Posted: July 18, 2005 in Uncategorized


Coming from a sub-thousand foot elevation hometown, high altitude takes some getting used to. The sudden inability to so much as climb stairs without feeling like you’re missing a lung is disconcerting. Suddenly sprinting becomes the equivalent of doing whippets a little too hard. But on this trip, an overnight at six thousand feet helps me ease into the fact that I’ve just climbed over four thousand feet in elevation and will gain another four thousand by the end of the day.

Delighted by the fact that no hardass forest service employees have rousted me from my covert camping spot, I take a last look at the western side of the continental divide and take off into the Rockies proper. Having only ever flown over the Rockies, the thing that strikes me most is how much relatively flat ground there is. Maybe not flat per se, but certainly not filled with huge looming peaks and rock formations littered with soccer teams. In between the occasional peak are sizeable meadows and highland ranches, and the road is hardly treacherous apart from the regular dodging of suicidal rodents on the road.

My preconceived notions of the great Rocky Mountains are however at least somewhat upheld when I cross into Rocky Mountain National Forest, where the road immediately begins to climb and doesn’t stop until it hits twelve thousand feet. The views are remarkable from all sides, and I immediately decide I need to make the most of the twenty bills I laid down for the entrance fee. As I drop down into Estes Park on the east side, I look over the map of the park and recognize a name from the climbing guidebook I perused in Powells in perperation: Sky Pond. According to the guide, there’s supposed to be a formation popular for climbing called Cathedral Spires. Better yet, Sky Pond is as far from the main roads through the park as you can get on a day hike, which gives me a perfect opportunity to escape the hordes of weekend tourists looking for scenic vistas that don’t involve walking more than two hundred yards.

The parking lot is a mess, but with some patience I grab a spot and hit the trail. The start is mobbed with tourists, but after passing the closest viewpoint, I’m almost alone on the trail. I’m sucking serious wind by now since it’s entirely uphill, but all the running I’ve been doing is really paying off, and I’m not slowing down. By the time I hit Loch Vale, some three miles in, I’m feeling good, but I realize Sky Pond isn’t happening today; it’s just too far to do in a short afternoon and still get into Greeley for dinner. So I shoot a couple photos, enjoy the view, and make a hasty exit back down to the parking lot, running half the time, and to my own surprise do the whole six miles in two hours.

Rolling out of the mountains and into the plains of Loveland and Greeley, I’m now once again in familiar territory for the first time in four days. It feels strange to transition into someplace I’m used to just suddenly being injected into by plane. A line has now been drawn from point A to point B not just on a map, but now in my mind as well.

Another four-day-old familiar thing I get from being back in Greeley is a shower, and man does it feel good. I chat some with my grandparents and my dad who I coordinated this trip to meet in Colorado, and we turn around and head for the Stampede. The Stampede is your standard western summer tradition, where a long weekend is packed with rodeos, concerts, and massive amounts of things deep-fried and served on a stick. My family however has been organizing and working this event for years, so we get prime seating for the events. Tonight happens to be a concert night, with headliners Montgomery Gentry and ZZ Top, and we have stage crew passes.

I shit you not.

I have no idea who Montgomery Gentry is, but sure enough, it’s a big-name country band, and the show is a faceful of middle America. It’s a good one nonetheless, and there’s ample beer to help the evening along. Eventually, ZZ Top takes the stage, and it’s just as glossy a show as you’d imagine. However, after half the set, one of the group’s opening statements becomes abundantly clear: “Same three guys, same three chords, for thirty years.” We cut out for the encore to meet up with my uncle who’s tending bar in the VIP area, catch up some more, and finally decide that’s really about enough random activity for the day.

I’m really kind of surprised my dreams aren’t of alpine wildlife in sequined jackets hammering out serious licks on stage.

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Comments
  1. Anonymous says:

    wow! awesome!

  2. muffster says:

    “I’m really kind of surprised my dreams aren’t of alpine wildlife in sequined jackets hammering out serious licks on stage.”
    LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL

  3. Anonymous says:

    “I’m really kind of surprised my dreams aren’t of alpine wildlife in sequined jackets hammering out serious licks on stage.”

    LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL LOL

  4. chloralone says:

    Just spent a week camping at 8000ft. Even taking semi-long walks would occasionally make me stop for a breath or three (haven’t done any high-altitude climbs this year). Was a big ego letdown. But, by the end of the week and a few hikes up to 9 & 10K, I was doing well.
    Came back down here and the air is so thick and full of oxygen and my endurance is great. Too bad it won’t last.

    • Reuben says:

      I hear ya. I’m still feeling a bit of an edge from my trip, but it’s fading fast.
      Where were you camping? Shasta area?

      • chloralone says:

        In the California high desert near the Nevada border. Where I was camping there was no civilization nearby, but I’m told we were about 45 minutes east of Mammoth Lake, and about an hour southwest of Carson City, Nevada. In the middle of nowhere, as it were.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I hear ya. I’m still feeling a bit of an edge from my trip, but it’s fading fast.

    Where were you camping? Shasta area?

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