Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Literal Hikes are so Much More Fun than Metaphoric Ones

I started my day our right.

I had a fluffernutter for breakfast.

If you don't know, a fluffernutter is a toasted, buttered sandwich filled with peanut butter (the crunchy kind is best, with as many trans fats as you can find, because they're the best kind) and marshmallow creme spread.  No, seriously, it's a thing.  Normally, it should be eaten on Wonderbread, but for some reason my house only contains healthy all grain crap these days, so I had to make do.

As I chewed on the gooey goodness, I found myself smiling.

In the morning.

On a Sunday.  (I know, right?  What the....?)

But I was happy.  We were going for a hike.  A literal hike, not the figurative mountain climbing that I do at work.

This was going to be awesome.  And I probably wouldn't die.


We decided that the first day after Colorado's first big snowstorm would be a good day to head up to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Originally, we were going to go up on Saturday night, while the moon was nearly full, but a couple of things stood in my way.

  1. There was a blizzard.
  2. The local brewery was having its Oktoberfest that day, and no one wanted to stay sober.

Me: "But, but, but, the weather is so much more fun when you're out playing in it."

My Mom:  "Leauxra, Oktoberfest."

Me: "But, but..."

Dad: "You can still go.  We're just going to go to Oktoberfest."

Me: 'But..."

Boyfriend: "They have a point, you know."


So we headed out on Sunday, bright and mid-morning after drinking all day on Saturday.


There was a slight post-apocalyptic feel to the trail head.

We were heading up to a place called Chasm Lake, which resides underneath the 2500 foot diamond shaped granite cliff that is the east face of Longs Peek.  The trail to Chasm Lake follows the same path as the way to the summit, with a turnoff at the holy-crap-you-want-me-to-walk-where? to get to the lake.

Since Longs Peak is the 14,000 plus foot peak farthest north in that Rocky Mountain chain, and because it is the only 14er within Rocky Mountain National Park, it is ridiculous with people all summer.  The parking lot will fill up, as well as the side of the road for a good mile or two downhill.

The parking lot at the Longs Peak trail head.  Where are all the people?

A few minutes later we headed out.

The trail starts around 9500 feet above sea level, and goes up from there, and today, the trail was further complicated by having a few inches of snow on top.  It only took a few minutes before I was not only gasping for air, but sweating profusely.  It was maybe 30 degrees Fahrenheit, and still.

It was really beautiful, despite the minor discomfort of not being able to breathe.  Like a goddamned greeting card.

As we went, we came upon two hikers coming down.

Normal trail ediquite calls for the person going down to make way for the people going up.  I was panting a bit though, and I stepped off the trail to catch my breath and let them pass.

"Hi," I chirped, pretending I was not short of breath.

No response. 

"Nice day for a hike, huh?"  I said.

One of the guys said (a little dully), "Yeah."

How the fuck could these guys NOT respond to me?  Look how cute I was in my kitty hat!  And my hiking pants are totally flattering!  

I couldn't understand what their problem was.  If I'm in a good mood, EVERYONE should be in a good mood, right?  Jerks. I glanced behind me as they passed my mom, and noticed they had ice axes and crampons.  Maybe they were trying to go for the summit and were tired.


I shrugged and moved on.

It was around the time that the trees started getting shorter.  I was amazed there is no wind as I had never been here in anything less than a gale force.

It is usually so windy that the trees only have branches on one side (click to enlarge).

We passed some friendly hikers as we broke out above the trees.  They were on their way down.  Unlike those jerks below, they actually responded.

"Hi," I said, "Nice day!"

Female Hiker: "Yeah, it's is gorgeous."

My Boyfriend: "What's the weather like up there?"

Male Hiker: "About the same.  We didn't get far, the trail gets hard to follow."

Female Hiker: "Did you see those guys coming down?  They got lost last night in the storm, ended up staying the night."

Me: "Oh really?  The guys with the ice axes?"

Femal Hiker: "Yeah."

Male Hiker: "Apparently it got really hard to see and they decided to hunker down for the night."

Me:  "Oh."

I felt a little like a jerk for thinking they were jerks after they had gone through an ordeal like that.  And also thankful to Oktoberfest for keeping me out of the snow on Saturday.

The trail became difficult to follow.  Only a few inches fell, but it drifted waist deep in some places, completely covering cairns and the rocks along the side of the trail.  Boyfriend didn't want to walk on the delicate tundra, so he kept plowing through the snow to make a path in the correct place.  Walking took a lot of work.

There s a trail in there somewhere.  I swear.

Things start clearing up as we near the ridgeline, and we passed another pair of hikers.  The man said, "Ahh!  Snow cat! Ha ha!"  He sounded French.

I smiled, not getting the joke.  "Nice day," I said.

French Man:  "Very nice out."

Boyfriend says, "How is it up there?"

French Man: "Longs Peak was teasing us, but she stayed hidden."

I looked up.  I could see where Chasm lake should be, almost, and the clouds were still socking it in.  It looked like maybe they would burn off before we got there.

Our path was towards those big cliffs and jagged peaks.

A few minutes later, I said, "Oooooh!  I get it!  The hat!  Oh!  That's why that guy called me a snow cat!"  I had completely forgotten about my cat-eared hat.

I would like to blame lack of oxygen, but I might be this scatterbrained all the time.

We took turns using the bathroom, which was a 4 foot high pit toilet on the edge of a steep drop.  It doesn't have much privacy, but it does have a spectacular view..

We continued walking into the dramatic setting.  Icicles were being warmed by the sun, and as they melted, they lost their grip on the cliffs above and came crashing down.  At first I thought they were pretty far from the trail, but I realized that I was stepping over some broken icicles on the trail as big around as my arm.

We spread out as we walked, all moving faster, and hoping we wouldn't die.

The final challenge involved climbing up a partially frozen waterfall to get over the lip of the morraine.  This spot is shadowed, and a breeze picked up from the valley below. I wasn't sure if I was shivering from the cold or from fear, but I kept going until we reached the top.

At that moment, the east face of Longs Peak came out for a momentary visit, before hiding behind clouds again.

The diamond on the east face of Longs.

Chasm Lake, not frozen yet.

The clouds moving back in.

We sat on the rocks, trying to get out of the wind, and had our lunch before heading back.

Boyfriend said, "Well, halfway there."

I laughed.  I was pleased we had made it this far.

The way back was faster, and partly spent in the timelessness of walking in the clouds that caught up to us.

The 8.4 mile round trip took almost 8 hours. Yeah, not going to be winning any marathons with that pace.  But I think there are hardly any marathons that I know of that run through drifted snow over rocks.

I went home with a feeling of exhilaration and accomplishment, and a little bit perplexed.

For a long time, I couldn't figure out why I was going back to my cubicle after this.


Anonymous said...

It's Hoody Hoo, I had ONE DAY of being allowed to comment...

"My Mom: "Leauxra, Oktoberfest."" -- Now, I know you're not me because you keep GOING OUTSIDE and shit, but have you considered that your mother may be Dear Sweet Mama?

Anonymous said...

Love the kitty hat!

shutupandrun said...

Awesome post - gorgeous and chilly. And crazy about those guys staying up there for the night. Guess that is why the didn't comment on your hat.

MakingSpace said...

Wow, wow, wow!!! I love the photos soooo much - and your description of the hike was awesome - and your kitty had is rockin. The last photo just did somethin' to my li'l heart. Cubicles, forsooth!

MakingSpace said...

hat. Kitty hat. Doh.

Paula said...

These photos are so beautiful and peaceful. We don't get a lot of snow where I live so I will live vicariously through your snow pictures, I hope that's ok! :)

Stephanie said...

Intense! You don't kid around with your hikes. I thought that I like hiking, but my version of hiking is a 4 km loop on a nice wide trail. I'd love to try something "tougher" someday, but I'm admittedly kind of a wimp.

Leauxra said...

Hoody: Hmm... I wonder... Is DSM a redhead? 'Cause mine is. Of course, mine wanted to go to Oktoberfest, but she still went OUTSIDE with me the following day, so that might nix that theory.

thoughtsappear: What's funny is I have an EVEN BETTER cat hat, one that actually scares my cats, but I bought it last summer and put it in my trunk and forgot about it. I will wear it next time.

shutupandrun: You know, I constantly have to remind myself that people have reasons not to respond to me. Some are better than others. And thanks for inspiring the format of this post.

Making Space: Awwww... You make me feel all happy inside. I am glad you like this! Something a little different from my usual sarcasm post. If you click the pictures, you can get a full screen image. Feel free to keep it as your wall photo. :)

Paula: I will be putting up lots of snowy pictures this year, I think, so feel free to be vicarious. What's funny is that it hardly ever snows where I live, about a 40 minute drive from winter wonderland. It is so worth the trip!

Stephanie: The so-called "tough" trails are mostly just trails that don't have a lot of visitors. Just walk slow, and expect to not make it to your destination most of the time, and the "moderate" or "difficult" trails are just another place to go. They also tend to have fewer people, which is awesome when you are escaping to the woods. And don't belittle your hiking! You go! You do stuff! That is awesome.

PudMonkey said...

Awww... makes me miss the Rockies! But, here we can see the ocean from the tops of our mountains, which is pretty gosh dang fabulous. You'll have to come check it out sometime.

Leauxra said...

PudMonkey: One of these days, I will take you up on that. I would love to come up to Alaska.

wagthedad said...

Fluffernutter. Do you put the peanut butter on after you toast or before? Because I just found out that a friend of mine's mom makes grilled peanut butter sandwiches, like a grilled cheese only with peanut butter instead of cheese.


Leauxra said...

wagthedad: Holy crap! I usually just toast it, then add peanut butter and marshmallow creme. Oh wow. You're brilliant. From now on I will make GRILLED fluffernuters.