The new falcon herald logo.
General Articles

His first fourteener

In pre-dawn darkness I’ve taped our feet. A roundtrip of 27 walking miles plus 7,500 feet of vertical climbing await us. With packs containing food, extra clothing and emergency needs; we’re off before sunup to climb the Barr Trail.Soon, we’ve climbed far above our ancient Honda Civic down in Manitou. “Remember to hydrate,” I tell Ty, my 15-year-old son.” Drink lots of water to avoid altitude sickness.”The teenage reply? “My canteen! Where’s my canteen?”Back at the car, I pop the trunk and the boy reaches in for his canteen. His tall pack frame hooks the open trunk lid, and quivering splayed fingers can’t quite grasp the prize. A straining, extended arm waves about, but his fingertips are still 2 inches short of the canteen. He starts laughing, going limp with laughter. I snatch the canteen out of the trunk, saving him from certain grisly death by dehydration and from the altitude-induced hysteria that had obviously already set in. I was laughing pretty hard myself.On the trail again, we quickly ascend switchbacks, leaving the murmurs of civilization behind. Our nascent day brightens as dawn gently pulls back the gossamer lavender comforter shrouding nearby peaks. Rhythm develops as we ascend, legs swinging and warming to the task. “Here, let me slip that hot overshirt into your pack for you,” I offer. I unzip Ty’s pack. (This is the “old age and treachery best youth and skill” part.) I have already selected a packable rock.The sunlight dappled trail beckons. Occasional openings in the trees reveal sweeping, toe-curling vistas. My boy begins to realize what I’d learned on previous hikes: Pikes Peak is more than a picture postcard on the horizon; it is a place with depth and grandeur, unknowable from eastern vantage or even from the top. To know the mountain, one must climb it. On we go, expending a good but measured effort – muscles working, awareness heightened, alive to fingertips and toes. Drawing in a lung full of crisp, cool air seems to energize us, and we are lost in rhythmic striding reverie.Suddenly, our moving meditation is broken by a crashing in the brush ahead. A large black shape looms – a bear? About to run for our lives, we are greeted by one corpulent black Labrador retriever, his lolling tongue a banner of canine happiness. Beyond him we hear faint chattering. Sounds as if some feckless chimps have escaped the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. But no, it is only a troupe of young humans. Friendly greetings made, we move on.Plodding now, our lungs labor like a blacksmith’s bellows in the rarefied air above tree line. Rocky scree surrounding us casts harsh lunar shadows in thin air. A sudden williwaw blasts down from the craggy bleakness, almost causing us to lose our footing! Silently, I congratulate myself on my thoughtfulness: Rocks placed with care in the lad’s pack surely have saved him from sailing away with the errant gust.Finally, there is no more mountain left. I know it’s been tough for him. In the morning of life, Ty has yet to gather his strength. Certainly his computer game-honed athletic abilities have been of no help. Surprised at the effort, he has made it on stoic grit alone. I never pushed and he never complained. I tell him how proud I am. The mountain has shown me less of a boy and more of a man as we crest the wind-swept, 14,110-foot summit, sit and open our packs.”Hey! How did all these rocks (they’re small – gravel, really) get in my pack?!”I’m grinning: “What makes you think I did it?” I ask. Ty dumps the rocks out, grumbling, implying disrespectful schemes toward his father. “Oh, quit your grousing. Think of how you’ve helped to fight erosion,” I say with a sly grin. From my pack, I produce two hidden cans of cool, frothy, full-bodied, alpine-chilled crËme soda (his favorite).”Well, would you look at these?! Thirsty?” My arm around his shoulders, we sit sipping the nectar of the gods, puffy clouds tumbling and playing at our feet.Tom PrebleTomP@newfalconherald.com719-749-0549

StratusIQ Fiber Internet Falcon Advertisement

Current Weather

Weather Cams by StratusIQ

Search Advertisers