Day 3. Time for the big one.
On our first day we pushed through 20.1 miles in Stanley Canyon. Day 2 found us on the New Santa Fe trail logging 14 miles. Today we've got a mountain ahead of us, literally.
Pikes Peak stands 14,115 feet above sea level and towers over Colorado Springs. It's fitting that we are including this mountain in our hike to celebrate Dad's 60th birthday. When each of us boys turned 13, Dad took each of us teenagers up this mountain. It taught us when we were young that we're going to face some tough challenges, but if we push through we can overcome them.
Knowing we had a lot of miles to put down today, we arrived at the trail head before dawn at 5:30am. You never know what kind of weather the mountain will have in store for you, so it's always best to try and summit before the afternoon storm clouds roll in.
I love that my mother has always insisted on photos. Because of that, I'm able to show a few from each of our first hikes up this mountain. Here's a 13 year old Jon about to start his hike back in 1995.
And Patrick in 1999.
And me way back in 1993.
That first mile was a pretty good wake up, and was good for stretching out some tired legs.
Our first mile in and the sun is just starting to break the horizon. I'm starting to warm up too and building up a sweat. Time to start shedding layers.
That peak in the distance is our destination. It seems so far away right now.
But the four of us pressed on
Starting to get closer.
Looking back at all of our first hikes.
Around halfway is Barr Camp. This is a great place to take a little break.
And thanks to Jon and his filter, a great place to fill up our water bottles. Nice to not have to carry so much water with us.
Rested and rejuvenated, we're ready to continue to the summit.
As we continue upward, we start passing through the treeline. Any higher than this and the trees have a hard time surviving.
At treeline, there is a small wooden structure called the A-Frame. It has a great view of the valley below and is another great spot to take a rest.
A 13 year old Joe was very happy for this brief rest.
Only 3 miles to the summit!
The views from this point are spectacular, especially when the weather is clear.
Only 2 miles to go. Time to get in a groove. There is only 60% of the oxygen here compared to sea level, so it's much more difficult to catch your breath once you start moving. Thankfully we kept a reasonable pace and it wasn't an issue.
Looking out over Colorado Springs in 2016.
Looking out over a cloudy Colorado Springs in 1993.
With a little over a mile to go, the clouds started to roll in. I'm glad we're close to the summit.
Finally we found ourselves at the 16 Golden Stairs. I'm sure there are many hikers who hate whoever came up with the name of this final section. Definitely not a stair in the traditional sense, supposedly a "stair" here refers to a full left/right switchback. Once you hit this point, you've still got a 15 minute hike ahead of you to the summit.
Along with being fatigued, this section of the trail is also the most treacherous with lots of loose rocks, high step ups, and damp/slippery conditions. The hiking poles were a very useful at this point.
Almost there 13 year old Patrick.
Upon seeing the summit house, it was a great feeling of relief. We'd made it to the top, ahead of the storms, and we were due for a little bit of relaxing.
We joined the masses at the summit house who had either driven themselves up, or taken the Cog Railway.
Time for the best part of the Summit House.
The donuts! You can smell them frying from the trail below. I don't know if it's the recipe, the altitude, or just the taste of something fried and warm after all the exertion. These are delicious!
When we arrived, they were so fresh, you couldn't even hold on to them with the tissue paper. Should have gotten more...
Congratulations on making the summit everyone!
Before the age of digital cameras, when you took a picture then had to wait to see how it turned out. My photo at the summit was washed out by a ray of sunshine.
Through all my searching, I couldn't find any pictures of Jon in front of the summit sign.
And here's Patrick when he completed his hike.
After 45 minutes at the top, it was time to head back down. We still need to make sure we get below treeline before the afternoon storms roll in. Seeing some whistling marmots on the way back down.
I know some hate going down more than going up, but that is not me.
Finally back to treeline! I was surprised by some of the people we came across who were still on their way up. At 2:30pm we ran across a group sitting down for a meal, who told us they were planning to summit and come back down... Yikes!
Making really good time coming down.
Two and a half hours after leaving the summit, we made it to Barr Camp. Time for a break.
The local wildlife enjoyed the cashews I brought along.
Let's wrap this up!
At 4:30pm the clouds that had been threatening finally opened up and started pouring. We packed light, but one of the must-haves was a poncho.
In a lot of areas, jogging was easier on the legs than walking and trying to slow yourself. Again it was nice to have the hiking poles for extra stability.
After 30 minutes or so, the rain started to ease up. All throughout the storm we could hear lightning striking further up the mountain. Really glad we weren't above treeline for that.
As the rain was easing up, we caught sight of a doe with a fawn. They were a little ways off the trail and didn't feel like sticking around when we walked by them. I didn't have enough time to take a photo before they were gone.
Luckily though a few hundred yards down the trail, this 9 point buck was making its way through the brush. He wasn't too concerned with us either. He slowly made his way along the trail away from us.
Only a couple miles to go!
After a long day of hiking, the four of us made it to the bottom. We joined hands and took the last step off the trail together.
How'd we do today? It was a long day of hiking and we almost hit a full marathon.
Quite the elevation gain, making it all the way up to 14,115 feet!
It feels good to get out of those hiking shoes and into flip-flops. And it'll be nice to get a hot shower to wash off the trail dust.
To celebrate the end of a long hike, everyone enjoyed a nice steak dinner.
For those keeping track, we've got 20.1 + 14.0 + 25.4 = 59.5 miles completed. Tomorrow we wrap it up!