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She Laughs Without Fear of the Future

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”!

She laughs

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.

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#26 Capitol Peak: August 17th, 2015

Capitol Peak

  • Height: 14,130 ft.
  • Range: Elk Range
  • Route: Northeast Ridge from Capitol Lake
  • Distance: 20-21 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 5,300 ft.
  • Time started: 5:00am
  • End time: 5:45pm
  • Time to Summit: 7 hours and 20 minutes
  • Time to Descent: 5 hours and 25 minutes
  • Overall Pace: 1.5 miles per hour
  • GEAR (to bring):
    • Helmet, 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 (didn’t need), lightweight gloves (didn’t need), day pack with water sack, snacks.
  • Road Condition: The road is rough with typical pot holes and pointy rocks, but my sedan was able to make it all the way to the trailhead.
  • Trail Condition: The trail through the woods is great (minus all the poop)- until it rains, then it becomes really bad mud- not fun. Also, THERE ARE COWS ON THE TRAIL! Don’t confuse them for bears like I did. The trek through the meadows and all the way to the lake are straight forward. There is a confusing part about crossing Capitol Creek, but I outlined directions below with pictures. The backside of the mountain is all large boulders and some snow until you get to K2, then the real fun begins (class 3 and 4 climbing). Here, I did get scared (not frozen, just deeply focused).

The day climbing Maroon Peak was an emotional roller coaster. The high obviously being that I conquered Maroon Peak. The low being, well, too many things. I received a message that I would no longer be seeing or hiking with a certain someone who I grew to care about a lot in a short amount of time. When I got back from blogging that night in the town of Aspen, I came back to find a note on my tent to move immediately or they’d take everything. The park rangers were actually very kind that they didn’t take everything right then and there, but with the recent news, I just felt that much more horrible and poor. I didn’t even take everything apart. I just threw everything in my car and looked for a safe place I could sleep. I still wanted to do Pyramid the next day despite wanting to crawl in a hole, so I found a place near the trailhead in the park. I wasn’t supposed to be sleeping in my car, but I didn’t want to drive all the way back into town either. It was already very late. I slept absolutely terrible that night because my blanket and pillow were still stuffed in my tent. The next morning I felt absolutely drained and my knees and quads were screaming at me from the day before. I just wanted to get out of that area and to a place of solitude, where camping wherever, wouldn’t be an issue.

I decided I’d stay on track and do Capitol Peak, my first class 4 mountain. I was thrilled when I made it all the way to the trailhead. I didn’t think my car was going to make it, so originally, because of the distance I was going to split it into a two day hike. Now with it only being 17 miles, I decided I’d do it in one day, and set up my tent at the trailhead instead. There was a beautiful spot open with the best view of Capitol Peak, the only drawback was that it smelled like poop. It was a popular trail for horses to go on, and my campsite was a great place to stop to take in the view.

Capitol 6

I spent the entire afternoon foam rolling my aching muscles, catching up on writing about my recent hikes, and talking to a sweet older woman from Taiwan who was waiting for her family to return. It was a beautiful day with scattered thunderstorms and I was really enjoying my time in my tent. After realizing how many nights I had slept in my car, and realized how much joy it was sucking from my journey and made the effort to relax as much as I could including gathering firewood so I could have an entrancing campfire.

Late evening, it was apparent I was the only one who was going to be sleeping at the trailhead. Everyone else was doing different day hikes, or making Capitol Peak into an overnight hike. Around 7pm, a couple pulled in and I invited them to come join my fire once I had it going. Not having a phone, the news on Saturday, and seeing so many happy groups of people made me feel so lonely. Right as I was going to head in for the night, Justin walked up with firewood and Stephanie soon after. We had an amazing conversation about life, and all the adventures we were fortunate to have. They had been on so many trips together to exotic places right here in the US that had me drooling. They were inspiring, and it was pretty neat that they could think the same about me.

Capitol 36

I was hoping that I’d get started around 4am, but I didn’t take my first steps on the trail until 5am. It was still very dark outside which still blows my mind that it was only a month and a half ago that the sunrise would only just be on its way. I reached my first small meadow and out of the corner of my eye I saw eyes staring back at me. I froze. The eyes were too far apart, and the bodies were too large to be deer… “It has to be a bear!” I thought. With every flashlight I had, I tried to get a better look at what I was seeing without getting any closer. My heart was beating outside my chest, and I was holding my breath. I still couldn’t see what it was. I started to back away slowly, and when I turned my light to the other side of the trail I saw more eyes staring back at me. I thought, “Okay, bears don’t hang out like this on a regular basis…” so I got closer to the animals than the first time and saw large ears- they were cows! They scared the crap out of me!

 

I walked past them and into a forest only to enter another field of more cows. This was the first time I had ever been so close to them. I didn’t know how they would respond to me, so I kept my head down, talked calmly and they skittishly would run away from me. I was scared they were going to charge after me and the demon marked cow didn’t help my fears. I headed further up the trail and checked my directions. I was so caught up in watching the cows and sunrise that I thought I missed the elevation marker for making a turn down a different trail. Not again!! I ran all the way back to the first meadow, but never saw a junction. I was pissed. Once again, what was supposed to be the easiest part of the trail was giving me thoughts to turn around and go back to my tent.

Upon further dissection of the directions, I realized I ran back for nothing. I had never reached the point of the junction. Although I was at the right elevation, it was when I would hit that elevation a second time that I would find the junction. Dang it, dang it, dang it!! I added about two extra miles to what was already a 17 mile hike!!

Finally I reached the right junction that would meet up with the Capitol Creek Trail, which by the way, is somewhere between 4-5 miles into the hike. I really wish 14ers.com’s directions would be bullet points, and the elevation as well as what mile under the pictures. Can we make that happen?!

Just after the junction you’ll come to Capitol Creek and there is no easy way to cross it, but I’ll try to talk you through it with pictures. Follow the creek up just past the first group of pine trees. There will now be two streams to cross, and the first one is now skinny enough to hop over. Then you’ll see flimsy branches put across the wider portion of the creek. It’s short, but takes balance. I couldn’t believe with my ankles that I didn’t fall in.

Once past the creek, the scenery is beautiful! As I was walking through a forest, I noticed a very herby smell. As I looked around me, I discovered wild Parsley! It smelled so wonderful… I hope you find it too when you hike! The directions and trail are pretty straight forward until you get out of tree line and start heading towards the lake. You’ll see a sign for either the lake or following a trail- TAKE NEITHER! You actually just went too far. Turn around, go back about 50 feet, and you’ll see a large rock next to a bunch of junctions. Take the one that goes to the left. Hopefully my pictures help!

Near this giant rock by the sign pointing out campsites 5-8, go LEFT.

Near this giant rock by the sign pointing out campsites 5-8, go LEFT. The foothill to climb is also pictured to the left.

The flowers up the hillside were breathtaking and it wasn’t long before I was at the ridge. On the other side of the ridge, the landscape is really different! All scree, talus rocks and boulders with a pretty turquoise lake in the near distance. Almost right away, I was challenged by crossing a gully and had to use class 4 moves in order to avoid dropping and regaining elevation. From there, for a good couple hours you’ll boulder hop which I really like to do, but it would have been even more fun if my ankles were stronger. I could now tell I wasn’t going to need all the water I brought with me, so I put left my Gatorade by a cairn to lighten my load. Along the way I had to walk through the snow a couple times, but it was never long enough to need my yak tracks.

I ran into a place of shelter that was created by another hiker and took note of where it was just in case I would need it. Because I backtracked for close to an hour, and it because it took longer to get to the lake than anticipated, I knew I was in danger of encountering a storm. Just as I had reached the portion of the hike where I would be climbing over K2 (a 13er), I ran into four people coming back from climbing Capitol. I asked them how scary it was, and they shrugged it off as no big deal. Maroon turned out to not be a big deal, so I felt like it could be the same scenario for the infamous “Knife Edge”.

Climbing over K2 took mostly class 3 moves, and getting down on the other side was a interesting. Every step was chosen with care and I had to stretch my body as long as possible to reach the ground safely below me. I had my helmet on, and I was glad. From this point on, I was on the border between being thrilled and being scared. Unfortunately, I never found anyone along the way to climb this mountain with, and I knew I was taking a risk by continuing, but having my Spot Check gave me the confidence to continue.

The rest of the way all of my focus and energy went to testing rock, finding the way with the least exposure, and spotting cairns. In my eyes, there were actually two “Knife Edges”. The first was very short, but I straddled it across, never feeling safe enough to stand. I actually do have a slight fear of heights, and it was showing. Despite leaving water behind to lighten my pack, I still felt like it was heavy, getting in the way, and throwing me off balance.

Soon it came time to cross the longer “Knife Edge”. My breathing was irregular, and I could feel the nerves arising. Before I could give it much thought, I began my journey across and it was a mixture of scooting, and then switching to walk on a slightly lower edge. The rock thankfully is solid and you don’t have to worry about it breaking off. I was very happy to make it to the other side safely, and was now mentally prepared to do it again on the way back.

Not long after crossing the “Knife Edge” I decided to lose my pack, which meant I’d be without water. I figured it was only a couple of hours tops, and it could be the difference between me falling or not. I connected my Spot Check to the inside of my shirt, and headed off.

Thinking back on climbing the next part, makes my knees weak. In the moment, there’s no room for fear. You don’t allow yourself to think about the what-ifs. You just think about where your foot and hand needs to go next, and where the next cairn is. It was a mixture of thrill and fear and I could imagine myself being nauseous from thoughts of “I can’t believe I did that” and the adrenaline. I could see that there were three hikers on the summit, and I was hoping that they’d still be there so I could at least follow them down, but I never saw them again until I caught up with them at the lake.

Luckily my foot never slipped, and God guided every step to the summit. Although the men were no longer there to greet me, something else was, and I was petrified of it. A very ugly group of storm clouds were just a couple miles away from me. I wanted to cry, and thought, “this is the end”, but the fight in me overcame my fears and I quickly started making my way down far faster than the time it took me to go up the technical part. I was praying constantly for God to spare me and for Him to withhold the storm. This wasn’t a situation I could control by running down the side of the mountain. Any other way then what I came was death by fall. It was in His hands.

I couldn’t believe it, but the storm which was originally headed straight for me, diverted its way over Snowmass Mountain. I continued to make my way down as I watched heavy rain fall from the clouds and the thunder rumbled. I found my pack, and made my way back towards the “Knife Edge”. Nothing ever feels the same when you’re coming back down. I had to figure out a route across the jagged ridge once again, and soon found myself back at K2.

The directions said that going around the backside of K2 would be easier than climbing over it, so with their advice, I started my way to the back (where you can see Capitol Lake). My advice to you: CLIMB OVER K2. The backside is vertical climbing down, and slippery with scree, and then you have to regain the elevation on slippery scree. Instead of following the trail all the way down, about half way I cut across using class 4 moves on a skinny ledge, but found it easier than fumbling through the scree.

I was now back in the giant boulder hopping field and my ankles were already done for the day. I slipped many times and got a few bumps, bruises and gashes because of it. At least I was falling where there was no exposure, I guess. The sun was now out and it was warm and pleasant. I took a moment to lie down on the large boulders to soak in the warmth while fueling myself for the next couple hours. It was so peaceful. It was as if the threat of the storm had never happened.

Arriving at the gully near the ridge where you climb to the front side of the mountain was a fun area. Follow the cairns, and then go all the way up. Trying to go through the two gullies at midpoint leaves you exposed and stuck. The trail is actually obvious, but I didn’t remember it, so I didn’t trust it.

On the other side of the ridge back towards Capitol Lake, I was once again met with the sight of another dark ominous storm. This one, I knew was going to hit me. I zigzagged down the hillside as fast as I could again praying the whole way down. Fortunately, the tree line isn’t too far off once you’re off the hillside. Just as I made it into the first solid forest, and sat down to empty rocks out of my shoes, hail started to fall with the force of a meteor storm. They were small, but painful and I found shelter under a pine tree. Loud zaps and claps of thunder sounded all around me and soon the path was white with miniature snowballs.

The storm lasted about 10 minutes and at first the snow helped level the path and gave me some traction. However, very soon after, the hail started to melt and I was left to carry on in mud the whole way back. It was miserable. It slowed me down and I couldn’t trail run back to my tent like I intended. The cow poop that was everywhere was now mixed in the mud and unavoidable. At least the cows were entertaining and I was much more comfortable being around them. I wished I had been prepared to climb the mountain earlier in the year so I could see the calves at a baby stage.

I was now around 17 miles into my hike and still wasn’t back yet (because I thought I was lost). The cows were now roaming even through the aspen forest and one started to follow me for a while and freaked me out. I thought, “Sure I’m not going to die from falling, or getting struck by lightning, but by getting pummeled by a cow.” I yelled at it, and it looked at me confused and wandered back into the forest. Phew.

The last two miles were the longest… I thought I was almost back so many times, but Capitol Peak wasn’t shrinking fast enough. My hips and feet were now very sore, but I could now finally see parked cars through the woods. I had walked nearly 21 miles that day, and it took me 12 and a half hours. I was wishing I had split it up and couldn’t wait to climb into my tent to go to sleep.

Unfortunately when I got back, I found my campsite had been invaded by people and their horses. I couldn’t believe it. It was the rudest thing I had ever encountered! My car windows were smudged from a horses slobber, my tent had hoof marks all over it, my campfire pit was destroyed and worst of all, there was poop on all sides of my tent. It was as if they were mad at me for putting my tent up where they usually do their scenic overlook. Whoever you are, you disgust me. Too tired to take my tent down, I went to bed around 7pm that same night and slept hard even with the smell of poo.

 

#24 Missouri Mountain, August 13th, 2015

Missouri Mountain

  • Height: 14,067 ft.
  • Range: Sawatch Range
  • Route: Northwest Ridge from Missouri Gulch
  • Distance: 10.5 mi.
  • Elevation Gain: 4,500 ft.
  • Time started: 9:10am
  • End time: 3:15pm
  • Time to Summit: 3 hours and 20 minutes
  • Time to Descent: 2 hours and 45 minutes
  • Overall Pace: 1.7 miles per hour
  • GEAR (to bring):
    • 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 (didn’t need), lightweight gloves (didn’t need), day pack with water sack, snacks.
  • Road Condition: Pretty standard dirt road with a fair share of potholes after you hit the ranch. A sedan should have no problem making it to the trailhead.
  • Trail Condition: The trail is easy to navigate through the forest. It gets wet and muddy near the first creek crossing, but it’s not bad. Don’t miss the first junction at the base of Mt. Belford. Make sure you go right. Everyone complains how bad the scree is once you’re on the mountain, but in my personal opinion, it’s not that bad at all. There’s a nasty part of the trail that is quite slippery on the backside of the ridge, near the summit. Make sure you have shoes with good grip, and stay close to the rocks for support.

The previous evening I had been up to 11pm climbing Princeton, so the next morning I didn’t get up until 8:30am. It was going to be a late start, but doing the math, I thought I could still make it up to the summit safely without dealing with storms. I promised myself that I wouldn’t push myself so hard on this hike, and I wouldn’t let myself get caught up in keeping a certain pace. When I arrived to the trailhead parking lot, I even allowed myself the time to make a coffee before I headed out.

This time I took the switchbacks through the forest very slowly and at much more comfortable pace. Even so, I still had to use my inhaler to make it all the way to the abandoned log cabin. It was a hot, sunny morning which I usually pray for on a regular basis, but when you’re hiking, a nice cool morning with clouds to offer shade is much more appreciated. I made my way into the meadow and could now identify Mt. Belford and Missouri Mountain even further in the distance.

I couldn’t see any hikers zigzagging up Belford like a human highway like before, and suddenly felt very alone. On Mount Princeton, for once I liked being the only one out on the mountain. But starting a late hike, and not seeing any other hikers is kind of eerie. Finally, I ran into a couple with their dog, but they were heading overnight further up the valley. Darn it. A little further up, a woman hiker by herself was heading back from the summit of Missouri. It was 11am at this point, and I had just about come to the next junction that would steeply climb up the side of the mountain. I asked her how long it would take to arrive at the summit and she estimated two and a half hours, but also dependent on my pace.

My goal was to reach the summit by noon of course taking the forming clouds into consideration. My legs were still burning pretty badly from the night before, and my throat was still sensitive. Slowly I made my way up through the boulders and thin paths of scree along the side of the mountain. Everyone warned me how bad it was, but seriously- until you’ve done Mount Columbia- everything else seems to be a piece of cake.

Despite my problems with Missouri in the past, I really like Missouri. It seems to be bad luck for storms, but the hike is very scenic and pretty. A lot of the wild flowers from a couple weeks ago unfortunately had already died off since it had been fairly dry and I missed seeing them. As I continued up the steep trail to the ridge of Missouri I spotted another climber. “Yes!” I thought, “I’m not alone!” The trail was fairly easy to follow and despite appearances, the ridge on the top is actually quite wide. I had done most of the elevation gain at that point and was trying to pick up speed because I could now see some puffy clouds that looked a little sketchy.

I came to a halt at a point along the ridge. I didn’t remember reading about this area in the 14ers.com directions, but it was a very slippery area with a steep decline that lead to a cliff. It was actually pretty dangerous and I second guessed 14ers.com’s classification of Missouri only being a class 2. I had worn my old hiking boots because they were more comfortable, but they also had no grip left. I was clinging to the rocks beside me, my heartrate raised, and slowly I made my way across and up to the summit. I quickly took a selfie, not wanting to waste time to set up my tripod, took my panoramic photos and started back down quickly. I didn’t like the clouds that were headed my way.

I couldn’t believe it, but there were three hikers coming up behind me a couple hundred feet back! When I crossed paths with them, I warned them to watch out for the clouds coming. They remarked they didn’t think they were going to do anything. I didn’t care. I wasn’t going to risk it and stick around. As I made my way along the ridge I could still see them hanging out on the summit! I said a quick prayer for them and I continued my way back down as quickly as possible.

It took me exactly two and a half hours to get down and back to where I had run into that woman previously. As I gazed up at the mountain walking, the puffy cloud had now turned into an ominous huge cloud and I could feel a couple sprinkles falling on my cheeks. As I gazed, I slipped off trail and POP. There went my ankle again. It hurt for a longer period of time this time, and I couldn’t help it, my eyes wallowed up with tears. Advice: Always look where you’re stepping.

Just as I made it back to the trees, CRACK went the thunder. It was as if God was with me, and had personally held up his hands to hold back the dangerous clouds until I had made it to safety. I was just praying that the people behind me were down and safe and that I wouldn’t be hearing about them in the news… a familiar story. I weaved my way back through the forest and started trail running until I had made it safely back to my car. I had done it- it took three attempts- but I had finally conquered Missouri Mountain.

The previous night, on my way back to my tent from Princeton, my car started making a very loud noise coming from my right, front tire. I got out to check it out, and my tire looked as bad as my other tire did when it popped on the top of Sherman. So after I climbed Missouri, I cleaned up my tent and darted for Buena Vista to get my two front tires changed. On my way there, about 8 miles away from town, whoop whoop whoop, clunk clunk clunk my tire popped.

I was also still without phone service to call AAA, so taking what I had learned from Mount Sherman, I started to change my own tire! At the point of taking off the bolts, I couldn’t make them budge. Not even my entire body weight could get them to move. Now I started to panic…”I need to flag someone down so I can make a phone call…” So embarrassing. Just as I thought that, an orange roadside assistance truck pulled up and two gentlemen hopped out and with a little muscle got the bolts to come off easy. God came through once again! I thanked them, and continued my way towards a tire store.

I arrived at “All Around Tires” at 4:45pm- 15 minutes before they closed. I told them the truth, that being, my car was my home. They didn’t even flinch. They had my tires changed and I was headed back to my tent within 20 minutes! I highly recommend them too! I have saved some miles on my legs pushing my car past its limit, but unless I want to fork over another $200, I really need to start backing off. The best advice I got that day, “Two things you should check: Check your oil and check your tires”.

Yes sir, I surely will be doing so! Thank you!

Miracle: The day I got my tires changed was the same day that my mom’s co-worker Judy, gave my mom $200 cash to give to me!! It was on her heart from God to give it to me- funny- it was just $3 more than the cost of my tires. GOD IS ALIVE AND PROVIDING! 

#19 Mount Sherman: August 2nd, 2015

Mount Sherman

  • Height: 14,036 ft.
  • Range: Mosquito Range
  • Route: Southwest Ridge from Fourmile Creek
  • Distance: 5.25 mi.
  • Elevation Gain: 2,100 ft.
  • Time started: 8:50am
  • End time: 10:50am
  • Time to Summit: 1 hour and 15 minutes
  • Time to Descent: 38 minutes
  • GEAR (to bring):
    • GPS, extra socks, phone, SPOT Satellite Tracker, Map, hiking boots with 2 pairs of socks on, long-sleeve, wind-guard/raincoat (didn’t need), light weight puffy coat (didn’t need), lightweight gloves (didn’t need), day pack with water sack, food, sunscreen, lip balm.
  • Road Condition: The road seems to go on forever! There are a lot of jagged rocks on the road that make me squirm in my car seat. But a sedan should have no problems making it to the trailhead. Just make sure you have good tires.
  • Trail Condition: You start above treeline which is pretty nuts. Needed to pull out my directions a couple times. Hiking with a lot of people made it a lot easier to find the trail. The trail is no longer hidden in snow as well. Trail is 98% clear of snow.

First of all, happy 32nd birthday brother! I may be far away, but it’s allowing me to be more present and aware of the true priorities in life. I have a clear goal in mind and in the past it would have definitely kept me from enjoying the small things and people in my life. Balance has always been a problem for me in my life, maybe you can relate?

Doing Sherman was a great choice as far as finding balance. My body needed an easy hike to recover from the previous hikes this week. Monday I had severe stomach aches on Mount of the Holy Cross, Wednesday was the longest hike of my life climbing Mount Harvard and Columbia for 12.5 hours, Friday was a hike of unrecovered burning legs on Mount Yale, and Saturday was a push to get Belford and Oxford because my body was starting to really get sore and damaged.

Luckily, my Achilles was feeling much better when I woke up this morning to climb Mount Sherman. I ended up sleeping in my car again because I got a late start towards Fairplay. I ended up taking a four hour nap after climbing Belford and Oxford! I know I’ll be sleeping a lot more than usual and that’s just the way it is. I accept it and it’s not because I’m lazy or depressed. My knowledge from being a personal trainer knows that sleeping time is restoring time.

The road to get to the trailhead seemed to go on forever. It is very rocky and very bumpy, which keeps going 15 miles per hour and not any faster. The last time that I was on this road, my tire popped and I thought I was stranded.

I was already crabby that day because the weather that week had only allowed me to climb Quandary. I was so tired of being so cold at the summit that I’d thought I’d try climbing at noon when it was warmer. It still wasn’t warm, it was raining, and it was windy as hell. I made it over a mile up the trial, but I didn’t have the directions printed off, my GPS died, and I couldn’t find any cairns. I plopped down on the rocks and cried, “this was supposed to be the easy one!” Weeping, I dragged my feet back to my car.

I went down and far back instead of taking the upper route which was covered in snow previously.

I went down and far back instead of taking the upper route which was covered in snow previously.

As I started to drive, my steering wheel kept turning weirdly. I got out of my car to see what was going on only to find that my front driver side tire was completely flat. I knew I didn’t have service, I didn’t know how to put on a spare, and I was the only soul on the mountain. I started to cry yet again in complete panic and disbelief. I had no idea what to do… hike all the way out of there to find help?

Out of no where, these two older women ATVing that day approached me. They asked if I was okay, and with tears in my eyes I shook my head no. They immediately started calling people to help me out. They assured me they weren’t going to leave me alone on top of this mountain. We started the process of taking the wheel off, and soon two older gentlemen came to the rescue and finished the job.

I gave each of them a hug in gratitude and they gave me all of their phone numbers and told me to call them if I needed anything else. They even followed me down the mountain to make sure I got out of the roughest part of the road okay. God was with me once again as he always is, and even sent me five angels. It still brings tears to my eyes to think about that day and how blessed I am.

Even with the nap, I was still starting to nod off at the wheel around 9:15pm. I found a place to park my car right outside Horseshoe Campground and slept there until 7:30am the next morning. Finally I had reached the trailhead and was so relieved to see multiple cars there! I couldn’t get lost this time! I started up the familiar trail at 8:50am. A late start, but I knew I wanted to do this mountain for time. I was kind of over climbing this week, and wanted to get up and down this one as fast as I could so I could relax the rest of the day and Monday.

Despite my previous bad experience, I actually do like Mount Sherman. All the abandoned mines and houses were really neat to see! I could feel the presence of the past as I climbed. I rarely stopped on my way up except to snap a few photos of the beautiful surroundings and views of all the people climbing that day. I had my music going and it was motivating me to push myself. I passed multiple people on the way up and many remarked on how good of an idea that was. If only they knew that I had climbed 6 mountains earlier that week.

The last stretch of the mountain is flat and easy to get to the highest portion of the mountain. At least on the weekend, I never have a problem finding a nice person to take a picture of me on the summit. It’s especially nice since I don’t have my tripod with me. I forgot that and my GPS in Montana. Ohhhh how I miss my GPS!!  Luckily it’s in the mail and I should have it Monday. Yay!

You may have also noticed that I’m no longer holding my signs anymore. Honestly, they were a nuisance and I could never give them the time that I would have liked. Writing this blog, updating Facebook and my page is enough work and gives me little time to get ready for my next hike. Hopefully I’ll find time to paint after this journey and reignite a passion for it again. Right now I’m still annoyed by it.

The way down I just ran! I slipped a few times on the shale, and while it startled other people on the trail, I couldn’t be phased by it anymore. Not after my experience on Mt. Columbia. Side note, I looked at the soles of my hiking boots and all my grips on the toe portion has been completely warn off!! No wonder I slip around so much! I would love to get new hiking shoes, but it’s just not in the budget. At least I know now that it’s not my technique that’s awful, it’s just my shoes. Running down almost the entire time I managed to make it down by 10:50am! A guy remarked on how I crushed it, and I felt pretty proud of myself. I’m looking forward to spending the afternoon in Breckenridge and Denver on Monday, just resting.

View of valley coming down.

View of valley coming down.

#13 Mount of the Holy Cross: July 27th, 2015

Mount of the Holy Cross

  • Height: 14,005 ft.
  • Range: Sawatch Range
  • Route: North Ridge
  • Distance: 12 mi.
  • Elevation Gain: 5,600 ft.
  • Time started: 7am
  • End time: 4pm
  • Time to Summit: 4 hours and 20 minutes
  • Time to Descent: 4 hours
  • GEAR (to bring):
    • GPS, extra socks, phone, SPOT Satellite Tracker, Map, hiking boots with 2 pairs of socks on, long-sleeve, wind-guard/raincoat, light weight puffy coat, lightweight gloves, day pack with water sack, food, sunscreen, lip balm.
  • Road Condition: Lots of pot holes. My car made it up just fine as long as I went slow.
  • Trail Condition: A couple wet places in treeline, but shouldn’t get your feet wet. The route is clearly marked and easy to follow all the way to the top. Shale is to be expected as you get out of treeline, and large boulders as you reach the summit.

Let me start by saying,”I should have drove to Montana!!” Between having to pay $30 dollars each way to check my bags, over stuffing my bag so badly to avoid extra charges that the shoulder strap busted, not having the freedom to drive myself places, having to sit at the airport for ELEVEN hours with the worst internet ever, not having enough community built up to get a ride back to my car, messing around with the RTD system and then waiting for a bus for 4 hours because you got it wrong;it’s safe to say it was a bad choice. Forget the flying vs. driving times- always just drive!

I was dropped off at the airport on Saturday at 11am, and didn’t make it back to my car until 7:15am the next day. I was exhausted, pissed, and in a terrible mood. I was supposed to hang out with a friend that afternoon, but with my bad mood and lack of sleep I knew I’d be bad company. I hadn’t slept but and hour and a half on the airport floor, but decided to drive myself to the mountains anyway. I stopped to sleep in Idaho Springs for three hours in my car. I knew better than to push through my tiredness to get to where I wanted to go. I rolled my car back in 2010 from doing just that. I was going 80 miles per hour and suddenly awoke to find myself nearly hitting the car in front of me. I swerved out of the way which landed me in the ditch rolling my car three times.

In that moment of twirling in the air, I heard an angel speak, “Be Calm”. I’ll never forget it. It was audible, and a voice I didn’t recognize. Let me tell you despite that message, I was not calm. I was saved by grace. I only had one dark bruise on my leg- that was it. My car on the other hand was a wreck. I was really struggling with depression at the time and had just dropped out of college for the second time. I hated my life, but somehow I knew that God had more planned for me- I was still alive.

While waiting at the airport I made plans with Alix to meet at the base of Mount of the Holy Cross. I drove my way to Half Moon Campground and was relieved to be back into quiet nature and out of the hectic city. It was a nice evening of organizing, enjoying the countless wildflowers, having an awesome campfire while I painted my nails, drew my next picture for the summit and made a delicious mountain dinner, Biscuits and Gravy. It was now nearly 10pm and Alix hadn’t arrived. Regardless, I was now extremely tired from the previous day and morning. I went to bed, prepared that I might climb alone the next day.

My campsite :)

My campsite 🙂

The next morning I awoke to Alix calling my name outside my tent. I was so happy to hear her voice! I was still so tired though… I ended up sleeping until 6:30am that morning. By 7am we were on the trailhead. I could tell I was reacquainting myself with the altitude because of my vacation. For the entire hike, my legs felt weak. The beauty of the hike through the forest was a beautiful distraction. There were so many wildflowers in bloom. There were however, a ton of mosquitoes too! If it weren’t for the hills, I would have thought I was back in Minnesota!

Alix and I shared stories of the times while we were apart. She had gone sky diving! Something that’s definitely on my bucket list! Luckily while at the airport, I was able to get YouTube and watched tons of videos on the “Most Amazing Places on Earth”. Let’s just say that my bucket list has grown dramatically, and I have a new vigor to actually create a budget and follow through with it for once.

The first section of the climb wasn’t too bad and wasn’t too steep. Then came the time to drop down a 1,000 feet on the hike only to climb back up to the summit. I was in a good mood and was loving the downhill, but didn’t really know what was ahead of me when I would be returning. For most of the hike, it was warm. I liked leaving later in the day and not being so cold the whole time. I didn’t even need my windbreaker until we only had a 1,000 vertical feet left to climb.

About that time, I started to get a horrible stomach ache. I could feel knots in my stomach and couldn’t figure out exactly why I was having these issues. Every time I fly, my digestive system gets messed up- badly. It takes me weeks to get back on track again (yet another reason to avoid flying when I can). I also took three Advil to avoid body aches and sometimes that can give me a nasty stomach ache.

I had to stop a couple times to crouch down and massage my stomach. Alix gave me some medicine and by the time we made it to the peak I was starting to feel a little better. I sat up there for a good 15 minutes just praying to God to heal my stomach. It may have been unlucky 13, but come on- I was on Mount of the Holy Cross! Finally the pain was gone, Alix and I took pictures, ate some food, and headed our way back down to the campground.

While descending my stomach was doing alright. I thought I was at the end of it. But as we started to climb back up the 1,000 feet, the stomach ache returned only this time it was worse. The climb up felt like it wouldn’t end and surely had doubled in height. We had to stop multiple times out of my pain. The pain had now moved from my stomach to the lower, right side of my abdomen. I asked Alix, “What side is the appendix on?” We couldn’t remember, but now I was concerned I had somehow ruptured it.

Finally, we had made it back to the campground. I had tried multiple times to go to the bathroom, but was unsuccessful. She looked up the symptoms of Appendicitis, and it read:

Dull pain near the navel or the upper abdomen that becomes sharp as it moves to the lower right abdomen, loss of appetite, nausea and/or vomiting soon after abdominal pain begins, abdominal swelling, fever of 99-102 degrees Fahrenheit, Inability to pass gas.

I had all of those except the fever that I knew of. Alix offered to take down my tent so I could get a move on. I informed my parents and was off to Vail’s ER room. They hooked me up to a painful IV to get fluids in me and then I waited, and waited. Finally, the doctor came in and checked me over. Given the symptoms, and abdomen exam, he was also concerned about my appendix so he ordered a cat scan. I had never had one before.

Alix had found me in the ER room and kept me company the entire time. I was so blessed to have found a friend like her on this journey. The doctor came back to tell me that he was also now thinking it could be kidney stones. I thought, “Better than needing surgery. It is what it is, but I really don’t want to have to put my hiking on hold!” Luckily the scans showed me to be negative for both appendicitis and kidney stones. He didn’t know what was causing the pain, but sent me off with pain meds and told me to come back if it returned and got worse. And no people, it wasn’t just gas!

I was happy to have bagged another 14er despite the circumstances. You just never know what your going to get when climbing a 14er. Today, I decided, would be an off day. Alix is keeping me company while I explore Vail for the first time. Hopefully I’ll be back to climbing this Thursday and won’t have any stomach pain!