Summiting Gray's Peak
Who willingly sets their alarm for 4 a.m. to go for a walk in the wilderness? Call me crazy, but I'm a member of the "Outdoor Enthusiast Club" (aka resident of Colorado) and getting up before the sun to go hiking is part of the membership.
Anyone who has hiked one (or all) of Colorado's 14ers KNOWS you have to start early to beat the summer rain storms. If you start you 14er hike after 7 a.m., you're screwed.
This past Sunday, I punched my Outdoor Enthusiast Club membership card and summited Gray's Peak, the 10th highest-summit of North America. Getting to the trail head was an easy trek for my big Jeep. Think off-roading junkie meets Jurassic Park thrill- no dinosaurs in sight. If I wasn't awake before hitting this rocky road, then I DEFINITELY was awake then. As a Jeep owner, I seek out the road less traveled. Makes good use for my shocks and quite honestly it *feels* badass.
*If planning to hike Gray's Peak, smaller cars not recommended for the 1.5 mile drive to trail head*
The pine-scented chilly mountain air greeted me as I pulled myself out of my Jeep. The parking lot was starting to fill up and I was excited to share such an awesome place with other outdoor folks like myself.
Right off the bat, my lungs felt the thinness of the atmosphere and my quads felt constricted. No pain no gain, right? As I climbed higher and higher, the views became even more majestic than the last time I snuck a peek over my shoulder.
Scrambling to the top, I was overcome with sentimental emotions. I'm so grateful for the opportunity to have these Rocky Mountains as my backyard, to hike extreme trails, to be humbled by my surroundings, and to appreciate hard work.
As the clouds rolled in, signaling a storm was coming, I looked to my right. I was greeted by a goat. Not just any goat, a white Mountain Goat- horns and all. I mean, I've seen a goat before. But something about sharing a mountain top with a wild goat at 14,000'+ elevation in all its natural beauty had me internally melting.
I actually fangirled nature.
The hike down felt like an unspoken race between me and Mother Nature. The weather apps said the rain wouldn't start until 1 p.m. and here it was almost 10 a.m. As my legs carried me down the steep switchbacks, my toes kept ramming the inside of my boots. Where were my hiking poles when I needed them?!
What felt like a sprint (but looked more like an exaggerated speed walk), I embraced my Jeep just as the rain began to downpour. I couldn't even imagine what the people still at the top must have felt like being trapped with nothing but the pack on their backs and the uncomfortable proximity of a rain cloud hanging above.
As I drove off to make it back to I-70 East, I peered in my review mirror to see the top of Gray's Peak framed so perfectly between the pine trees. The scene was too perfect and I've never felt more accomplished or connected to my surroundings.