| Pike‘s Peak - Up and down Barr Trail
My hike up and down Pike's Peak occurred approximately late June or early July, 2006. The story you are about to read is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.
Trip participants: Me, Myself, and I.
Parked at the Barr trail head at about 2:45am. About half the parking spaces were already taken up by then. Started out at the Barr trail head at approx 3am. I saw that four to six other hikers had the same idea I had that morning. I ended up passing two of the hikers early on in the switch backs, I later meet them again just after I started my descent from the summit; they were still heading up.
There was ½ to ¾ of a full moon that morning, which helped visibility, but I still used my head lamp. If anybody has walked through the wilderness with any kind of flash light, they know animal eyes reflect the light really well. And that is what I saw coming down the trail at me. Not one set, but two. I was startled at first to see two sets of eyes bouncing around while speeding towards me. I thought, "Oh crap! Please let it be a couple of herbivores. The last thing I need to meet while summiting my first 14er is a couple of carnivores!" The bounding eyes finally entered my beam of light, and what I saw was worst than my worst fear. They were toy poodles!!
At first I thought that these tiny dogs had been left alone on the trail from the previous day. I had seen plenty of people take their pets hiking with them on the Barr Trail. I figured these dogs think I am their owner, and I have come back to rescue them. But then I heard something on the switchback above me, looked up and saw a light dancing down the trail. I finally put two and two together and realized that they were out jogging with their owner.
When their owner came into view, the first thought that popped into my head was "It's a leprechaun!! Oh lucky day!" The second thought was "How should I tackle him so I can get his gold?" Seriously, maybe it was the light, it certainly wasn't hallucinations (I had only been hiking 15-20 minutes; but this was the weirdest looking person I had seen since I came to Colorado. (If this turns out to be a member of 14ers.com, I apologize in advance. I don't mean to be insulting.) He was shorter than me, which automatically makes him pretty damn short, and was very thin, and wrinkly. His attire didn't help to change my mind either. It must have been the light, because I don't know why the idea of a leprechaun popped into my head in the first place. I attempted to mutter a greeting, but I was still standing there in disbelief by the time he passed me. All he kept saying was "Mush mush. Mush mush" to his dogs to keep them going down the trail. It took me a few moments to regain my composure and realize that I needed to keep hiking if I wanted to make it to the summit.
It was, of course, fairly cool in the early morning. But I was soon warm from the hiking. The closer I got to the point where Barr Trail crosses a tributary of Ruxton Creek, the colder it got. It was getting cold enough I was considering putting my fleece back on. Obviously the air had been cooled by the water in the creek. I soon started seeing a pretty amazing site. Everything around me seemed to be made out of crystal or diamonds, or what ever else you can think of that reflects a lot of light. Every branch, leaf, blade of grass was covered in thick frost. It was quite interesting to see a crystal forest twinkling around you. I soon passed the creek, which appeared to be flowing normally. Not too little water, not too much water in it.
I reached Barr Camp approximately 6am. I figured I had made pretty good time and decided to take a 45 min break to rest my feet and fill up a couple of old Gatorade bottles I had brought with me. Up to that point I had not drunk that much water due to my lack of thirst. I still drank water because I knew I needed to keep hydrated. I put in the necessary amount of micropur tablets. I never did use this water on my hike. I took approximately 6 liters of water with me on the hike. I always over prepare, especially when I summit a 14er for my first time. I took the extra long break because I got to Barr a lot sooner than I thought and I figured it would be better for my feet. Barr Camp seemed to be pretty populated at this time. Lots of tent camping and the cabin looked packed with people.
It wasn't too long after I had left Barr Camp when people started passing me. I'm not sure if they had come from Barr Camp or not. I can only assume that since they didn't have much gear and seemed pretty fresh. I stopped for another 15 minutes at tree line just to take a break and eat some gorp I made. Again I over prepared. I ended up bringing a gallon size freezer bag full of gorp. I thought I should be prepared in case I fell somewhere and couldn't get up. I probably could have lasted a couple days on the food and water I brought. During this break a large number of people passed me. I can safely assume they had camped at Barr Camp the previous night.
Above tree line it was certainly harder to hike. I definitely could tell there was less oxygen up here. I never got dizzy, never got to short of breath, just had to constantly breath hard. (Before this hike, I had never been this high with out being in a plane.) I gained approximately 1000 feet in altitude per hour. It was exceedingly slow for me. The top seemed so close, but every sign I came upon told me it was so far away.
I would personally like to strangle who ever came up with the name "16 Golden Stairs". Why must a hiker be taunted to the very end, why? It certainly wasn't 16, the sign maker must have forgotten to put an exponent in there. I had to take my time going up these because there was an instance to two where I did feel a little dizzy.
At the top, I sat down to recover and call my parents to let them know I finally made it. I then went into the tourist trap desperate to find a bathroom because the gorp seemed to be working itself through me pretty fast. Maybe the altitude helped this process.
The entire day was crystal clear, not a cloud in the sky. I failed to take the opportunity to walk around the peak and take in the view. I had heard so much about getting off a summit before the afternoon thunderstorms roll in. I still kick myself for leaving so soon because there were no storms that day. I felt like I had to hurry down; knowing that it took me 3 hours to go from tree line to summit, I figured it would take at least half that amount to get back to tree line.
On my way down I had to stop and pull over for a few guys on mountain bikes. I was surprised at how fast they took the trail and at how much I wish I had a bike with me at that time. As soon as I got to the top, I was happy I did it, but I wanted to be back to my car immediately! Unfortunately that wasn't the case, so instead I just double timed it down the trail. I passed a gentleman that asked me where I was headed. I told him 'the Barr trailhead, cause that's where my car is. I started out early this morning.' I believe his jaw fell open. He told me that he 'had summated Pike's 29 times, (I don't remember the exact amount, but it was in the double digits) and not once had he done the round trip.' I thought that was odd, I figured plenty of people had done what I was doing. I probably should have taken it as a warming.
It was pretty hot above tree line, so I was happy when I finally got into the shade of the trees. I stopped once again at Barr Camp because my feet were starting to bother me. I knew they would be much worse by the end of the trip. Once I felt like I and wasted enough time at Barr Camp, I geared up and set off. I tried to be nice to my feet, but at the same time I wanted to be home as soon as possible. The closer I got to the trailhead, the slower I got. By the time I got to the end I was taking baby steps my feet were so sore. It was very hard for me to walk. I was also very sick of being on the Barr Trail.
When I got home, I filled my bath tub with hot water and just soaked myself until the water turned cold.