I trudged the final few feet in the crisp snow still lingering from the past winter on an early July day. My friend Dave was sitting on a rock a few feet away waiting for me while our other hiking buddy Larry was just a few feet behind. Dave raised his arms as though signaling a touchdown, and after taking a long, deep breath, I let a smile creep across my face.
Dave and I had just reached the summit of Quandary Peak
, the first time either of us had hiked to the top of a fourteener
. Larry had done a number of them, but this was his first time to the top to Quandary. We all would’ve high-fived each other, but I think we were too tired. (The term “easy 14er” is both an oxymoron and VERY relative.)
Quandary Peak trailhead
I’ve hiked close to 1500 miles over the last couple of years, and on pace to exceed last years’ hiking miles this year, but none of that by doing a 14er, until now. It’s not that I’ve gone out of my way to avoid doing one, or that I thought they were too long or too hard. I’ve done longer distance hikes than Quandary, and I’ve certainly done hikes that were harder.
Surprising I know, that in a state with 53 mountains reaching above 14,000 feet, including what is arguably the most famous of them all casting a shadow over our fine city, I had never done one. But this hike finally happened because everything came together, a lot like most other hikes; the right day, the right people, the right weather and the right choice of trail.
Quandary Peak was what I expected: great views from the summit and along the trail, beautiful wildflowers, mountain goats who seemed to hardly notice the hikers sharing the trails with them and the camaraderie of the hikers on the trail — encouraging each other, passing on the weather or trail conditions ahead. It was the great experience I expected it to be.
I’m sure I’ll do a few more 14ers when I get around to them — I’m not in a great hurry. That’s what’s so great about Colorado; we can choose from fifty-three 14ers and countless other peaks at 10, 11, 12, and 13,000 feet and varying in difficulty and distance. And there are thousands of miles of trails that never touch a mountaintop, yet vary in distance, difficulty and views. If I had my way, I’d do them all.
For me, it’s not about how high, or even how far I go. It’s all about the experience. For you, it may be about the next 14er you do, or how many miles your next trail run or bike ride takes you. There are enough options for all of us, no matter what our goals.
Bob Falcone is a retired firefighter, photographer, hiker, college instructor and business owner who has lived in Colorado Springs for over 23 years. He is the president of the Friends of Cheyenne Canon and a member of the El Paso County Parks Advisory Board. You can follow him on Twitter (@hikingbob), Facebook (Hiking Bob), or visit his website (Hikingbob.com). E-mail questions, comments, suggestions, etc to Bob: firstname.lastname@example.org.