Hiking Pike’s Peak: Cougars and Bears! Oh My!

View of Pike's Peak

View of Pike’s Peak (Photo credit: Raymond Larose)

I asked a dear friend of mine to write a guest post this week about his hiking trip to Colorado Springs, Colorado. He’s a handsome man in his early 40s, and single (ladies!!) Military trained, Marcrooseler Sylla is in pretty decent shape for hiking, but it’s certainly not for everyone. Here’s what he had to say about his trip:

As an adventurer of sorts, I went hiking on my own in Colorado Springs, Colorado USA. It’s listed as one of the most healthiest and slimmest states and cities in the US and with good reason. It is the home to the U.S. Olympic Village and world athletes train there. It is also home to a couple of military bases. Which made my stay there very pleasant and cheaper (sort of).

Travel was easy and very minimal: two pairs of hiking boots, sweats, backpack, first aid kit, flashlight, hats with rims, wash towels (I tend to sweat a lot), phone with GPS, solar charger for the phone (US$12). I’m not a sunblock person, but I also prefer long sleeves and cargo pants for hiking. Oh yeah, invest in a Camel Pack portable water system, small one averages US$25, but there are those built into the backpacks. Also speed dial with family/friends to let them know which mountain/trail you’ll be on when you go, even if you go with two or more people.

Hiking trail

Hiking trail

I did a few trails the week I was there but I took the first day of walking at the slightly above mile high elevation and a little jogging. First stop was Garden of the Gods. It’s a red clay “village” of rock formations and not a full day trip, unless you take in, let’s say one of the various beer breweries after. I tried jogging the elevation there (about 7,000 ft up) just to test myself. Downhill is really easy as a run and gets better as the air is thicker as you run down. But going up is a test of will for the, not so in shape. But I was acclimating for the 14K plus hike of Pike’s Peak at the end of the week to top off my trip.

Next up The Incline at Pike’s Peak. The average Colorado native or in shape person will take about 40-50 minutes to pull off this (70 degree at some points) hellish climb. I took an hour and ten, lots of rest and picture taking. Some folks run it… a few times, now that’s in shape. And I mean in shape.

Vibrant mountain terrain

Vibrant mountain terrain

There is a 4.5 mile trail at The Incline peak that reconnects to the bottom parking areas and trolley that goes up to Pike’s Peak for the less inclined (pun intended). I decided on going down that trail instead of the steep descent of the Incline. And what a descent it was! I ventured off the beaten path laid from previous hikers and found myself sliding down gravel and sheer drops. I tried once to grab a tree and heard a low growl. As I frantically attempted to keep my balance I went to grab that tree and the half sleep cougar that I woke up let me know it was its tree. I let myself keep going and once I found footing high tailed as fast as I can yelling cougar! There were other hikers below me who heard and took off even faster than I did. All I saw were blurred feet and rustling bushes. I ran the entire trail.

Caution to the would be hiker/adventurers, the mountain folk “kind of” told hikers about the wildlife, but mostly squirrels and cutesy lesser animals. There are bears and cougars up there which undermined my final ascent to Pike’s Peak. I opted to take that train up. Along the way up the guides pointed out the various cougar lairs (hmph).

At the Peak itself of 14,200 ft it took a few minutes to catch my breath at the 26 degrees, 16 degree windchill, summit. There is a souvenir shop and lunch up there, but the view is breathtaking and well worth it. The trip should run you less than US$2000, that included my hotel, rental car, and trolley ride. My hotel room had a kitchenette set so I went food shopping the first chance I got and stocked up on meals.

Windy Point on Pike's Peak

Windy Point on Pike’s Peak

Am I a seasoned traveler? I don’t think so, but I’m certainly willing to travel, rain, sleet, hail, snow, desert, delays, standby, cancellations. Next stop: Antarctica!

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