| Of Mice, Mountains & Men
Party: Chris (cbauer10), Lynn (LynnKH) and Jason (JasonF)
Route: Train (Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge) from Silverton to the Needleton drop-off then on-foot to the Chicago Basin via the Needle Creek trail
Mileage (train-assisted): ~ 26 miles
Mileage (on-foot): ~ 19 miles
Vertical Gain (on-foot): ~ 8,500 feet
Friday (09/17/10) Timeline:
Leave Park N Ride (PNR) lot (South Turkey Road, off Hwy 285): 6:30 AM
Arrive Silverton: 1:45 PM
Depart Silverton: 3:15 PM
Start hiking at Needleton dropoff: 4:30 PM
Arrive at Camp (~ 11,000 feet): 8:30 PM
Saturday (09/18/10) Timeline:
Leave Camp: 4:30 AM
Reach Twin Lakes: 6:00 AM
Summit N. Eolus: 8:15 AM (PEAK #1)
Summit Eolus: 9:15 AM (PEAK #2)
Back to Twin Lakes: 11:00 AM
Summit Windom: 1:00 PM (PEAK #3)
Summit Sunlight: 3:30 PM (PEAK #4)
Back to Twin Lakes (again): 5:00 PM
Back to Camp: 6:30 PM
Sunday (09/19/10) Timeline:
Leave Camp: 8:00 AM
Reach Needleton pickup for train: 10:45 AM
Board train: 11:40 AM
Depart train at Silverton: 12:45 PM
Back at PNR (after several pitstops): 9:15 PM
But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy! - Robert Burns (1785)
I have found that the highlights of my 14er trips typically occur not on the summit but in the valleys. Many of us seek out the mountaintop experience (physical, spiritual, mental or otherwise), however I believe what truly defines us, molds us and transforms us is the process of getting to the mountaintop. My 14er quest has on more than one occasion provided a valuable object lesson in failure.
Any quest of this magnitude requires time and with time will naturally come joy, grief and pain. I've had the joy of hiking with my wife come to a screeching halt due to chronic joint pain and a recent diagnosis of fibromyalgia. I've had the joy of seeing life lived to its fullest through the hilarious (and often irreverent) exploits of the larger than life character known as The Talus Monkey come to an untimely termination due to one bad decision on the descent of a relatively "easy" 14er. I've had the joy that comes from summitting 14ers (not to mention 4-wheeling Lake Como Road) with man's best friend come to a bittersweet end for a fellow hiking partner due to a freak incident on a remote wilderness peak. And finally I've had the joy of personal success on this trip be overshadowed only minutes away from leaving Silverton by the tragic news of a family member's death. In conclusion we make our plans however in many ways we're like tiny little mice as plans are often changed by powers outside of our control.
Allison: Most of your days are harder than the toughest 14er! Keep up the good race and know that I'll always be there for you, even when I'm stupidly trying to fix something that God may be using for His glory (Romans 5:3-5)
David: RIP and Long Live the TM!!
Chris: Thanks for sharing the trail with me these past couple years. You're a great person, who like my wife, is not afraid to be brutally honest – I appreciate that trait. I hope that you find peace with Denali's unfortunate passing. I'm praying that your finisher summit experience will offer a small ray of sunlight in this time of darkness. You get the "Tough Guy" award for going on to wrap up the Grand Slam (that's all the 14ers for you flatlanders out there) after taking a nasty spill coming down the junk slope that is the north face of Windom Peak.
Noah (aka Noaey): I pray that your soul finds the rest that the ravages of lupus kept from your body and mind (Psalm 130)
Lynn: Kudos for not letting the real mice of this world spoil your joy this past weekend. You get the "Cool Hand Luke" award for dealing with mice both nights of the trip, including one little guy that paid you a visit inside your tent on Friday night (sorry about sleeping through that incident).
Of Mountains (From My Perspective):
Mountains don't have feelings and care very little about whether we fail or succeed. They provide an opportunity for us frail humans to gaze out over (more of) His Creation; to reflect on where we've been and what's ahead; and finally to appreciate the Gift of God's sacrifice. None of our personal victories (on or off the mountain) mean much without the ability to share these special milestones with those around us. Even in this present day age when the whole world can know something at the speed of twittering fingers I'd like to highlight some important milestones achieved this past weekend.
Chris: Great job again on the Grand Slam (all 58 14ers). What else can I say?
Lynn: Outstanding dedication with 20+ 14ers summitted just this summer. Way to go with surpassing the #30 mark on Mount Eolus (sorry Chris, I mean Aeolus ).
I was also fortunate in hitting the Big 5-0 on Windom Peak.
Here's a few pics of our adventure:
Team shot in front of Engine 486 – our mode of travel to the Needleton drop-off
Typical beautiful scenery viewed along the way to Needleton
Train pulling away from Needleton – see you in a couple days
One of many waterfalls along the way up to Chicago Basin
Cool stream shot
View of Mount Eolus from North Eolus – the ridge between is called the "Catwalk"
North Eolus team summit shot
Closeup of Eolus from the Catwalk
In the catbird seat – the crane on the catwalk
Lynn on the catwalk
Aeolus summit benchmark
Chris & Lynn ascending Windom Peak's west ridge; Eolus (left) and North Eolus Peaks in the distance with catwalk in between
View north from Windom's west ridgeline of Sunlight Peak (left) and Sunlight Spire (that pointy rock); if Sunlight Spire was 5' higher it would be a 14er (thank goodness)
And then there was one!!
Jason downclimbing Windom's north face
Lynn & Chris downclimbing Windom
Complete view of Windom's north face – can you find Chris and Lynn?
Lynn & Chris taking a breather on the gully up to Sunlight Peak
Lynn approaching the summit of Sunlight Peak
Jason & Lynn in the chimney near the summit to Sunlight Peak
Sunlight summit benchmark
Sweet Victory - #58!!!!!
One small step, one long drop if you miss…
This is what a Grand Slam finisher looks like
Obligatory Which Wich (a local sandwich shop) shot – can I get some au jus with that please?
Jupiter Mountain anyone?
Chris' minor flesh wound – sorry about the my lousy route selection on Windom's north face dude!!
Train coming in to pick us up
Hero shot on the train ride back to Silverton – a most excellent adventure!!!
Try to understand men, if you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a man well never leads to hate and nearly always leads to love.
– John Steinbeck (1938 journal entry)
This trip was rather difficult for me. Aside from the physical challenge of the long mileage and vertical gain, there was also an emotional challenge. While I'm not much for personal displays of emotion I am still human enough to get choked up inside about how far I've come, why I've gotten this far and what could have been.
I don't believe I'd be sitting in Colorado writing this trip report without my father. Not to downplay a mother's role, however a father plays a crucial role in society. When a father is "doing the right thing" there is joy or "heaven on earth"; likewise, when a father stumbles then there is pain and grief, or "living hell".
I'm grateful that my father invested time in my life. Although he was by no means perfect, I will always consider him as being unselfish and dedicated to raising his two sons. For instance, even though he wasn't much of an athlete he still played soccer with us (until he blew out his knee); he became a Boy Scout assistant leader when the troop needed help and ultimately became the Scout Master when the troop was struggling to survive. He was deeply committed to the boys and was responsible for several boys achieving the highest rank of Scouting – more importantly he likely saved a few of the boys from a prison cell or worse.
It was during my time in the Scouts that I discovered the rugged wilderness of the American West – again due to the sacrifice of my father. A 70 mile, 12 day backpacking trip (at the Philmont Scout Ranch, which is located in the Sangre de Cristo range in northern New Mexico) with a 30 pound pack seemed like a piece of cake when I was a stupid 16 year old (and consider that he did this trip twice with 10-15 unruly teenage boys). Now that I'm almost that age I can better appreciate the sacrifice. And this particular trip, like none other, beckoned me once again to reflect on his life and sacrifice. It was real hard riding the train into the Needleton stop as it reminded me of us getting dropped off by Amtrak in Raton, NM (after our 2-3 day train ride from the Midwest). It was even harder to pass by the moss covered rocks and numerous cascading waterfalls along the trail as it reminded me of several of our hikes together in my boyhood state of Ohio. And the hardest part of all is not being able to share any of these memories with him, as he was robbed of life at the age of 55. I was bitter about the joy in my life that ended with my father's passing. I still could be bitter I suppose however I chose many years ago to pursue this dream that I've had since first seeing the 14ers from my quick stop in Denver and Colorado Springs back in 1986 & 1988. The dream had laid dormant for many years, his death brought new life to it, my wife brought the dream to birth by agreeing to move here, the dream became a reality because of this website, the reality became a quest and now the quest is nearing its end.
Dad – thanks for your life. It was a life that was dedicated to helping others and seeking out the best in others. You were a living, breathing example of Steinbeck's quote mentioned above. This trip report is dedicated to you. I look forward to sharing a few hikes once God calls me to my real home.
In Loving Memory
Raymond Antoine Foisset (1944 - 1999)
Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):