It was just a week ago at this time I was heading down from Flattop Mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park as the final hike in the Hike for Discovery program. Yes it is not even 9am right now as I write this, but on hike weekend I received a 3am wake-up call so we could depart Estes Park and head up towards Bear Lake and the trailhead at 3:30am. Knowing the hike would be something different it wasn’t easy to sleep in addition to all the commotion around the hotel in the early morning hours.
As the van headed towards the trailhead in the morning darkness the stars were quite bright outside the window, even leading to a little singing from the two girls from the Arizona chapter (Cherie and Talia) taking part on our hike. Yes the song being song was "the stars at night are big and bright…", which was dedicated to Monica from the North Texas chapter also hiking with us. The other hikers in our group were Jay from Illinois, and Jeff and Vicki from the Rocky Mountain group giving us seven hikers and a couple of guides for the nearly 3,000 feet elevation gain to Flattop.
As we did the final preparations at Bear Lake it was dark and empty, but at 20 minutes past 4 we started out towards the top of Flattop Mountain with our headlamps leading the way. Hiking a little bit along the lake we soon made a turn off the trail and started to rise in the darkness. We stopped for a little bit to adjust layers as it was starting to get warm as we hiked. It was quiet with the sound of the wind blow apparent even below treeline.
Starting to climb out of the trees the wind was picking up and it was now time to put layers back on as it was getting cold. Also at this time you could start to see the hints of morning as twilight started to show. We were still about two miles away from the top and I knew it would be a cool finish to the hike as the wind was howling and the coldest part of the day was now here, the period before sunrise. Also with some clouds on the east horizon we would have to wait a little bit prior to getting the full benefits of the morning sunrise.
Going back and forth on some switchbacks we were treated with a view of Emerald Lake from high above it, but trying to minimize the stops was the key at this time since it was getting quite cool especially with the wind howling.
We pressed on and finally got into some sun as we approached the top of Flattop making the hike a little better, but the wind was the main element to fight by this time instead of the 12,000 feet elevation.
Around 8am we arrived to the top of the mountain and decided based on the conditions it didn’t make sense to climb the next part to Halletts Peak as it was quite windy (40 mph) and cool. You could also see the condition 300 feet above on Halletts would be worse, especially having to scramble our way to the top. We did walk over towards the saddle and looked at the surroundings.
Now that we had made the destination of Flattop Mountain we started back down and had the wind behind us for the most part. Trying to get back below treeline was the goal sooner than later as it would be a little warmer by then.
As we continued down, people were heading up the trail with some prepared and others probably not for the conditions they would encounter on the top of Flattop.
Once at Bear Lake it was a different scene as families were out hiking around the lake and we were still somewhat bundled up from the hike we had just completed. It also wasn’t even noon and it seemed more so like afternoon due to the early morning. However it was a quite sense of accomplishment after spending almost three months hiking, and fund raising for this event.
For the Hike for Discovery event at Rocky Mountain National Park 55 hikers from six different chapters raised over $250,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. It is still not too late to donate if you have not done so at this time. You may donate by visiting the Neil Corman Hike for Discovery Donation page .
I would like to thank you everyone who supported my hiking this summer and more so the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Lastly, Hike for Discovery will take place in 2009 under the Team in Training name with two seasons planned. If this is something which interests you, contact your local Leukemia & Lympoma Society office and ask to be notified when the information sessions will take place.