The 2nd Colorado 14ers Trip

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Wednesday after work Heath and I grabbed the girls and went out for Mexican asap. Then rushed home and I rushed to get the cooler packed and all the last minute things together. Jon showed up early and topped all the fluids off in the truck and we started loading it up. Pops and I had built a little wood cover for the bed that I somehow didn’t end up with any pictures of. Jake showed up and we got all the gear inside the bed but the giant cooler, 5 gal water jug and poop bucket so we strapped those things to the top of the cover, totally blocking our view out the back window.

The drive went well and fairly quick, I think we all got some brief sleep in. We did have problems with the straps holding the cooler and stuff down a couple times that slowed us down but we made it to the main trail-head for Mt. Massive around 5am. We got our gear together and headlamps on and started the climb. We were a bit out of it because of the lack of sleep and the lower oxygen at altitude and the dark part of the hike was kind of a blur. I feel like we hiked pretty fast for an hour in the dark before turning off our headlamps and starting to see the thick woods in the predawn light. Once we got above the tree line and into the valley we looked back and saw we had been in some thick clouds.

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This part of the hike was really pretty. It was cool to turn around and see the clouds covering the woods.

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And look up and try to figure out where the peek is.

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We are pretty sure you never see the real peak when you are headed up and think you do. We took stops to eat and drink from the mountain streams.

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We also tried to figure out where we were, how high we were, what we had already done and what was left. We discovered we had parked at the East Slopes Trail head but had planned to park at the Southwest Slopes Trail head. Not a huge deal as they both go up the same mountain and the trail heads are just off the same road a few miles apart. However instead of being an 8 mile round trip hike we had a 14.5 mile round trip hike. This was kind of a bummer but we had climbed too high to do much about it.

We were all breathing heavy constantly, drinking water like crazy and sleepy. I was feeling good otherwise, Jon had a little headache and was hitting the ibuprofen but Jake had a terrible headache that kept getting worse the higher he climbed. We also saw textbook thunderstorm clouds making there way to the peak.  We figured out we had gone 6.25 miles and had 1 more to the top but it was really steep and the 2nd half of it was really exposed on the ridge. Jake’s altitude sickness was getting worse so Jon and I decided to make a run for it as fast as we could and Jake would start back down.

We rushed our way up to the ridge and right away got some great views of the other side and the clouds did not look as bad that direction.

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But the peak was not looking so clear.

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We huffed and puffed our way up the last half mile and after a little convincing we made it to 14,421′.

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The view was totally worth it.

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However a tiny amount of sleet started to fall from the dark cloud directly above us right after we got there so we took our picture then headed back.

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We rushed our way down the mountain at a really fast pace but it still surprised us how far it was.The clouds had all left the woods and the flowers were really bright in the sun.

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I don’t think the peak ever got the storm or anything worse then what we saw but we had a long day and it was good to keep moving. I thought we would catch Jake on the way down but we never did. Every 15 min or so I was sure it was just around the bend but it never was, we had covered a lot of ground in our predawn sleepy state.

We found Jake at the truck, took off our hiking shoes and opened up our victory beers. I had been given a tip to soak your legs in a cold mountain stream after the climb to help them recover and on this hot sunny day I was all for it and it felt great.

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I didn’t take any pictures the rest of the day but a lot happened that we are a little fuzzy on. We drove about an hour to our campsite. We were car camping at this BLM area. The BLM is really kind of a free for all, you camp wherever you want and the rules are don’t burn down the forest or poop all over the place (hence the poop bucket). A coworker of mine had directed us to a great spot just along the Arkansas River and a feeder stream that was really private and really remote.

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We unpacked the truck and set up hammocks and stuff but the sky was getting darker and darker and the wind was getting stronger and stronger. The tarps on the hammocks were all over the place and we knew if it rained while the wind was so strong we would get wet.

We ultimately decided to setup a small tent, steak it down really good and park the truck right next to it to block the wind. A picture from the next morning:

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We cooked a huge pile of chicken thighs, rice and beans then got inside the tent and out of the wind before the rain came and well before the sun went down. I think we were all asleep crazy fast. I remember waking up from a dead sleep at 8:30 to pee, it being light out and me not sure if it was am or pm but not carrying and going back to sleep. We woke up a few times to pouring rain or strong wind but went right back to sleep. We got up at 6am, 12 hours after laying down and we all felt great. We cooked up a big hearty breakfast packed up camp for possible rain and grabbed what we needed for the next adventure.

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We were glad we got such an early start when we discovered how long the drive was to the section of the river we were rafting. We saw lots of mule deer and bighorn sheep on the way to River Rafters. We got there like 10 min early, met our guide and left as soon as we were ready. They outfitted us with a helmet, lifejacket and paddle, instructed us on what to do and not do if you fall in and off we went.

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It was just the 3 of us and the guide on our boat and we let him know pretty early we were up for anything and willing to paddle hard.

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The morning we learned the paddles and commands and did some class 2 and 3 rapids. Immediately we were soaked but it was hot and sunny and the water felt great. We got a good feel for how it works and had some fun then took a lunch break.
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We made sandwiches and dried out some then went back to the river. Shortly later we entered the Royal Gorge. I didn’t take many pictures all day because i was paddling and having fun and trying to stay in the raft. We got into quite a bit of class 3 and 4 stuff. The water was really fun and the history of the area was fascinating. We also stopped to jump off some rocks and experiment swimming in some crazy currents.

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We had great weather all day on the river and our whole float was great. I think we could have handed a bit more class 4 and crazy stuff. Our guide sensed this and did some crazy stuff like taking us down rapids backwards or kept the raft spinning around and around down rapids. He also did this crazy “surfing” thing where we would get the raft stuck on a current going upstream right behind an underground rock. This would ultimately cause the whole front of the raft to dive below the water with us hanging out in the middle of the current in chest high water waiting for the river to eventually toss us all downstream.

The clouds looked pretty dark when we got done. We got all changed and headed back toward camp. We were not eager to sit around a raining campsite so we hit up a brewery on the way. The truck had been making a bit of noise so we investigated in between rain showers in front of Soulcraft Brewery.

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It turned out to be nothing we wanted to worry about. We had some pretty tasty beers but knew there were more breweries on the way so continued on another 30 min or so to Eddyline Brewery. IMG_20170728_175048118

It was really getting dark and cooling off but we sat on a covered portion of the outside porch at the bar. The food smelled great, the staff was really fun and the beers were great. We were really getting sucked into staying but knew we had to get back to camp and cook dinner so we got going after 1 beer.

It was raining at camp but not windy. We setup the cannopy and lit some charcoal under it and slowly cooked burgers and mac and cheese.

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We knew we needed all the calories we could get for the morning so ate a ton and ended up staying up past dusk. We all had a terrible night of sleep. It stormed all night but was hot. When the alarm went off at 3am we felt worse then before we went to bed. We quickly packed up camp and drove 20-30 min to the correct trail head for our 8 mile Missouri Mountain hike. We hit the trail at 4:30am in the dark. We were a little unsure of the route as one of the connecting trails was a bit vague but we knew it would be shortly after our 5th water crossing.

The trail starts off with some super vertical switchbacks, leaving the parking lot and climbing right up through and past all the woods. It was dark for all of this so I didn’t take any pictures until the way down. There was several really exciting stream crossings and a few times we had to really search for the next part of the trail in the dark.

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Just as we left the treeline we had enough light to turn off the headlamps and look up the valley.

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We had been in a cloud all morning getting slowly misted on. We were getting slightly wet but knew if we put on rain jackets we would get just as wet sweating. The valley was fairly easy going and long and gradual but it was a bit depressing seeing thick clouds in all directions and not exciting views. IMG_20170729_062724844_HDR

We had our 3rd and 4th stream crossings.

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The clouds around us got thicker as we got to the end of the valley.

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We found our turn and headed back into steep switchbacks.

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We had no idea where the peak was or what it looked like. We could barely see each other much of the time. As we got higher it got more windy and colder. We ended up putting on all the jackets and hats and gloves we had.  IMG_20170729_084314396_HDR

Once we reached the ridge it was fun hiking but creepy views and my fingers were frozen. There was also no telling how much farther it went.

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Eventually though there was no place higher to go and we reached the summit.

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It was late morning Saturday and several people were up there with us including a group celebrating a birthday with cupcakes.  We were too cold and wet to party so rushed down the mountain.

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As we came down it stayed cloudy but we hit occasional pockets where you could see pretty good.

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It also warmed up off the ridge and I began to regain some feeling in my fingers. It takes less time and we go faster but the way down seems to feel so slow and monotonous.

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But the thoughts of victory beers, the heater in the truck and a change of clothes and shoes keep us going down. IMG_20170729_131252022

Once at the truck we had our beers and started planning. It was not raining at the time but it looked like it could at any minute or could be at the campsite. We had no interest in another sleepless wet night in the tent or hiking the next day in wet shoes and clothes so we packed up as soon as we got back to camp. We cooked up a big pot of chili while packing, ate it and left just as it started to sprinkle. We drove to Leadville and the 4th motel we found had vacancy.The office looked pretty sketchy with junk everywhere and a couch that seemed just for a dog to hang out on and eat on. They had a room for $76 and that seemed like a deal so we took it. Surprisingly the room was great, there were 3 beds, a hot shower, a space heater for drying shoes and room to hang a long clothesline across the room to dry our stuff out on. We got cleaned up and changed and tried out the local brewery.

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We were pretty beat and less excited about beers then we thought and we all got a weird vibe from the place so left after one and sought out food. It was actually harder to find then we expected but we eventually found some overpriced burritos ate them, gassed up the truck and headed back to the room. Stuff was drying nicely and at 7pm we went to sleep.

Once again the alarm went off at 3am and we packed up and headed out. This time we were feeling much better and rested. It was about a 20 min drive to the trail head and this time there was no markers or anything. We just knew we had to go 3 miles on a windy dirt road after the last fork in the road. We got out there and saw 1 car parked and some headlamps up on the mountain. We parked next to the other car and looked and looked and looked in the dark for a trail. We reread our descriptions of how to find it but could not. Eventually another car showed up and parked by us. Once the guy emerged we discovered he had no idea where to go either.

We all ended up making our way back down the road a bit and he found it and went off down the trail fast. Eventually we figured out we had parked in an unknown to us overflow parking area and had passed the real parking and trail head.It was much easier to see in the light from the top.

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This climb was a quick 4.5 mile round trip with 2,000′ of elevation change. It had rained a bunch the night before and the hike started out through a dark wet marsh. Jon and Jake’s newly dried shoes were soaked right off the bat as we tried to wind our way through bushes on an underwater trail. We left the marsh and got right into a straight up climb through scree.

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We were on headlamps for the beginning and the sun didn’t really rise until we had climbed most of our altitude.

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Once again we climbed to the top of each hill thinking it may be the summit only to find a curve and a higher peak in the distance.

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and another just beyond that.

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It was a beautiful morning and having actual views made it a lot more fun.

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On the ridge it was still really cold but we were not soaked through this time. Along the ridge the climbing was not nearly so steep and pretty cool.

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There was a small group that summit-ed just before and after us that took a picture for us.

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We had dreams of getting home for bedtime and after 5 min we headed down.

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From up high we could see another way up this peak from the other side that looked great, there was old mining buildings and equipment. The trail looked much more gradual and fun. But our path was the shortest and much closer to our hotel.

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We got down pretty quick and worked our way out of the scree and back across the marsh.

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We changed, repacked the truck for a long drive, re-positioning the cooler so we would not need to mess with it again and hit the road.

We took this drive in express mode and only stopped for gas and ate a late lunch in the truck while driving. We got home just after 8pm to unpack and get ready for the week.

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