As my time in Colorado comes to a close, I’ve been looking back on the past 2 weeks and realizing how much cool stuff I’ve gotten to experience and how many unexpectedly awesome moments emerged. So before we begin the journey home, here are a few of my highlights from this trip:
Discovering abandoned train tracks
We spotted the cool remains of an old train track while making our way to the first hike we would tackle on this trip (more on that in a second). One of the things I love about Colorado and a lot of the Western states is all the incredible history that still lingers, as seen in the countless ghost towns and abandoned mines that sprinkle the area.
Stepping foot on the Continental Divide Trail
After hearing about this hike from some family members, my dad and I decided to check it out one morning – starting from Rollins Pass, we hiked a little over 2 miles up to Rogers Pass, which intersects the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). I was really excited to step foot on the CDT – a 3,100-mile-long trail that stretches from Mexico to Canada – because along with the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Coast Trail, it makes up the Triple Crown of Hiking. One of my goals is to hike all 3 of these long-distance trails, and seeing the CDT in person only made me want to accomplish this goal sooner!
Bonus: close encounters with a herd of moose
On our drive up to the trailhead for the Rogers Pass hike, we actually spotted a small herd of moose crossing the road! Getting to see them so close was incredible – they’re a lot bigger than I would have thought, and I would not recommend messing with them.
Spotting a fox
If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I am completely obsessed with foxes. One thing I have always wanted to experience is seeing a fox “in the wild”, and it actually happened on this trip. We were driving through the town of Alma when I noticed a fox sitting near one of the buildings, quietly watching the road. I flipped out and made my dad turn the car around so we could get a better view of it. The fox just quietly watched as we got closer – it looked so beautiful and peaceful that I may or may not have shed a few tears.
Climbing my first 14,000′ tall mountain
On my family’s first big trip to Colorado last summer, we tried to summit our first 14,000′ tall mountain but had to turn back just a few hundred feet from the summit due to bad weather. This year, we were determined to come back and make it happen – and we did! We chose to hike Mount Sherman, a moderately difficult mountain dotted with abandoned mining buildings and topping out at 14,035′. We took a slow and steady pace on this hike which started amongst rolling hills, climbed through rock fields, and ended after a steep push along a snowy ridge line. None of us were expecting the mountain to be so rocky or snowy, so it ended up being a really fun but tiring challenge.
Exploring Garden of the Gods
On one of our designated chill days in between hikes, we spent some time exploring Garden of the Gods. The rock features in this park are some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen and they’re simply incomparable. We went on a short walk through the park, but even just being able to drive through it and pass all of the features was amazing.
Summiting Pikes Peak
This was our last big hike of the trip, and it did not disappoint. Pikes Peak is a legendary mountain (it’s known as America’s Mountain) and it has some of the best summit views I’ve ever experienced. The hike to the summit is no joke: the trail (officially called Barr Trail) gains 7500 feet of elevation over 13 miles. My dad and I originally planned on tackling the trail in 2 days, stopping 6 miles in at Barr Camp (an area with a hostel-like setup and campsites for hikers) and then finishing the remaining 7 miles the next day. The night before we began the hike, however, we began to see trail reports from hikers who managed to complete the whole trail in 6-8 hours, and we figured we might as well go all in and plan on doing it one day. I knew the trail would be tough, but I’m also confident in my health and physical abilities, so I was excited for the challenge. This trail ended up being the most difficult, but most rewarding, hike I’ve ever gone on. The first 6 miles are a steady incline up through a forest, and the steepness gets really serious once you reach the edge of the timberline and finally hike up above the trees. From there, the trail winds through foothills before ending with an insane 2-mile stretch of endless switchbacks up a rock field that leads you to the summit. My dad and I ended up taking about 7 1/2 hours to complete this trail, and I’m so proud we were able to knock it all out in one day. It was a painful but awesome experience, and one of the coolest hikes I’ve ever completed.