Group: My Dad, Justin, Chris, Elizabeth, Colin (Astrobassman), Dave (CODave), Floyd (My Yellow Lab)
Route: Barr Trail with overnight at Barr Camp
Saturday, September 27, 2008
My Dad, Justin, Chris and Elizabeth and I set off from the Barr Trailhead around 2:45 and I was in the lead since I had Floyd leashed around my waist. He seems to have a complex where he always needs to be in front. I took my time but I would later learn that the pace was a bit too aggressive.
I'm very close with my parents and my Dad has always been one of my best friends. He lives in NC and has had 2 surgeries this year on one knee, another on the other knee last year and we find out this week if his leg is broken (pre-hike). My parents are incredibly supportive of my pursuits; Growing up, they didn't miss a game, meeting, etc, and that continued in college as they drove 400 miles for EVERY home game (still making the majority of away games) and then travelled all over the country and a few trips to Europe as I started playing ball professionally. I knew he would have a rough time with this hike and I tried to talk him out of it, but he didn't want to miss my finisher. He's a stubborn 60-year old man and takes a tremendous amount of pride in being able to accomplish things such as this climb – I'm kind of a chip off the old block, so to speak.
My Dad and I taking a breather on the way up
We got to the rock "arch" where the trail begins to mellow and my Dad was spent. Even though the trail is relatively flat from there to the cabin, we would need to take several breaks in order to make any progress. I didn't mind too much though, while a steady drizzle was falling, the aspen were in peak season and I was surprised and thrilled that the area held so much color since that portion of the state is usually associated more with pine forests. The rain seemed to keep us cool more than anything and we trudged along until it started getting dark.
Fall Colors along the Barr Trail
Justin, an experienced outdoorsman, has been a friend of mine since our freshman year at William and Mary, 13 years ago. I don't think I could thank him enough for introducing me to hiking and the 14ers. He has a few peaks to his credit, but his mountain destinations usually consist of a quiet lake where he can throw a line in the water rather than a crowded trail heading to a summit. He led Chris and Elizabeth up to Barr Camp while I stayed back with my Dad. About that time, 6:45, I received a call from Colin telling me he was at the trailhead – he started later so he could catch the UM game. Right after the group went ahead, my Dad was able to find new energy as we could smell the fireplaces of camp. We checked into the upper cabin at 7:30 and I quickly made some dinner for us as we got settled for the night.
We sat around the cabin, enjoying the 12-pack of Old-Chub I packed in until my Dad started cramping something fierce. First, it was his hamstrings and I got those massaged out, but once I started stretching him out, his quads went. Anyone who has ever gone through this knows, it isn't only incredibly painful, but pretty scary to think any movement leads to another cramp. Luckily, he was already in bed so all he needed to do was lie still while I got his Camelback on his shoulder and stuffed him full of Gatorade, Gummy Fruit Snacks, and anything else that held electrolytes, sugars, and salts. Once comfortable, he was asleep almost immediately.
Chris and I are now finishing up our final year of our MBA and we've been project partners for the duration. He and his wife Elizabeth have found the mountains just as his job is relocating them to Chicago this winter. I promised to take him up Longs after graduation; hopefully he can make it back next year. We talked the night away until Colin showed up a little after 9:00 – thankfully with beer reinforcements.
I met Colin last year on Columbia and we spent much of last summer going through our list of 14ers together. We didn't climb together much this year since we were both trying to finish and while I give sh!^break tons of crap about "bailing" on the Weminuche trip, he's a reliable partner and has become a good friend as well. He quickly got settled and joined in on the conversation. As Chris, Elizabeth, and Justin faded off to sleep, our conversation quickly turned to future plans and our beloved mountains. We stayed up until around 12:30 before deciding to call it a night.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
I also met Dave on Columbia last year and he's been a staple climbing partner since. Again, trying to align schedules with which 14ers we have left made getting together difficult, (#1 reason why I'm now glad to be done with them) but we've always kept each other up-to-date on our plans and I'm sure we'll have a few more adventures together in the near future. He wanted to do the whole thing as a day-hike to train for the Grand Canyon in a few weeks, so he got to the cabin at the well timed hour of 7:15, just as pancakes were served.
After eating my weight in "Peanut Butter Protein Power Pikes Peak Pancakes" we started up the trail around 8:00 am. My Dad was well rested and refreshed and I tempered the pace substantially after the experience the day before and he paid much more attention to his water and food intake. We made treeline around 10:00 and everything was looking good. Up the switchbacks we went and the terrain got more and more rocky. This would be the major obstacle for the day. While my Dad's knee can take simple hiking, anything resembling a step-up is pretty painful since he really couldn't bend that leg.
Hiking in Fall Colors
The group around treeline
Enjoying the views and a breather
Justin, Dave, Chris, and Elizabeth went ahead for the summit, while my Dad, Colin, and I took our time. The "16 Golden Steps" really took their toll on my Dad's knee. He didn't have much of an issue with the altitude since his diet was much better than the day before (and Colin and Dave introduced him to Gu), but the rocky steps were tough. At 1:15, I turned to shake his hand as he topped out on his 2nd 14er (Sneffels was his first on 7/4/06) and he gave me a hug to congratulate me on #58. Floyd, still tied to my waist, added #13 to his credit.
Group Shot on the Summit
The trek up took longer than planned so we didn't have much time to celebrate but the next task at hand was to find the ladies in my life (unfortunately, my Mom couldn't make this trip.) I heard a familiar "Dadda!" as I walked out of the gift shop and I was greeted with a kiss from my wife and a big hug from my little girl. While my wife has yet to climb a 14er, she has been supportive and understanding of my passion for the mountains. She grows weary and sometimes very tired of my ramblings of obscure basins and random peaks, but she puts up with me. She has a love for the backcountry as long as it includes a water feature of some sort – preferably a falling one – or a car camp complete with a couple servings of s'mores. I think I can convert her as soon as I get her on a couple of summits, but that remains to be seen. A trip to Willow Lake should do the trick since it has best of both worlds.
Family Photo - not pictured is Hank, our Black Lab who had ACL surgery a couple of weeks ago.
My daughter's attention then turned quickly to my hiking poles which she thinks are just the coolest things ever. We got our summit pictures taken care of and Colin packed up a 14er ESB in lieu of champagne. I learned beer tends to explode out of a bottle at 14,000 feet so I think my nose got more than my stomach, but it was a swig I won't soon forget. I thanked each for making the trip up and we began to part ways.
My Dad, Justin, and Floyd got into my wife's car, Chris and Elizabeth boarded the train, and, at 1:45, Colin, Dave and I started the long slog back to the TH. We wasted very little time, making treeline in an hour and arriving at Barr Camp at 3:45. After 15 minutes to pack up our stuff, we were back on the trail at 4:00. On the way down, we contemplated sticking our hiking poles in the spokes of a mountain biker as he went by (multiple times) doing about 30 MPH around blind turns, passed by a SAR rescue (Sprained Ankle), and hit the intersection for the Incline at 5:00. At 6:00 pm, I was back in my car heading for Parker and the Hickory House for a celebratory dinner with my family.
Return to Barr Camp
One last shot of the colors on the way down.
It was an incredible weekend to say the least. I was under the impression that the Barr Trail was nothing more than a slog, but I found it to be very rewarding and beautiful – especially with the colors. Dave, Colin, and I discussed the possibility of returning to the camp this winter since it is so well run and hospitable with some hard-working welcoming residents running the place. The summit, of course, is a parking lot but an interesting experience nonetheless. Most of all, I enjoyed the company of a few of the people that helped me to get to 58… Thanks again guys.
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):