With Winter coming, I wanted to take a fast trip up something big before Christmas. Once there’s snow on the ground and the days get short, dependable and safe access just to get to the trailhead without a car can be a little dicey.
I thought of Pikes Peak, just outside of Colorado Springs: there’s a now a bus line starting from Denver that goes relatively close to the trailhead and a (free!) shuttle that’ll take you the rest of the way! Timing is always hard, as bus schedules aren’t ever going to align well with getting an early start for something like the Barr Trail, a ~24 miles round trip. That’s a long time on foot this time of year, weighted down with warm gear and slowed down by the wintry conditions. Lucky for me, I’ve been working all year as a outdoor gear tester, so I had a bounty of overnight backcountry gear to pluck from my closet to utilize – I’ll make this trip an overnighter.
But is that all I wanted to do? A hike up Barr Trail to the summit and back – seems a little too conventional for me: missing that Long Ranger braggadocio. What if I instead started at the bus station in Downtown Colorado Springs? A little 7 miles warmup and cool down. Other than the shuttle literally passing me a few times, that seemed like a worthy extension.
And who says I have to turn around at the summit? There’s another route on the other side of the mountain, why not hike down the Crags route, turn around at that trailhead, summit again, and then descend back to the bus station? I’ll be going overnight already anyways – let’s put this gear (and me) to the test! Last Thursday was the Winter Solstice: at approx. 8:30pm. If all goes well, I’d be starting at the bus stop in Fall, and summiting in Winter (perhaps the first to do so for the season!). A second summit would be wholly in Winter.
Excited, I started packing my bags, making promises that I’d be back in town by Christmas. The Pikes Peak Winter Solstice Bus Stop Backslap was born!