It's been a scant 2 months since my last trip to Colorado, and yet it seemed forever to me. All summer, while stewing in the desert heat of an unusually hot and dry year, I often steered my thoughts to those rocky peaks. Call it rocky-mountain fever or anoxia-induced delirium, I wanted desperately to go back to the fourteeners that I now consider friends. I wanted to smell the pines in the emerald forests, to hear the trickle of mountain streams and the whisper of alpine breezes, to "converse" with the pikas and marmots, and to admire once again the blooming columbine. But most of all, I wanted to reach new heights, to conquer new summits, and to hike more of the rocky mountains that I've grown to love.
Finally my chance came. A couple of my friends from Phoenix were going to be in the Denver area on Labor Day, and that was excuse enough for me! It was the week before Labor Day, the traditional end of summer (for every place except Phoenix), when I made hasty plans to return to Colorado during the holiday week. Being gainfully employed again, I had to be miserly with vacation allowances. When I started the trip, I was guaranteed 2 days off in the short work week. But as it turns out, I was able to shirk my duties for the entire week. Yes!
So the trip planning began on Friday, the day before I was to leave (my modus operandi). The packing was easy since I've grown accustomed to these hiking trips. Got all my hiking gear, camping gear, a cooler, maps, clothes, and food. Everything was ready to go -- everything that is except my destination(s). On my last expedition, I pretty much knew which mountains I wanted to tackle. This time, faced with a choice of 54-8=46 peaks, I had no idea! Tell you a secret about me: I'm a perpectual optimalist (if that's even a word). My definition is someone who tries to optimize everything. The best way to confuse me is to give me a whole lot of information because I'll sit there forever trying to figure out an optimal way to accomplish the most. Choosing which peaks to hike on this trip was no easy task.
Well, I knew I had to be in Denver by Monday, and I knew I wanted to hike a mountain along the way, so I began the trip with that in mind and drove in the direction of Colorado. Due to chores and errands I had to get done before leaving town, added to that the "get-out-of-the-heat" traffic on Saturday morning, it was noon before I even crossed Phoenix city limits. The drive seemed uneventful as my mind focused on preparing for a late-night arrival in Colorado and finding a suitable mountain for the next day. All along the way, I was reading my map and guide book to see where I wanted to be for the night.
The solution more or less presented itself after I failed to make up my mind well into the evening. Driving along highway 285, I looked for a motel in a town near a fourteener. My only criteria was that the fourteener didn't require rope work and was accessible with my little Chevy Prizm. By about 11:30 pm, I finally arrived at Salida, which has a bunch of peaks near it. Unfortunately all the hotels in town were booked, so I decided just to camp for the night.
Salida is at the southern tip of the Sawatch Range, chock full of fourteeners. I have quite an assortment of hikes from which to choose, so I was happy. Once again, I managed to bounce between hiking near the Sawatch and Front Ranges and staying with my good friend Annette who lives near Denver. The following table shows the hikes I was able to finish on this trip.
|Mount Shavano (14,231') / Tabeguache Peak (14,162') Poncha Springs, Colorado||2002-09-01||10 mi||5,351 ft|
|Mt Democrat (14,155') / Mt Lincoln (14,293') / Mt Bross (14,178') Alma, Colorado||2002-09-03||8 mi||3,585 ft|
|Mount Princeton (14,204') Nathrop, Colorado||2002-09-04||8 mi||3,384 ft|
|Quandary Peak (14,271') Tordal Estates, Colorado||2002-09-05||7 mi||3,371 ft|
|La Plata Peak (14,336') Everett, Colorado||2002-09-06||11 mi||4,256 ft|
|Mount Belford (14,203') / Mount Oxford (14,160') Vicksburg, Colorado||2002-09-07||12 mi||5,963 ft|
|Grand Total:||6 of 7 days||56 mi||25,910 ft|