The James Journal

Do you have that thing in your life that just makes time stand-still or slow down? If you do, it’s one of the best things to discover. For me, that activity is hiking. I didn’t find this love and passion until a few years ago.

My family would occasionally take trips out to Breckenridge, Colorado when I was younger to go skiing and stay in the mountains. However, it wasn’t till after my senior year of high school that I truly gave hiking a try and immediately fell in love with it. My dad and I made a trip out to Estes Park, Co. and I hit the trails for the first time in Rocky Mountain National Park.

I definitely got this love and passion for hiking from my dad, who has hiked many 14’ers in Colorado. After a couple years of visiting Estes Park, we decided that we wanted to take on the beast that hovers over the town at 14,259 feet with a peak that can be seen from Denver, which is almost an hour and a half away by car.

So, in August of 2018, one experienced and one semi-experienced hiker set out at 2 in the morning to take on the beast known as Longs Peak. The mileage of the hike is about 15 miles roundtrip with over 5,000 feet of elevation gain. It’s also one of the most dangerous mountains to attempt. Longs Peak has class 3 and 4 scrambling at times, which means you are basically free climbing in a very exposed area where you could easily fall.

My dad and I made it to 13,000 feet and stopped at the part of the mountain called the keyhole. After crossing a massive boulder field that took over an hour to get through, it’s safe to say we were exhausted. We pulled ourselves up, literally, through the keyhole and were immediately exposed to 1,000-foot ledge drop-offs. My dad and I looked at each other at the same time and we both had the same expression of “yeah we aren’t going any further.”

We ascended back down the mountain, and I can still recall the exhaustion and aching pain of all my joints. My dad might have chimed in a few times telling me to “suck it up and be tough” but he was just building character.

After not hitting the summit on that mountain, we decided we were going to attempt another 14’er the next year. So, in August of 2019, dad and I headed west again but this time to Breckenridge, Co. This time we were prepping to take on Quandary Peak that sits at 14,265 feet.  

While this mountain wasn’t as dangerous as Longs and was a little shorter of a trail, it was still the most challenging thing my body has done. Quandary is 6.75 miles roundtrip with an average elevation gain of 1,022 feet per mile …. I felt winded again just from reading that.

It was definitely a challenge, but we made it and I conquered my first 14’er. I often get asked by people “why do you put your body through that, that sounds awful” … yes at times I was asking myself that same question, but when you get to the top, all of that goes away. The views are some of the most incredible views I’ve ever seen. And the feeling of accomplishment and pushing yourself to see how far you can go is a rewarding feeling. We weren’t able to hit the mountains this past year because of Covid, but we are hoping to be able to soon.

I hope that you find something like this that you are passionate about where time just pauses. Life is too short … do more of what you love!

If you made it to the end, check out some of my pictures!

6 comments

  1. You rock JJ!(no pun intended)! So proud of you. Gorgeous pictures!!

  2. Great pictures! You have a pretty cool dude as a guide too! 😉

  3. Very cool! I’ve known your dad nearly all my life. It’s great that you and he have such a bond. Love the pictures.

  4. Wow Jenny! What an accomplishment! And with your dad no less! A memory you’ll both have forever. It had to be quite a thrill for Mark as well. I was an underclass man at the same high school back in the day. He was always athletic so I’m not surprised he is still accomplishing great things of that nature even today but so happy to read your blog and see your pictures. Keep enjoying-so nice to see adult children enjoying this kind of time with a parent. Kudos to you both!

  5. Congratulations! Your dad is a heck of a guy and you’re lucky to have hi, for a father.

  6. Wow Jenny, That’s an unreal accomplishment, and one to be proud of with your Dad! I have been to Colorado twice elk hunting, once on foot, in which we did some unreal climbing, but nothing like what you guys did. We started out on a snowy blizzard that morning at sun up, with 4” of snow on the ground to begin, and by the time we climbed up to around 11,000 ft, we were in 3 feet of snow+ the rest of the day. The snow was blowing so hard, I sat down on a flat Boulder, and 6 mile deer does walked right by me within 5 feet of me and didn’t see me. I ended up following a set of fresh deer tracks into some dark timber, and had a mountain lion above me that let out a loud warning growl (more like a yell), telling me that was his deer and to get lost or else! I got lost, fast out of the dark timber!
    I have a question for you. Hopefully your Dad with all of his experiences in his profession, certainly carried a sidearm for bears or mountain lions, right?

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