Wednesday, June 24, 2009

You're not hardcore unless you live hardcore

After a considerable amount of deliberation throughout most of last week, Dan and I still had not decided what we were going to do last weekend. I had an idea that it would be fun to surprise Oldest Friend at her second Ironman (in Coeur D'Alene, Idaho). Google maps showed it to be 1,000 miles, mostly through Montana. Dan and I would get to cross two more states off our list. I'd been feeling antsy and wanted to take a road trip.

But 1,000 miles is a long way to go if you have to turn around and drive back all that way just a day or two later (the most we can take off is a Thursday night-Monday this summer, since Dan's internship is Tuesday and Thursday). Did we really want to sit in the car for that long, with maybe a day at Yellowstone and a surprise for Oldest Friend to show for it? As the days passed, it seemed to be less and less of a good idea - the cost of gas, the wear and tear on the car, all that time sitting. So where else could we go? Yellowstone - but then I would feel guilty for not driving the extra few hours to Idaho. Dinosaur National Monument, to go camping (up in the northwest corner of the state, where neither of us has ever been). Then we found out that national parks in Colorado would be free for the weekend - Rocky Mountain National Park? Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park? Or a different direction entirely. Maybe we should try to do the Pike's Peak overnight we've been talking about (and were unable to do last year).

I was so overwhelmed by options that I told Dan to make an executive descision. He chose Pike's Peak. So I went to work on Friday and we had a typical Friday night. On Saturday morning, we ate a hearty breakfast and went to work packing up our stuff in our backpacks, figuring out what we would need, excited to get to use a lot of the camping gear we'd gotten as wedding gifts and been unable to use thus far. Dan's sleeping bag! Water purifier! Personal cooking system! We made our reservation for Barr Camp and ran a few last-minute errands, then drove south through Stepford Springs and Manitou to the trailhead.

By that time, it was nearly 3 PM. Luckily, the weather wasn't great (overcast and gloomy, not at all hot) and lots of people were leaving from their day hikes, so we managed to get a parking spot right next to the trailhead. We loaded up and headed up, passing umpteen numbers of people running down the trail, some with dogs, mostly without water. It was hard work.

No, it was REALLY hard work. I have never hiked up a steep trail with a heavy pack before, and I guess I wasn't prepared for how hard it would be. Walked with heavy pack, yes. Hiked, yes. Put the two together - and you have a recipe for difficulty. After one stop for a load shift (tent destrapped from Dan's pack and strapped to mine), we continued up the trail, stopping every five to ten minutes to catch our breath for 30 seconds or so. We knew that the first three miles was going to be really challenging and that the four after that slightly less so (though the latter 4 turned out to be harder than we thought), and the weather got worse as we climbed. We were on a trail that overlooked a deep canyon and couldn't see the mountain next to us because of fog/cloud, and then the rain began right as we made it out of the tree-covered area and into a more open space. We thought we could wait it out, but after half an hour of steady pour, we broke out the emergency poncho and the blue shell and carried on up the mountain.

Now, keep in mind that we were gaining 4000 feet of elevation over those seven miles. The higher you go, the harder it is to breathe just due to lack of oxygen. Add the backpack and this was hard work, yo.

Finally, the rain stopped, though the clouds kept drizzling on us so we kept wearing the protective gear. And then we got to the sign that told us there were four miles to the camp, which was the best news we'd had in a while. We thought the trail would get much easier after that...but it didn't. At least the rain completely cleared up and the sun came out a bit. We still had to stop every 5-10 minutes, and sometimes, it was less than five between the breaks. We climbed, and climbed, and sweated, and our feet hurt, and the strap of the pack hurt my shoulder where it rubbed. Finally, FINALLY we got to another sign that said one half mile to Barr Camp.

It was the longest half mile ever.

We made it to the camp after four hours of hiking and half an hour of waiting out the rain. We stumbled in, confirmed our reservation, and went back outside to set up the tent before it got dark. We changed clothing, pulled out our dinner food, and went back inside to prepare and eat it (didn't use the fuel to heat water but instead the lady who runs the camp gave us some hot water). The feeling of not moving anymore, of not having 25 pounds on my back, was fantastic.

Dinner was filling. After we'd sat inside a while, chatting with other folks, we headed out to our tent expecting a deep sleep. We were comfortable and warm enough, but the wind was so crazy loud that neither of us slept well.

The next morning, we awoke for breakfast to discover that not only had we not slept well but we were in a lot of pain from Saturday's hike. After some serious consideration, we decided not to try to summit (leaving our stuff at the camp), but instead just to break camp and hike back down the mountain. Summiting would have added 12 miles to the hike we had ahead of us, and we just weren't up for it (especially since I'm still unsure about my knee). So we filtered water for our camelbacks bladders, packed up and headed down the hill, stopping along the way to take photos (yes, all photos are from Sunday going down). The day was absolutely beautiful (and hot, especially the further down we got). We were still very sore and got more so as the hike went on.


We took a little detour partway down the hill and ended up adding a mile to our distance - so by the time we got down it was hot, bright, sunny, and 8 miles under our belts. We used different muscles coming down and were completely exhausted by the time we got to the car; I can't imagine having added 12 miles to what we did.

After we'd driven into town, we realized we were famished. We split a $5 footlong at subway and probably could have each eaten another sandwich. By the time we got home, it was really hot and we could hardly move. So that's what we did - absolutely nothing.

I took Monday off work to catch up on housework and go grocery shopping. It was a good day. We were both incredibly sore in the legs, hips, and shoulders (the muscle soreness is better today, but I still have a raw spot on my shoulder). My knee and my calf held up. So I'm really proud of our weekend adventure, even if it didn't include the summit of Pike's Peak.


tmjackson said...

Wow, that sounds like quite a weekend. Good for you for doing all that, though. And the pictures are fantastic!

I will also admit that you may have given me no small amount of anxiety about my Fuji climb in less than a month. Um, maybe I should go run up a hill a few times...

Anonymous said...

You guys ARE hardcore. Beautiful photos!! And I hope the title for this post was meant to be a direct quote of one of my favorite movies in the world, School of Rock.

MLE said...

TMJ: Thanks! And yeah, you might want to work your way up to that.

JT: But of course!