After climbing Colorado’s Mt. Elbert, our first 14,000 foot peak last summer, we have been eager to “bag” another one. One goal for our summer trip this year was to do so. We chose to double up two peaks that are reportedly doable in one day via the same hike, Gray’s Peak at 14,270 feet, and Torrey’s Peak at 14,267 feet. Surprisingly, they are the only two Colorado 14ers on the Continental Divide.
Asa Gray of Harvard University and John Torrey from Princeton were two 19th century botanists who often climbed together. As they became close friends and helped to settle the Colorado territory back in the day, the powers that be seemed to think it fitting to name two adjacent 14’ers after the men. After some online research (what did we ever do before the internet?) we determined that Geneva Park Campground was the nearest to the trail head with reservable sites and made our reservation. Upon arriving at our site, after a very bumpy ride over a six mile ungraded pot-hole riddled gravel road, we set up camp and relaxed a bit.
After taking some time to clear our heads after being jostled about for the 30 minutes it took us to travel the six miles, we decide to head out to explore the trail head for our hike scheduled for the following morning. Minus the camper, we turned to continue down the same bumpy road, but reached a portion that has thankfully been recently graded as it is four miles down this road that we must travel to reach the trail head.
Three miles down the road, however, our journey comes to a halt. We ask a gentleman who is throwing a ball to his children on the side of the road if he is familiar with the Gray’s Peak trail head. He informs us it is a mile or so up ahead but that we will be unable to access it from this road as the road is closed for construction just up ahead. His recommendation is to take the long way around, getting out of the national Forest and back onto the interstate to avoid the construction. Our hearts sank, as we had camped here specifically for its proximity to our hike. We are aware the trip will take a considerable amount of time but check it out anyway before we again change our plans.
The road is indeed closed, just around the bend from the family we spoke to. We turn back and head out onto the interstate to see how long it will take us the next morning to reach our trail head. Again, we will need to get an early start to be off the summit by noon at the latest to avoid the early afternoon lightening strikes that occur at higher elevations.
As we head out to investigate this new route we must pass the campground. It is 1:14 p.m as we drive by it on our way back to the interstate so we begin to clock our time. We drive for what seems an eternity and, finally, at 3 pm realize we are still miles from our trail head destination. At that point we decide to turn around and revise our hiking plans for the morning. We also note that if we had known about the impending construction, we could have secured a site in a campground on the opposite side of the trail head that would only have required about a 30 minute drive. By the time we get back to our camper it is nearly 5 pm and too late in the day to attempt to change our camping location. We change the only thing we can to maintain our travel schedule: the peak we will attempt to summit.
Check with Woodall’s to read more about Colorado campgrounds and things to do in Colorado.