Manitou Springs, CO
12.6 miles one way
Pike's Peak looms above Manitou Springs and Colorado Springs, Colorado. It's not a dramatic peak with sharp, jagged aretes. It resembles more of a football linebacker, thick, strong, tough and most of all, big. You start at an elevation of 6,600 feet and rise to the summit of 14,110. To call this hike a beat-down is to slight red-headed step-children around the world. The amazing facts surrounding the mountain, both historically and geographically, make it a must-do summit bag if that's your bag, baby.
I busted up my knee pretty badly in the winter of 2002 taking a ridiculous jump on a snowboard. McStrnad and I were slamming our way down Jackwhacker, terrain park at Keystone, when I decided the jump would be just for me. The table was horribly long and while I cleared most of it, I didn't clear enough. I slapped the table with my board and with my ass seriously pushing maximum density at the time, ripped my LCL off my right knee, tore my acute cruate ligament and tore my meniscus in three or four places. Regardless of the actual damage, it woke my ass up to the foregone conclusion that I was twenty-nine years old with a body imitating Oprah and my physical well-being was on par with Boris Yeltsin on a bender.
During the two different surgeries and eight months of rehabilitation, I set a goal for myself. I told myself that I could go hike Pike's Peak. Our next door neighbors at the time, Tim and Becky Hamilton had a yearly tradition of hiking Pike's. I really kind of liked the idea and made it my goal once I was back on my feet to do this hike. I was also moving back to Oregon in a few months and this was my last shot at Pike's.
Jay and I got up at 5:30 AM and drove south to Manitou Springs, Colorado. We had purchased our tickets for the train a few weeks before and had them in hand. My boots had gotten wet from trying to clean them the night before and were still damp. We put them under the heater in the Jeep but they were still a little damp when we got to the trailhead.
We took the Barr Trail up the mountain. The hike in the morning was great, it was warm without being hot and the air was crisp and clean, like new sheets on a bed. I knew it was going to happen from the first steps on the trail. And the first steps are pretty damned hard. Two miles of switchbacks to start the hike off with. And the first two blisters formed on each heel. I couldn't believe my luck. Two miles, two blisters.
The hike wanders up at a steady pace, rising higher and higher above the 'Springs. We could start to see the plains stretching out to our east and the mountains starting to rise up all around like the shoulders of sleeping, planted giants. It was a bit intimidating to look at because it is so vast, so wide and so tall.