Hiking At Elevation

In a previous life, many years ago, I would have considered myself a hiker. I mean, I went on hikes. I owned trekking poles, and occasionally wandered the wilderness around the Pacific Northwest. I even owned a fancy hiking hat!

During this original hiking phase was when I went on an overnight hike to celebrate my birthday, alone and under the stars.

Looking back today, I went on more hikes than I thought I did. My favorite part of hiking though, was all of the time I was able to spend with Olive.

She was such a majestic outdoor puppy dog. I still remember that first hike where I let her off leash – afraid that she’d run off and that would be the last time I saw her. Obviously, she never ran off and didn’t come back. It’s like she was made for the outdoors.

As we hiked, she would run on up ahead, but never get out of sight, and always run right back to me and give this look of “Are you coming? You HAVE to see what’s up ahead!”

I don’t know how many miles we hiked, or how many snowshoeing trips we went on, but they were all amazing adventures.

Which is why it’s a bit sad that she can’t go hiking with me anymore. Or running. I guess that’s what happens as you get older – you can’t do the things you used to do when you were younger.

Shortly after moving to Colorado, my employer started up a hiking club. We would go on a hike every two weeks – alternating elevation with distance – all with the goal of summiting Mount Bierstadt at the end of August (almost nine years to the day of when I attempted to summit Mount Rainier.)

The first hike would have barely qualified as a hike, if it wasn’t at 8,000 foot. For someone who just got here from sea level, that was quite the elevation change! While I wasn’t in the best of shape anymore, I still managed to reach the top, not be last, and feel pretty good about it too.

The next hike wasn’t quite as high, but was longer; all good practice for the hikes in the future. It felt good to get outside, see some of the beautiful sights that Colorado had to offer, plus I was beginning to meet more people that I would see fairly regularly around work (even though none of them worked directly with me.)

Our hiking group was getting bigger every time (that wouldn’t continue to happen as our hikes got longer and longer) and I think we were all having a good time.

One of the people that I carpooled with quite a few times, and went out with afterwards for beers, had the perfect theme for these days – Hike -> Beer -> Nap. We joked about getting shirts made with that theme on them. I should really do that.

Most of our hikes were in the Flatirons, just outside of Boulder.

I’m not sure which hike was my favorite – they all offered something different (well, so many of them ended with a view of downtown Boulder, which honestly was getting a little old after awhile – give me something new!) And some of them offered amazing rock sculptures – like Royal Arch.

One of the hardest hikes occurred in July – two different peaks, over 12 miles round trip. I was beyond exhausted after this one. It’s also the hike that we still talk about today! While it was one of the most physically demanding hikes that I’ve ever been on, it did make me feel good that 1) I did it and 2) it kicked everyone else’s ass too, not just the chubby old guy.

Eventually the summer was coming to a close and Bierstadt was on the horizon. We did one hike above 13,000′ to get us ready for the 14,000′ elevation we would be experiencing in two weeks.

It’s still hard for me to fathom that you can just drive up to 10,000′, 11,000′, even 14,000′ and start a hike. My only experience with that was on Rainier, where you start at sea level, and drive to Paradise (5,400′) and then hike.

I almost missed the Bierstadt hike because there was a concert that I really wanted to go to the night before, but I made the decision to do the hike instead.

The morning started with my alarm going off at 2am in order to leave by 3. The trailhead was still cloaked in complete darkness, but the parking lot was almost completely filled. The one bad part about Bierstadt is that it is a relatively easy 14er, everyone does it, so it’s extremely well traveled (aka crowded.)

Once the sun started to wake up, we were treated with some pretty amazing views.

I touched on this earlier, but the wind was really bad this morning, so it was wicked cold as we hiked, which made things a little rough. I almost lost my hat because of the wind, but luckily someone literally reached out and grabbed it mid-air before it blew over the side and would be lost forever. I would have been sad because this was my running hat and it fit my big ol’ head really well!

I don’t remember a lot about the actual summit – other than I made it, and it involved quite a bit of scrambling to get there. One of the two co-workers who were hiking with me (we may have been the slow group at this point) took my picture, and then I started back down. I was beyond cold at this point and was just ready to be done.

What was next?

Winter hiking!

Our hiking adventures would continue, but this time we’d be having to worry about snow and ice and moose (instead of bears.)

So far, my favorite part of winter hiking is the fact the trails are significantly less traveled. There’s rarely anyone out there, so it’s just us. Plus our groups are significantly smaller. On the second hike, there were only four of us!

The winter hiking will continue next week (darn holidays got in the way!) and I’m hoping that my running will really pick up and help me with hiking too so it’s not such a challenge (not that it’s hard, just harder than I want it to be.)

There are so many new mountains and trails to explore, and I really hope I can do as many of them as I can this year. Plus K wants to start going too, so we’ll start out slow when it’s just the two of us.

Still wish Olive can go though – she would enjoy these new adventures so much!

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