M = Mountains

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I grew up in Ontario, Canada.  In fact, before I moved out to Colorado, I had never lived anywhere else. Mountains were never really a part of my life.  I knew they existed but had never been given the opportunity to experience them first hand.

I learned to ski at Horseshoe Valley Resort, north of Toronto. Horseshoe Valley has a difference in elevation of 308 feet. Another place in Ontario where I have skied is Calabogie Peaks, which apparently offers the highest vertical drop in Ontario of 761 feet.

My new home resort, Keystone Resort near Dillon, Colorado has a difference in elevation of 3,128 feet.  Just to give you an idea of what I’m used to and what I’m experiencing here in Colorado.

So, back to mountains. To be honest, I don’t know how I managed to live the majority of my life without being surrounded by mountains! My first time experiencing mountains was in Bosnia and then Switzerland. It was astounding to see them jut out of the earth as if they were the most powerful things nature had to offer.  It was terrifying driving switchbacks in Bosnia with no guard rails. It was exhilarating noticing the thinner but cleaner air.

When I cycled through the Canadian Rockies, I was really nervous.  I thought, how can I possibly get my little bike up those HUGE mountains?  But the mountains can be forgiving.  There are ways to get through them without going straight up. Valleys and passes assist us in being able to experience their majesty without as much effort as we might think.

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Although they can be forgiving, they are also not to be messed with. When I climbed Kilimanjaro, I truly learned to appreciate that the mountains are boss.  We passed many people who simply couldn’t handle the altitude, returning down the slopes with looks of defeat on their faces.

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Since I’ve lived in Colorado Springs, the form of Pikes Peak follows me wherever I go. I can drive into the mountains each weekend if I want to. I truly feel as if “The Mountains are Calling”, and I truly feel as if it’s where I belong.

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G = Garden of the Gods

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When I moved to Colorado Springs, the first ‘touristy’ thing I did was visit Garden of the Gods. Despite all the other super cool things about Colorado Springs (Pikes Peak, Cheyenne Mountain, The Stargate, The Olympic Training Center), Garden of the Gods is perhaps one of the most popular attractions in the area. Even TripAdvisor rates it #1 of 140 things to do in Colorado Springs!

So, here’s the story: Garden of the Gods was formed millions of years ago due to some crazy upward activity around a fault line. Today, massive red rocks jut out of the landscape as if they either landed there from outer space or pushed their way through the earth like large, solid rock daisies.

The name Garden of the Gods was given back in the mid 1800’s by two surveyors who, while discussing how the land would make an ideal beer garden, proclaimed that it would be a garden fit for a God. Later, railroad tycoon, Charles Elliot Perkins purchased the land surrounding the features in 1879 to build a summer home. When he died, his heirs handed the land over to the City of Colorado Springs with the caveat that it always remain open and free for the public to enjoy.

Pictures do not do this place justice.  There is a silence uncanny to urban areas.  Birds have made their homes in the outcropping of rocks.  People walk through the park daily, alone with their thoughts, or amazed by the beauty, or sharing this treasure with family and friends.

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Skipping a 14er for Stanley Canyon Trail

Part of the reason my blog is called “Stumbling into Adventure” is because I don’t often plan things through.  I get an idea in my head and I make it happen.  It always seems to work out for me – somehow.  My husband likes to carefully plan and be prepared for every excursion – the complete opposite!

So I had it in my head that we were going to climb Pikes Peak (14,115 feet) today. We were going to take the Barr Trail, camp overnight, summit tomorrow morning and hike back down.  With the dog.  My husband thought we should summit the same day and camp on the way down. So we had it all planned out before realizing that Barr Trail gains 7,615 feet in elevation in 13 miles (not to mention the 13 miles back down!).  We then decided to go with an easier mountain, a class 1 but the highest in Colorado, Mount Elbert. Until we saw that a storm was supposed to roll in this morning around 11am in the region.  So we sat down.  And had a chat.  About starting with the biggest.

We settled on Stanley Canyon Trail.   This was close to home and would be a good practice trail with some good elevation, but that we could do in about 4 hours, round trip. 

Loki is ready to start hiking!

Loki is ready to start hiking!

It gains about 2000 feet in elevation in about 2 miles.  The beginning is the worst and requires scrambling over rocks at times. But the views, they were breathtaking!  There were a couple of spots where you could look back and see over the entire city of Colorado Springs and the Air Force Academy.  Once inside the canyon, the steep walls make for a surreal experience, and at the top of the first section of the climb there is a beautiful, sunny, waterfall area filled with butterflies!  

Flowers in a clearing

Flowers in a clearing

The geography of the entire trail changes about 4 or 5 times along the way up.  Fields, forest, rocky climbs, waterfalls, canyon walls, and finally at the end, a hidden reservoir.

Scrambling up the rock/scree

Scrambling up the rock/scree

Scrambling down the rock/scree

Scrambling down the rock/scree

The reservoir at the top was a nice secluded location for a lunch or in Loki’s case, a nap!

The Stanley Canyon Reservoir

The Stanley Canyon Reservoir

It was a great day and a great hike. And yes, I admitted to my husband that maybe going after the biggest 14ers right away wouldn’t have been such a great idea!  We have decided from this point to work our climbing endurance for a while before going big!  We’re going to try to do two trails a week, alternative between easy, level but longer trails and steeper, moderate trails!

Looking out over Colorado Springs

Looking out over Colorado Springs

Hiking Buddies!  Loki was a champ!

Hiking Buddies! Loki was a champ!

I is for Incline!

Since I arrived in Colorado Springs, the Manitou Incline is one of those things that all the “fit” people talk about doing. If you didn’t know any better, you’d think that climbing the Incline was the start to every day!

I’ve heard rumours of old men jogging to the top. Women with babies on their backs strolling up as if they were walking around the block. Children scrambling to the top with boundless energy.

The hike is a 2,000 foot incline in less than 1 mile. You are practically one degree from having to climb up a ladder to get to the top!

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When I first got here, I hadn’t acclimatized to the altitude yet, so wasn’t sure it was a good idea. Then winter in Colorado came and I figured it would be best to not tempt Mother Nature. Now I have almost been here for a year. I can handle steps without gasping for air, and the Incline is closing in August for a couple of months in order to do repairs. It was now or possibly never!

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I have to tell you, the rumours were true. The 80 year old men zipped past me as if I was standing still. The uber fit moms carried their babies to the top with ease. Colorado hippies ran up and down wearing nothing but shorts and flip flops, their dreadlocks waving behind them. It was surreal!

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Me? I started gasping for air on the first three steps! But it wasn’t so bad. Everyone was super friendly, it was a beautiful day and the higher we got, the more beautiful the views! It didn’t suck half as bad as I thought it would!

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My friend who climbed with me was 23 weeks pregnant, but a hardcore cross fitter. There was no way I was going to complain! We took it slow and made it up in just under an hour and a half! By the way, the world record is just under 17 minutes. Yeah. Probably by one of those 80 year olds!

All I can say, is that I want to try it again and better my time! What a way to get fit!!

Here’s a video of what it’s like!

 

P is for Pike’s Peak

Yes, I missed a few. And it’s no longer April (in fact, it’s no longer May either)!

So I have lived in Colorado Springs for just under a year now and the over 14,000 foot Pike’s Peak has been looming over me almost every day, watching my every move. The mountain is to the left of me as I drive to work and to the right of me when I drive home.  It is standing there directly across from me as I walk out of my westward facing front door. The only time I don’t see the peak is when the weather systems roll in and the entire mountain range is engulfed in clouds.  Even at night I can see the light flickering from the top of the mountain.

I always feel like somebody's watching me. And I have no privacy... ~Rockwell

I always feel like somebody’s watching me.
And I have no privacy… ~Rockwell

Pike’s Peak was named after Bridagier-General Zebulon (if anyone knows the origin of that name, please let me know) Montgomery Pike who “discovered” the mountain on an expedition to find the headwaters of the Red River. Ironically to me (the Canadian in Colorado), Brig.-Gen Pike died in battle during the war of 1812 in York (now Toronto – so sorry about that Americans, I’m glad we’re friends now).

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There are three main ways you can get to the top of Pike’s Peak:

1. The world’s highest Cog Train: For $36 a head, you can ride the train to the summit of the mountain.  It lets you off for about 30-40 minutes while you scramble to take #summitselfies and try the freshly baked altitude donuts, before taking you back down to the bottom. Total trip time: 3.5 hours.

 

The Cog Train waits while its passengers gouge themselves on mountain donuts...

The Cog Train waits while its passengers gouge themselves on mountain donuts…

2. Drive the Pike’s Peak Highway: Pay between $10-$12 at the tollgate (hint $2 off coupon) and drive all the way to the top! Not for the faint hearted though – although the train probably isn’t either! There aren’t any guardrails, and the right just simply drops off the side of the mountain. My husband was like, “Jenny, you can get a little closer to the right. You have lots of room.  You don’t have to crowd the line,” to which I retorted, “No, I’m good.  Thanks for the advice but I’ll just keep driving up the centre of the road.”  Also, word of advice, if you don’t have hill assist on your car/truck, don’t ride the brakes on the way down or you’ll have to stop halfway to let them cool off.  Not good for your car, and you really don’t want to lose that thing that will stop you if you need to!

Loki is the Queen of the World!

Loki is the Queen of the World!

Lil Guy made it to the top!

Lil Guy made it to the top!

3.  Hike it: The Barr Trail ascends 7,900 vertical feet in just over 11 miles. You could do it in one day – the average ascent time is between 6-10 hours – or you can spread it out over two days and stay at Barr Camp half way up. Doggies on leashes are allowed! How do you get down?  Have a friend meet you at the top, take the train, or hike back down another 5-7 hours! (I’ll opt for the train…)

Someone looks a little pooped!

Someone looks a little pooped!

Some neat events based on Pike’s Peak:

The Pike’s Peak International Hill Climb: every year in June, racers of all shapes and sizes test their skills and fear of heights to race to the top of Pike’s Peak. I wanted to go and watch in person, but once you’re up there you can’t get down until after the race is over.  Haven’t decided yet.

 

The AdAMan Climb: Every year, a select group of climbers ascend Pike’s Peak on December 31st (actually I think they start on the 30th) along Barr Trail and pop off Fireworks at midnight to ring in the new year.  Here’s the view from Garden of the Gods with my first-time attempt at using a tripod in pitch black and no professional skillz to try and get a photo of this cool phenomenon.

11,000+ feet of pure firepower!

11,000+ feet of pure firepower!