Green Mt.

Then after a lunch in the park, we set out to explore the first Flatiron. We chose our own line to scramble up, which was a lot of fun and seemed fairly easy, until we stopped a minute and looked around.

That's a long ways down!

The route was getting steadily more difficult, so we made the wise choice and turned back. Going down wasn't nearly as much fun as going up and forced me to realize that we were, perhaps, a bit stupid for even attempting this! Tony might do this without ropes... but we aren't quite as experienced of scramblers... We made it down alive though and made our way back to the Suby to head out towards Rocky Mountain National Park where we would spend the next two days; that night was our first in the car, parked in an inconspicuous spot with the back seats down and our sleeping bags laid out into the trunk - it wasn't the most comfortable thing at first, but saved us quite a lot of money. Eventually I think it was really cozy, kind of like our little refuge after the long days on the trails.

Our main focus of Rocky Mt. was Long's Peak, our first 14'er at 14,251'. But as we spent some time navigating and whatnot, we decided to save this for the next morning. Instead on Sunday, we took a trail out to Lawn Lake in the Mummy Mt range, which I had heard was an area that Bighorn Sheep were frequently seen. No go on the sheep but we did get up to 12,500' - our first real test of elevation. The only thing we noticed as we climbed to a saddle above the lake, was that our legs felt more tired then maybe they should've, the air didn't seem any thinner anyway. This run was really enjoyable, easily the first time that I ran 8+ miles that were all basically uphill, which means that we got to turn around and run the same all downhill! We also saw our first marmot, these guys were my favorite little critters out there, and we certainly never tired of taking pictures of them.

After this we drove a very scenic loop around the park where we saw our first elk and bighorn sheep of the trip! In the afternoon we did an easy run out to Alberta Falls in the park before setting up our tent at Longs Peak Campground.

Longs Peak

We took the traditional Keyhole Route up the peak... I find it difficult to even find words to describe this outing; it was definitely my favorite peak of the whole trip. The trail up was awesome and hardly like a trail as we neared the summit. We had more scrambling and climbing up rock. The views were just incredible. Words can't do it justice, nor can pictures when it comes down to it, but I suppose it is the next best thing.

 Across the boulder field to the Keyhole in the distance.
 More marmots!

 We saw Joe Grant up there!

Feeling pretty small.

After this we did another afternoon run, this time to Bear, Nymph, and Dream Lakes for some pictures... then we headed out of the park in the evening towards Leadville.

Tuesday brought us into Leadville where we first decided to tag Colorado's highest peak Mt. Elbert. We took the southern route, which proved to be a lot smoother then Longs was yesterday. Definitely one of the easiest routes for a 14'er that we did all trip. The summit was rocky and not quite as open as Longs was, but from a secluded area, David completely surprised me by going down on one knee and proposing! I had absolutely no idea, but couldn't have been happier! I, of course, said yes immediately! We spent awhile happily at the summit despite the cold, before descending.

The rest of the late afternoon was spent telling our loved ones the happy news! We slept at the Mt. Massive trailhead, which was very far out a dirt mountain road (we saw antelope on the way out!). We awoke to rain and 47 degree temperatures, but we just pulled on long sleeves and headed out. After about 4 miles, we were drenched in the steadily falling rain, when David drew my attention to the summit in the distance, completely obscured in snow! We passed some hikers who had turned back before the summit, with at least an inch of snow layered on their packs! We were completely unprepared for this... we had packed some cold weather gear, but not our rain gear! We decided as we were already soaked and cold, to just go past snowline for some memorable pictures. It was freezing! We were at 12,800' and it had to be in the 20s or lower. While I shivered for a photograph, I noticed a puddle in a rock near my foot that was already slushy and icing over.

We headed back, got warmed up and showered, before heading to a saloon in town for some rum and cokes, courtesy of Jeff Lister!

Thanks Jeff!

Later that evening we headed out across Independence Pass towards Aspen and camped at Silver Bell Campground near the Maroon Bells. The next day, Thursday, we ran to Crater Lake, at the base of the Maroon Bells. We had heard about the Bells and knew that they were a popular area, but we weren't overly impressed. The two 14'ers set an impressive backdrop against Crater Lake, etc., but we figured they are so popular because of the easy trail that accesses such a view. Enjoyable, but we didn't waste time heading out. It did enable us to get up close and personal with a cute little Pika though...

Our next main destination was Telluride, as we planned on volunteering at the Telluride Mountain Run on Saturday and needed to be at a volunteer meeting Friday evening. I wanted to stop in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park on the way there, but as our route took us north before south, we decided to go with a recommendation from Kyle and visit Hanging Lake outside of Glenwood Springs. It was a short trail to the lake, but well worth the trip up another popular trail to the view of the lake, and more exciting to me, Sprouting Rock, above the lake.

The water came straight out of the rock cliff!

Next was the drive down to the Canyon; it was a complete change of terrain out of the mountains mostly to some desertish landscape. As we drove along the rim road a little, it really made the views even more phenomenal! We had driven on a dirt road in the middle of nowhere to the national park for some time, before the earth just completely dropped out down to the Gunnison River.

We enjoyed the amazing views and a few photos before camping at the North Rim Campground for a rainy night. The next morning we took a backcountry route down into the canyon. It was a short route, but time consuming. Definite change of pace for the trip to head down before going up!

A good chunk of the rest of the day was spent traveling down to Telluride, getting cleaned up and attending the volunteer meeting. David and I volunteered to sweep a 14ish mile section of the 40 mile course.

And so ends week one of our trip... Stay tuned for Part 2!