The sky has been dumping buckets of rain on Fort Collins for weeks, and it’s made it difficult to fulfill my ambitious list of wilderness goals. On Sunday, my buddy Madison and I decided to tough it out anyway and attempt to hike Mt. Bierstadt, one of Colorado’s incredible Fourteeners. But we didn’t summit. In fact, we didn’t even make it to the trailhead–walked right by it by about a half mile because it was buried in three feet of snow that still blankets the mountains here in May.
|The peak on the left is Mt. Evans (another 14er), and the roundtop on the right is Bierstadt.|
The road, Guanella Pass, was closed about two miles from the parking lot where in warmer days, hikers park and begin their excursion. This didn’t stop us. The wind blew and the snow came down, and we walked along the road for the two miles to the base of the trail, passed two guys on skis and a snowboard who said ‘hi’ with a smile like “You’re kind of crazy too huh?” We kept walking until a nice couple stopped us. “Where are you headed to?” they asked with a skeptical look. “Bierstadt,” we said. “Oh, you passed it!” Of course we did. We couldn’t see a thing in the blinding white.
Neither of us had worn waterproof shoes, winter jackets, or gear fit for an alpine climb. Even though we knew we wouldn’t make it any farther than the road, this wasn’t a failure. Madison and I had left town in the pre-dawn darkness that morning to seek out the wilderness, and well, we had certainly found it.
Unprepared, wet, and cold, we decided to make the most of our time and the place, and wandered around Arapaho National Forest telling ghost stories, swapping book recommendations, and exploration plans for the upcoming summer and year, and we had a great time. You learn a lot when you let yourself wander. You don’t always have to summit. Sometimes, it takes a few tries just to begin.