An impromptu hike of a 14-thousand-foot mountain with your mother does not constitute a typical Saturday morning, but it definitely makes for a fun one. Before going any further, I believe this is the part where I should say: “kids, don’t try this at home … or on a mountain.” I’ll add to that warning with: “one should never embark on an impromptu 14er,” and “do not hike mountains without proper preparation.” That said, with no water and only a bag of Frosted Mini-Wheats left by the time we reached tree-line, my mother and I reached the summit of Colorado’s Pikes Peak with the help of some mountain miracles.
Right from the start, the day was set for surprises. At 4:30 a.m., I woke up; loaded up my CamelBak with power bars, nuts and other great nutritious snacks; jumped in the car; and headed to the church parking lot to pick up my friend. Running late, as usual, I called to let her know that I was on my way and would be there soon.
“Hello?” a groggy voice answered; sounded like I was not the only one running late.
“Hey! I’m almost to the church, which parking lot do you want to meet at?” Her confused response quickly informed me of the situation. We had a bad case of misunderstanding. Our dates were not the same. After apologizing for waking her up at such a terrible hour on a Saturday, I headed back to my parents’ house, amazed at how I managed to misread our texts. I guess I was just so ready to get up that mountain.
Back at the house, I messaged my mom informing her of the mistake. She had been awake to tell me goodbye; she’s quite the early riser. Unsure how awake she was, I tossed out the idea of going for a little morning hike since we were both already up. After deciding that neither of us would be able to get back to sleep, we got our stuff together and headed to Barr Trail.
Now, a couple of important things to note: One, since my mother and I would only be going on a short 1 to 2-hour hike (so we thought), I unpacked all of my great nutritious snacks, switched out my big water-bottle for something lighter, and managed to only hold onto a bag of cereal: the mini wheats. Two, Barr trail, while often done in smaller portions, like we were planning, is the same trail to take up to the top of Pikes Peak.
And so, we began our hike. As the mile markers passed, the appeal of summiting Colorado Springs’ 14-er grew. At first, our goal was just to make it to the intersection at the top of the Incline and Barr Trail, about three miles up Pikes Peak. But, when we got there, our feet felt good and our lungs were still pumping, so we decided to keep trekking.
Although we were more than ready to keep hiking along, there was one little problem: we could not find the trail! When you reach the top of the Incline, the trail kind of disappears into a large open space with a couple trees, rocks and panting-Incline survivors. In our attempt to find it, we ended up blazing our own path in the woods for a jaunt.
When we emerged back onto what appeared to be a wide dirt trail, we met a couple guys visiting from CU Boulder, also confused. After one more dead-end, we all found the trailhead together. Finally on track, we chatted some with our new friends, leapfrogged back and forth, lost each other and then landed together again at a pretty funny moment later in the story; they were cool.
Miles past our original destination, my mom and I reached Barr Camp, the halfway point to the Pikes Peak summit. There was no turning back … well, as long as we could find some water. We were both running low and knew there was no way to finish the last 7 miles without more. We chomped on a couple pieces of delicious, home-baked bread provided by the camp’s caretakers and found that if you want more water, you have to rent a $5 filter to use in the spring.
In our case, one other option remained. I had left one important outdoor device in my bag: the water-purification straw! So, after agreeing that our only option was to fill up with spring water and share my straw, we were on our way again.
For anyone who knows me well, I am what some may call “germophobic” when it comes to sharing drinks or food. I prefer the term: “germ-conscious.” The truth is, you’ll be hard pressed to find me without hand-sanitizer, and I’m a big fan of the waterfall drink-sharing method. So, one could say sharing a straw with my mother was a feat in and of itself, the first of many on this hike.
After only a few hours, my mother and I had transformed into die-hard mountain climbers. Unfortunately, with our passion came giant blisters and various other needs due to our lack of preparation. As bad as it was at moments and as much as I don’t recommend doing what we did, something really beautiful happened. We witnessed the sincere, gracious camaraderie of hikers on a trail. It was a hope-restored-in-humanity day for sure.
As each new need surfaced, so did the provision. The fresh bread at the cabin helped our mini wheats last longer. A group of ladies provided moleskin just in time to keep my mom’s heels intact. A sweet couple asked us if we needed more water, although at the time, we gratefully declined; we thought for sure we had enough or that there would be another creek to pull water from; we were wrong. And, the “meager two miles” remaining most certainly did not equate to the exertion still required. Thankfully, even after mistakenly turning down the water, miraculous generosity and utter manna from heaven still found a way to save us.
After tree-line, things got hairier than my legs during no-shave November. Let’s just say, it wasn’t pretty. With the water run dry, no sign of a creek and our bodies aching for some kind of protein, we literally needed a miracle. And while it didn’t come in the way I hoped, it came.
In the distance, I saw our CU friends and remembered that they’d mentioned having extra snacks. I prayed that somehow we would catch up with them. At each bend in the switchbacks, the sight of them tortured me until they were no longer visible. Dragging my body across the rocky terrain, I stared at the ground. Just put one foot in front of the other, the claymation Christmas-movie tune rang in my head. And then, it happened.
Before my eyes, a small bag of almonds lie gently set on a rock by the side of the trail. Who put it there? How long had it been there? Is that mold or a light dusting of extra flavor? None of these questions crossed my mind at first sight; only one thing did: food. Not just any food, protein-packed nuts.
Needless to say, my “germ-consciousness” experienced a temporary coma. I snatched the bag, showed my mom, and we agreed that it was a gift from God, no questions asked. Yet again, provision came just in the nick of time.
After sipping down the last dregs of our water bottles and munching on a handful of almonds, we continued climbing. We struggled up the final “16 Golden Stairs” of Pikes Peak, which are by no means actual stairs. They’re more like 16 treacherous switchbacks. While battling the stairs, the last crucial mountain miracle arrived just in time: water.
As we sat sucking the thin air, a couple girls, who had leapfrogged with us for a bit, stopped by us for a short rest. Before continuing their trek, they looked at us, back to each other, reached into their pack and pulled out the second prettiest sight I’d seen all day: a fresh, unopened water-bottle. We gladly accepted. I can only imagine what our faces must have looked like to warrant the generous offer. With the final ingredient in place and a few final gusts of energy, we reached the summit of Colorado Springs’ 14,000-foot mountain, the amazing and breath-taking (literally) Pikes Peak.
At the top, we celebrated our victory with a few pictures, a couple souvenirs and most importantly, two tickets on the Pikes Peak Cog Railway because there was no way that we were going to walk back down!