Last week we hiked The Brother and I mentioned we wanted to go back to Evergreen and hike a few of the other trails. Instead of trying to figure out a new place to hike this week, we went back to Alderfer/Three Sisters Park and hiked the 6 miles round-trip trail to The Summit.
This hike is considered moderate and although classified in the same category as the trails that lead to The Brother, it was more challenging due to an almost constant elevation gain, 1,000ft in total and the trail conditions that went from slush to ice. Although the trail to The Summit was a good upward workout, it was not as strenuous as it may sound. It took us 1.5hrs to hike the 3 miles up in a walking pace and a couple of “breathing” breaks to account for the elevation gain.
The trail was almost deserted except for a few snowshoers and fellow hikers, which allowed us to walk in silence for most of the way, enjoying the tall pine forest with granite outcroppings that surround the trail. I couldn’t keep from staring up where the tree branches would sometimes close the canopy. I kept thinking: “I wish I could capture this feeling.” Rows and rows of green, filtering the winds and sun to the forest floor. A beauty!
Effort vs. Reward
After 1.5hrs, we reached The Summit, and it was a little disappointing. The weather had completely changed, and at the tallest point, the view was intermittently cut off by trees, impeding a 360 degree view of the surrounding mountains. The hike in the woods was completely worth the hike though.
I did not take as many pictures during this hike as I would have liked. Usually I am a stop-and-go hiker, taking pictures as I see things, but this time I wanted to get to The Summit with as minimal breaks as possible and then take pictures on the way down. That didn’t work out so well. After we reached the top, the sun disappeared behind some nasty clouds, temperatures dropped and the wind picked up considerably, so I just wanted to get down the mountain and go get a burger. I know some of you will understand my priorities by now.
What are you learning with the 52 Hike Challenge?
It’s been 2 months since we started the challenge and we have noticed a few changes in ourselves during this process:
- It takes less effort as you go. It’s getting a lot easier to dedicate a day in the weekend for hiking. We usually hike on Saturdays to allow for downtime on Sundays. This is working well and also creating a routine that will benefit us into the summer when we are planning more strenuous hikes with bigger elevation gains and longer distances. Some of these hikes will take 6-12hrs (including driving), so we need to get into a routine of building much-needed rest time.
- A mix of hikes. The whole challenge is about spending more time outdoors and accomplishing a personal goal: mine is to make sure that I remain healthy and get a good workout away from the gym (the hubby just comes along- he is my number one cheerleader). As long as we are getting out there and working out, I don’t care if we walk on flat trails or hike up a mountain, it’s the getting out there that counts.
- Small steps go a long way. We, like so many others, have grown up looking at food as a reward. It’s horrible and although we have broken many bad habits, a good burger with fries after a few hours sweating is still good motivation for us. Baby, tiny steps.
- It’s not a competition, it’s an evolution. Colorado is the second fittest state in the United States. When we moved here, I felt like a morbidly obese person, while back in the East Coast, I was in the middle. So when I first started getting healthier, it was easy to look at someone running up a steep trail, breathing normally as I do at rest, and feel like I was at the olympic games competing for a country that had never competed in that sport. BUT, it’s not about me vs. them, it’s about my evolution. I have already seen huge improvements to both my cardio and strength. I am no longer sore after a 5 mile hike. I no longer need an oxygen tank to hike beyond 8,000 ft in elevation. Those things are big wins to me when I look back and remember running out of breath just climbing three floors of stairs.
- Consider your partner. My type A personality can get out of hand sometimes when it comes to achieving things. If I had an unrestricted budget and no attachments, I would probably be signing up to cross the Arctic circle on foot with no experience or training. Thankfully, the hubby is my anchor in reality and my best pal, so while he puts up with me signing up for challenges that he will invariably be part of, I need to make sure he is happy while being dragged out of bed every Saturday morning to go on yet another hike. The compromise is to make things easier for him. I plan, I drive, and I keep it simple for him. No glacier hikes or 3 hr drives. No household chores, plus burger and fries. The latter helps the most!
- Keep it simple and respect your boundaries. As hard as we try, we can’t think of everything, so instead of spending a lot of time trying to account for every weather/trail condition, we make sure the basics are covered (water, layers, some food, map and money) and get out there. There have been times where I wish I had different boots on, or that I forgot my snow cleats or hiking poles, but if we let that stop us, there would always be another excuse. However, we do recognize our boundaries and we are not afraid to turn around if things don’t feel right. One week we got lost and drove for over an hour trying to find the start of the trail just to get to it and realize that it was a lot steeper and slippery than what we were comfortable with, so we just got back in the car and drove home. It’s okay, there are many more weeks and trails to make up for it.
I hope this helps you if you are thinking of starting the challenge or just want to hike more and don’t feel quite up to it. The trick is to start and have fun while doing it.
For more information on The Summit and other hikes at Alderfer/Three Sisters Park, click here.