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High to Mile High Trip

I just got back from thin air and high elevation, sunny skies, and old mountains.  I had a great time in Colorado with Bryan’s friends and it is actually a little sad to be back already.

I got in late on Friday night, had a quick introduction to Kim and Mark at their home in Denver, before hitting the hay.  Saturday morning I awoke to a beautiful sunny and hot day in Denver.  We were treated with an egg and bagel breakfast by Kim and then walked to get coffee and haircuts nearby.  We then set forth for the Miners Exchange Hotel in Colorado Springs to get ready for the wedding of Kellie and Charlie.  The wedding started promptly at 6 pm and our party arrived promptly at 6:10 pm, sitting in the back row right before the wedding party.  The wedding was great, laid back, relaxing, intimate, cute, just like the couple.  It was held in a very eclectic garden with the ceremony held right at sunset and the reception in an outdoor banquet hall with Rudy’s BBQ catered, serving up great brisket, turkey, sausage, and all of the fixings.  The music was great and the speeches were touching.  We sent them off to sparklers before heading back to the hotel for sleep.

Bryan and I at the wedding reception.
Bryan and I at the wedding reception.

Sunday morning we slept in before getting a very filling but expensive brunch at the hotel’s restaurant, Spring Orleans.  For $22 each we had as much Cajun-style noshings as we could handle.  I stuck with the spring greens, fresh fruit, roasted potatoes, a tad bit of the gumbo and a made to order omelet for my meal and taking two chocolate croissants for the road.  We set out for quick pit stops at REI, Sports Authority, and the grocery store for the necessities for our camping/backpacking.  We drove about three hours to the amazing Great Sand Dunes National Park where we were going to set up camp, make foil dinners and hang out for the night.  As we pulled into our great campsite it started to pour, torrential downpours mixed with severe thunderstorm warnings, and high speed winds.  We took our adventure to the Holiday Inn in Alamosa, CO to order in Domino’s, relax in the hot tub, and watch House Hunters.

What would have been a beautiful camping spot by the sand dunes had it not rained.
What would have been a beautiful camping spot by the sand dunes had it not rained.

Monday morning brought new sunshine and a fresh start to the trip.  After our free breakfast at the hotel we got our packs all ready to go again and set out for San Luis Peak, what was to be my first 14er ever hiked.  The drive was beautiful and the 4×4 trail was a lot of fun to ride in.  Once there though the truck thermometer read 34 degrees and the sprinkling of snow on the mountainside was abundant.  Kim and I vetoed the backpacking in lieu of just hiking in and out.  We forwent our packs and started out on the 10.6 mile round trip hike.  About a mile in I knew that I would not complete the whole hike.  The air is so much thinner than what we are used to at sea level in Seattle, starting out at over 10,000 feet.  Both Bryan and I were struggling right from the start.  The hike was challenging too with the snow but it was beautiful.  As we went it warmed up and the snow kept melting away the snow cover.  Still after about 3 miles in Bryan and I stopped at one of the passes to sit, snack and take in the view of the San Juan and Santo De Cristo mountain ranges and huddling together to keep warm.  Kim and Mark, in Colorado-hiking shape kept on about another 1.5 miles to the other pass but did not make it to the top.  We set forth back to the truck, the way back being much easier for me as I was already adjusting to the thinner air.  Bryan and I ended up totaling about 6.5 miles total, 2,000 feet in elevation, in approximately 5 hours (with a good size break).  Once back at the truck we used the camp-stove to heat water for hot drinks and our backpacking freeze-dried meals, that I was excited to try and were so delicious.  I kept remarking that the Beef Stew that I picked out tasted just like my grandma’s!  Once full, we drove 2.5 hours to Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort for a good night’s sleep, and the continuation of the most expensive and most comfortable backpacking trip ever.

Sunny but snowy.
Sunny but snowy.
Quite amazing.
Quite amazing.
In black and white.
In black and white.
Bryan happy.
Bryan happy.
Mark and Kim super happy.
Mark and Kim super happy.

With a good night’s sleep we awoke to sun and warm fall weather in a beautiful setting with mountains all around us.  We made oatmeal in the room and then headed to the natural hot springs and spa included with our great deal of a room.  We relaxed in various heat levels of hot tubs, cleaned out my sinuses in the steam room, and then had hot relaxing showers in their spa.  We then drove to the little abandoned ghost town of St. Elmo, 12 miles down the road, so that Kim could take pictures of us (she has her own photography company now).  We were beyond starving and headed next to the cute valley town of Salida for the Boathouse Cantina right on the shores of the Arkansas River.  I had a great plate of Baja fish tacos and chips and salsa that really filled me up.  We got back in the truck one more time to complete the loop of Colorado back to Denver.  The whole drive was breathtaking.  We got back to Denver to relax, have one of Bryan’s friends over for a casual night of grilling out, talking, and then packing for our return home.

St. Elmo 1
St. Elmo 1
St. Elmo 2
St. Elmo 2
St. Elmo 3
St. Elmo 3
St. Elmo 4
St. Elmo 4
St. Elmo 5
St. Elmo 5

It was definitely difficult to get out of bed at 6 am this morning to head for the airport but the memories of the trip and the absorbency of sunny skies and beautiful views will last for some time.  We already our talking about our next adventure with Mark and Kim.

Chelsea

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