Rocky Mountain Ramblings

A Failed Attempt to Summit Mt. Princeton – Tips, Tricks and What to do Next Time July 1, 2018

Filed under: Hikes,Travels — rovinglady @ 12:28 pm
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Without much preparation or planning, Chris and I decided we were going to hike a 14er on Saturday.  The only real intention we had was to leave for Buena Vista, CO after work on Friday, set up camp and hike on Saturday.  Though we tried, we did not summit our chosen mountain peak of Mt. Princeton, and there were many things we could have done differently to aid in a successful climb.  I’ll chalk it up as a live and learn experience, and perhaps next time I will triumph.

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High hopes from the parking lot trail head

The first thing we did wrong on this adventure was we didn’t choose which peak we wanted to hike in advance, or spend enough time researching the trails. While we drove down 285 south toward Buena Vista on Friday evening I did some quick searches on Google while my phone was in and out of cell service range, and decided that Mt. Yale seemed like a good choice for us to hike.  We knew the trail head was off of county road 306, and we figured we’d set up camp somewhere in the vicinity.

By the time we got to CR 306 it was getting dark.  We were greeted with a sign that said “road closed 9 miles ahead”, which was about three miles before the trail head.  We drove as far as we could on CR 306 and set up camp on BLM land. We headed back to town to go to the grocery store to get provisions for breakfast and lunch the next day. This was our second mistake; not doing meal prep in advance.  Usually when we go camping we get out all the equipment prior to departure and look through the supply bag to make sure we have everything we will need. This time we just grabbed the supply bag and packed it in the car, and of course it didn’t contain everything we would need.

Since the road to the Mt. Yale trail head was closed I tried to look up alternate hikes on my phone from the grocery store parking lot, but cell phone reception was terrible, which turned out to be caused by a nearby wildfire that reached some cell phone towers.  Chris had some previous experience with the Mt. Princeton trail and said he had always wanted to summit that peak, so to make our decision quicker and easier we settled on that choice.

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Chris had mentioned wanting to wake up early to begin the hike, but our third mistake came in not setting a morning alarm.  We woke up later than desired, and then realized we didn’t have a pan or other cooking utensils to make bacon and egg sandwiches for breakfast.  This required us to go back to the grocery store in the morning, because there was no way I was going to attempt a long and strenuous hike without eating breakfast. By the time we stopped at the store and then prepared breakfast and lunch at the trail head parking lot, we didn’t start out on our hike until 10:00 AM, which as an experienced hiker of 14ers knows was the fourth mistake.

The fifth mistake we made was that when you hike Mt. Princeton, you have the choice to either park the car in a larger parking lot on CR 322 at 8,900 ft. elevation, or continue driving for three miles to a smaller parking lot at the radio towers at 10,800 ft.  When I had internet service I did see that driving on CR 322 to the radio towers required a 4WD car and I was nervous about taking my 2002 Honda CRV on the road. Also, Chris said it would be cheating if we drove three extra miles instead of hiking, so it seemed a no-brainer to us to park the car at the lower lot and hike all the way up.  It turned out that parking in the lower lot was a bad decision (at least for us, anyway).  And for the record, after seeing the road to the radio towers, I think with very cautious driving my car would have made it to the upper lot.

The hike up to the radio towers was on a dirt road which was very dusty and not very scenic.  As we strained ourselves hiking three extra miles and about 2,000 feet in elevation, we were passed by at least 15 cars that were driving up to the second lot. Everytime a car passed dirt and dust swirled around us and stuck to the sweat and sunscreen on my face and body. It was already not my favorite hiking experience, and we hadn’t even reached the radio towers yet.  

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Dirt road (CR 322) to radio towers

It took us two hours to reach the radio towers and we had already breaked several times, eaten one snack and sought out shade as often as possible.  Due to the 10:00 AM start we were hiking in the blazing sun, which did not support our efforts whatsoever. The sixth mistake we made was that we weren’t sure how long the hike actually was.  I had taken a few screenshots to reference from a website that gave directions in elevation, but not miles, and Chris had read something that said 7.4 miles, but wasn’t sure if that was one way or round trip. It turned out 7.4 miles was one way from the lower lot.

We hiked the three miles to the radio towers at 10,800 feet and our next direction was to look for the trail head off the dirt road at 11,800 feet, which turned out to be another 1.5 miles away and took us about one hour. En route to the trail head I was starting to wonder if I would even make it that far, let alone to the summit. By this time my hip flexors were hurting very badly and every step I took was painful, so I was walking slowly and with small steps, all the while fighting back tears and negative thoughts about my capabilities.

I’m going to go ahead and say my seventh mistake was not having any music to listen to on the hike.  It was a long hike and Chris often forged ahead, and while quiet time alone on a trail can be wonderful, I really wished I had some music to boost my energy and take my mind off the difficulties I was facing. As we neared the trail head we passed three men on their way down. Chris asked them if we were getting close and one man laughed and said “you aren’t even warmed up yet.”  I found his remark to be incredibly discouraging and it definitely acted as an anchor to my already sinking spirit about the hike and my physical condition.

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In between the radio towers parking lot and Mt. Princeton trail head. Elevation 11,600 ft. Wildfire smoke visible in distance.

We took a break at the trail head and talked to a small group of people that were coming down.  They said they didn’t reach the summit because the terrain turned very rocky and challenging, and the summit was still “very far” away.  Once we were off the dirt road and on the actual trail this part of the trek was actually beautiful and enjoyable and much like I would hope for on a hike. There was green grass, wildflowers and high elevation life such as marmots, pikas, bees, butterflies and birds.  

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Mt. Princeton trail, elevation 12,100 ft.

The beautiful trail didn’t last long, though, and wasn’t enough to revive my spirit.  After about .4 miles the terrain soon turned to all rock scramble and there wasn’t much of a visible path. It was around this time that I broke down and cried. I knew I didn’t have it in me to keep going, and I felt like a failure and like I was letting Chris down as a hiking partner because he was going much faster than me and wasn’t experiencing the hip flexor pain like I was.  According to my best guess from the websites we had looked at, it was still another 2 miles to the summit after the terrain turned rocky.  I knew I was not making it all the way.  I stopped where the green grass and trail turned to rock and sat and waited for Chris who went a little further to about 12,500-13,000 ft elevation.  

 

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Where the trail turns to rocky terrain. Mt. Princeton on the right.

Sitting and waiting for Chris was my favorite part of the day.  There I was sitting on a mountain top at 12,100 ft. elevation with just me and the solitude of nature.  It turned out I was sitting near a marmot den, and he or she came out to visit and we looked at each other and I got a few awesome photos.  

 

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Mr. Marmot

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Marmot kingdom

While waiting for Chris I took off my hiking boots and rested on my backpack as a pillow and felt some of my spirit return. I realized that I had still hiked five miles and just over 3,000 ft. in elevation, and that itself is an accomplishment, even though I didn’t reach the summit. I talked to several others who didn’t reach the summit, so I shouldn’t feel too bad, but I can’t help but feel like I failed and like all the time I’ve dedicated to going to the gym the past few months hasn’t paid off and why should I live in CO if I can’t summit a 14er.

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my stats according to my cycling GPS app when I called it quits at 12,154 ft. elevation

I think if we had started from the parking lot at the radio towers I may have made it to the top of the massive Mt. Princeton, but I guess I can’t be sure until I try it again, which I’m honestly in no rush to do. To quote someone I talked to who also didn’t summit, “I’m not loving this that much to keep trying.”  

Mt. Princeton is rated a class two difficulty (on a scale of 1-5), but we heard from other hikers that it’s a very challenging summit over the rocky terrain. Being that I’ve only actually hiked (and successfully summited, thank you very much) one 14er, I decided that next time I want to try a trail that may be easier, or at least shorter, and prettier, so that I can summit, boost my confidence and give me more experience before I try to tackle Mt. Princeton again. 

I guess I’m not much of an ivy-leaguer, anyway…

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Jersey Girls Do Wyoming October 27, 2014

Filed under: Ain't Life Grand,Travels — rovinglady @ 5:31 pm
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My friend Anne asked me if I wanted to go hiking in Colorado on Saturday, and I asked her if she wanted to go to Wyoming.  I figured a day trip to Cheyenne would be a nice change of perspective for two jersey girls, being that WY is the second least densely populated of the 50 states and NJ is the most densely populated state.   I certainly got what I was looking for.

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We left Denver about 12:30 PM and headed north on I-25, with no address typed into any GPS.  I had done a quick Google search before we embarked and wrote down a few points of interest, and I suggested we head to the 8 ft cowboy boots in historic downtown Cheyenne, the capitol city.  I had an address for the boots, but as we neared the city exit off the interstate, it became apparent we still did not need to use a GPS.  We simply exited the highway and headed east toward the dome of the capitol building, which at 146 ft was the most prominent structure of the Cheyenne skyline.

We passed through a quaint, quiet neighborhood which felt more like a small town than a city, and then had no trouble finding parking in front of the capitol building. It’s a very lovely building, built in 1887, complete with a dome and statues of important figures in Wyoming history.

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There was one of those “You Are Here” maps near the capitol building and it turned out we were only a few blocks from the 8 ft cowboy boots, so we moved the car down the road and prepared for our big day out on the town.

Downtown Cheyenne was not too happening.  There were a few blocks to walk around and we checked out some of the stores.  Most of the stores had a run-down, poorly-funded vibe to them, and the people working in each shop were very unique.

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We popped in a Halloween store and were greeted by a man in his sixties who was wearing some sort of wizard costume and eye liner.  As we walked out of the store empty handed he said, “Thank you for coming in,” and it was one of the most sincere comments I have ever heard anyone make.  I truly believed he was thrilled to see the likes of us, unlike the shop owner of the fossil, gem and jewelry store we went in.

When we walked in that store, a man in cowboy boots, wrangler jeans and turquoise jewelry came out from the back room and was clearly annoyed to have guests.  We poked around for a couple minutes, but all he said was that he was “fixin’ to have lunch in the back.”  I tried to ask him if he made the jewelry in the store and he replied with a curt, “Yea.”  I asked if he goes to the Denver Gem and Mineral Show and received another one-word affirmation.  At that I bid him a good day and we carried on.

We went in a flea market store and each picked out a small trinket as a souvenir. This store had a ton of wolf and native American decor.  The employee in that store was more friendly, and there were actually a few other people inside browsing at the same time.

The record store was the most happening; there was music playing, there was a board of upcoming releases, there were two sales in a row (a mom bought her high school daughter a record and Anne bought the new Primus CD), and the employee was pricing items still to hit the shelves.

We made one last stop in a store called The Wrangler, which sold really cute Western wear and had a huge variety of cowboy and cowgirl boots in stock.  There was a nice gal of about 23-years-old who was eight months pregnant working, and she said the store is very well known.  They receive shipments of boots in Monday-Friday and sell them to locals, residents of neighboring towns and tourists seven days/week.  I couldn’t even believe the amount of boots they had in stock.  Never in all my life had I seen such an inventory.  I asked the girl how many boots they sell a day, but she didn’t know.  I tried a few pairs on for the heck of it; after all, “When in Cheyenne…”

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After all that shopping we arrived at the 8 ft cowboy boots, which I think you can say was in the town center.

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We were hungry, and from that exact spot I was under the impression we could see all of our restaurant options by turning around 360 degrees.  There was Shadow’s Pub and Grill, Los Abuelos Mexican food, an unattractive bar called The Albany that advertised food, drink and discount liquor, or the place we had parked across the street from, The Drunken Skunk, which I’m not even sure had food.

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We opted for Shadows Pub and Grill and found their bar to have a decent Sunday football crowd; probably the most exciting thing going on in the city.  One of the bartenders was wearing a Wyoming Cowboys jersey and I got to thinking that I don’t know anyone who is a fan of that team.   Anne and I both ordered chicken sandwiches with sweet potato fries, and agreed that they were some of the worst sweet potato fries we’d ever had.

By the time we got done eating we had to move the car out of two-hour parking, and we decided we’d seen all there was to see in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  We hopped back on the highway and headed south toward Denver, with a pit stop in Fort Collins, CO (which has got to be bigger than Cheyenne) for ice cream at Ben and Jerry’s.

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And so, that was that, if anyone ever asks, I can officially say I have spent some time in Cheyenne, Wyoming.  Just two jersey girls who had lunch in the Equality State.

Did you know that in 1869 Wyoming was the first government in the world to grant equal rights to women?

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Business trip to Syracuse, NY September 22, 2009

I am going to begin my first rambling with a documentation of a trip I recently took to the small city of Syracuse, NY last weekend, Sept. 10 – 13, 2009. It was actually a business trip, the first one of my life, and I went on it with my dear friend, fellow trouble maker and for the weekend, generous beneficiary, Kristin. Kristin’s mom owns an Irish goods store in Denville, NJ. You can check it out on the web at http://www.faithandbegorra.com

Her mom often vends her merchandise at Irish festivals along the east coast, but had double booked herself for that particular weekend and asked if Kristin and I would like to vend for her. She offered to pay us cash, purchased all of our meals and put us up in the extremely comfortable Syracuse Marriott Renaissance Hotel for three nights. The bed was perhaps the most fluffy and comfortable bed I’ve ever slept in, and the shower water came from a huge head in the ceiling. The hotel had about 20 floors, it was very tall and round. We had trouble getting lost with a landmark like that!
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Kristin showed up at my house Thursday afternoon in a big, white utility van her mom had rented for us. “I look like a pedophile driving this thing,” she stated upon arrival. I got a good laugh out of that.
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Unfortunately the music situation in the big white van, which we quickly named Bessie, was only that of AM/FM radio. Radio scans for the entire four hour ride led us to a multitude of classic hits such as Duncan Sheik’s “I am Barely Breathing”, which I sadly decided was the best of the available songs playing at the time. We also heard chart toppers like Kiss’ “Rock and Roll All Night”, Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me” and Nirvana’s “All Apologies”. The best song we heard on radio scan came on at precisely 1:48pm and was the one I had been singing the entire time, Chuck Berry’s “No Particular Place To Go.” I made a note of disappointment when Kristin made us listen to Pearl Jam’s (I think) “Yellow Ledbetter” over ABBA’s “Dancing Queen”. 😉

We arrived to the Renaissance hotel at approximately 4:20pm. The woman working the front desk must have thought we were a gay couple and asked if we would like one king size bed. (We ended up with two full size beds.)

We didn’t have to be to the Guinness Irish Festival until noon on Friday, so we took advantage of our free night and headed out for a night on the Syracuse town. It was my first time in the city! Our hotel offered us a free shuttle and the very nice driver Fred, who looked about 80, brought us to the part of town known as Armory Square. The area was suggested to me by a friend who one time lived in Syracuse, and Fred backed up his recommendation.

Immediately after stepping off the shuttle bus we saw a sign for a store called “Way Off The Beaten Path”. The sign said it sold hand-made jewelry, clothing and things of that nature, so Kristin said we should go there because it looked like “our kind of store.”

The boutique was down this cute little alley-way, and we smelled the wafting incense as soon as we rounded the corner…
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The woman who owned the shop, Angelique Mango, was so nice and peaceful, and almost mesmerizing. She said she designed all the clothing herself and has it manufactured in India, where she pays women that grew up in a certain orphanage to make the clothes. She made it sound like a wonderfully philanthropic buisness venture, and I supported her by purchasing a beautiful skirt for the fall! Can you believe it was only $25?
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Ms. Mango also had a beautiful assortment of casted stone jewelry, house decor and delicious incense in scents I have never seen elsewhere! Check out her goods at http://www.wayoffthebeatenpath.com

After my shopping spree Kristin and I settled for a beer at The Limerick Pub. We took a stroll down the main road, saw the infamous “24 second shot clock” used in basketball, and then patroned the Blue Tusk bar for the rest of our evening. The Blue Tusk was also recommended to me by the friend who at one time lived in Syracuse, and it proved itself to be a highly respectable joint.

When Kristin and I arrived to Blue Tusk at 7:30pm we were happy. The Allman Brothers Band was playing on the stereo, there were a lot of customers, the staff was friendly and fun-loving, and most importantly, they had a pretty righteous beer selection! (though only a few are pictured.)
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Throughout the course of the night I had two of everything that mattered, except dinner. I had two pints of Magic Hat #9, two pints of Magic Hat Roxy Rolles, two shots of jagermeister mixed with peach schnapps and cranberry juice, but only one half of the chicken sandwich I ordered for dinner.

All in all, the night was thoroughly enjoyed. We made some new friends, listened to some good tunes, and got a taxi back to our hotel around midnight. However, the fun didn’t end there. Only moments after Kristin passed out in her bed, I began puking in the bathroom. My body does not do well with alcohol on a full stomach, let alone on an empty one. After getting sick I passed out for 4-5 hours, but was up and over the toilet by 6:30am. I couldn’t keep a dang thing down until 4pm, and although I was able to help Kristin unload our van full of Irish goods and set up our shelter on Friday afternoon, I was not of much assistance when it came to setting up. It took me about an hour to put 20 items onto hangers because I had to keep running to the porta-potty to expel whatever I had tried to eat or drink. All I have to say is thank g-d the festival hadn’t started yet and the porta-pottys had never been used. I got way too close for comfort to those things that weekend, and I don’t ever want to talk about it again.

The festival started at 5pm on Friday, and after a short nap at the hotel, I was able to help Kristin hustle those Irish goodies! Here’s a shot of the people and vendors in action…
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I had a chance to briefly check out the headlining band Friday night, Gaelic Storm. I noted that “the band seemed cool. The bag pipe player looked sexxy from my view, and there was a pretty little blonde lady on fiddle.” On Saturday night I again briefly checked out the headlining band, The Young Dubliners. The musicians were not as attractive as Friday night, but their music had a trememdous amount of energy and they obviously gave it their all. Fans were all the Irish rage!

On Saturday the festival started at 10am and we had to be there bright and early to re-open shop. Business boomed that day. Namesake pins and embroidered baby clothes – apparantly not a bad way to go. I had a very good time vending with Kristin. It was really an incredibly perfect way for us to make some extra cash. We both have the camping/setting up shop skills, and unfortunately or not, we both have plenty of retail sales knowledge. Saturday was a very long day, about 14 hours of work, but I never felt tired. As Kristin’s mom said, “It’s like being high without the drugs!”

Here’s a shot of Kristin in our little shop during a slow period…
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I had three favorite customers of the weekend I would like to document. One was a large teenage boy who really wanted an authentic Irish tweed Hannah Hat that we had in his size, XXL. He said he had a very hard time finding that style hat that fit him, but he didn’t have the money to buy it. I wrote down all the hat’s information for him on a piece of paper to take home so that he could one day buy it on the Internet once he had saved up enough money, and he went on his way. The next day, this woman came back with the piece of paper and said she was his aunt and was going to buy the hat for him as an early holiday gift, since she never knows what to get for him anyway! The boy got his hat miracle! It made my little day. My next favorite customer was actually not a customer, but a three-year-old girl who had a full arm cast on. I asked her what was on her arm and she said a cast because she broke her arm, and she showed me a diagram on her cast someone had drawn of two bones, one of which was broken. I asked her if she liked wearing the cast and she said yes, because it made her feel safe. Precious. The last customer that topped my list was an older man, in his 60s, who walked in, picked out a dark green tweed hat, looked so darn cute in it and he bought it…so that made me happy as well!

I really enjoyed the Guinness Irish Festival. The food vendors actually had an appealing selection of foods, everyone was in good spirits and I saw Irish dancers and bands. There were a lot of inebriated people there, especially Saturday night, but it was all in good fun. Nothing too crazy to report on.

The festival ended at 11pm on Saturday and we had to pack up our shop and load everything back into Big Bessie. Kristin and I both woke up starving on Sunday morning and on the ride back home we stopped at some middle-of-nowhere- diner the navigation system led us to in Onondaga National Territory somewhere in central, NY. Here is a picture alongside of the rather desolate road we drove down for 20 minutes to get to said diner…
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On the ride back to Jersey Kristin was pulled over for speeding, the officer said she was clocked going 85 mph in the rental van. Luckily he only have her a citation for “ignoring traffic signs”, which was no points on her license and a much less expensive fine.

We made it back home alive and I was slightly sad the weekend had come to an end. Syracuse was a nice town that treated us well, and I hope to see it again someday!