Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The View from the Top of the World Includes Two Dudes Smoking a Joint.

A week and half ago I returned from my vacation to Colorado. Two nights in Colorado Springs, followed by three nights in the San Juan Mountains, then a final night in Colorado Springs before returning home.

I can't say that I was that impressed with Colorado Springs (but this has to be taken with a grain of salt because I am, admittedly, very "Portland is the best city ever"-centric). The are great vistas of the mountains from spot place in town, but the entire urban landscape is littered with strip malls and is not easy to move through by means other than a four-wheeled vehicle. And preferably in a four-wheeled vehicle with truck nuts and that gets about 3 miles per gallon.

My observation, one that Emily concurred with, is that CO Springs doesn't have the neighborhood culture that Portland has. Most of the bars and restaurants are located in a strip mall. And make their bourbon and gingerales with Jim Beam, sprite and coke. Hmph.

But on the bright side of strip mall-dom, almost every one has a Vietnamese nail salon and a liquor store. This I am not opposed to. Here is Emily modeling the latest in prosthetic hand accessories at our Tuesday afternoon stop at the local pedicure express:

And here is the cart of pirate's booty obtained for the camping trip: four six-packs of Mike's hard berry, a jug of Bailey's, two bottles of bourbon and some pear vodka. Surprisingly, we only made it a 2/3 through one bottle of bourbon (I was honestly concerned that two would not be enough). It turns out the bourbon makes its way through one's system much easier at 9000 feet than it does at sea level.

I also visited the little community of Manitou Springs, which reminded me a bit of Sisters. Kitschy shops peddling faux-western wares and a couple of boomer-aged hippies playing the mandolin for an appreciative audience of other boomer-aged hippies. (The short version of how Emily and I first became great buddies: Over beers, we discovered a mutual dislike for hippies.)

Manitou Springs does have a very cool retro arcade area in the center of town. Most of the time I am openly hostile to games and game playing, but I do enjoy a rousing game of pinball and found an old bowling game that kept me occupied for a good fifteen minutes.

Wednesday morning Emily and I rolled out of the Springs and headed toward Lake City. Arrived about five hours later at our campsite. Also out for the adventure were my brother Chuck, his wife Deidra, her father Monty and his girlfriend Vicky and my brother's friend Nolan. Nolan and my brother work together doing something that they can't tell us about. But they know an awful lot about (1) Chinese satellite technology, (2) purchasing humans on the black market and (3) how to dispose of dead bodies. Put it together yourself.

Thursday was the pre-hike, a warm-up to the main lung busting event-summiting Handie's Peak on Friday morning. We took the American Basin Trail from about 11,000 feet to 12,500 feet. The road out to the trailhead was bumpy, narrow and cut into the side of a cliff for about a half mile. We rode in the back of a 1978 Ford Pickup. I get carsick. We passed the time by flashing gang signs and listening to my brother and his wife yell at the dog in the front of the truck. It was a fun drive.

My brother is pretty smart and did a great job of planning this trip in the height of the wildflower season in the Rockies. At the parts of the hike where I thought that I was going to succumb to a mixture of lack of sleep, excess of bourbon and altitude, I thought to myself that at least I picked a unworldly beautiful place to kick the bucket.

We hiked/climbed/wheezed for about an hour before reaching our destination, an alpine lake at about 12,500 feet. I have never seen this shade of blue outside of a crayon box. It was spectacular. And spectacularly cold. This didn't stop Nolan from jumping in, thus ensuring that his balls would not be chafing on his shorts on the way back down the mountain.

Friday morning was the main event, summiting Handie's peak. Here is the elevation profile:

And the topographic map of the route we took up through Grizzly Gulch.

Our group of adventurers (from L-R: Deidra, Chuck, Nolan and McKenzie, LK and Emily)

From the point this picture was taken, it was all uphill. First mile through the trees and the second through a huge alpine meadow. This picture to the right is Emily and I in that meadow with Handie's Peak in the background. Then we kept going uphill. For another mile and a half. The last 150 feet or so of elevation gain was scramble of the ridge.

Now, let it be known to all that I don't like heights. I don't like being on bridges and once barfed at the top of the Washington Monument. The scramble, therefore was a bit of a challenge. At no point were we ever in an danger of slipping and sliding off the ridge, but about halfway up I made the mistake of looking down (see left). Whoa. I looked at Emily and she suggested that we stop for a few minutes and just chill.

After the scramble, it was an easy five minute walk to the summit. My brother has all of the summit pictures and I'll post one when I get those from him. Being at the summit was like being at the top of the world, although I'm pretty positive we weren't at the top of the world because it is well-recognized that there are no cell-phone talking, joint-smoking douchebags at the actual top of the world. And there were two of those at the top of Handie's Peak.

We ate lunch at the summit, then headed back down the mountain. The meadow was still beautiful, but I didn't appreciate the biting flies too much. Actually, I don't think I appreciated them at all. But I did appreciate the journey.

Saturday Em and I headed back to CO springs. We decided to take a longer route home through south central Colorado. Let me give you a heads up on this one...don't bother. There's nothing to see out in south central except a bunch of trailers in the desert. Although it was not the most scenic route, it did allow us to play a three hour game of "There's Your House." The rules of this game are simple. When you see a really crappy house, you poke your friend and drawl, "Emily, thayuhs yo house!" The game can be modified to "There's Your Van," "There's Your Boyfriend" or "There's your Burnt Out Golf Cart Sitting on the Shoulder of the Road." Basically "I Spy" for bored adults.

It was great to see Emily and I miss her already. Rumor has it, however, that she will be flying out for Halloween Cross...


(0v0) said...

Very nice!

However, yes, C-Springs is lame. Ground zero for Christian Fundamentalism in the US. Funny, I make a pilgrimmage at least once a year.

Anyway, good hiking and welcome back.

Lindsay said...

Thanks goat. Glad to be back, although not so happy about the prospect of bike commuting in 102 degree weather for the rest of the week.

(0v0) said...

Are you kidding? I didn't know Pd was even capable of that. WTF?