I’m back in Maryland.
Yeah… I’m not too thrilled about it.
You’ll have to forgive me- I definitely leave a big piece of my heart in Colorado every time I leave- and it gets harder and harder each time! I’ll try to keep my re-caps brief, but let’s face it- I’m probably going to ramble and post about 1,000 photos.
This is the fourth summer in a row that Greg and I spent a week in Colorado, and I don’t see that changing any time soon (unless of course, we’re living there!) This was actually my fifth trip to the land of sunshine and happiness, since I had also gone for the Blend retreat back in May. We purposely scheduled our trip during the middle of July, so that we would be there for our one year anniversary (in case you missed it, we also got engaged in Colorado two years ago).
It all started last Monday with the alarm going off at 3:15 am (!!). Our flight was at 6 am, and the airport is about 45 minutes away. We both tried to sleep on the plane- but that didn’t really happen (I can never sleep on planes!). After landing, we went to get our rental car. I mentioned to the guy at Enterprise that it was our anniversary, so he let us pick any car we wanted (except 4-wheel drive, which were way more expensive. I would have opted for something practical, like a Ford Taurus or Toyota Camry… but not Greg. He chose this:
Sure- it was a fun car, if you’re going to Napa – but not so practical for Colorado. I saw his eyes light up though, so I just bit my tongue.
We made a quick stop at my Aunt Carol’s house in Denver (she was flying back east the next day for vacation) and chatted with her a bit. We also hit up Whole Foods to stock up on a few things for the week. Our plan was to head out west towards Breckenridge and stop at Loveland Pass for a quick hike on the way. Even though we were both so tired, we figured it would be a good way to “break the ice” with the altitude. It’s also kind of become tradition for us to hike there on our first full day in Colorado. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, as storm was about to roll in (as you can see by the sky).
We decided not to push our luck and just drove right into Dillon to get some lunch at the Dillon Dam Brewery. We had been there once or twice before, and I remembered the food being decent and the beer tasting pretty good. But the best thing about it? The view…
Can you imagine seeing that view every day?! Sigh…
After sampling a few beers and grabbing a bite, we drove on up the road to Breckenridge. Greg got a great deal through Hotels.com at The Lodge & Spa at Breckenridge, which is where we planned to stay for the first three nights. I was really excited about it, because the description on the website was great- and I was not disappointed! Check out our room!
The view was just… breathtaking.
We spent the rest of the day taking it easy and took a little walk in downtown Breck and grabbed some dinner. Since we were doing our 14er hike the next morning, we got all of our stuff ready to go and called it an early night.
Tuesday was the big day- our one year anniversary! Greg and I had been talking about hiking a 14er for over two years- and figured that our first anniversary would be the perfect day to finally do it. In case you’re not familiar- a “14er” means a mountain that peaks at (at least) 14,000 feet above sea level. There are 53 14ers in Colorado, and they range from “easy” to “difficult.” Easy is really a relative term- because any 14er is quite difficult- some are just more challenging than others. We chose to hike Grays and Torreys, because you can actually summit both on the same hike, and they’re considered to be good 14ers to start with. Grays is 14,270 feet and Torreys is 14,267- so there’s only a three foot height difference between the two! They are connected by a saddle, which makes it easy to hike from one to the other (again- easy is a relative term!). Greg had done a lot of research, and I got some great advice from my friend Heather (who has a number of 14ers under her belt!), so we had a good idea of what to wear and what the bring. One thing we did make sure of is that we left early enough to allow adequate time for the hike. Strong storms tend to roll in during the early afternoon, and you do not want to be stuck at the top of the mountain during one of those (unless you want to get struck by lightning!).
We woke up early and got our stuff together and headed out to hit the trail by 6:00 am. We were both full of nerves and excitement as we drove through Summit County. The morning was beautiful and misty- and just really set the tone for an awesome day.
We had been warned that most cars couldn’t make it all the way to the trail head. The road was super rough, and you definitely had to have a 4WD vehicle (preferably a big Jeep!) to make it all the way to the parking lot. We ended up having to park about a mile and a half away, along with most of the other cars.
Where we parked was somwhere between 10,000-10,500″, and you could definitely feel the elevation! We had to walk up to 11,280 to get to the trailhead- and that alone was enough to kick your butt!
After what seemed like forever, we finally reached the trailhead. I was already exhausted- and our hike hadn’t even started yet! But, I was fully prepared to have my butt kicked, and this was only the beginning.
We set out on the trail, and I was really struggling. There wasn’t a ton of elevation gain in the beginning- but when you’re that high up (and used to living at sea level), even a gradual elevation gain can seem like a like. I tried to focus on my breathing and thinking about the fact that I was doing something pretty amazing, and that I was with my husband of one year. Greg was also really good at encouraging me and talking about how cool it would be when we got to the summit. I also focused on the beauty that was around me.
I finally got into my groove and started feeling a little more energized. It also helped when we finally we able to see Grays and Torreys up ahead!
As we hiked along, and didn’t see too many other people. This trail is typically super crowded on the weekends, but since it was a Tuesday, we didn’t have to deal with that. We eventually got to a point where we kept hearing a squeaking sound- almost like a bird crowing- but it was coming to the ground. When we looked over, we noticed tons of little pikas- which I have never seen before! I tried to get a picture of one, but they are so fast. Here’s one running away from me:
Around this point in the trail, we met a few people. Once we got this far and starting gaining more elevation, we had to stop pretty often to take very short rest breaks (even just a 10 second break helped a lot!). We kept moving along!
We met a triathlete from Wyoming and his young daughter (6 or 7ish?)- he had done this trail many times, but it was her first! They were both super fast!
There were so many times where it looked like we were getting so close to the summit, but I knew we still had so far to go. As we got closer to the top, every single footstep took more effort and we shuffled along.
And then all of the sudden- we made it to the summit!!
It took us about 3 1/2 hours or 4 hours to make it to the top of Grays from the time we left the car. We stayed at the summit for a few minutes and just soaked it in. Luckily, it wasn’t really windy at all!
Our plan was to hike across the saddle over to Torreys and then come back down to the saddle to eat lunch. There was a trail linked to the saddle that linked up with the Grays peak trail, so that we didn’t have to climb all the way back up to Grays again. The hike down Grays peak was super steep, but once we got to the saddle, it leveled out a bit.
And then there was the hike up to Torreys peak… whoa. Talk about steep- this was killer!
By this time we had been hiking for over 4 hours (all uphill) and it was going to take a lot more energy to get to the top (which I think was about a 700 foot climb).
I started to really struggle- but then I saw this coming towards me in the distance…
Some Goldie love was just what I needed!
Those 30 seconds right there gave me the momentum to get all the way to the top! And boy, was it worth it!
Greg signed our name on the sheet in the capsule
And we took a bunch of pictures.
Greg and I stood at the top and wished each other “Happy Anniversary” and were just in awe of the view. There’s nothing like standing at the very peak of a mountain with a 360˚ view for miles and miles.
We eventually hiked back down the mountain to the saddle and enjoyed our packed lunch- peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a Dale’s Pale Ale!
This was probably one of the best tasting meals I’ve ever had- seriously. And our lunchtime view… you can’t beat it!
Around noon, it was time to start making our way back down. Coming downhill was a little challenging at times, but we both really tried to take in every single moment, since we knew it would be awhile until we saw something so beautiful again. I think that we were both on such a high too- we just couldn’t stop laughing and smiling.
One thing that I noticed on the way down was the swelling of my hands (Greg’s too!). I had read about this same thing happening to Lynne- and sure enough- I had huge sausage fingers (the swelling came down a few hours later).
We eventually made it back down the trailhead and started walking towards the car. Luckily, about five minutes later, someone with a 4WD vehicle offered to drive us the rest of the way to our car. We happily agreed! All in all, it took about 7 1/2 – 8 hours total from the time we left our car until we returned to it. It was the coolest thing I have ever experienced- and the second most difficult hike I’ve ever done (the first is still the Grouse Grind!!).
We eventually made it back to the lodge and showered and rested for a bit. For dinner, we had decided to keep it low-key and just grab something at Breckenridge Brewery- which was where we ate right after we got engaged. As always, we had to start with a beer sampler.
The beer was good of course, but the food left a little to be desired. Neither of us complained though, because we were still on our 14er high!
I can’t think of a more perfect way to celebrate our one year anniversary, and will be thinking about that hike for a long time to come. Two 14ers down, 51 to go, right?
Stay tuned for the next re-cap tomorrow!
How do you celebrate anniversaries or special occasions with your significant other?