Today I accidentally climbed the highest mountain I've ever climbed. I set off to take a walk up Lookout Mountain behind the housing development here figuring it would take half an hour to get up and then I would come back and do some shopping. Instead I spent 5 or 6 hours on the mountain. However, the thing is that I forgot to bring my camera. I noticed this when I was approximately 2 minutes out the door of the house, but somehow I did not think it was worth it to go back and get it. However, some of the things I saw on Lookout Mountain include:
Snow-capped peaks, the town of Golden, and the city of Denver in the distance (in different directions)
A family of mule deer that crossed within 15 feet of me
A stunt plane doing loops and dives
Buffalo Bill's grave
A man and tiny boy each with mountain biking unicycles
...since I didn't have my camera, I will have to show you other people's pictures of these things:
People had thrown nickels all over Buffalo Bill's grave, for some reason.
Lookout Mountain is 7,581 feet high, making it the highest mountain I've ever climbed. However, the summit is only about 1500 feet above my house, and it only took an hour and a half to climb. This is the thing about comparing the Rockies with the Appalachians. Mt. Washington is 6,000 something feet high, with 4,000 feet of elevation gain on the trail. The highest peaks of the Rockies are 14,000 something feet high, with maybe 6,000 feet of elevation gain, depending on the mountain and the trail. So you are actually climbing 50% more, not 130% more. The difficulty of the Rockies is added to by the greater elevation (meaning less oxygen), but a useful thing is that out west they use a thing called "switchbacks," which are some kind of crazy invention that allows you to not take the steepest, most agonizing route up the mountain. (Many... perhaps most... eastern trails do tend to sort of go straight up the mountain; experience Mt. Monadnock's White Cross/Dot trails for a good example.)
The trail I was on today was full of mountain bikers, which is also something I have never seen on an eastern mountain. One reason may be that they are not allowed; I suspect this is the case. But another reason is that while the trail today looked like this...
...many of the trails I've been on in New England look more like this,
in other words, less like a trail than like a jumble of jagged boulders. In any case, for whatever reasons, there's a lot more mountain biking out here.
Though I was mostly okay while I was climbing, after I came back from the mountain I felt terrible. I ended up taking a fitful nap after which I still felt terrible, but I went to Goodwill to pick up a cheap sweatshirt for field work. What I did not know was that this was Cruise Night in Golden. I ended up sitting for a couple hours watching classic cars go by while two guys from out of town made incomprehensible comments over my head.
This is also not my picture, because why would I bring my camera to Goodwill? One of the guys, who told me he used to have the record length snake in the state (a 22-foot python), was flirting with me. He did manage to convey to me a few things about cars, which were:
1. Chicks like convertibles because they can be seen in them
2. A car that is fast is not necessarily a car that looks fast, but instead a car that is loud
3. You can tell when the car is being driven by the original owners, because they have a certain look to them--that is, old and white and utterly humorless.
Other than that I do not think I need to speak very much about the cruise except to say that at one point a car caught on fire right in front of us, making this my second car on fire of the week. (Amazingly, the guy was able to drive the car away under its own power by the end of the night.) It was not a bad way to distract myself for the evening, as I am feeling ever sicker... sick and dizzy and just not well. Well, sitting right next to a parade of exhaust-spewing cars for two hours might not have been the greatest thing, in the end. But I have been feeling remarkably badly on and off and am concerned about next week, when I'm supposed to be carrying 50-pound loads of gear up a landslide that's at 10,000 feet in elevation, 4,000 feet higher than here. There is just not much I can do about this at the moment.