Sunday, August 17, 2014

High Altitude Hiking

me with my trusting hiking stick and ever-present navy blue sun visor

Last Friday morning it was time to set out on yet another summer's day hike with Denise. I should tell you that I'm not all that athletically inclined, and if it weren't for my hiking buddy, I wouldn't have all these outdoor adventures to share on my blog. It really is a blessing to have a friend who urges me to get out and do those things that are good for us -- and along the way we have fun, too!

looking northwest from atop a ridge in my neighborhood
This trek was so close to my house that we left the cars and began the trail not even half a block from my front door!

looking across Castle Rock to the east
My town is made up of a lot of hills and canyons and meadows. Neighborhoods and businesses tend to be clustered in the indentations of the terrain while golf courses span over hill and dale to make them appropriately challenging to those wielding the irons and woods.

looking west toward Devil's Head
My readers may remember my blog post from a couple of weeks ago when Denise and I drove up to Rampart Range Road to hike the trail to the ranger's station at Devil's Head (also referred to as Sleeping Indian). It was interesting to be able to view the sleeping body from a high ridge on our Friday morning walk. 

If you use that imagination you had as a child to see apparitions in the clouds, then you may be able to visualize the body of the Sleeping Indian. His head is on the left, then his torso, and his feet on the right. 

When we were standing inside the Ranger's fire lookout station a couple of weeks ago, I asked him where it was on the Indian's body that we were standing. He said we were on the stomach. 

I've photo-shopped an arrow to show you the spot.  I absolutely love that we can see so far in Colorado's high, dry climate, with very little humidity (i.e. haze) to obscure faraway objects.

prairie-like ground cover at over 6,000 feet above sea level
As we continued our walk, the path was narrow with high grasses and weeds on either side of us. We walked single-file. Sometimes I took the lead, and sometimes it was Denise.

always on the watch for "creatures" along the way
We are always on the lookout for rattlesnakes, bears, mountain lions, rabbits, and chipmunks.  Thankfully on this particular morning, a startled lizard about 10 inches long was the only creature we saw, besides several chipmunks skittering ahead of us and out of sight. 

the 13th hole of the golf course below us
Well, there is also the threat of some stray golf ball, but we were counting on being too far away for that.

my latest trail mix concoction
I've said in previous posts that it's my habit to provide trail mix for both Denise and myself when we take these hikes. She is such an uncomplaining companion, even when I make silly mistakes. 

I used the large Toll House Dark Chocolate Morsels which are not only delicious, but also gluten-free. However, like any other chocolate chip, they will get soft and melt when in a hiker's backpack. The last time I brought along plastic spoons so our hands wouldn't get messy.  This time I forgot.

I would use M & M's, which are famous in part because they "melt in  your mouth, not in your hand" -- except that they are not gluten free! Alas!

You can see in the picture that this particular trail mix has some of my recently-dehydrated fruits, raspberries, blueberries, and cherries. Also in the mix were Pine nuts, pecan halves, and some gluten-free Rice Crispies cereal. Denise pronounced it delicious and then pulled out her moist wet wipes to deal with the melted chocolate on her hands.

wild flowers along the path
I had thought the entire hike that day would be about 4 miles. As it turns out, the half-way point was at just about 1.5 miles. That was when we reached a trail head with benches for sitting, a port-a-potty, and some conversation with another hiker and her sweet dog.

some plant life has a foreboding appearance, like some people
Beloved put a free pedometer app on my cell phone before we took this hike. Among the many things it provides is information about our elevation (how far we are above sea level). That fascinates me. Our house is at 6,329 feet. I think the highest we climbed for this hike was 423 feet (up to 6,752 feet above sea level). Denver is officially at 1 mile high, so we were nearly 1500 feet above that!

small cactus beside the hiking trail
Although our bodies are used to the thin air at this altitude, we don't feel any need to hurry our stride.

sunflowers direct their faces to the light

We also carry water with us and sorely regret it if we don't. The high terrain, thin air, and abundant sunshine can dehydrate a person very quickly.

we were crossing a dry creek bed for this picture

When people from the lowlands come to Colorado, they are sometimes caught off guard by the altitude. A young guest of mine fainted one time outside the Air Force Academy Chapel, due to her body not being accustomed to the altitude. Headaches are not unusual, either. If guests take it slowly, they usually do fine.  New residents to our state take anywhere from 3 to 6 months to manufacture the additional red blood cells they need to feel well in our high climate. 

my first Gladiola to bloom greeted us as we approached my house at the end of the hike

We took nearly 2.5 hours for our hike, not having  need or desire to break any speed records. But the time in friendship and exercise were well spent.

Trail Mix Recipe for High Altitude
M & M candies (or gluten-free dark chocolate chips)
dried blueberries
dried cherries
dried raspberries
Pine Nuts
Pecan Halves
dry Rice Krispy cereal

In a very large mixing bowl, combine all of the above in the amounts you desire (1/2 to 1 cup of each). Store in airtight container. Freeze for longer storage.


  1. Just what would you do if you came upon a rattlesnake, bear or mountain lion?

  2. EXCELLENT QUESTION!! (I wondered if anybody would ask)

    We are told to slowly back away and be quiet. We are also told that with bears and mountain lions we should raise our arms and walk together with any fellow hikers so we appear BIG. Prayer would be my first reaction, accompanied with all of the above.

    We are told to not try to deter a snake with our hiking sticks. (that was on local TV recently)

  3. Wonderful post, Barbara! It is always so much nicer to walk or hike with a friend as conversation makes the journey seem effortless.

    It is very true that Colorado's high altitude makes visitors often feel tired and head achy. Sometimes they do not even realize how high up they are as many areas are flat, but still at high altitude.

    My closest encounter with a wild animal on a trail was a bear sleeping in a tree! If another hiker did not tell me it was there I would have never known. Now I look up at the tree tops as well when I walk.

    Your trail mix looks delicious!

  4. Wow! Interesting how different things are there such as the plants and trees. Great hike! Love your trail mix! We often mix up our own with a variety of snackables.