Category Archives: family

2013 14er Trip – Day Two

With a big day already in our legs, the plan for day two started to feel a little ambitious.  We wanted to summit Missouri and Huron from the Missouri Gulch trailhead, which we estimated to be around 22 miles.  I think we may have been able to do it, if not for the bad weather.  In the end it worked out for the best and we still ended up with a solid 13 mile day and one summit.

We started before dawn and took notice that the clouds were already gathering.  Those clouds made for a spectacular sunrise as we made our way up the first steep pitch of forested switchbacks.

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The wildflowers were loving the cool and damp weather.

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We climbed steadily, still not knowing if we were in for the full distance or not.  Malcolm spotted a coyote hunting at above 12,000′ so we stopped and watched it for a while.  I’ve never seen one this high before.

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We saw other wildlife out and about in the brief period of sunshine.

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A big push up a steep headwall got us to the ridgeline where we were treated to a great view of Mt. Huron across the valley.

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The plan was to ascend the drainage on the right of the photo, then take the ridge to the summit.

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As the skies turned more threatening, we decided to summit Missouri and then evaluate conditions.  The route to the summit was a lot of fun.  Just technical enough to keep things interesting.  I really would like to have lingered on this one, but it started to rain and we stayed just long enough for a pic.

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I stowed the big camera due to the weather, and we made quick work out of the return trip.

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The terrain sloped steeply to the west and it was a constant battle to maintain grip on the ball-bearing surface. With the rain still coming down, we decided on making the descent to Clohesy Lake and evaluating our options from there. The next summit seemed close while looking at it from just across the valley, but we knew hours of bushwhacking and boulder hopping would be in our future.  I dug the camera back out for this six shot vertical panorama.

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The rain continued and then began to get worse as we neared the lake. We made the call to finish the hike by descending the 4 miles to the trailhead to close our loop and would leave Huron for another time.

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As we neared the finish of our hike, we came to a fairly swift moving stream that we needed to cross.  Even though it had been raining, our shoes were still not that wet and for some reason I thought it would be a good idea to take them off for the crossing.  I have never done that before, and doubt if I ever will again.  Stepping on small sharp rocks with bare feet in the freezing cold water was excruciating.  As a bonus, I got to do even more hiking on rocks when I got to the other side in order to retrieve one of my shoes that I had thrown across.  The other hit an embankment and had nearly tumbled back down into the river.

I finally made it back to the water’s edge, and took time to carefully clean off my feet.  Getting my toe socks back on over wet feat was no small task.  I laced everything up and started down the trail as Malcolm was finishing up.  10 seconds later I just started laughing.  We were on an island!  Ahead of us was another crossing about 5x longer than the one we had just traversed.  Nice.

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The shoes came off for this one, but when we were across I just jammed my feet in the socks without bothering to line up the toes and we trudged down the road for another mile before making it back to the car.

2013 14er Trip – Day One

Due to a shorter than normal vacation in early July, I ended up with the opportunity to take three days off work later in the month and head up to the high country.  My son and I quickly threw some plans together and decided to keep home base in Leadville and venture out to some different peaks each day.  This meant 4:45 wakeups each morning to get to the trailhead and hopefully beat the storms which usually show up later in the day.

On the way up after work on Tuesday I set the Copper to Leadville knee-driving FKT (the burrito needed two hands).  If there ever is a knee-driving world championship, I’m in.  #medalcontender

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We spent the first evening high above town looking to capture the sun setting over Turquoise Lake.  The sunset didn’t pan out, but I happened to catch some great Crepuscular Rays with one of the beams shining directly on the city.

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Day one objective was Mt. of the Holy Cross.  We would be taking the Halo Ridge route, which is a much longer (at least time-wise) approach to the summit.  It traverses 2.5 miles of the ridge and without any trail.  Almost all boulder-hopping.

The climb up Notch Mountain looked bad on the map, but turned out to be very nice with many switchbacks and a good trail.  We paused for a bit to watch pika, marmots, and the camoflaged ptarmigans.

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The columbine were in their full glory.  This particular variation (there are over 70) is the Colorado state flower.  Blue for the sky, white represents snow, and yellow represents gold mining.

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Our first view of Holy Cross (named for the gullies that make a cross shape, especially evident when filled with snow) was magnificent.  From this spot we could see the entire route to the summit.  Kind of hard to tell in this shot, but the peak is actually over a mile away and 1,000′ higher than our location.

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The scale of the entire area was amazing.  I let Malcolm get a few minutes ahead of me and he turned into a tiny yellow spec on the ridge.

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Even helicopters look microscopic from up here.

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I snapped this panorama before I took off to catch up.  The lake is called the Bowl of Tears. I probably shed a few later in the hike…

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Hop.  Hop. Hop.  Long way from help.  Don’t break an ankle…

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We finally reached the summit after spending nearly 4 hours (stops and photos included) to travel the 2.5 miles along the ridge.

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Thankfully the sketchy-looking clouds that began showing up at 8:30 never really amounted to anything. The descent was no picnic, but at least we were on a trail now.

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It was great to get back to some vegetation after being on the rocks so long.

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Normally with 14ers, once you summit it’s all downhill back the car. Holy Cross has a nasty little surprise with the 1,000′ climb over Half Moon Pass standing in your way. Malcolm absolutely crushed this climb and I barely held on. We were so glad to get to the top! After receiving some feedback from the home front that we were looking too serious in our summit photo, we risked cracking our faces and smiled for this one.

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The trail back to the parking lot was a little slice of heaven.

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Ten Years Ago

Ten years ago today, I was driving our car following an ambulance through the congested streets of downtown Denver.

Barely a few hours old, my daughter was the precious cargo in the box on wheels with flashing lights ahead of me. Alone, but surrounded by strangers. My wife was recovering from the birth back at the hospital where she delivered. Alone, but surrounded by strangers.

I was just alone.

My thoughts and emotions providing the only company. The latter of which had become a tattered mess in the time since we left home in the middle of the previous night.

The birth itself had gone well enough, but we were greeted with a new life-altering reality when one of the nurses informed us that our daughter had a condition known as Myelomeningocele.

Mylie what?!?

She guided me over to the bassinet where our baby lay on her side, and lifted the blanket to reveal an alien-looking bulge along her lower back. Her condition is more commonly known as Spina Bifida, and what I was looking at was the sheath that covers the spinal cord protruding from her back a few inches. This is a result of the vertebra not completely fusing during development of the fetus at a critical time of only 3 weeks along.

It was shocking, to say the least. There was talk of using Flight for Life to get to The Children’s Hospital, but then it was decided that transport via ambulance would be the way to go. My head was spinning as I bid a hasty goodbye to my wife and raced to get our car.

My guts were being torn out with a single thought repeating itself over and over again in my head.

I haven’t even gotten to hold you yet!

As it turned out, it would be weeks until we got the opportunity to hold our newborn daughter. After surgery was performed to push the exposed spinal cord back inside and stitch the wound closed, she had to lay on her stomach in the Newborn ICU to recover. Tubes and wires everywhere.

I wanted to pick her up so bad, but I will never forget bending down to kiss that soft little head. Knowing that would have to be it for a while.

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Seems like just yesterday. Cliche, but oh so true…

The time since then has gone by in a roller coaster fashion, with wave after wave of sheer terror followed by a sweet release when you realize that things will be okay. After something like 17 surgeries, numerous ER visits, and months of hospital time, I can say one thing for sure. That little girl has thrived.

Had she been born born back in my day, she wouldn’t have survived.

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As is typical, I think, of kids with more than their fair share to deal with in life, our daughter was blessed with a certain little extra something. It’s hard to articulate, but she just has ‘it’. She is a charmer with a beautiful imagination, and a knack for making instant friends out of complete strangers. She certainly didn’t get any of that from me, and it has been humbling to see how she deals with others. I have much to learn.

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She is my ‘adventure buddy’, tagging along when I head out to explore and take pictures. We have camped out, gone on long stroller runs, sledded down sand dunes, flown kites, caught fish, and climbed mountain peaks.

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Her slightly under-developed legs would tire easily, and we carried that kid over some crazy terrain just so we could get out and go do things together as a family. Her mouth never got tired, though. The conversation was endless, but adorable.

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I have to say something about our other kids here. That is after I can see again. Just typing that seriously choked me up. Each of them has been such a huge help to us during these last 10 years, and I am truly grateful and amazed at how they have dealt with this challenge in our lives. Quick to serve, and never being jealous of the time and attention taken away from them – they were all blessed with a little extra something as well. Their actions and demeanor during this time are something that I will always remember.

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I’m thankful for a lot of things today. Thankful to be Dad to such great kids. Especially thankful for modern medicine, a job with good insurance, the support of friends and family, and the awesome group of doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals we have relied on over the years.

Happy Birthday to our baby girl!

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