To go along with my week of Colorado features, I asked my sister, Kristen, to guest-post about her love affair with “14ers.” I don’t understand it, but here’s her explanation:
There’s just something about standing at 14,000 feet and looking out at the world below that is just breathtaking and magical. Ok, physical exertion at an altitude of 14,000 feet might actually be what is taking my breath away, but it’s still magical.
There are only four states in the US that have peaks over 14,000 feet (affectionately referred to as 14ers), one of them being the colorful state of Colorado. Colorado has 54 14ers and is located next to my home state of Kansas, so in addition to being colorful, Colorado is also terribly convenient. In the last five years, my dad and I have hiked ten 14ers: Grays, Torreys, Longs (on Dad’s 50th birthday!), Missouri, Quandary, Elbert, Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln, and Bross.
Some people (like my sister) think hiking 14ers is crazy/awful/nutso/etc. Honestly, it’s not an activity for everyone, and I know that, but here are a few reasons I’m a huge fan.
- The Physical Challenge: The shortest 14er hike I’ve done was about 6 miles, the longest was 14 miles. It’s slightly comparable to climbing straight up a staircase for three miles (or seven), then going straight down a staircase for three miles (or seven). But 14ers are a lot prettier than staircases! It’s a great challenge to train for. It’s actually one of the reasons I stay in shape.
- I Like Being Outside: I work in an office all day. I like my job, but it’s really nice to have an activity that is an excuse to be outside!
- Activity With Dad: I’m a twenty-something middle child dealing with the after-effects of twenty-odd years of middle-child-syndrome. Dad likes hiking 14ers and none of my siblings are chomping at the bit to join him, so I get to spend all day with him BY MYSELF. HA! (forget the fact that I live in the same town as my parents and the siblings both live 8+ hours away so I get my parents to myself most of the time, but whatever)
- It Makes Me Feel In Perspective: This is probably the biggest reason I hike 14ers. In my everyday life, I gravitate toward stressing out about insignificant details. Hiking a 14er, it’s you, your pack, God, and the mountain. All of a sudden, the feelings that someone returned a work email in ALL CAPS, that the projector at a recent presentation was way too fuzzy, that some guy sends mixed messages but doesn’t actually like me, or that I haven’t gotten my eyebrows waxed in way too long (is that why he doesn’t like me?)….really just don’t matter. At all. Compared to the hugeness of that particular mountain and the reality that it’s just one mountain among thousands, my problems, my life, and myself in general suddenly gain a new perspective of smallness. I love feeling small; it’s one of the best “relief moments” I ever get. At work, all my computer backdrops are of 14er hikes. Any time I’m tempted to start freaking out about something that really isn’t a huge issue, I can look at the pictures and remember to feel small again.
- It’s Difficult Thus Rare: As Dad says, “If it were easy, everybody would do it.”
Plus, the views from the top are just incredible! Pictures just don’t capture it, but these might give a small taste.