Sunday, July 15, 2012

Back to Hiking

Today marked the first day that I've returned to my passion of hiking in almost 10 months.  after suffering a broken leg running a half marathon in March of 2011 and then undergoing three back surgeries in early 2012, my body is finally healing to the point that I can once again hike.

October 16th of 2011 marked the last time that I was able to undertake a major walk or hike. On the day Zack and I departed for Iceland, I received the go-ahead from my neurosurgeon to to resume normal activities. Throughout our trip to Iceland I was able to walk normally and walk longer and longer distances. Given the recently decreasing amounts of pain in my back I felt today was the day I could finally begin hiking again.

At 8:45AM this morning Zack and I departed the house to undertake this first hike in so long. We picked up Lisa as she was joining us for this adventure.  The objective for today's hike was to climb the Devils Head trail to the Devils Head fire lookout in the Pikes national forest.

This fire lookout has been designated as a national historic landmark and is currently celebrating its 100th anniversary.  It is very popular with hikers from the Denver metropolitan area and offers tremendous views in all directions.

To reach Devils Head we traveled to the small town of Sedalia, Colorado.  From Sedalia the route followed Colorado Highway 67 to Rampart Range Road which is a dirt road that runs along the ridge line of the Rampart Range mountain chain. The journey along Rampart Range Road is bumpy and bone shattering. The washboard condition of the road has a tendency to bounce vehicles right off the edge if the driver is not careful. Thankfully the journey along Rampart Range Road was only about 10 miles. However these ten miles seemed more like one hundred.

When we arrived at the trail head the parking lot was already full to capacity. It looked like Devils Head was going to be busy this day!  The first part of the hike went through cool glades of aspen and pine. The grade of the trail was steep and for much of the first half-mile we felt as we were gasping for breath.  Given this was my first hike in so long the backs of my calves ached with each step upward. However once we cleared the thick forest at the bottom of the trail things became less steep and we were able to catch our breath more easily.  Moving between giant outcroppings of rock the views we encountered became more and more majestic as we continued. 

After 45 minutes of hiking we reached a clearing at the top of the mountain in which was located a cabin that serves as home for the forest rangers who man the Devils Head fire lookout.  Grateful to be at the end of our climb we plopped down in the shade to enjoy the breeze blowing upon us. The final climb was yet in front of us as there are approximately one hundred and forty stairs that you must climb to reach the unbelievable views of the fire lookout station. At this point I was uncertain whether Zack would be willing to climb the stairs or not. The stairs are very steep and intimidating. I was pleasantly surprised when Zack said "those stairs look very wussy - I can handle them without a problem".  I wouldn't have to coax or prod him to climb to the top.  For more information on Devils Head please see the following Wikipedia link.

 (This boy is growing up fast!  He is definitely looking like a teenager these days!)

(One of the rock formations that makes up Devil's Head.)

(Another amazing view from the lookout.)

 (Lisa snapping some pics.)

 (The fire lookout.  Not sure if the wires on the top are to prevent it from being hit by lightening or an antenna.)

 (Zack negotiating the rock paths along the top of the formation that is home to the lookout.)

 (Zack going down, down, down the steps.)

(Hike accomplished.)

After a short rest we began the climb to the fire lookout. Halfway up we passed the forest ranger coming down the steps to fetch his lunch from the cabin. Given he was not going to be in the lookout station he presented us with the cards he presents every visitor who climbs to the top of the fire lookout. The cards are a small reminder of your accomplishment but more importantly they carry an important message about trying to limit forest fires.  I first met this forest ranger back in 1996 when I climb Devils head for the first time. It's absolutely amazing as this gentleman has been working at Devils Head every summer for the last 28 years.

We continued our climb and quickly reach the top of the fire lookout. At this point we had reached the highest point along the Rampart Range mountain chain.  For Colorado it's not that high, it's only 9600 feet above sea level.  For me it was still a great accomplishment as this was the first time in many months that I had attempted to climb like this. With this climb under my belt I am certain it won't be too long before I am once again conquering 14,000 foot peaks.  It was great to have Zack and Lisa along with me for this first hike of 2012.

We stayed at the fire lookout for quite a long time admiring the views before we decided to head back down. The journey back down to the trail head parking lot was much easier and quicker than the journey up. Arriving at the car we began the bone shattering drive back to Colorado Highway 67. Given we were going through Sedalia we just had to stop for some lunch at Bud's Bar.  Bud's is famous for having the best burgers in Colorado according to the Westword newspaper. Year after year Bud's has won the best burger award for the entire state of Colorado in Westword's "Best of Colorado" competition. Every time I go there I have to laugh at the fact that they have no menu. They serve hamburgers, cheeseburgers, double cheeseburgers and potato chips, that's all. They don't accept credit cards and they keep it simple – it really doesn't get any better!

After chowing down on our cheeseburgers we went next door to a small little ice cream shop and got some homemade ice cream. I had a flavor I had never had before – Mexican chocolate. This is normal chocolate ice cream with cinnamon mixed in.  It was fantastic!  I hope to find a recipe to make some of this delicious ice cream for an upcoming barbecue or party.

After that it was time to head home. We had a full day of fun, adventure and beautiful scenery. For the first hike in 10 months this experience couldn't have been better. Most importantly it was great to have wonderful company with whom to share it.

We have arrived at the end of another weekend.  In a matter of a few hours I will be waking to begin another week filled with work.  I cherish these weekends and all that I do with those people who are closest to me. This coming week will bring much work for me but also much progress towards the completion of our kitchen. The completion of the kitchen is starting to come into focus. There is much anticipation for the end of this reconstruction as we have many dinners, barbecues and parties planned for this new space.

All I can do is be so very thankful for the good fortune that has allowed me to recover from my injuries and be on the cusp of having such a wonderful new space in my house. I look over the road that I have traveled in the last four years since Patty's death and there have been many ups and downs but at last the trajectory of life has been corrected. (Yesterday, July 14 was the fourth anniversary of Patty's passing. It is remarkable that almost half a decade has passed since she left us. We will always miss her and mourn her but life has become good again.)

I hope you've all had a great weekend!

Thanks and peace to all. ~ J.

No comments: