We hiked our first 14’er, Mt. Democrat, this past weekend. I could fast forward to the end of the hike where we rejoiced and took pictures with delighted smiles on our faces… or I could just be honest and tell the story from the very beginning. When I imagined this hike, I imagined something less strenuous. I think I heard 2 and a half miles up and ran with the idea. Less than 3 miles can’t be that hard?! But it was.
Maybe if the circumstances were different, we may have had a smoother start. My husband never gets weekends off, so when he found out his weekend schedule was the following: off at 11:00 pm Friday night and back to work at 4:30 pm Saturday, he thought it was a glorious plan to hike our first 14’er between those hours.
We left Colorado Springs at 11:30 and made the almost 2 hour drive to Kite Lake. We did our best to set up our tent in the darkness and picked a spot on a slope on top of some sharp scattered rocks. Little did we know we were only a few feet away from soft, muddy grass which would have made for a better night sleep… but in that moment, we were tired and I had no motivation to look for a better spot in the dark.
When daylight hit, all the campers awakened and started up the mountain. I barely slept during the night, but of course, once the sun came up, I finally fell into a deep deep sleep. I woke up to my husband yelling at me to “PLEASE, get up”. Unwillingly, I grabbed my stuff and started the car to crank the heater up while I got dressed. I really hate the cold.
Waking up was hard for me, but it was even harder for Riley. He pretty much woke up on the wrong side of the tent. I dressed him in the warm car and did my best to get him pumped at 6:30 in the morning, but he was not having it. I should have known that waking up a grumpy four year old and making him climb a mountain over 14,ooo feet would not be a good start to the morning.
Fast forward 45 minutes, we’re stopped on the trail because Riley is crying his little eyes out. The sun has barely hit the top of the mountains, so the beginning of the trail is windy and cold. I admit, I was frustrated. Riley is an amazing hiker and can handle the cold better than me, so watching him cry and complain slightly hit a nerve. I was caught between frustrated and guilty which made me realize that we need to suck it up and go back to the car; this hike was not happening. As Riley sat on a rock with red cheeks and a stuffy nose, I asked him if he wanted to stop hiking and go back to the car. Surprisingly, in between sobs he said “no, I want to go up the mountain.” What in the hell?! My frustration and guilt suddenly turned into pride. My kid is a flippin bad ass.
I decided it was best to stay behind with Riley and let my husband and the dog hike ahead. Riley snapped out of his bad mood, and once we felt the warmth of the sun, our motivation to continue the hike grew. Along the way, we had to make a couple pit stops. We hiked off to the side behind the biggest rock we could find so Riley could pee, then 20 minutes later it was an urgent request to take a poop. Yup, a few hikers saw my kid taking a dump along the trail. I guess when nature calls you gotta answer, especially if you’re 4!
The hike itself really isn’t bad until you start approaching the saddle. Occasionally, there were big gusts of wind where I slightly feared I’d get blown off the side of the mountain. We had to maneuver through these giant rocks while several people are hiking down and around us. I kept my eyes on the ground to make sure I was stepping on rocks that wouldn’t slide and making sure I had a good hold on Riley. As people hiked down, I had to be aware of people and sliding rocks coming towards us. I’m really surprised we didn’t see any injuries in that area.
When we got to the false summit, I had a mini tantrum of my own. I think I threw a couple F bombs at the actual peak and also announced that I didn’t care to reach the top because I was probably at 14,000 feet already anyways! Well, fortunately, I did care. I was tired and I wasn’t leaving until I got to the top. We began to approach the summit and Riley was delighted to walk in the snow. At this point, I felt exhausted and defeated, but Riley ran ahead of me and was incredibly excited to get to the top of the mountain.
The views and my son’s enthusiasm is what made this whole thing worth it. When we got to the top, several people congratulated Riley with high fives and fist bumps. Many couldn’t believe that he hiked the entire thing. Yeah, my kid is definitely a bad ass.
And those views… pretty amazing. It’s incredible seeing those mountains and not seeing a soul, a city, anything for miles and miles. Just pure wilderness. It was in that moment that I felt so free, so alive, and so close to God. We live in a beautiful world, and I got to see it at 14,148 feet with my 2 favorite people.
And that folks, was our first 14’er. I can’t wait for the next one!!