Monday, July 19, 2004


No matter where you are from, heading home always feels right. Whether it is the smell of a freshly baked pie on an Iowa farmhouse windowsill, or the bustling sounds of that Italian restaurant around the corner from your folks’ place in the City, certain senses spring back to life when you are home, even after years of dormancy.

For me, the trigger is the first glimpse of the Colorado mountains. They may not be the tallest or most rugged on the planet, but they are an elixir for my soul. One glimpse and the memories come flooding back: camping with my Dad and our pup in the Collegiate Range; casting size 4 stoneflies to rainbows on the Gunnison; hiking in the San Juan’s above Telluride; skiing knee-deep powder above the Friends’ Hut, 11 miles from the nearest road; and proposing to my fiancé (now wife) at 10,600’ on the crest of the Continental Divide. Accordingly, it will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that one of the first stops in our travels had to be Colorado.

Just days removed from the bustle of the East Coast, Lynn and I found ourselves in Colorado, catching up with my parents and as many of our friends as we could. Old bonds quickly sprang to life, and laughter and smiles were permanent fixtures all around.

Of course we had to find a way to play in the mountains. Now, most competent medical professionals would advise flatlanders from the coast to take it easy, and to avoid any forays into high altitude until they had time to acclimatize. It is great advice, and we of course, ignored it completely. After spending one day in Denver, we decided to climb Grays Peak (14,270’) and Torreys Peak (14,267’). Why we chose to climb the 12th and 14th highest peaks in the Continental U.S. in one day will become very apparent as this Blog starts to take shape, but for now lets just say we wanted a great hike with amazing views.

We left Denver at 5am, and reached the three-mile road to the trailhead less than an hour later. Unfortunately, the rutted four-wheel drive road overpowered our borrowed car less than halfway to the trailhead, so we parked nearby and walked the extra two miles to the “start” of our hike. The trailhead sits in a placid alpine valley at 11,000’, with sheer rock faces reaching for the sky on all sides, and a wall-to-wall carpet of wildflowers and willows rolled out below. Above it all, Grays and Torreys stand side-by-side at the head of the valley, commanding the scene.

The trail climbs steadily along a crystal clear rushing brook, and soon the sheer rock faces relinquish panoramic views of majestic ranges towering to the North, including the Never Summer Range, the Indian Peaks Wilderness, and Rocky Mountain National Park. After a few switchbacks, the summit of Grays reveals itself, as well as commanding views to the west and south. Other 14,000’ peaks pierce the sky among the sea of mountains, but directly to the North, Torreys dominates the view. After coming all this way, it is almost a requirement to climb it too.

Accordingly, after dropping off the face of Grays, we switch-backed up the short, yet steeper face of Torreys. After a few minutes on the summit enjoying the fruits of our labor, we scrambled down the ridge, across one of the few remaining snowfields, and back down to the car. 13 miles, 4,000’ of elevation gain, a handful of wild mountain goats, and more wildflowers than one could count. A great day in every way.

The rest of the trip was great as well. Lots of time with my parents, fly fishing in Rocky Mountain National Park, golf with my dad, and a great trail run on Lookout Mountain. There were many friends we didn’t get to see – time was simply too short. Next time! After all, no matter where we are, home keeps drawing me back.

Enjoy the photos.