We knew that since we were going to take over a week off to make the trip, we wanted to do more than just the race. So we made plans to camp, hike, and ride for the first half of the trip. In the week before leaving, we found out that some friends of ours would be camping in a different part of the state than we had planned to. We could go camp with them, which would be a lot of fun, but it would have come at the sacrifice of hiking a 14er like we had planned. We discussed it for a few days, but Chad insisted that he wanted to do the hike more than being able to mountain bike with friends.
Tuesday, August 7, we set out to hike Mount Shavano. I was really worried about getting caught in an afternoon storm while above the treeline, after having read and heard a number of horror stories. We started the hike before sunrise, and planned to be back at the car shortly after noon. I was dealing with an ankle injury, so we figured we needed to plan for almost as much time to descend the mountain as we would need to ascend it.
It was absolutely gorgeous. The path had us follow the Colorado Trail for about a quarter of a mile before we began up the path to summit Mount Shavano. The trail alternated between incredible steep sections, and less steep sections, but there was never any doubt that you were headed up. At one point we walked along a beautiful little mountain creek, which we took advantage of for pictures on the way down.
Finally, we made it above the tree line! In Colorado the average elevation of the treeline is 12,000 feet. Since the trail head is at about 9,800 this marked the halfway point! Above the treeline there were soooooo many chipmunks! Seriously, they were everywhere. It was adorable. We also spotted what we thought at the time to be a groundhog, but later found out was a marmot...also adorable.
Above the treeline the trail was really steep. There were a lot of sections where the percent grade was at least 100% (100% grade equates to a 45 degree angle). We’re both in pretty good shape (well, depending who you ask, we have high standards and tend to compare ourselves to high level athletes), so the effort of climbing was intense but manageable. We had taken precautions to handle the high altitude, and in fact noticed no issues aside from using more of our lung volume. But. My ankle was struggling. The steepness of the trail was forcing it to stretch back much further than was comfortable. The steepness also prohibited me from stepping only on the front of my foot, as that simply wasn’t enough traction on the rock/gravel trail. I pushed for a while, but promised Chad I wouldn’t injure myself further. Personally I was okay with regressing the injury-it was worth it for the chance to do this hike-but I wasn’t okay with making it worse.
Finally I realized that I was on the edge of making it worse. I decided to try a few steps down the mountain to see how difficult that would be. From a time standpoint, if it was going to take me as long to go down as it had to come up we were close to needing to turn around. When I started stepping down I realized that the poor traction while traveling up was much worse going down, which quite frankly scared me. If I’m going to be completely honest, I wanted to panic a bit.
I turned to Chad, and apologized. I needed to turn around. We weren’t to the summit yet, by our estimates we were at about 13,000 feet. It was a clear, crisp morning, and the view was gorgeous. Already we were above the other summits we could see from that side of the mountain. When I told Chad that I needed to turn around he reassured me that it was fine, but that we needed to pause where we were for a moment because he had a surprise.
I promptly sat down. Right in the middle of the trail. To be fair, we had not seen a single person out there besides ourselves, so I wasn’t worried about being in the way. But still, I probably wouldn’t have plopped quite that way if I had known what was coming.
Chad set his pack down behind me. While I stared out at the view, he rummaged down to the bottom, then stood up.
He came around and kneeled in front of me, and proposed.
I emphatically said yes, kissed him, and wiped my eyes.
|Like I said, there wasn't anyone else around, so this is our immediately post-engagement self portrait.|
The ring was originally my great-grandmothers. The story goes that it was given to her by her parents on her 16th birthday. They told her that they wanted her to marry whoever she truly loved, and not for a diamond. So they gave her a diamond of her own. As it turns out, she married a doctor who bought her many other treasures, but they were certainly in love. A rather apt history for an engagement ring, don’t you think?