July 07, 2008

Burning Calves

It was the most difficult thing I ever did. But now I can say I made it; I survived.

This weekend Nate and I surprised his family by showing up at his sister Allie's home in Colorado Springs. On the agenda for the weekend: hike a 14er with his dad. For those of you unfamiliar with mountain terms, a 14er is a mountain 14,000 ft or more. The mountain of choice: Mt. Elbert, about 10-15 miles from Leadville, Colorado, and the highest point in the state.

Now, as I mentioned in my previous post, hiking is something that I've grown to love and do often since I moved out to California. I think I now have 5 hikes under my belt, some that included "bouldering". For a MN girl with no hiking experience what-so-ever, this is pretty good. However, none of these hikes could prepare me for Mt. Elbert.

Oh, the pain. Oh, the agony! Oh, I'm so dramatic...

It was tough, I'm not going to lie. Two days later, my calves are still burning. But it was totally worth it.

We started the hike at about 10,000 ft. Right away, there were some uphill battles through the tree line. Note to self: one should get to Colorado more than 48 hours before climbing a 14er, especially when coming from sea level. Altitude sickness is not fun, and just gets worse the higher you go. I felt like a wuss having to stop every 100 feet or so just to catch my breath, but I was determined to finish.

At 12,000 feet we came to the edge of the tree line, now exposed to the sun and wind. It was a steady climb, some parts steeper than others, but my lungs were still objecting to my abuse of them, so it was still slow going. There were lots of other people on the trail, some with hiking poles (they look like ski poles). Note to self #2: get me some of those for the next 14er. I don't know if they actually work or do any good, but those who had them seemed to be having an easier time of it than me! (Or maybe it was just that they were experienced hikers.)

Nate's dad hiked with us for a bit, but then took off for the top. We huffed and puffed up the mountain, making it to what is called a "false summit." I knew this one was coming. When we made it to the false summit, I was so excited. The top was just a climb away!

Me: Yea! We made it! Let's go find your dad and the guys.

Nate: Well, let's get over this false summit first.

Me: Wait, you mean this is a false summit too?

Nate: Yeah.

Me: I hate hiking.

But we kept on. Ignoring the nausea. Ignoring the burning lungs. Ignoring the blisters and aches. AND WE MADE IT!!

And then we had to go back down...blast...

In all seriousness, I would do it again. I would train a little more, and get to Colorado earlier, and get me some walking poles, but I would do it again.

I've always loved mountains, possibly more than I love the beach. It was on a mountain that the head knowledge about God and His Son and the grace and love that He gives connected with my heart. Something about the mountains makes me realize how small I am in God's creation, but how LOVED I am by my Creator. His grace is sufficient; He is there even when I feel so small. That is how I felt on my first mountain hike 13 years ago, and I had that same feeling when I paused for the millionth time to catch my breath, turned to look at the view, and found myself surrounded by God's amazing creation.

So yes, my calves still burn and I fear I may stand up after writing this and find that my legs don't work properly. Yes, I am exhausted. Yes, it was the most difficult thing I have done in my life. But yes, I would do it again...and again...and again...

Below are two pics from the hike. The rest you can see here.


Kim said...

i am so jealous, but glad you had the experience. one day i will have to take you to colorado and take you to all my favorite spots in the mountains...there is one that is the best place i have ever been, i will tell you the story later. hope your calves are doing better

Lynnea said...

Wow, that picture on top of the mountain is amazing! Good job, Sarah!