Thank God we’ve had some warmer days… I know I haven’t written in a while, but of course, as predicted, I’ve been struggling- with winter. In a previous blog entry I said I was going to make this winter the best winter ever! That indeed did not happen… and unfortunately winter isn’t over-yet. So I have to try to get on with it, and still try to turn things around. Last year I made a long list of activities to do in the winter and then I divided into three categories: low energy, moderate energy and high energy. When one struggles with depression or an eating disorder, there are many days when opening a book is too taxing. I pray this list will help you find ways to get through winter. Keep your chin up, it eventually has to end!
- Workout: Bike and Read, Hot Tub, or Steam Room
- Plan Dream Vacations (Pinterest For Inspiration)
- Research New Exciting Places in the World
- Pinterest a New Craft, Recipe, or Fashion
- Read By a Fire
- Light Candles and Read
- Light Candles and Listen to Music
- Find New Music
- Window Shop Online
- Catch up With Friends Via Text/Facebook
- Make a Wish List/Shopping List
- Phone Games
- Computer Games
- Look on Twitter/Instagram
- You Tube Different Exercises (NOT Diets)
- You Tube Jenna Marbles (She’s Hilarious!)
- You Tube Motivational Clips (“The Ultimate Motivational Clip- Rise and Shine!”)
- Read Your Daily Bible Verses
- Listen to the Bible Via YouVersion
- Look Up Neat Restaurants by Reviews or Open Table App
- Check Out StumbleUpon App
- Look at Etsy
- Make Plans with Friends
- Dream Up Tattoo
- 30-50 Minutes Cardio or Weights
- Catch Up on Work/Homework
- Do Etsy or Pinterest Craft
- Shop My Closet: Put Together Cute Outfits
- Listen to a Sermon
- Build a Blog or Website
- Bake or Cook
- Pedicure/Manicure/Facial Masks
- Play With Hair and Find New Hair Dos
- Foam Roll Your Tight Muscles
- Window Shop for Dream House
- Learn New Language
- Go to a Coffee Shop
- See a Movie With a Friend
- Go to Dinner with Family or Friend
- Luxurious Bath-Bubbles, Candles, Music, Book, Drink
- Girls Night Movie In
- Listen to a TED Talk
- Workout With A Friend
- Bake for Friends/Coworkers/Family
- Organize Something
- Home Improvement
- Dance In Your Living Room/Bedroom
- Watch a Local High School Game or College Game With Company
- Go to a Professional Sports Team Game
- Read About Finances/Investing
- Rock Climbing w/ Friends
- Play Sport Indoors
- Bible Study
- Volunteer at Church
- Stretch Until You Can Do the Splits
- Get Dressed Up and Go Out to Eat or a Play
- Happy Hour With Friends
- Museums/Art Galleries
- Snow Tubing
- Cross Country Ski
- Stay In a Cabin
- Visit Family
- Put Things Online For Sale
- Host Board Game Night
- Mentor a Teenager
- Host a Dinner Party
These are just a few ideas! Print it off and hang it up on your refridgerater or the back of your bedroom door. Make it seen, because what is unseen is forgotten. Explore new areas and reignite old passions!
What helps you get through the blues?
To 2016 and keeping our New Years Resolution! Yes, I’m choosing to remain positive! I don’t care about the statistics of failure to uphold new year’s resolutions because this is about me, an individual, who is going to try to continue to better herself in 2016. To everyone who can look back from 2014 to 2015 and see a slight change for the better- you succeeded! You did not fail!
Starting fresh is an option. It is always an option. It’s biblical! It doesn’t matter how impossible others think it is (many people doubted my ability to climb all the 14ers), it doesn’t matter how old you are or how young or how inexperienced you are! You can change; and for that matter, it doesn’t have to be a new year. You can start fresh, every day of the year. But for any goal and if you want to see change, you need hope. Even if it’s small, it can blossom into a fierce flame. For me, the tiniest, most faint sense of hope got me out of the tight grasp of ED and now I have climbed mountains and have made it my mission to help others with this disease! Talk about a 180+!
I think it’s also important to look at all aspects of your life, every piece of your pie. It’s typical to think about our weight, and it’s typical to think about money, but don’t forget about improving your spiritual, leisure and fun, career, physical wellness, friendships, family relationships, character, and whatever else you find important.
It’s also important to make sure your goals are S.M.A.R.T. This stands for specific, measurable, attractive, realistic and timely. I used this acronym all the time with my clients when I was a personal trainer. It helped me be a better trainer, and it helped goals actualize.
- Example of being specific: I want to fit into my size 6 jeans. Not specific: I want to lose weight.
- Example of measurable: I want to run a 5k. Not measurable: I want to start running.
- Attractive: This refers to the WHY and it has to be extremely motivating.
- Realistic: Do you have the finances, support, time etc to make this happen?
- Timely: Put a time limit on it. If it’s a 2016 goal, you are already giving yourself a year, but try to be more specific then that. Example: I want to run a 5k in June.
After you’ve done this, it’s important to break your goals down into smaller steps so you have an exact plan on how you will achieve your goal. If you wanted to run a race, you would need to figure out how often you would be running during the week and how you would ensure that you had the time to do so.
With that being said, here are my “goals” for the “New Year of 2016”:
- I want to grow closer in my relationship with God because I know that when I am close with him, I have a better sense of overall well-being and can offer those around me the fruits of the spirit which is important because my sole goal on earth is to bring others to know the Love of Christ. I will do this by:
- Pray every day.
- Listen to one chapter a night of the bible before I sleep.
- Read Jesus Calling every day.
- Go to church most Sundays (2-3 times a month).
- Go to fellowship group every week (outside of school).
- Continue my efforts against my Eating Disorder (ED).
- Continue to blog at least once a month.
- Watch for red flags.
- Get help when help is needed.
- Talk openly with family and friends.
- Consider options that arise for advocacy.
- Enjoy winter so that I can make it here in Minnesota and stay close to my family and friends and avoid depression.
- Go snowshoeing at least 3 times.
- Go ice-skating at least once.
- Go cross-country skiing at least 3 times.
- Go snowboarding once this year.
- Get all A’s in school, especially this spring semester so that I can easily be accepted into nursing school.
- Prioritize school over social activities and even family activities.
- Run a half marathon at the Grandma’s event in June because it will keep me on track with getting regular exercise which ultimately helps my mood and confidence.
- Stick to the schedule I have made on the fridge.
- Run Across Colorado with Venture.org in June because I want to do something that serves a greater purpose than myself.
- Stick to the schedule I have made on the fridge.
- Run the Twin Cities Marathon in October to check off another item on my bucket list and keep me focused on regular exercise.
- Stick to the schedule I have made on the fridge.
- Get a budget so that I can get an SUV so that I can do the things that I love with this type of vehicle.
- Stick to the budget made and encourage free forms of entertainment.
- Develop a closer relationship with my niece and nephew because I want my niece and nephew to know how loved they are by me.
- Create a night/day for just Avery and I.
- Offer to babysit at least once a month outside of Avery and I’s day.
I’m sure I’ll develop more goals as I go- especially once the summer hits and then I’ll have all kinds of fun activities I’ll want to do! It’s also important to remember to strive for perfection, but not to get down on yourself when things don’t go according to plan. It’s the forward movement and the character that’s built during the process that’s far more important than the actual achievement of the goal! It’s about the journey, not the destination!
Taking my trip this summer made me realize, that much more, how important my family is to me; how much I want to be a part of their lives and it doesn’t seem possible if I move… the internal conflict to move continues…
I decided within weeks of being home that I was going to give this winter my best effort. I was going to take this next year as a test to whether or not I could thrive while living in Minnesota. I was going to make the most of Christmas time with the traditions and lights, cooking and family time. I was going to celebrate the snow and embrace it with the same warmth and wonder as a child. I was going to ensure that all aspects of what makes me happy were given attention.
Well, the holidays are over, and I find myself struggling to fight off depression. New Years Eve seems to be an annual problem and low for me and this year I was in isolation.
I had been trying to do everything right: take your meds, take vitamin D and flaxseed oil (vs. fish oil), sit in front of your mood light, and not for only 15 minutes, but for an HOUR. But I couldn’t help the feelings of hopelessness and depression settling in New Years Eve. I had a full night of plans with friends, and it all went to shit. So I went home, and caved not only to depression but ED.
ED has only had few appearances in my time since I’ve been home, but he’s still there. That plan of continuing with my outpatient care with Melrose also went out the window. It was wonderful news that all my providers only wanted to see me once a month, but for some reason in my brain even once a month was too much of an inconvenience. The distance, gas money, and time had me come to the conclusion that it would be more stressful to continue the care while I continue to live so far away.
I know what you’re thinking, and I’m aware, but I’m trying to do everything I can to stay healthy; exercising 5 days a week for only an hour, eating regular meals and not restricting myself even on Christmas treats, and voicing the times when I did feel overwhelmed.
The only other time that I caved to ED was while I was in a accelerated class at the American Red Cross to become a Certified Nurse Assistant. It was intense to say the least. Seven hours of class, six days a week, and always at least 3 to 4 hours of homework each night. Thank God I had Megan to help me get through it, but even then, one night I became overwhelmed by my emotions and found myself in the numbing arms of ED. I am fortunate that the very next day I am back on board to not giving into ED, but recently it’s been harder to do with these feelings of overwhelming depression.
I found myself in a panic last night, “How do I change this? What else can I do??” I started to assess my days and where I was lagging. For one, I realized that I needed to STOP wearing sweatpants all day. While I was wearing them out of comfort and warmth, I was constantly subconsciously thinking about how they covered my body, how that used to be the reason I wore them and the deep depression I felt during those times of my past. So on the first of 2016, I knew that I could no longer wear them all day. I also knew, that I had to put more effort into my appearance and not because that’s what women should do, but because not doing it, was always closely tied to deep depression for me. When I feel well, I want to wear makeup and do my hair and dress cute because it’s fun for me. Now if you love going natural and that’s you, I encourage you to continue to be you!
I worked with Cassie that day and this time I got dressed in jeans, did my hair and my makeup and begged Cassie to see a funny movie to lift my spirits. She agreed, and we saw Sisters. Which really did start to lift my spirits, as did the real sunshine and after the movie, we went shopping! I know it isn’t necessarily healthy, but theirs a phrase shop therapy and it exists for a reason- because it works! By the end of the day I was feeling better, a lot better. I have Cassie and my own assessments to thank for that.
What I’m saying is, know your red flags. It has taken me a couple of years to realize what all of them are, and I might find new ones, but know them, tell others what they are, and take action.
It’s now Tuesday, and the depression has somehow miraculously lifted. I know that I will be okay, and I can confirm to myself that these feelings will pass. Sometimes all on their own, but sometimes you have to take action. I know that I need to help myself in other ways too. I need to remind myself that while I may not be exactly where I’d like to be financially, I am making progress! I am taking action to seeing a change.
College, that’s right, college at Century starts next week and I couldn’t be more excited!
I cannot believe how fast the time is flying by! I have already been home for three weeks! I bet you might be wondering how I am transitioning from waking up to majestic mountains to waking up in a home, surviving off rock hard jerky to indulging on an occasional steak, sleeping on a leaky air mattress to sleeping on a warm cozy bed, and most importantly, freedom from society to being completely engulfed by it. The answer? Incredibly well! To everyone who was holding their breath to see whether or not I would crash and burn, feel free to take a sigh of relief.
Since I have been home I have not used symptoms ONCE. Not once. Food continues to be nutrients instead of an enemy that makes me “fat”, and exercise continues to be a means to attain better performance on the courts instead of a means to attain a better body. I can’t explain it, but since being back, I feel like a victor instead of a victim. I feel so strong and not afraid of anything. A feeling too good to be true and as it leaves my lips it sounds like a cliche or something someone would say to hide their underlying fears, but I genuinely feel this way. I am changed-hopefully forever.
I cannot lie that the temptation hasn’t been there, because it has, but it’s usually a fleeting thought that I can easily distract myself from. Ed’s voice has never been so weak, almost laughable. It reminds me of Proverbs 31:25: She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. It nearly brings tears to my eyes to think how much power not long ago Ed had over my every thought and move. But I am finally stepping into who God created me to be; fearless. One who can laugh at the enemy and say as confidently as David, “My God is Greater”!
Every time I hear that a friend has fallen back into the arms of Ed my heart cries, “But God has so much more than this for you!” I want nothing more than these words to resonate with them and I have to believe and trust God that in time, it will. I know people have prayed this prayer for me thousands of times, and finally, I am nearly out of the dark hole I felt was once inescapable. I was in their shoes not long ago; utterly hopeless and just trying to survive in this seemingly harsh world.
Since I have been home, I have been moving nonstop! I couldn’t tell you how many things I have checked off my list and how many more I have added. I do know that I have had a wonderful return by spending lots of time with friends and family and have somehow managed to swing right back into working part time with my PCA client, and signing up for my CNA (Certified Nurse Assistant) program with the Red Cross.
For the first time in the longest time, I feel normal. It’s as if a dark dreary cloud of self-doubt and victimization has been lifted. I get dressed in normal clothes without thinking about how “thin” or “fat” I look. I go to the gym on a regular basis without criticizing myself. Stressful situations arise, and I deal with it in a healthy way by either accepting or working through it. For the first time since my sophomore year in college, I have direction and am moving in a forward motion; Something I’ve prayed for years has finally become clear.
God spoke to me and opened so many doors for me while I was in Colorado. So much so that I knew that no matter what, I was going to finish climbing the mountains because it a part of my plan (Jeremiah 29:11). He continues to speak to me even still. While I was away, and further removed from society, it was easier to not partake in activities that weren’t beneficial for me. I was so focused and on a mission that there was no time for distractions. Now that I’m home, these activities present themselves again to me, and I am so tempted to participate. What I’m talking about in particular is the act of “going out”.
It’s permissible, but by no means beneficial. I absolutely know this, but I still love to dance and I still love to get all dolled up- especially since I was roughing it for so long over this summer. The problem with going out, is that it’s toxic and the people are intoxicated- myself, not exempt. I know these people are numbing and are bored, and I know most of these people are lost.
I have prayed to God to take away many of my sins, urges and to change my heart and He has always answered. Probably the biggest change within me has been my desire for what I want out of life. I had my own agenda in what I wanted to accomplish and I didn’t want to give that up for God. But I still prayed for it, because I knew it was right, and I knew His plan was supposed to better than anything I could ever come up with. It has taken some time, but the more I get to know God and His Goodness, the more I want to honor Him with my life. You could see how “going out” conflicts with this new found ambition.
In the first week that I was home, I went out three times! Each time I went out I drank a little more, each time I compromised myself a little more, and each time I felt sick, conflicted, and convicted. I knew God was speaking to me the night I went to the Zombie Pub Crawl. . Someone stole my phone and my passport that night which was my only means of allowing me to get into any bar. As soon as I realized they were gone, I knew it was God. I knew He was saying, “Knock it off!”. God disciplines the child He loves (Proverbs 3:12). Although I was angry with the person who stole my things, I was more concerned with where I was heading and my character.
It’s been a tough decision and I still struggle with it, but I know that if I keep this up, that I cannot promote the kingdom at the same time, nor will I be promoted while I try to advocate more. I must continue my life with the same determination, focus and purpose as I did while I was out in Colorado. I know that’s what my Abba wants for me.
My mom and I were concluding our wonderful time together celebrating my victory and were now getting ready to leave the next day, but I had this thought that kept circling in my head, “Should I call the news stations? Should I try to share my story??” The fear of rejection had kept me from calling since I had finished.. a fear that has held me back countless times in my life.
I decided I’d take the chance to prove to myself that I could work past my fears. After all, I had already done it so many times on this trip already. I knew it was better to keep rolling with my new found courage and “just try” as I had been doing and had said this entire trip.
As I nervously sat in the hotel lobby, I called the first news station and left a voicemail. My voice was undeniably shaky. I was so nervous about what to say…but by my third and fourth call my voice had found its strength and 9News on the spot asked if I could be featured as an exclusive on the largest news network in Colorado. I couldn’t believe it!! They actually cared!! They thought it was important! It just goes to show that God was once again by my side and even though I called multiple news stations, He opened the right doors for my story to be heard by as many people as possible in the state of Colorado!
Now I know it’s important to realize that even if I wasn’t contacted by a news station, that didn’t mean it wasn’t important, but I was floored that I was going to have the opportunity to share my story where it would be heard by thousands. All I wanted, more than anything was to inspire others and here was my chance.
I quickly walked down the hotel hall and burst open the door to tell my mom that I was actually going to be on the news!! Her play it safe reaction, surprised me. It was as if she and I both couldn’t let it sink in that this was actually going to happen.
We waited a couple hours for a reporter to call us and she arranged for us to meet Steve Staeger that very day! Now it was official- we had a place, a time and a date! Immediately we called my dad to tell him the news. He was also very even keeled about the appearance and was maybe a little disappointed that he wouldn’t be able to watch it since he was still in Minnesota.
I got ready the best I could with what little clothes I had and headed to Golden where we would be taping. Normally in an instance such as this I know in the past I would have drove myself absolutely mad to get as thin as possible for something as huge as this. I’d be completely consumed with looking “fat” and afraid of people’s judgments. I’d also make sure my nails were manicured, my makeup was perfect and my hair was freshly highlighted- but there was no time for any of this. But instead of shutting down or driving myself crazy, I simply accepted myself for what I was, and focused on the grand picture. “This isn’t even about me, this about being a light and hope to others! This is my moment to honor God! This is what today is about!”
As we pulled up around the corner I could see the 9News truck and the set. I couldn’t believe it was set up for little ol’ me! It was such a surreal moment in my life.
Steve Staeger came to greet me along with the camera man (who I regrettably cannot remember his name). They were so cheerful and kind. I took a seat in the director chair and they hooked me up with the mic. I was ready, and surprisingly not very nervous.
They asked me a series of questions and I did my best to be as concise as possible. Afterwards we talked more about how they were even inspired to climb the mountains! They assured me it would be on the 9 and 10pm news that night, wished me well and just like that, it was over.
That night my mom and I snuggled up in our beds hours before the newscast just to be sure we wouldn’t miss a second. As the last TV show ended, and the news came on, my face flashed across the screen and mom and I looked at each other in awe and broke into giggles. It was amazing!! Previous to this, my goal was to simply be in the background of a newscast- now I was a feature!!
We had no idea what to expect from my interview. Even though the interview was more than an hour long, we knew there was the possibility of it only being a minute long. But right before the newscast would break for a commercial, they would say something to the effect of, “Stayed tuned” and talk about my story! I was the hook of the whole news hour!
Finally the time came for my story to be shown. I was so happy with what they had done with it and couldn’t believe how long they made it to be! There were just two things that I wished were different:
- I struggled with bulimia. They left that out and instead said exercise bulimia. If that were the case- this journey would have been very adverse to recovery as it was an excessive amount of exercise at times. While it is true that my eating disorder morphed from exercise bulimia to full blown bulimia, exercise currently is an area that I have a lot of balance in and was an area I was in control over before I left for my trip. There were comments on the news page specifically talking about this and while it’s disappointing, I know that I just need to keep pressing forward and know that I’m becoming more free of this disease!
- They left out the spiritual aspect of my journey 😦 While I know that people will experience God through my blog, I wish they would have left in how important He was on my journey because I sincerely couldn’t have done this without Him and the doors He opened for me.
The very next day I heard from people back in Minnesota that my story was on Kare11 news! Then a week later I heard I was in the Denver Post! Overall, it was an incredible experience that has left me with an insatiable hunger to want to serve God and to serve others by being a voice of hope. Many of you have voiced that I should write a book and that’s what I plan to do! I am so excited for this next part of my journey but also know it will prove to be another test in my recovery as I’m sure the process could cause stress which I’m still learning to deal with in healthy ways. God bless you and thank you for your encouragement!
Now that I’m all done climbing the mountains, and have accomplished what I set out to do, what do I do now? How do you come down from such an extreme high and incredible journey? How will I adjust to going back home to a regular life? These are the thoughts that I’ve had, but are also the thoughts of my friends and family. They’re all concerned that I’ll crash and burn I suppose, biting their nails to see what happens. Well guess what, I’ve thought about this, a lot lately. Believe it or not I’m a planner and have thought everything through.
While I feel like I’m in a place where I have forgiven myself for my past, I still have more work to do on self-acceptance. It sounds like the same thing, but to me, it’s not. These are the things that I still struggle with: my body. This trip has been tremendous in helping me in this area. Yes, I did lose a little weight, but that’s not why I feel differently about myself. I haven’t had mirrors around me, I haven’t been body checking, and I haven’t been comparing myself to others while I’ve been out here and it’s brought me to a level of contentment. Yes, I see my photos of me on the mountains, and I might not love what I see, but I let it go quickly. As I go home, I know that this is going to be a much, much tougher situation to avoid. I will have to work really, really hard not to go back to doing those things and keep telling myself that I am blessed with this body. It is a strong, able body that I have a lot to thank for. That’s all I want to think about when I see or think about my body. I don’t want to think about it’s imperfections and how I don’t have model legs.
With all that being said, I know my journey with treatment is not over. I know that when I get back home I will have to go to Melrose Institute and see a dietitian and therapist regularly to keep me on track. I wish I could say that this journey was my ticket to being “cured” from my eating disorder, but if I did say it, I would be lying. I know that recovery is a journey in itself. For me, and for many others who struggle with an eating disorder. I have been eating more food than I typically would to stay active out here, and that’s going to change and I know I’ll need help with regulating my eating. The truth is I’m still scared to death of gaining back any weight I lost on this trip. Even two weeks on vacation in Montana I had a breakdown at the end because I thought I had gained back some weight from all the eating out. I have a battle ahead of me.
I will also start working again. I am so thankful that I get to work with my PCA client, Cassie again. Being a PCA has been the best job I have ever had. Not only does it pay decent, I have a blast every time I’m with her. We shop, take walks, visit coffee shops and see movies. I’ll have to find something else since it’s part time, but at least this won’t be a huge adjustment for me when I get back since it’s so fun!
As far as what to replace hiking and climbing with and the high it gives, I’ll start playing my love, volleyball again! It’s something that I’m constantly working on to get better at, and will give me the motivation to stay active and workout to gain power and a better vertical. If I get a gym membership, it will not be to do cardio machines just to burn calories. That is very dangerous territory. With my recovery, working out can never be about manipulating the shape of my body or burning a certain amount of calories. It destroys me quickly, but thankfully this is an area I have been the strongest with in my recovery.
To continue my spiritual growth, I’ll get involved with Substance Church once again, most likely as a greeter every other weekend. I owe much of where I am today because of Pastor Peter Haas and his church. He’s funny, passionate, intelligent, and always brings it home. The church itself has been the most accepting, connected church I’ve ever been to; “Come as you are” they say. I’ll also find a small group to stay grounded and connected to other believers. I think this is so important, almost more important than attending a church service because it’s a time when you can get real with people.
Last but not least, it’s important that I state that I will not go back to the life I was previously living. What do I mean by that? It means I won’t go back to living my life for someone else. I’m going to continue what this journey started for me and that is to live a life I imagined for myself. I must do what makes me happy because it allows me to be the best me; one that can love others better. So, what does that mean? It means I’ll be saving up every penny until mid winter so I can move to California. It’s always been a dream of mine, so I’m going to do it. Every winter I struggle with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and it keeps me from finishing anything I start. While I love my family and friends dearly here in Minnesota, they must understand that this change could make me the happiest they’ve ever seen me- consistantly.
If you love someone, let them go free, right? The friends who love me and cherish me will continue to make an effort to see me, and the ones that don’t, well I’m grateful for the time we had together, but their season of friendship will end. I’ll get immediately connected into a church and start the process of developing new friendships all over again, which thankfully, has never intimidated me. I’ll be able to play outside year round! I’ll be more active than I’ve ever been in my entire life trying new sports and playing sand volleyball on the beach by the rolling waves of the ocean. I’m not saying it’s forever, but I am saying it’s what I need to try right now. I’ll start community college out there to gain the credits I need to be accepted into nursing school and I’ll be a nursing assistant until I graduate building experience.
I’ll also itch the scratch I’ve had my whole life and make time and resources to travel the world. I look at the world and I see it as a color crayon box filled with the most beautiful, vibrant colors. Staying in one place your whole life is like only using one color! God created this world for our enjoyment and it has beautiful and magnificent things for me and you to see. Being in the mountains was a taste of it, and I want more. Ever since I was little I used to say that I wanted to see the seven wonders of the world. I would say a lot of people have this passion, but it’s another to act on it, and I will be one of the few who do.
Lastly, I will continue to follow my calling which is to help others struggling with an eating disorder. I’ll get involved in an organization and help any way I can. I’ll do public speeches at high schools, treatment centers, churches, and conferences; whatever I can do, I’ll do. People have been encouraging me to write a book and it’s something I’m going to seriously look into. While being on the news was an amazing opportunity, they cut out anything I said about my faith- which was the foundation of my recovery process and it’s so important to me that others know that. Perhaps my path will inspire others to try God, or reconnect with God which would be the greatest accomplishment of my life. I can’t tell you how much I want to live my life for God!
- Height: 14,294 ft.
- Range: Sangre De Cristo
- Route: South Face
- Overall Distance for Day: 12.1 mi.
- Distance from Upper Parking Lot to Camp: 3.4 mi.
- Distance from Camp to Summit: 4.3 mi.
- Elevation Gain: 2,750 feet
- Time started: 8:35am
- End time (arrival back at camp): 3:35pm
- Time to Summit: 4 hours and 5 minutes
- Time to Descent (back to camp): 2 hours and 55 minutes (with break at summit)
- Time to Car: 1 hour and 30 minutes
- Overall Pace: 1.2 miles per hour
- GEAR (to bring for day):
- Bear spray, GPS, extra socks, phone, SPOT Satellite Tracker, Map, Topo Map from 14ers.com, hiking boots with 2 pairs of socks on, long-sleeve, wind-guard/raincoat, light weight puffy coat, warm hat, lightweight gloves, day pack with water sack (100 oz or more), snacks.
- Road Condition: With a little guts, my sedan was able to make it all the way to the upper trailhead- barely. It’s very bumpy and plenty of opportunities to bottom out unless you know what you’re doing and have plenty of experience.
- Trail Condition: There was a little bit of ice around 13,300 feet, but I never slipped from it. Walk 2.65 miles up the road for the trail junction and head up the Humboldt trail as it is shorter and more direct. From the Humboldt side of the trail you’ll need to cross at the start of the South Colony Lakes. Below with pictures I have a very detailed account on the easiest way to cross over. Broken Hand Pass is marked very well with large cairns to follow and has a decent dirt path. Once on the saddle, the trail continues over to the left and you’ll see it carry on down a nice trail to Cottonwood Lake. Past the lake, you’ll cut around to the right and come to an enclosed area. There you’ll see the red gully right in front of you. There are cairns along the boulders that mark the trail great, and it will seem like it’s leading you far to the right of it, but they are trustworthy cairns and bring you to an easier entrance on the gully. At the start of the gully, the rocks are smooth and there isn’t much loose rock, but the higher you climb, the more loose it becomes. There will be cairns marking the easiest way to the top of the gully. Once at the notch, turn left and continue to follow the cairns to the top of the ridge. You’ll need to cross over to another rock pile at the summit to reach the full summit which will be an only slight difference, but obvious (there is a capsule there).
While I fell asleep rather quickly after hiking for ten hours to bag Kit Carson Peak and Challenger Peak, I kept waking up throughout the night from noises outside of my tent. At one point I could hear something heavy and large snapping twigs right outside my tent and I freaked out. I didn’t have my bear spray near me and quickly tried to get it, but I was stuck in my sleeping bag! I thought, “Great, I’m a bear burrito!” I violently shook my way out and grabbed it, and listened for the animal, but heard nothing. I figured my loud movements had probably startled it and scared it away.
Again, somehow I managed to fall back asleep until I woke up the next morning from the conversations of other hikers. I realized this was my last night that I would be sleeping in my tent! It was a crazy realization that after four months, it really was ending. When I stood outside of my tent and looked at the mountains, I quickly realized I was once again not going to have ideal weather for climbing. The mountains were completely encased in low clouds, and it was cold, but at least it wasn’t as windy.
Since I had hiked in on the Humboldt side, I needed to cross over the stream somehow to reach the other side to the Crestones’ trail. My way before when I climbed Humboldt and Crestone Needle wasn’t exactly ideal, so I tried to find another way. I ended up finding a better way across, but got lost upon reaching the other side. I was looking for the “Crestone Needle Access” sign and couldn’t find it and the guy I ran into was absolutely zero help.
Luckily it didn’t take too long to find it, but it was enough to annoy me. I then headed to the lake to fill up on water and on the way back I missed the trail again. I was so incredibly annoyed by this point by the fact that I still sucked at finding trail junctions. Luckily, that was the last time of the entire hike that I got off track. As I climbed up Broken Hand Pass, I ran into two gentlemen. One was climbing his first fourteener and his more experienced buddy was taking him up Crestone Needle- quite the endeavor on a very foggy day. I told them the story of Alix and I getting lost on it and tried to give them helpful tips for the way down. Inside I was praying for them intensely as I knew many people had died on that mountain in particular.
As I climbed up the class 3 rock to reach the saddle, the wind again roared and was so loud it sounded as if a rushing waterfall was nearby. I scratched the rocks to see if there was a layer of ice on them, and sure enough there was. I knew that was bad news. Once I reached the saddle it was as windy as it was through the Keyhole on Longs Peak, but I had the same hope that the wind would calm just the same and thankfully, it did.
The clouds were breaking somewhat and I could now see Cottonwood Lake far below. It was a nice trail leading to the lake and was really beautiful with the clouds sitting down so low to the ground behind it. I continued to make my way past the lake and curved around to the right to an enclosed area. There, I could plainly see the “Red Gully”. I took a break to eat and enjoyed the Pikas and Marmots running around in the area. I knew it was the last time I’d be seeing my buddies that kept me company all these days in the mountains.
The trail weaved far to the right, but eventually lead me back to a higher place on the gully. The cairns were great in the area, so there’s no need to second guess them as I did. Once reaching the red gully I looked at it in awe. I couldn’t believe how smooth the red rock was. It was so beautiful, and there were conglomerate rocks every color of the rainbow in the mix equally smoothed over by previously running waters. One would think that they were hand laid there and smoothed over by men. As I made my way up the foggy, steep gully I spotted two men coming down.
I asked them if they had made it, and they had. I asked if it was windy, it wasn’t. I asked if it was icy, it wasn’t! I was in the clear! As long as I kept moving one foot in front of the other the last summit was mine to claim! I told them it was my very last summit and they congratulated me. We parted ways and I couldn’t help but be a little sad that I couldn’t share this moment with someone I loved. For a moment it was lonely, but I remembered that I’d most likely have service and would be able to at least text my mom as I summited.
Up higher and higher I went still in foggy conditions, checking my GPS constantly for my current elevation until finally I could see the end of the gully and reached the notch. I was now above 14,000 feet and only steps away from completing my entire journey! The rocks and shrubs now had a layer of this really neat windblown snow on it. I knew I was ending this journey just in time. The weather wasn’t going to get any better from this day on and snow was inevitable.
I continued to climb searching for cairns through the fog and somehow found my way to the summit! It was such a strange moment. It was so quiet, so cold and I couldn’t see anything around me. This is my finish? It honestly felt so anticlimactic! I felt the urge to scream belly up inside of me so I let out a half “Wooo!” It was really cold and my fingers were starting to numb but I took the time to send one final SPOT message and texted my mom that I made it to my last summit and to let everyone else know for me.
I then took out my sign I made for my final summit, which I dedicated to God, who I couldn’t have done this without. I wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for him. Back when I was really sick in my disorder, I could barely stay awake any time I would drive because my body was so depleted of everything. One day, on my way to work, I fell asleep at the wheel but somehow managed to wake up just before I plowed into the back of another truck going nearly 80 miles per hour on the freeway. I swerved my car to avoid him and the slippery roads sent me flying into the air.
In this moment, I heard a voice say clearly, “Be Calm” and moments later my car flipped three times into the ditch on I-94. I was anything but calm, after the fact, but I was okay. My car was completely totaled, but somehow I walked away with only a bruise on my inner calf- that was it. Everyone called it a miracle, I knew it was a miracle and heard the voice of the angel who protected me. It was not my own voice or thought, and it was not my mothers…
For some reason I kept on living after that. People said, “You’re alive for a reason”. But when I was that sick, and that depressed, I couldn’t ever imagine why… “What good could I be- could I ever be??” My gut tells me this is why: I wasn’t meant to die with the secret of my eating disorder. God had planned to use my pain and struggle for good, so I couldn’t go home yet. My purpose, lived out, I believe, is only just beginning. I wished for death before, but now, even with the pain, I’m glad I have been given this chance to help others.
I wished I could have stayed for a while longer on the summit to take it in, but the wind picked up just enough to chill me and so I put my pack back on and found my way back to the beautifully colored red gully. As I made my way down, four hikers spotted me and started to clap for me!! I immediately smiled and thanked them and they congratulated me from afar. As I drew closer I tried to figure out if I knew them, but before I could figure it out they told me that they had heard about me and were hoping to run into me along their hike.
God had heard my call of loneliness and answered it with these wonderful people! I was so grateful because they really helped it sink in that I had finished my journey. They were definitely people that I would have loved to hike with on this journey. They told me about the 14ers.com Facebook Page and that they’d post the picture they took of me on there. I couldn’t believe I wasn’t a member yet! How could I have not thought of this? I’m sure I could have found plenty of hiking buddies on there! Oh well… it was a little too late for that now.
As I made my way back to Cottonwood Lake, I came to the realization that my elevation gain wasn’t over because I still needed to climb back up to the saddle that would lead me back down Broken Hand Pass. My legs were burning and ached the whole way up as I had just climbed Kit Carson and Challenger (plus all the minis) just yesterday. The wind was just as wicked passing through the saddle, but I didn’t mind, I knew I was home free!
Finally, at 3:30pm I arrived back at my tent. I plopped down, legs sprawled and shoved a peanut butter bagel in my mouth before I packed everything up and made the last small hike back to my car. Along my way, I ran back into the two gentlemen that I met climbing up Broken Hand Pass. I was really happy that they were okay! I asked if they made it all the way up to the summit and they had! I congratulated Mike who had just finished his first fourteener. He liked it, but definitely was exhausted as he had just come in a couple days previously from Tennessee.
It was nice to have their company for the walk back down to our vehicles. They realized that the Saturn was my car and were shocked that I could get my little beater up there. It’s funny how my car becomes the talk on people’s hikes! Once arriving in the parking lot, I quickly threw everything in my car and headed down the bumpy dirt road- my last challenge of this adventure- and of course, my little gold Saturn pulled through!
As I made my way to Denver I realized many things were now officially over. I no longer would be camping, I no longer had to drive on these dumb, rough, dirt roads, I wouldn’t see all my furry friends on a regular basis, I wouldn’t have to deal with getting lost on trailheads, and sadly, I wouldn’t see the world from 14,000 feet for a long time. It makes me really sad just typing it, but there are so many things that I can’t wait for that make my heart happy!
It was surreal to be done climbing, to think, I’ve seen them all… is that it Colorado? However, I knew I’d be back someday to climb the final three that were left; North Eolus, Conundrum, and El Diente. I also know that I’ll be coming back with new skills as I would like to start learning how to do more technical climbing with ropes so I could come back and do all the class 5 traverses! It excites me to know it’s not over for Colorado! It’s also just beginning as there are so many other mountains to explore and so many other beautiful landscapes to experience.
This beautiful life is just beginning! I thank you so much for following along with me on this journey! I can’t tell you again how much it meant to me, and how much it helped to keep my determination. It just goes to show the power of community which is my next mission in life. There’s such a need for support among those who are struggling with an eating disorder. I will do what I can to see a growth in support groups for those who are struggling with this devastating disease. We were never meant to go through this life and our struggles alone. Otherwise I think we’d all have our own universes, right?!
I pray that my journey has in some way blessed you and encouraged you to live your life boldly. If you have a dream I hope you pray about it and find a way to chase after it. We all have what it takes to be a little more than ordinary and to be extraordinary. Live the life you’ve imagined! Live a life you love!
Kit Carson Peak & Challenger Point
- Kit Carson Height:14,165 ft.
- Challenger Point Height: 14,081 ft.
- Range: Sangre De Cristo
- Kit Carson Route: East Ridge
- Challenger Route: Challenger to Kit Carson in reverse
- Distance from Trailhead to Camp: 3.4 mi.
- Distance from Camp to Both Summits and Back to Camp: Roughly 8.2 miles (GPS died for a short time)
- Elevation Gain from Camp: 4,300 ft. (I think this is wrong because I’m not sure if they add the loss and gain)
- Time started: 8:25am
- End time: 6:30pm
- Time to Summit Kit Carson: 4 hours and 5 minutes
- Time to Descent (Back to Camp) from Challenger: 4 hours
- GEAR (to bring):
- Bear spray, GPS, extra socks, phone, SPOT Satellite Tracker, Map, Topo Map from 14ers.com, hiking boots with 2 pairs of socks on, long-sleeve, wind-guard/raincoat, light weight puffy coat, warm hat, lightweight gloves, day pack with water sack (100 oz or more), snacks.
- Road Condition: With a little guts, my sedan was able to make it all the way to the upper trailhead- barely. It’s very bumpy and plenty of opportunities to bottom out unless you know what you’re doing and have plenty of experience.
- Trail Condition: Walk up the road from the upper trailhead 2.65 miles until you see the sign wooden sign on the right for the Humboldt standard route. I camped at 3.4 miles in and that’s the start of many more campsites to come. There are a couple wet areas, but nothing to sweat. Walk past the South Colony Lake, and when you reach the Upper Colony Lake look for a trail leading to the right and up the mountain side. You’ll come to a saddle and turn LEFT. Climb over the BACKSIDE of Point 13,290. It’s easier and will block you from the wind. Once at Bear’s Playground, look for the cairns as they will lead you beautifully across the meadow (you’ll never have to actually summit Obstruction Peak). There is a path that will come and go up Kitty Kat Carson, but just climb to the top of that one and you’ll barely notice climbing along the ledges of Columbia that you even climbed another named peak because it’s such a short distance. The pictures from 14ers.com make the next section look very intimidating, but the ridge to Kit Carson isn’t bad and with care, you can safely make it down the gully without too much trouble (mostly solid rock). As confusing as it sounds in the directions, once you’re there, it’s fairly straightforward. I only took the directions out once to check out how they recommended climbing up the last stretch of Kit Carson (lots of loose rock). ONCE YOU’RE READY TO MOVE ONTO CHALLENGER: Backtrack down the same way you came up Kit Carson only head to the right instead of the left (to go back the way you came). You’ll see a purplish, brownish, fairly wide trail to follow around Kit Carson. In a short time you will see Challenger and it’s straightforward from there to reach the summit of Challenger Point.
After the disappointing news of Alix not being able to take me up the Spanish Creek to conquer my last three mountains, I immediately started plotting alternative routes. It was now Friday morning, and I only had two days before my mom was coming. I decided I’d go back to the South Colony Lakes to climb Crestone Peak. It was 14 miles long, and I figured I could hike the whole thing that day. I knew I wouldn’t get done until the middle of the night, but I didn’t care. I was going to do what I had to, to finish this.
I stopped in Westcliffe and continued to look at the routes because I just had this feeling while I was driving over that there had to be a better way to get Kit Carson and Challenger Point. My original thought was to drive all the way back over from where I came and take the Willow Creek Approach. Upon further research I found that I could hike to Kit Carson from South Colony Lakes, but it didn’t have directions on how to get to Challenger Point from there. I decided I’d use what I had, and try to follow the directions in reverse (from the standard route: Challenger to Kit Carson).
I was so relieved that I wouldn’t have to drive all the way back over to the town of Crestone over two hours away. However, taking the East Ridge route to Kit Carson would be an absolute exhausting route: first I would have to climb over Point 13,290, then climb along the lower ridge of Obstruction Peak, then climb up and over Kitty Kat Carson, then climb a short distance over Mount Columbia, then climb up to my first destination Kit Carson Peak, then finally to Challenger Point and do it all over again in reverse.
That night I hiked in to camp once again carrying my annoying overnight pack and literally cradling my Wal-Mart tent in my arms the whole way. I only hiked in 3.4 miles to one of the first campsites I found. I couldn’t stand walking another step. The hike in was haunting and the wind blew so powerfully. It made me so incredibly uneasy about the climb the next day… “What if the winds are too strong and I can’t make it?” I set up my tent and somehow quickly fell asleep.
I woke up the next morning paralyzed by the same fear the next morning with thoughts of not making it to the summits that day. “What if it’s too windy? What if it’s absolutely freezing? What if I can’t find my way? I have to get it today, or I run out of time.” It was as if I was already experiencing failure before it even happened.
Despite my fears I did the next best thing, much like recovery, and just started going through the motions of getting ready for the hike and tried to put out the thoughts of negativity. Before I knew it I was outside my tent ready to take a chance.
As I hiked to the Upper Colony Lake, the wind started to blow and ripped through the leave of the trees and as I got higher, it only got worse. Once I reached the saddle between Humboldt and Point 13,290 it became the windiest. My head down, hood up, I hiked step after step in the wind until I could hide behind the ridge. Although 14ers.com hardly talks about this ridge, it is definitely worth noting. It was an exhausting ridge with lots of climbing and it takes a lot of time even though it is only .4 miles long. I was so cold and miserable, but still pushing to go further.
Once I got to the Bears Playground (a large meadow high in the mountains) the wind was nearly strong enough to blow me over, but I kept going. I wasn’t having any fun at all and I was so cold, but I couldn’t give up, I couldn’t hike it another day. It was now or never for this journey. Luckily, there were cairns all along the field that lead to the easiest way possible along the expansive meadow and boulder field. Along the way I kept looking over at Crestone Peak searching for a possible route that I could take so I could climb all three peaks in one day. It looked positively frightening, but I knew from previous climbs that what looks straight up and down, might actually not be as steep as it looks.
Once across Obstruction Peak, I could now see Kitty Kat Carson. It was an interesting looking mountain and the words “Shark Fin” kept running through my mind. I never went near the ledge since it was still windy, but luckily the wind for the remaining time that day never was intolerable again. It was a fairly easy climb to get over and the views on the other side were awesome of Kit Carson in the distance.
I didn’t even realize at one point that I had actually climbed over Mount Columbia since it’s such a short distance from Kitty Kat Carson. Once I started coming down from Mount Columbia a jagged ridge lied ahead to climb over. While I thought I was done climbing anything above class 2, it turned out I wasn’t. For the remaining time to reach Kit Carson Peak, I had to do all class 3 maneuvers.
Once again the summit was calm and beautiful. For the first time I could see the famous sand dunes past the Crestones and Challenger Point was so close I could touch it. I was so relieved that I had made it to summit number 53. I just didn’t have the confidence that it was going to actually happen!
As I moved closer to Challenger Point from the summit of Kit Carson, I could see many gullies leading down the side- except they were class 4/ class 5. I was so confused. I kept reading the directions in reverse on how to get to over there, but it wasn’t making any sense! I wasn’t seeing anything they were talking about, and they said it never exceeded easy class 3. What I was staring at was definitely not easy class 3 and made my insides want to jump out of my skin. I was stuck!
I saw other people come and go on the top of Challenger, but none of them were making their way over to Kit Carson! That is until two gentlemen started down Challenger’s slope and I stared at them below to see where they would go, but they disappeared! I sat there waiting for them for a time to see what gully they would climb up, but they never came. I called down the mountain, but no one answered. Near tears, I decided it was time to take action. I tried to go down each incredibly steep gully, but each time I went down, my senses told me to go back.
Finally, I decided on one final gully that didn’t look quite as steep as the others and started to make my way down. Carefully I scooted on my butt and climbed down the vertical wall. I didn’t have room for fear and concentrated on the next place I needed to put my hands and feet. Near the bottom I reached a dead end and had to actually scale the wall horizontally to reach a safer area. If I was going to fall, this would have been the spot. I should have had ropes, but God being with me, safely guided me to solid ground.
As I started to climb up Challenger Point I ran into two hikers, Carol and her husband who watched me climb down the entire wall. They were expecting me to be some extreme climber dude and were so surprised when they realized it was a girl in pigtail braids that descended the wall! They then pointed out a sign at the bottom that said, “DANGER! Loose rocks/ Cliff. MANY HAVE DIED”. Whoops. I told them I couldn’t figure out any other way to reach Challenger Point! I told them about my trip and Carol called me crazy- which I knew! I was so happy when she found me the next day through my blog and sent the kindest message.
A short climb later I was at the summit of Challenger Point, #54. Another summit I really didn’t think I was going to get. I had spent over an hour trying to figure out a way to get over there. Fortunately on the way back down I found the Kit Carson Avenue which lead around the backside of Kit Carson and met back up to where I originally climbed to get to Kit Carson Peak! No wonder I couldn’t figure it out! So now all of you know! After climbing Kit Carson Peak, climb back down the way you came up and make your way to the right and you can’t miss the Kit Carson Avenue! Climbing down the west face of Kit Carson was probably one of the scariest moments of my entire journey- I do not recommend it!
My body was getting very tired at this point, but I still had a long journey ahead of me to make it back to my camp. I had given up on the idea of climbing Crestone Peak that day as I was running out of steam and daylight. Thankfully, the wind had also died down a lot which made the hike much more enjoyable on the way back. Unfortunately once I made it back to Obstruction Point, I couldn’t find any of the cairns I so easily followed on the way in, and had to make my own way back through the Bears Playground. It was much rockier and I was having to climb through many boulders which were unstable and threw me around, but eventually I made my way fairly unharmed to Point 13,290 and then back to camp.
I had started at 8:25am that morning and didn’t arrive back at camp until 6:25pm that night and immediately I curled up in my warm sleeping bag and went to sleep, anxious, but more confident about bagging my final fourteener, Crestone Peak.
Yes, it’s true! I finished climbing all 55 fourteeners that I set out to do as of October 4th, 2015 and I honestly don’t think it would have happened without the people supporting me and God. It was a struggle to get the last three between the weather, time, and emotional turmoil. I will most definitely fill you in on them when I get the chance, but currently I am enjoying the company of my mother and celebrating my accomplishment with all my favorite things such as; a massage (ooooh yeah), hotels (beds!), shopping, getting a white chocolate lavendar mocha from Brown Dog in Buena Vista, soaking in the hot springs at Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort, VIP cocktail and lemon cake from Del Friscos and ice cream from Bonnie Braes!
I have finally taken a moment to add up the amount of days it took from start to finish and the final number was 87! I started with Mount Bierstadt on June 24th, and ended with Crestone Peak on October 4th. I also had the family vacation which was two weeks long in July, so I didn’t count those.
When I put a number to it, it does feel like quite an accomplishment in a short amount of time, but I would have never expected to experience three seasons during my time out here. I started with the snow, and just today, enough snow fell to cover the top of Mount Yale.
While I get ready to go home, there are a number of things I can’t wait for. These are the things that I’m looking forward to the most:
- A BED!
- Consistent showers!
- Seeing my baby nephew Logan for the first time.
- Playing with my beautiful niece Avery Belle.
- A lasting hug from my papa.
- Going out and celebrating with friends!
- Dressing up in clothes other than workout clothes.
- Getting my hair did and being able to fix it (I’m still a girly girl).
- A roof over my head.
- A refrigerator so I can have fruits, veggies, dairy and meat again!
- Normal meals!
- Going to church on a regular basis again.
- Playing volleyball with my crew!
- Doing fall activities with family and friends: Apple Orchard, carving pumpkins, etc.
- Having a place to call home.
- To start planning and working towards my future!
There’s probably more on my list, but these are the biggies that I can’t wait for and definitely have a new appreciation for! Being away from family and friends this time around has been different from the time I moved to Colorado back in 2010. I can only attribute it to my faith that has grown exponentially over the past five years, and being in a better spot in recovery. I want to treasure every day that I’m with them, and stop to thank God for those times, because each day is a gift. I know that is very cliche to say, but gratitude I have found, is the best way to receive peace and contentment in life.
I have so much to be grateful for on this journey! The fact that I wasn’t injured by an animal or a fall or struck by lightening. The fact that I was taken care of by so many wonderful new friends that I met through my blog and along my hikes. The fact that I was actually able to climb all 55! The fact that my body never gave out on me. I was never hungry and had a roof over my head. When I lacked things like warmth or a working car, it was provided and fixed by the kind acts of practically strangers. I had people who believed in me and who cheered me on when things got rough, and I found the inner strength to push past my fears and doubts. I know I’m going back to Minnesota stronger in so many ways. I’ll be even stronger in my faith, stronger against my eating disorder and stronger against the currents that life brings. I can’t wait to show the world what I can do!
A Certain “Snake” Mountain
- 18.45 miles round trip
- Total Elevation Gain: Around 6,000 feet with elevation regain
- Start Time: 6:10pm
- End Time: 3:05am
- Overall Pace: 2.2 miles per hour
On my off day after climbing/riding Mount Lindsey, I spent some time at the library frantically looking for directions on how to climb up Crestone Peak and Kit Carson/Challenger from the Spanish Creek Trail. None of the books had much to offer and neither did anything online. While I would love to be a pioneer, and make great directions for this route, I’m running out of time! It was Wednesday, and my mom was coming on Monday. I was crossing my fingers that Alix’s book would have something better, but it didn’t either. I was so incredibly nervous to climb these mountains using this route; but using any other route would double or triple my mileage and my body and mental capacity was just about tapped out.
Wednesday night I went to what I thought was the Spanish Creek Trailhead. All signage had been taken down by the surrounding Buddhist Shrines who own the land. They are doing everything they can to discourage hikers from using the trail. I hadn’t realized this until I was reading about it that day, and really didn’t want to have to drive all the way back to the other trailhead and even more so, I really didn’t want to have to hike all the extra miles so I headed to the Spanish Creek Trailhead anyways.
I set up my tent, and with major butterflies in my stomach I tried to get some sleep. Every time I have had butterflies like this, something usually goes wrong… and my intuition was once again, right. The next day I woke up and somehow my phone batteries completely drained overnight. I didn’t want to leave until it was at least at 50% life again, which would take hours. Part of me did it so I could take pictures, but the larger part of me was procrastinating. I didn’t even know if I was at the actual trailhead. I had no idea what was ahead of me. No promise that I’d find my way. After all, I’ve gotten lost when I did have great pictures and directions!
Once my phone was at 70%, there were no more reasons to not hike and my procrastination had to come to an end. Off I went with my extremely heavy and uncomfortable overnight pack. I was planning on camping at 11,000 on the Spanish Creek Trail. From there it would only be seven miles to climb Kit Carson and Challenger, and only five miles to climb Crestone Peak. In the beginning, I was seeing the landmarks it was referring to. “Yes!” I thought, “I actually found the unmarked trailhead!” But soon the trail disappeared, but then I spotted a road- that disappeared. Then came a bridge and one way lead to a little Indian lady sitting in the forest, and the other way, again, lead to a dead end. I could kind of see a trail, but it was so overrun by thorny bushes (of course they were thorny) that I decided right then and there, “F-this.”
As I was trying to exit, I found another trail and I thought, “Maybe this is it”. It lead to a dirt road, “The directions never mentioned following a dirt road! Crap!” There were cairns everywhere on these half trails and I couldn’t tell if it was from the shrines or from fellow hikers who were as confused as I was. I followed the road and it lead to one of the shrines “Zen Centers”. The people looked at me with curiosity, “Where did she come from?” Already my shoulders were killing me and it had only been a half hour since I started. I was hating everything.
Once I reached my car, I just sat there for a while, “What the heck do I do now??” Alix was going to meet me the next day and at least I knew she could lead me in since she had done it before. I called her and she said she’d come up that night really late and we could decide what we wanted to do when she got there. Option one was to backpack in, and she could at least do Crestone Peak with me and I’d stay and camp while she headed out. Option two was to try to do all three in one day. It was possible, but we’d have to start really early.
While I was sitting and plotting in my car, I kept thinking about a certain mountain I hadn’t climbed. The closer I’ve gotten to finishing up the mountains, the more its been bugging me that I wouldn’t get to climb it before I left. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to do it the entire time I’ve been out here. I couldn’t stand the thought of having to tell people over and over again, “Yeah, I climbed them all, except for that one mountain”.
Instead of wasting the day, I decided I would just go for it. “I’ll figure it out when I get there. I just need to see it and the surroundings and I can make my decision then”. It was two and a half hours away, but I assured Alix I’d still come back late that night so we could take off early the next day. My plan was to do it completely in the dark and while driving I realized my hike was going to be twice as long as I originally thought. “Crap”, I was completely deflated, but I wasn’t going to leave without claiming it.
I decided I’d name this hike “Operation White Snake”. Some of you may know the Bible story about how Moses confronted the King and at one point, his staff turned into a snake. The magicians also made one appear, but the white snake of Moses ate it. If you’re following me here, I’m basically giving a big middle finger. You can’t stop this girl on a mission! Maybe someday, the mountain will be liberated like the Jews too (not by me of course, but maybe the government or something).
Once I realized that the hike could take six to eight hours, I decided to start hiking at 6pm instead of later when the sun would be down. I would already be getting back to Alix by 2 or 3am as it was. From the moment I started, all comfort or peace left me. I stayed close to the side of the road just in case I’d have to dive into the brush to avoid any confrontation.
As I walked further up the road, I was amazed by the ever changing sunset. These moments I knew, would soon be coming to an end. I kept my music off so I could hear any possible motor vehicle coming my way and as I listened vigilantly, I heard the grunts and squeals of elk. Because I grew up in a hunting family, I knew the sounds. I kept looking and looking for them, and finally I saw at least fifteen of them in a field. They were very aware that I was around and started to move further away from me, even though I was at least a quarter of a mile away.
As I continued further up the road, one jumped out the bushes right by me and scared me to death! They continued to grunt and call almost the whole time I was in the forest I’m sure, as warning to others that the “Big Bad Kristina” was around.
I kept my headlamp off for a while, still freaked out that a truck might come zooming around the corner. As I walked in the darkness, another loud galloping noise came from near by. I never saw it, but I was sure it was another elk. The sky was now black, and a silent thunderstorm was lighting up the sky in the distance behind the mountain. The elk continued to squeal and grunt to my left, then to my right. I was so creeped out! I grabbed my bear spray and for the first time, I kept it in my hand, armed and ready to go. A couple of times, while deep in thought I would accidentally set off the trigger and I must have jumped a foot off the ground each time.
As I reached an open field, I could see two pairs of glowing eyes staring at me with lightening across the sky behind them. I felt like I was living a scene from a horror movie. I blew my whistle, they wouldn’t move. I yelled, “Yah”- they still wouldn’t move. They just stared at me, never blinking. I took one step closer, and with that they slowly moved away, fading into the darkness. From that moment on, I was yelling “Yah” in my manliest voice every couple minutes until I finally reached my next destination.
Unfortunately, “Snake” Mountain, doesn’t have a path to follow from that point on. A challenge in itself when it’s light outside. Now I was going to have to do it in the dark?! At first I was marking spots to help me find my way back, but it was too time consuming, and I couldn’t find enough free rocks to keep it up. Looking behind me, I could see the city lights and I used them instead to measure whether or not I was drifting the wrong way.
While I was making great pace before (3 miles per hour), once I reached the hill I would have to climb to reach the ridge, it dramatically dropped. It was such a steep, steep hill. I was climbing 200 feet per one tenth of a mile. One hundred feet per tenth of a mile is hard, so I was constantly having to stop and breathe. I also had to constantly make sure I was on the right track and not drifting too far. As scared and nervous as I was in the forest, I was even more scared climbing up this hill, then summit and getting lost.
Once I finally reached the ridge, I could finally see the summit blacker than black against the moon lit sky. The storm, as I predicted moved on and was now lighting up the sky to the north. The moon was somewhat hidden in the remaining clouds, but was bright enough to help guide me along the ridge. It was by no means an easy ridge. For the majority of the time, I was having to balance from one boulder to the next. The wind was now picking up, and I made the mistake of only wearing my sweatshirt and the wind was cutting right through it. If it got any worse, I wasn’t sure if I was going to make it, or if I did, I’d be frozen and sick.
The ridge gained elevation, and then to my disgust, I lost elevation which I immediately had to reclimb. When I thought I was almost there, even knowing there was a false summit, I was surprised to see I still had quite a ways to go. It was eerie being on the mountain all alone. Once I reached the summit, I quickly took a photo of myself and started to head back down. Even with stopping for just a few moments, my hands were frozen and chills went up my spine.
I was trying to regain some speed with my slow ascent since the trailhead, but with the boulders, it just wasn’t possible. Thank God, I warmed back up and even my hands regained feeling. At times while climbing back down, it looked as if I was climbing down a dead end or cliff. My headlamp could only light about 20 feet ahead of me, and I had to trust that each step would eventually lead me safely back to my car. Much like life and how we have to trust God with our path and future.
I made my way down the uneven hill and tripped hard onto my knees and elbows, but was lucky that I was on a grassy patch vs. rocks. I was also lucky that it never happened in the dark near the cliffs. While one side was a soft grassy decline, the other side was cliffs, and that’s where the loosely defined trail was of course.
I got nervous as I got near the bottom of the hill because I couldn’t recognize the area in the dark, but I took out my GPS and could see the direction I needed to go to reach the stream. Down the next hill I went in sheer blackness, blindly trusting my resources I had to lead me back. Thankfully, it was good enough. With my GPS, and knowing the elevation I needed to cross the stream I found the next place I needed to get me back to my car.
It was now 1am in the morning, and I was tired, and my entire body hurt so I didn’t care about the possible animals in the forest. I was too sore to care. I figured they were all tucked in their nests and sleeping. I no longer could hear the calls of the elk. I tried to go down as quickly as I could carry myself, and twisted my ankle three painful times. The last time I lied there for a moment and shed a tear. “Am I done yet?! This sucks and this hurts, bad!” Two moments later I popped back up, wiped myself off the best I could and continued on in the darkness.
While I walked the last stretch another pair of glowing eyes were staring at me. Thankfully, the animal ran away into the woods right away and little specks of glowing orange on the side of the road would catch my attention as I made my way back to my car. I thought it was a piece of reflective glass until it flew up in my face! They were birds and the first time it happened, I screamed! The hike couldn’t have been more creepy!
Finally, I made it to my car at 3:05am! It was my mountain to claim! I could now say that I did climb all the official fourteeners! My face squeamed in discomfort from the long hike. I only sat once for a few minutes to drink water! My low back, feet, and legs wanted to fall off! I couldn’t imagine doing all three peaks in just a few hours.
As I drove to meet Alix, I only made it a half hour before I needed to pull over and just sleep where I was. I was dangerously tired- half dreaming while driving. As soon as I had service I texted Alix telling her that I would try to start driving again at 6am to meet her. When I awoke, I was still delusional so I fell back asleep until 8am. I received a text back from her informing me that our plans weren’t as flexible as I thought. She had wanted to start as early as possible because she only had today to climb, and there were storms developing. By the time I was nearly back in the town and near the Spanish Creek Trailhead, she backed out.
I tried apologizing profusely, explaining that I hadn’t realized it was going to be such a long hike, but it didn’t matter. I had lost my guide to get me up the Spanish Creek Trailhead. I was disappointed, a little mad at her, a little mad at myself for doing the “Snake” Mountain. What was I supposed to do now?!? I was at a complete loss… It was now Friday afternoon, and I had possibly 40 miles left to hike (vs.17 via the Spanish Creek) before Monday morning when I would get my mom. I was really actually nearly out of time, and I was too exhausted to hike Friday…
I don’t know if I can do it……