With roughly 45 hours of driving under our belts, a 14'er summited in Colorado, the Arches National Park checked off our list, and plenty of good beer in SLC and Denver all within a 6 day time frame, I guess you could say it's been a stellar cross country road trip so far.
As we are currently en route to hang out with my good buddy, Scavenger in Eugene, OR, I can't help but reflect on how different my life was only 6 days ago. Yeah, I know, I should be used to this by now because of last year, but this is different. This is brand new, uncharted territory for me. Having never been west of the Mississippi, this entire trip has been nothing short of pure joy and grandeur. There's always been an attraction to unfamiliar places for me, and I don't think that's going to change anytime soon.
Arriving in Colorado on Sunday evening and immediately seeing one of my best friends from trail, Pokey, was a reuinion for the ages. Sonic, Pokey, and I all met up and drove straight to Mt. Evans National Forest Area where we camped at 11,500ft at the base of Mt. Bierstadt. The crystal clear night provided us with a sharp breeze throughout the night, and a wide open, star filled sky to go along with it. We stayed up until the late hours of the evening, enjoyed a local beer, and hit the hay with anticipation of the early morning summit push.
As night faded into morning, the sun started to push the light over the crest of the mountains. As we packed up camp, the sun was just starting to engulf the ground we were walking on. Within minutes, the temperature had risen, and we were on our way up the 3.5 mile trail to the summit. Being at 11,500ft and climbing to 14,060ft presented a new challenge for me. Altitude. I had never been above the elevation of Clingmans Dome in the GSMNP. Now, I usually don't like discussing this because it's not something I'm proud of, but I am a habitual cigarette smoker. I started when I was at the young and impressionable age of 15, and yes, I know, I need to quit. Not only that but I was diagnosed with Asthma at an extremely young age. I can imagine what all of you reading this are thinking right now, "Oh my god, what are you doing to yourself?!", "How do you do that to yourself?'", etc. I've made my decisions, and I'm working on changing them. Anyways, so I thought I was going to have a huge disadvantage at altitude, but it happened to be the exact opposite. I felt great. I was able to breathe nearly as good as I was able to at elevation on the AT.
Eventually, the gentle switchbacks turned into a straight up rock scramble. Somehow my fatigued muscles and somewhat strained lungs bore the weight and carried me to the top. After climbing ~2,600ft of vertical elevation in about 3.5mi we embraced the summit, cracked open the summit beer, and enjoyed the company of others who had also succeeded in their climb. Roughly 12 hours after arriving to Colorado, we had summited a 14'er, something that people who live in the state will never accomplish even. A feeling of success was upon us.