As it turned out, several of my coworkers were going and someone was going to meet us at the top to drive us home. Score! Knees saved.
We got to the trailhead and started hiking at 5 am. It was so beautiful--seing the lights of the sleeping city from the mountainside and then watching the sun rise over it all. It was amazingly warm--I didn't need the gloves or zip-on pants or long-sleeved shirt one bit. It stayed nice all the way up. While those in the Springs were baking at 95 degrees, we were in the pleasant 70s much of the day because of altitude.
We hiked 6 miles up to Barr Camp. Clean, non-smelly bathrooms halfway up the hike? Yes, please! Bathrooms are a good thing on a 14er, because of the scarcity of places to hide and do your bizness above treeline. Case in point: Later on on the hike, I was searching and searching for a rock big enough to shelter me from prying eyes. I finally found a spot when I realized that the trail switched back directly behind me. Hello, boys! Yes, I did flash several innocent and unsuspecting hikers.
Here's a fun fact: Barr Trail and Barr Camp were built by Fred Barr from 1914-1918. The incline, where crazies in Colorado Springs today hike to get fit, was was a funicular railway that tourists would take up to Barr Trail to then ride donkeys to the top. Barr Camp was built as the halfway point for the tourists to camp at. Sadly, today we have to rely on thighs, rather than funiculars and donkeys to get to the top.
The flowers all along the trail were amazing. Meadows and tufts of yellows and purples with pinks mixed in. They looked like this.
Another surprising thing along the trail were all the runners. There were at least 25 runners who passed us going up or coming down the mountain. I'm telling you, Colorado Springs people are crazies. There are a large number of people who run a marathon on the weekends up and down Pikes Peak (13 miles one way) just as a workout. They and their bulging calf muscles kept me humble, despite what I am about to say.
I did so well on the mountain! I was very excited to see that all the training this summer for the Courage Classic has actually paid off--the hike was very doable, and I only really got out of breath and had to slow down the last two miles. We did it in 7 hours. One trail site says that most runners do it in 4 to 7 hours. That means I was as fast as the slowest runner! Woohoo!
The last two miles were definitely the hard part. I felt as though someone had pressed the slow-motion button on me. Me and my new coworker Nathan, whom I hiked and talked with the entire way up, were slurring our speech and sounded like non-native speakers of English, as our tongues and brains had stopped operating correctly at that point.
There's a building and tourist attraction at the top of Pikes, as you can drive up the mountain. I've always thought it would be depressing to hike to the top of a 14er and see a bunch of out-of-shape Kansans get out of their SUVs in flip-flops at the top, sucking on Frappuccinos. As it turned out, it actually made it kind of fun. In the store, people would ask you, "Wow, did you hike to the top?" (You're pretty easy to pick out of the crowd by your stench.) Unfortunately, you can't take advantage of this opportunity to preen in front of lazy tourists, as all you can really do at this point is grunt.
Grunt while you eat your donut, that is. Have you ever hiked a mountain and thought, "Oh, how I wish there was an ice cream store at the top?" Well, at this one there is. But what I was most interested in was the water and Gatorade as I brilliantly ran out of water at mile 10.
After chugging an entire Gatorade, I joined the out-of-shape Kansans in enjoying a sizzling hot, fresh donut. Although "enjoying" might be a misnomer, as I ate it like a badger who's been fasting.
At the top, a coworker's husband met us, and drove us back down. It's amazing how quickly and easily a car can do what you just killed your body to do. We completed our journey, how else?, with gelato at the store--strawberry chocolate gelato. Mmm. Now I'm trying to hold myself back from eating the entire house while Mike works tonight. I went to Costco in the afternoon, which is a very bad idea after hiking up 7300 feet. I wanted everything, I say, everything! I almost started licking some bottles of mango juice.
Now I have to go. There's a crate of mangoes with my name on it in the kitchen.