30 While 30: Day 84 – For purple mountain majesties…. (thoughts on return from CO).

Hello all!

As you noted from my message two days ago, the blog has been non-active for about a week.  This isn’t without cause, however, because I have been busy checking off some items, and am excited to share a little bit about the story to you all.

The trip began with a flight into Denver.  With that, the first goal completion of the trip:

12. Visit another state.

Denver is a nice city.  The wife and I got a chance to just kill a few hours in town.  We got to check out a spontaneous art show, toured a walking mall downtown, bought a couple of bottles of wine for tasting, and met some friends for dinner at this awesome place called Steuben’s.  Imagine all the awesome food your mother or grandmother (or other wised cook-types) would make when you would visit after a long time away.  Imagine that thing that you love for them to make more than anything else … and that is the entree list at Steuben’s.  As I was credited for their new advertising line (or at least it should be): “It’s the food you come back home for.”  For example, I had the fried chicken (and yes, I know that’s bad for me, but I’m on vacation, and been intermittent fasting for almost a month … cut me some slack), the wife had a big bowl of macaroni and cheese.  Other menu items?  Beef brisket, spaghetti and meatballs, and meatloaf.  A little bit of everything.

After dinner, travel to the mountains.

The next day, we slept in, took some time to enjoy the view … speaking of views … because we got to the cabin after dark, we didn’t see the mountain.  Here is what greeted us on Saturday morning:

Take a moment … yeah ….. that’s it …. now …. think about the fact that you are staring at the mountain that I had (maybe foolishly, after seeing it in person) chosen to conquer on Sunday.  Yeah ….

Anyways, the wife and I spent Saturday making a slow start, and then heading to a local place that was recommended, called “Garden of the Gods“.  It was a lite hiking day, doing about 3-5 miles, and taking some awesome shots.  Here are a few:

Even though we enjoyed the days we had been up there so far, to be perfectly honest, there was some tension.  The fact is, that Pike’s Peak is no laughing matter, and I had made a commitment that this was going to be the “mountain” that #3 was going to be about.  The wife and I had some “passionate discussions” about the task, about whether we (more I – my wife is the genuine picture of fitness – ask her to tell you the story of the first marathon she ever ran if you don’t believe me) were ready for this grand hill.  The truth being that we weren’t ready.  The trail to the summit is 12.9 miles, and has an elevation change of almost 8000 feet (for those doing the math, that it more than a mile and a half in the vertical direction).  While I had spent the last month or so gradually increasing my endurance, getting up to at least 7 miles of sustained brisk hiking, the training paled in comparison to the mountain ahead.  Regardless of our reservations and anxiety, we planned to wake before dawn on Sunday to attempt our summit.

Prior planning indicated that the Cog Railway train (a train, having run for more than 100 years, that runs tours to the summit itself), had had some trouble making it to the summit due to snow and wind as recently as two days prior.  This was a big deal for us, as the train was our ride down.  12.9 miles up, then riding the train down.  The tickets for the afternoon train were already bought to greet us at the summit.  The fact that if the train wasn’t running the summit would squash our plans, but it was the reality of this monster.  Secondly, we read that as recently as two days prior, there was waist high snow on the hiking trail, and that in places, the trail was obscured (read: covered past recognition) under snow drifts.  Now, on this second note, we had watched, even in the two days we were there (since we could see the mountain from our cabin) the snow levels decrease off the face of the mountain.

So, at 4am (yeah, you read that right), we wake up and load up the car.  We arrive at the trail head at 530 and notice that we aren’t even the first ones there.  The parking lot was already half-full.  These natives are hard-core.  And let me clarify what I mean by hardcore.  Sharing the trail head with Barr trail (the trail that eventually leads to the summit), is the start of what they call “the Incline“.  One mile in distance, 2000 feet in elevation gain, over 2800 railroad ties …. then, 4 miles by the Barr trail back down.  We met some of these runners as they came down where we were heading up.

We began on the traditional trail under cover of cloud, in the cool of the day.  The trail was amazing, and when I finish this section, you will see just that.  We watched clouds actually being formed, water mist floating and merging, blowing through the hills like a fire, made of water vapor itself.  We marched onward an upward of countless switchbacks, truly too many to count, rounded summits of the smaller, sub-mountains of the Peak (with some of those smaller heights taller than anything in the Appalachian (Smoky) Mountain chain).  On our trek, we confirmed some of our fears.  Namely, that due to high winds (80-90 miles past the treeline – which is 3 miles from the summit) that the cog train was not summitting today.

We were not going to make it to the top.  We calculated our time, and made the turn back down about a mile shy of Barr Camp, the traditional halfway point.  We reluctantly turned around, and retraced our steps back down the mountain.  The day ended with a train ride (only up part of the mountain – I mean – hey, the tickets were already paid for), dinner from Subway (exotic, I know), and relaxation in the hot tub sampling wine.  Also crossed off:

9. Find a good table wine (and understand what makes a wine a “table wine”).

I figured in the last 90 days or so, I have educated myself on what goes with what meal-wise (a dry red wine for red meat, for example), and also what I might have just around the house for celebratory purposes (a sweet red wine or chardonnay).  I feel comfortable in crossing this one off.  Done and done.

So, was this a success, or a failure?  More on that after the pics.  Here are some of the images from our ascent:

And here were some of the views we couldn’t see on our hike, but got from the cog railway:

Soo …. on to the life-lesson today.


How do you define success or failure?

This question has become more and more real as I get in to the meat of this grand project.  When I built the list, granted, I took some time, and wanted to make sure that they were worded well, but yet on at least two occasions so far, I have questioned whether or not one of the goals was actually met or not.  Experiencing these feelings has made me rethink what success will actually look like with this whole list.  Under what criteria will I use when I look back at this list when the year is over?  50% success?  100%?  What if some of the results are cloudy, where it is hard to tell if it’s been accomplished or not?

For example, my first accomplished task:

19. Complete 30 random acts of kindness to 30 total strangers.(complete)

This was centered around my trip in late April to the devastated areas in Birmingham and Huntsville Alabama in the wake of the recent tornadoes.  I knew the math, both between the work my hands did or the food, gasoline, or water donations, that at least 30 people (complete strangers) were impacted by me efforts or gifts.  Even so, I was almost reluctant to scratch it off.

And then I realized why that was.  I was reluctant to scratch it off, because I think somewhere I thought that by crossing it off, that I would “end” that item, never thinking about it again, or never again spending time or attention to that aspect of growth.  I came to this epiphany as it were, as I helped a “vertically-challenged” (read: shorter than I am) sweet lady at Kroger’s reach some pineapple juice from the top shelf.

The goal is the beginning, not the end.

They are the start and not the finish.

This was further reinforced when, on the way down from the mountain, the wife asked me if I thought I “had met the goal of climbing a mountain”.  I struggled with the question, but then, in consideration of some of my other experiences so far, I was confident in replying … Yes.  Yes I had.  Granted, there were no signs, but the peaks that we traveled on our way to our “turning around point” were hundreds or even thousands of feet higher than places considered “mountains” in the other 49 states.

Yes, I did:

3. Climb a mountain.

And yes … I will climb another.

That’s the simple truth about this most recent venture.  These things …. this list … isn’t really a finish line, they are each on their own … starting points.  Road markers on the way, not a bumper at the end of the tracks.

That’s a bit to chew on … at least for me it is.

So, hopefully, as you read this, you might look at successes …. and failures …. along the way, recognizing that both are actually probably closer to each other than you think.  Each is a step in the process, not necessarily the end of the journey.


(on a blog related note – will delay this week’s book review till Friday.  Want to make sure there is a decent gap between posts.)


3 responses to “30 While 30: Day 84 – For purple mountain majesties…. (thoughts on return from CO).

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