Friday, September 22, 2006

Pikes Peak Busted! Denver is as great as ever!

Part One - Getting Ready For the Hike

Remember my entry called Pikes Peak or Bust? Well, I have returned from my annual charity Pikes Peak Challenge hike. And I busted it! Finished the 14 mile, 7400 vertical feet, trip in 8 hours hiking (breaks not counted) time! Most important is the journey to raise money for the Brain Injury Association of Colorado, but it definitely felt great when I finished in light snow.

I would like to begin from the beginning of my vacation. Thursday, Sept. 7: After scrambling to get everything done at work and at home, I made my way to the Metro to get to BWI via a MARC Train. My trip could have unraveled before I even got on the plane. First, the Yellow Line had major backups due to a train breakdown. This caused the trains to be rush-hour packed and then some. The next problem was completely my fault, as I got off the train at L’Enfant Plaza out of habit, as the last few times I took Metro I got off there. Oops, two stops early so I needed to get another Yellow Line Train to a Red Line before making it to Union Station with two minutes to spare.

The MARC Train was a pleasant, quick trip to BWI, which is a million times better than Dulles Airport. Easy to get around, short security lines that are organized (yes Dulles I am sucker punching you), and overall quite clean and inviting. Both flight segments were typically uneventful, read a magazine, try to sleep but pretty much fail at that, blah blah. I did walk right past USA Softball pitching standout Cat Osterman at DFW Airport, so that was interesting. The Colorado Springs Airport turned out to be a pleasant surprise: 2 minute walk to baggage claim, then 1 minute to rental cars and the respective lot. Small airports like Springs and Manchester, America’s Best are really cool to fly into after dealing with the Logans,O’Hare’s, and Dulles of the world.

Friday, Sept. 8: Time to do an acclimization (sp) hike and see some old Victorian Buildings that are now limited-stakes casinos in Cripple Creek. The drive through Ute Pass then south to Cripple Creek was scenic like most mountain drives in Colorado are. The 4 mile hike I did through Poverty Gulch on the Gold Camp Trail was fairly uneventful, but had some old mine remains for sights (I left my disposable camera in my rental car and am trying to get it back). I only huffed and puffed for breath once, at the very start. This was encouraging because I really needed to go on this acclimization hike, coming from sea level and all. The town of Cripple Creek rests at just over 9,500 feet above sea level, the hike took me just around 10,000 feet. Going into this trip, I felt that even though I don’t live in Colorado anymore, I was actually in better shape this year because of more focused, more intense, midweek training. This short hike helped confirm that and got me ready for the big hike the next day.

That night was the pre-hike dinner and rally. They give you tips to get ready for the hike, a brain injury survivor who is hiking tells a story of their recovery, which is the most inspiring 10-20 minutes of the weekend. Very riveting and quite emotional to hear this year’s speaker, Rick Hughes, who has done some amazing hiking and skiing stuff since his recovery. I met him briefly the next day, he is a great person as well. After hearing about what these survivors had to deal with, I will not complain about a sore hip or leg at mile 12, that’s for sure.

There was one potential trouble spot, the weather forecast. Pretty good chance of thunderstorms, so we were warned there was a chance we might get turned around before the summit. I have no problem with being told to turn around if the weather is dangerous, regardless of the hike. From experience, I have nearly learned this weather lesson the hard way via severe thunderstorms, once on Mount Washington and once in a foothills park west of Denver. Better to be safe than sorry. For this hike I try to get six good hours of sleep with a 3 AM wake up call and 5 AM start time beckoning, but I barely get it. Can’t wait to hike but am also nervous since it’s by far the longest, most challenging hike I do all year.

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