A lot of people look at me sideways when I tell them I use Couchsurfing. I usually get a shake of the head “you’re crazy.” Or a gasp, “You let strangers stay in your house?” Or, my favorite, the quizzical, “Isn’t that dangerous?” To which my normal reply is “Getting in your car and driving to work is dangerous, does that stop you?” I’ve met some amazing people and forged life long connections through the Couchsurfing network. For those who have no idea what I’m referring to, Couchsurfing is an online network that connects travelers with local residents. You can stay or host or just meet up for events.
Despite the challenges, reaching the base of Jones Mountain while being enveloped by the weather at Ptarmigan Lake made that extra mis-mile of hiking worth it. Sitting next to a roaring fire with some of your closest friends, laughing so hard it hurts kept the cold at bay. Watching my severely socially challenged dog chase a young pup around the fire erased whatever she was thinking by sitting next to a stream and refusing to move in 34 degree weather. The morning sun after 2 days of nothing but cold and clouds felt like a gift sent from the heavens. Being in the mountains is a beautiful balance. Beckoning you in for more, but just as often reminding you that you are a mere mortal; humbling you to the fullest.
Another weekend up before the sun. Another wind-whipped cold morning. Another high altitude struggle. Another summit sunrise. Another smile. Another day well spent in the mountains.
Squirrel and I set out to achieve a pretty ambitious goal: climb three (4 named) 14,000’+ peaks in one morning. That alone is a pretty tall order, but it doesn’t stop there. Only in Colorado can you go and do something like that, then see a show at a natural amphitheater (Red Rocks) that night. It was exhausting, exhilarating, and totally worth it. The promise of a full moon and good weather, this was an opportunity that shouldn’t be passed up.
The rock feels cold on my hands as I stare off into the distance. My mind is blank, empty, just enveloped in the moment. I’ve made it.The breeze brings a chill as the sweat evaporates off of my body. I breathe deeply. The sun’s strength is gaining, struggling against the increasing winds to wrap me in it’s warmth. I see the strip of trail across the valley, the lake off in the distance, and endless horizon of mountains and valleys below. Above me the sky stretches out with wispy clouds like fingers outstretched welcoming me into this beautiful day. In this moment I feel small. I am alive. It’s perfect.
I inched closer to the fire, the chill of night started to seep through my damp clothes. Rain gear was strewn about, for about 8 miles the skies opened up on us. Drenched to the core is never a fun way to start off 32 miles, but we endured. Looking up I could see the shadows of the fire dancing against the trees, beyond that the first stars were starting to twinkle. Despite the picturesque scene something just didn’t quite feel right.
Unable to sleep through yet another flight you succumb to watching the sunrise. As the light brightens you’re rewarded with what might be the most stunning view you’ve ever seen: the sun rising along the Great Wall of China, from the air. You smile, it’s kind of funny flying over the Great Wall, gliding over one of the great wonders of the world only to arrive in the land of the people it was built to keep out.