Peak(s):  Pikes Peak  -  14,110 feet
"Little Pikes Pk"  -  13,363 feet
"Devils Playground Pk"  -  13,070 feet
Date Posted:  07/31/2016
Date Climbed:   07/30/2016
Author:  CHeimCO
 Pikes Peak: A Rare Observation  

When I'm in nature, one of my primary roles is that of observer. Yesterday I observed enough to be worth sharing, mostly because it included a first ever sighting for me.

Getting lucky at Crags Campground:
I hit the Friday afternoon mountain traffic as soon as I got to Woodland Park at about 4:30 pm. I was worried that all the camping spots would be taken by the hoard of mountain goers already in front of me.
My backup plan was to camp along side the road as other reports state dispersed camping was available. Despite seeing several camping spots there were also shiny signs at each one stating: NO PARKING, NO CAMPING. I pulled in to the campground just before 5:00 and found a spot! The pickup that was in front of me coming up the road missed the entrance and ten minutes later drove by me four times. I guess I got the last one...

Campground observations:
The camp host runs a clean ship, I was impressed with the cleanliness of the camp and the bathrooms in particular. Best smelling outhouses ever! (No less than four air fresheners)
I walked up the trail on a scouting mission. When I got to the intersection with the main trail-head I quickly spotted my route over the bridge in the morning, I also saw a sign that said The Crags 1.5 miles, so I went there.
Well after sundown the stars were very bright with no moon in the sky. I saw 4 shooting stars and a comet while laying on the picnic table.
The hand pumped water wells are really loud... especially at 4:30 am.

On the trail:
Five fruitless pumps was all I tortured the camp with, before deciding to just use my water filter at the stream crossing. This was the creepiest part... all alone... pitch black except the space in front of my face... all the sounds of the forest drowned in the babbling brook. I left there at 4:45 am and started my journey in earnest. Shortly after, I had a startle. In reality though, I did the startling... of a grouse right next to the trail... I still flinched to the sudden, but familiar, flapping noise.
I made about the first 800' of vertical under headlamp, and turned it off as soon as I could see without it.
Just above the treeline I was passed by a trail runner. She was making an incredible pace up the steep terrain but she was too focused or perhaps just not lucky enough to see what I saw shortly after.
Well above the treeline now, but still short of the saddle, at 6:24 am while walking with my head up and eyes down I saw motion above and to the right in my peripheral vision. I stopped to give the motion my full attention and was rewarded with the sight of a mountain lion bounding across the hillside about 80-100 yards from me. He (I have no idea if it was indeed male) stopped and looked at me, and in the pale morning light he was indistinguishable from the boulders around him. Then he started moving and once again I could clearly see the large cat. He stopped again and disappeared. Without taking my eyes off the spot, I reached into my pocket for my phone and proceeded to take this lone, rushed, and poor quality photo (mostly to record the place and time as I surely wasn't about to spend this moment fiddling with my phone). Take a look for yourself but I couldn't find the lion. There are a few cat looking rocks, but you're looking for a rock looking cat.

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Good luck!


He moved on once more and then he was gone. The whole episode lasted less than a minute, but it certainly will be the highlight of my summer.

After that it was pretty boring, but here's what happened: I got past the road and expected to see Colorado Springs.

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No traffic yet...


But this was my view instead.

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Where's Colorado Springs?


The final push up the rock scramble was easier than expected. I found the route was very well marked with cairns that were easy to follow. At some point someone obviously spent a great deal of time moving rocks to keep flat surfaces for waking. If you accidentally get off route here it's because you're not paying attention. (I noticed plenty of that on my way back down.)

I made the summit at 8:48 am, 4 hours after leaving the stream crossing. I spent about 30 minutes on top, even though they were out of donuts.

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Obligitory selfie


On the way down I picked up my extra credit, Little Pikes Peak, and Devil's Playground Peak. Both were easy up and overs that hardly add much time/effort to the trip.

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Little Pikes


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Devil's Playground Peak: the Porsche club has arrived!


Back to the campground at 12:23. At 12:30 the thunder started. It was a great day!



Thumbnails for uploaded photos (click to open slideshow):
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