Filed under: Family Camping, Nature & Wildlife, Outdoor Recreation & Hiking, Taking Along the Family Pet
Climbing in Colorado–Part 1: The Ascent
We were blessed to be able to spend ten days this August with our son Ryan. Not only were we delighted to see and spend the time with him, but he is full of great ideas for how to best spend our time together and most of our adventures take place out of doors. “I want to hike at least four times a week,” he started when he arrived. We had expected this and had several hikes planned. We discussed those, then he moved onto, “We could drive up into Colorado and hike a 14er!” The three of us had hiked three 14ers (Colorado peaks in excess of 14,000 feet above sea level) during past summers, but had not hiked one in 2012 due to our cross country move. It was time.
To maximize the amount of time we would have, we decided this time to focus on a peak that was within driving distance of our home in Taos, NM. There were several 14ers nearby, but we chose Mt. Shavano, 14,229 feet, as it was a mere three hours driving time from our home. There is also a traverse which crosses from Shavano to Tabegauche Peak, another 14er, that would add an extra mile to our hike. However, this would enable us to “bag” two 14ers in one climb—a very appealing idea to all three of us.
Another advantage, we would be taking the dogs along as they love to hike, but their pads can be damaged by very rocky slopes. After some research and reaching out to friends in the hiking community, I was able to discern that Shavano would be gentle enough, rock and talus-wise, to not harm the dogs. We were on!
On our selected day, we rose at 4:30 so that we could be on the road by 5:30 am. It was cloudy and cool, and we were a bit concerned about the weather, as we had been having monsoon season, which led to thunderstorms nearly every afternoon. Colorado had been experiencing this as well, in addition to the occasional snowfall atop higher peaks.
We made good time and entered Colorado at 6:41 am. Continuing on, we reached Poncha Springs, the town nearest the peak, at 8:39 and headed for the trailhead. The last ten to fifteen miles were over very poor road, as is typical for these hikes, so it slowed our progress considerably. We finally reached the trailhead at 9:16, only to encounter a herd of cattle grazing in the grass nearby. The cows were curious; our English cocker spaniels, oblivious to them.
We started our hike, making sure to keep the dogs clear of the cows. Quickly we began to climb. Ryan took Jack, one of the dogs, and sprinted on ahead. Terry and I, with Annie and Molly, kept a slower pace behind him. While the trail included some rock covered road, much of it was forest trail, soft and welcoming except for the fact that we were climbing uphill. The dogs were thrilled to be out. After about two hours of hiking, we reached treeline. The trail skirted around the side of the mountain, still ascending, now at an even steeper pace. This seemingly short section of trail was deceptively long and took nearly an hour to complete, leaving us exhausted. We had to be getting closer to the top!
Read more about Colorado camping and things to do in Colorado. Coming: Part 2: The Summit