Eagle's Peak Memories

Discussion in 'Air Force Academy - USAFA' started by djms19, May 14, 2018.

  1. djms19

    djms19 5-Year Member

    Jan 25, 2011
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    ...just reminiscing about the time I climbed Eagle's Peak. Would like to hear stories from others who have done it and put out a challenge to parents of new cadets.

    DD entered the Academy in 2011. Had toured the area in 2010. Developed a bucket list of things I wanted to see and do before DD graduated. Looked like she was going to graduate in 2015 without me having achieved the goal of climbing Eagle's Peak! It was always something...bad weather approaching, other things to do, lack of confidence in my fitness, me worrying that my wife couldn't do it, she worrying that I couldn't do it, reading stories about cadet parents or grandparents trying to do it and having to be rescued, or others having medical emergencies during the climb.

    Finally, senior year, Parent's Weekend. Our DD had just undergone Lasik and had to wear sunglasses anytime she was outside, thus she was excused from the (Friday morning?) parade (sunglasses not permitted during parade) and other events that day. She asked my wife and I what we wanted to do. I thought to myself, last chance, chicken!
    We set off to climb Eagle's Peak!

    I was 55 years old, and my wife older than me. My wife was never athletic, but always walked a lot. I was slightly overweight, hadn't regularly exercised in a long time, but otherwise was in good health. Our DD had done the climb several times before with friends and during squadron events. I knew dogs could do it, so I figured we could and off we went. There are plenty of warning signs about the risks involved in the climb and the possible presence of bears and mountain lions.

    My daughter and wife seemed to always be a hundred feet ahead of me. DD kept complaining about me asking how much farther we have to go. There is one beautiful part where the trail opens up to a meadow-like area...good place for a rest. Actually, after awhile, any place became a good place for a rest! After that though, I believe there was a lot of actual climbing on all fours over boulders. We did reach the top, only meeting 1 person with their dog on the way up (and meeting a few people on the way down). The 360 degree view from the top is amazing in itself. We got a special surprise when one of the Academy's aircraft (possibly one that dropped Wings of Blue) flew right past us at our elevation, close enough for the pilot and us to see each other and wave at each other. The pilot even dipped his wing to us in a friendly gesture!

    The way down was something else. On your way down, you are using a completely different set of muscles in your legs - or at least using the same muscles in a different way. I began to feel slight pain in my knees but nothing to stop me. You've got to watch yourself as well on your way down as the tiny rocks that you think are good footholds for each step tended to shift under your body weight. About three quarters of the way down I was about done in. My legs felt like the proverbial jello. I couldn't tell I had a knee, ankle or any bone structure....couldn't tell which way my legs were supposed to bend! My wife and DD had a good laugh when I told them to go ahead, I'd meet them at the Visitor Center parking lot! Very difficult hike but well worth it!!!! I think it is about a 3 1/2 mile round trip hike with about an average 13 degree grade and an ascent of about 2000 feet. I think the sign at the trail head said the average time to complete was 1 1/2 - 2 hours. I think it took us a little over 3 1/2 hours. I suppose some of that time was spent enjoying the view from atop, and some was due to my wife and DD always having to wait for me while taking breaks/catching my breath. Had a beautiful time - a memory that will last forever!

    Anyone else have a story to share about climbing Eagle's Peak?
    Last edited: May 14, 2018
  2. AFrpaso

    AFrpaso USAFA Alumnus 5-Year Member

    Mar 5, 2012
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    During freshman year, a friend and I tried to climb the peak in the early morning to catch the sunrise from the top. It was dark so we brought headlamps. . . and still got lost. We sat huddled together for a solid hour before there was enough light to even think about finding the trail. We didn't bother hiking to the top after that. We just wanted to be warm!

    I finally attempted the hike again, in full daylight this time, when I was a junior. It's worth it!
  3. wildblueyonder

    wildblueyonder USAFA '19

    Jan 31, 2015
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    Amazing hike and a great summertime workout. I really hope to go camping in that meadow one day...

    I lost the trail going down the mountain one time and had to make my own instead. A couple alarming slips and mild lacerations later, I found myself at the bottom after a hair-raising downhill excursion. I definitely recommend utilizing the trail...yes, there are boulders near the top, but it's an awful lot better than the alternative...
    USAFA_Mo likes this.
  4. Stealth_81

    Stealth_81 Super Moderator 10-Year Member Founding Member

    Jul 20, 2006
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    I have made the climb three times. The funny part is that each time my son had a different girlfriend so we did the climb for the benefit of the "New Girl". I joked with him that I am glad that he kept the same one for his third and fourth year because I really didn't need to climb Eagle Peak again.

    If anyone enjoys hiking/climbing and wants to try something different than Eagle Peak while at USAFA, I suggest the Seven Bridges Trail. It is a bit easier than Eagle, but it is longer and more scenic. It is a great half-day hike with several nice places to stop and rest/eat. If you really want a challenge, climb up the back side of Pikes Peak. (I never attempted that one, but all 3 of my kids have done it.)

    djms19, Wishful and StPaulDad like this.
  5. RedDragon

    RedDragon 5-Year Member

    Dec 31, 2013
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    Son is a firstie and graduating in 8 days. He has done it a number of times with friends and his squadron. We are planning to do it with him next week before commissioning and graduation.
  6. raimius

    raimius 10-Year Member

    Jun 9, 2006
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    It's a good hike...not necessarily easy in the spring though! I failed to make the peak once, as there were 100ft long sheets of ice over some steeper sections of the trail. Summer and early fall hikes are good though!
    wildblueyonder likes this.
  7. USAFA10s

    USAFA10s USAFA Class of 2012 WPAFB 10-Year Member

    Nov 18, 2007
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    Definitely one of my favorites. I dragged most of my family (two sisters and both parents) up one year at parent's weekend. The view is 100% worth it but it's definitely a brutal climb, particularly for those just visiting from sea level. My mom still loves to talk about how terrible it was. I climbed it a lot as a 4 degree since it was something fun and readily accessible, but only a couple times after that once the upperclassmen privileges started rolling in ;)
  8. charlestonmom5

    charlestonmom5 Member

    Dec 28, 2015
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    Is anyone here familiar with Mount LeConte in Tennessee? Specifically Alum Cave trail? How does it compare to this hike?
  9. Velocity2012

    Velocity2012 Member

    Apr 3, 2017
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    This past summer many of the C4Cs went up during the first week or two of school to watch the sunrise - some even took ironing boards to do some "extreme" ironing. Looked pretty amazing.
  10. parktrack

    parktrack "Hoov!" "Target In Sight"

    Apr 4, 2016
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    First off, thank you for starting a thread on a new and different topic. This is a nice change from the usual subject matter found here.

    That said, my Eagle's Peak story is rather recent. Last year during PW we decided to hike (i.e. climb ;)) to Eagle's Peak. DS told the family it wasn't too bad of a hike. After stopping at the map near the head of trail and assessing the trek we were about to embark on we started the hike. At first it wasn't so bad inlcuding the rocks and boulders we had to climb over. "No problem, we've got this" was the attitude. But as the climb continued we realized that this was not a normal trail in the woods. There were many rest stops along the way. Becasue of their youthful prowess DS and his 14 year old sister weren't having any problems but mom and dad required several rest breaks. The daughter conquered the trail like a billy goat and was hampered by the slow pace. I pushed forward with her while DS stayed behind with mom, even though he too wanted to move faster. Eventually my daughter and I reached the summit at which point I told her that I didn't think her mom was going to make it to the top. But about 15 minutes or so later she and DS arrived! I was more than proud of her and the perserverance she showed to complete the climb.

    Once at the top we enjoyed the absolutely spectacular 360 degree view. We also quickly learned that we did not bring enough water, even though we thought we had. While at the top we rested, explored the peak, took pictures and generally tried to take in the whole experience. Someone had brought 1/2 dozen or more chairs to the top which made the rest a little nicer even thought the furniture was out of place.

    As previously stated by another poster , the "walk" down used an entirely different set of muscles. And while one would think that going down was easier than going up, I would say that it presented it's own challenges. Those challenges were magnified where the surface consisted of loose rocks and material. We did have a couple of slip-and-falls that resulted in some bruising.

    Overall the climb to the top was well worth it despite the challenges involved. The relatively flat and small aspen meadow was a refreshing break from the rugged terrain that comprised most of the trail. On the way down we passed several parties, many of which I didn't think would make it to the top (I sure hope they did!). Once we made it to our vehicle in the visitor's center lot we made a beeline to the on-base gas station convenient store to buy water. I can say that I don't think I've ever seen a case of water disappear so quickly! Eating dinner and sleeping were of no issue later that day because of the energy spent on the hike.

    Finally, I recommend that anyone interested and capable go to Eagle's Peak. It was one of the best and most rewarding things I've done in a long time. But be warned that this is not an easy trail through the woods. As I mentioned before, DS made it out to be not so difficult but we learned his assessment was way off (at least for his older mom and dad). Imagine our astonishment when he told us he did it in the dark WITHOUT A FLASHLIGHT so that he could see the sunrise. DS's mom wasn't very happy about that but I guess the positive takeaway is that he isn't afraid of challenges, which will likely be of benefit to him during hismilitary career.
    djms19 likes this.
  11. mom2mnem

    mom2mnem Member

    Feb 23, 2016
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    DS did it a few times. My daughter saw his pictures and wanted to do it too. On parents weekend after the football game we took a and a trip to walmart for a pair of sneakers forDD. DS decided that DH and I would not be good candidates for this adventure. He said it would be a difficult climb and a even harder to get down. My DD agreed with him so they took off on their adventure without us.