Best Laid Plans... (Part 2)

So you might have noticed that my first post on this site was almost 6 months before the second post. The first post was made while training for the hike I'll be talking about. Everything was going great and my passion was through the roof! I had big plans to start blogging about hiking and backpacking and was going to kick it off by checking off one of my bucket list items, completing the Four Pass Loop hike outside of Aspen! Reality is truly a harsh mistress...

While I obviously survived the trip and I'm glad I did it, it was such a severe reality check that I was both discouraged and embarrassed. So much so that I didn't really write or post much about the trip until now. Now, a bit more than four months later I've recovered emotionally, and I'm back, twice as fired up about backpacking, blogging, and preparing to do multiple hikes in 2022. I'm also planning on doing the same Four Pass Loop hike again but this time, do it right. I'm also planning at least 3 other trips to New Mexico, Big Bend, and also an attempt at doing the 100 mile Lone Star Hiking Trail through-hike, possibly solo!

As part one of this blog details, I believed I was absolutely prepared to cruise through the Four Pass Loop hike! What could possibly go wrong? After all, I had all but done this same loop years prior. I would have easily completed it then but a friend developed severe elevation sickness after we had already done 2 out of the 4 passes forcing us to turn back. Back then I even took most of the weight off my friend's pack and carried it for him and still had no issues!

Lesson one, an "out-of-shape" 28-year-old version of me is still in a LOT better shape than a 53-year-old version of me that has been training and losing weight for 6 months. While I thought of myself as out-of-shape at the time, I think that was all relative. My brain remembered myself being out of shape but that was because in my early 20's I was playing professional racquetball and played on a water polo team. Around 22 or 23 I got a job as a computer game programmer and my fitness went downhill fast. Turns out that you can go downhill a LOT from being a competitive racquetball and water polo player in your 20's but still be miles uphill from being a 53-year-old who just lost some weight while getting in shape.

Lesson two, driving 1100 miles in one day has some risks. First, starting my trip around 2 AM is always risky. Not because I might fall asleep but because the creatures come out at night. On the previous trip where I started early, I hit a coyote at around 4 AM. No damage to the car but I don't think the coyote faired quite as well. This trip was worse though, I hit what I believe was an armadillo. I didn't get a great look at it and I was only going 40 but it damaged the underside of my Prius. I stopped when I got to a spot with street lights and whatever it was tore up the plastic air shield under the Prius. Not a huge safety problem except that it was dragging on the ground for the next 2000 miles of the trip and my mileage dropped by about 5 MPG.

Lesson three, and the second lesson I learned from driving 1100 miles straight as a 50-something-year-old was a more painful one. After driving for around 16 hours straight with only a couple of breaks for gas and bathroom, I arrived at my campsite before 6 PM with tons of daylight left. I reserved a beautiful spot at the Lakeview campground at the base of Mount Elbert, the tallest 14'er in Colorado! I pulled into my camp spot, jumped out, took a deep breath, and then went to unpack. I opened the hatchback, grabbed my big box of camp stuff, and yanked it out! Bad idea, POP! Due to being super tight from driving for so long and not stretching after stopping, I managed to pull something in my back... right before a big hike. Major oof... fortunately, due to this being the "age of getting things done", I was prepared and had some Icy Hot and ibuprofen. My back was still super tight and painful the next morning but tolerable. This did bother me most of the trip but fortunately not while hiking since it only hurt when I bent over. It did make the evening tent setup and crawling into it a much more challenging adventure.

The best part of the evening was that the campsite next to me at the campground had a super nice group at it. Two friends, who were both surgeons, and their family had a nice setup and cooked me a bison burger with sides. I repaid them by sharing a six-pack of Stash IPA beer from Austin and spent the evening talking (at a distance of course) about Covid, politics, remote learning for kids, backpacking adventures, Colorado, and Austin.

So day one, drive 1100 miles,  3 gas/bathroom stops, hit an unidentified varmint,  pulled my back, made camp to test out gear, made some friends, had a beer, ate some bison, and tested out my sleeping gear in cooler weather for the first time! Now on to part 3!