Sorry for disappearing for a couple weeks there, everyone! We were on a short vacation to the Rocky Mountains, where we met Stuart's parents and some family friends of theirs at a retreat center on the Pikes Peak massif. The air was thin, the view was stunning, the tap water was cold and delicious, and we had a fabulous time hiking and spending quality time together.
After a couple days acclimating to the altitude, Stuart and his dad and I hiked up Pikes Peak. It took 10 hours to hike the 13.6 miles up and back. By the end we were exhausted and sore, but it was so totally worth it. Here's a sample of what we saw on the way:
Above: I thought this looked like a gate to hell. I hit a wall around 12K elevation and was convinced there was no way I could make it to the top. Leave me here to die, I wanted to say, my feet hurt and I can't breathe. Stuart insisted on cheering me on, despite my terrible attitude.
Above: The last piece of living vegetation I saw on the mountain. This was well before we summited. Even the plants know better than to climb that far up!
(Climbing up and then down this boulder field was NOT FUN. If we hadn't been so damn close to the top when we reached these, I really would have quit.)
The last and only other time Stuart and I hiked up a fourteener (a mountain 14K feet tall) was ten years ago when we climbed Mt. Yale with his brother Mitch. That time it was a 7-hour hike, I didn't quite make it to the top (we'd only given ourselves one night to adjust to the 10K altitude and I was too short of breath to summit), we were sore for days afterwards, and Stuart wrecked his knee and had to have surgery on it the following summer. This time, despite being a whole decade older, we are both in much better physical shape, we had more time to acclimate, and - this is important - we had the foresight to bring hiking poles. Stuart and his dad each used a pair of purchased adjustable poles, while I just had a sturdy stick I found in the woods, but this made a difference on the wear and tear to the joints. We were all sore the following day, but recovered quickly enough.
Here we are at the top:
I would totally do this again.