In our most recent adventures, we hiked a 14,000 foot mountain. Here is the story of our experience:
At approximately 3:57 A.M. I felt Steven moving around. I had been praying for the last 5 minutes that he would forget about wanting to hike, and we would stay in bed until well after the sun had been in the sky. My prayers were ignored as he gave me a gentle push, and told me we needed to get up. I finally talked myself into telling myself he would do the same for me when ski season was finally here. So after throwing on hiking clothes, leashing the dogs, and grabbing our packs we were out the door into the cool morning hours. We were headed for the Mt. Bierstadt trailhead, which is a little over an hour from our apartment. All was well as we had exited I-70 and made our way up a winding dirt road until we came across this little jewel...The road to the trailhead was closed due to rock slides. I entertained the idea that I might get to go back to bed when Steven told me to find out more about the hike up Mt. Evans. This was his day so I looked up the Mt. Evans trail with my sleepy eyes. I found a trail called the Chicago Lakes Trail that 14ers.com said would summit Mt. Evans. Just as quickly as we had went up the small dirt road we were on our way back down. The sun was starting to rise so we had some good views on our drive towards Mt. Evans.
We made it to Echo Lake, which is where the trailhead for the Chicago Lakes trail is located. The sun was lighting the sky now so we parked, and quickly got started. We didn't have a map so we went off what I'd read on 14ers.com. We found the trailhead, and started what we thought would be our journey up Mt. Evans. At the very beginning of the trail we saw a small female elk eating some grass. The dogs went insane, and scared her off. It was so quiet in the area we were in that we could hear her hooves beating against the ground as she ran away. The trail was decently wide, and very well marked. It was protected by dense tall pine trees so the air smelled fresh, and we knew we'd be safe in the event of a pop up thunderstorm. Because we were in such dense trees with little other foot traffic, we would call out, "HEY BEAR!" every few minutes so the bears would hear us coming. Luckily the only wildlife we saw was another hiker. We felt like we were going in the wrong direction as we were heading in the opposite direction of Mt. Evans and we were going downhill. The hiker we came upon had a map, and he informed us that the Chicago Lakes trail does not go all the way up Mt. Evans. Trusting his map more than 14ers.com we decided to turn around. By this point it was around 7:30AM so we decided to eat breakfast by Echo Lake, and discuss what our plan was going to be for the rest of the morning.
After trail mix and homemade banana bread, we decided to go to the lodge across Echo Lake to see if they had any trail maps. They were all sold out, but the trip to the lodge was not wasted as they had toilets! After using the loo, we decided to look at an informational booth near the lodge. It wasn't much help. We decided to give up, and just drive up Mt. Evans so we could at least get a good view for all the trouble. I must say I was a bit excited at the thought of a relaxing drive. We were at the toll station when my resourceful husband tells the ranger of our previous plans to hike Mt. Evans. He told him we were really bummed that there was no trail to the top. The ranger chuckled and let us know that there was indeed a trail to the top.We could meet up with it at Summit Lake. My dreams of a peaceful car ride were over.
The views to Summit Lake were breathtaking.
We finally arrived at Summit Lake to find the temperature much cooler, and a stiff breeze blowing. We were going to hike up and around to reach the top. It was about a four mile hike to the top. This was a much smaller hike than we had originally planned for, but we were excited to make it to the top. We started up the trail where we found a sign in box to let the rangers know who was on the side of the mountain, and how long they planned on staying. After signing in we continued up. The first section of the trail was very steep so with the breeze and working with the dogs we had to stop a few times to catch our breath. We found a nice spot to have lunch so we stopped on the side of the mountain with a view of the Chicago lakes that was at least 2000 feet down to enjoy our sandwiches. After a quick bite to eat we were off again. From our hike we had views of the Continental Divide (which we stood on when skiing at Monarch), Pikes Peak, and Denver. This trail was not as well marked as the Chicago Lakes Trail. We had to keep an eye out for cairns, or piles of rocks, to know where the trail was. We saw several marmot on our hike, and we even got to see a small family of them. I'd love to share pictures of this part of the experience, but Steven left the camera in the trunk thinking he'd save on the extra weight!
We were on the backside of Mt. Evans when we decided to eat a little more. Hiking is a lot of work! We were also at about 13,000 feet at this point so our bodies were feeling a little funny because of the altitude. While we were snacking we saw the same hiker who let us see his map on the Chicago Lakes trail. He apologized for leading us astray but we were glad to see each other again so close the the summit. After our snack, we continued the rest of the way up to the very top. The view was amazing, and the sense of accomplishment to know that we had hiked to the top was great. We took in the sights from the top for awhile, and then decided to head back down due to the dark clouds that were starting to set in. It was important to get back to the car before an afternoon storm started because we were well above tree line so there was no protection for us in the event of lighting. A ranger let us know that there was a shorter path down the front side of the mountain. It was much steeper than the path we had taken, but it was a great deal quicker than the other trail. There was a thick layer of grass with boulders sprinkled everywhere on our way down. We saw a lot of small animals and even came across a few mountain springs that provided a cool drink for the pups. After about a 4 hour hike we were back at the car. The sun was behind the many clouds that had settled in, and we were glad to be back to the safety of our car. Our trip up Mt. Evans started as chaotic, but it ended in a tranquil manner.
Our next 14er looks to be Pike's Peak via the Barr Trail. We'd like this to be our first backpack camping experience so as soon as we complete our gear then we'll be finding a free weekend to head to Colorado Springs.