Mt. Garfield a serious hike for this newbie
Every time my fiancée Karlie and I drive west on Interstate 70 toward Grand Junction for entertainment that is comparable to the way we grew up back East, we’d always take a gander at Mount Garfield off to our right and have great aspirations to conquer it likes it’s our own version of Mount Everest or something silly — at least for me.
Well, we finally did just that on Memorial Day, completing the 1,000-foot vertical incline (roughly 2-mile hike) up the side of the mountain, giving us the chance to take in a picturesque view of Mesa County below and an opportunity to check yet another adventure off of our Colorado bucket list.
Hiking up the Palisade side of Mount Garfield, there are two possible paths to get to the meadow above. A week prior to our excursion, Karlie and I made the mistake of going on the “experienced” side of the trail.
The hike up the experienced side was quite difficult, and in fact, neither of us was able to get all the way to the 6,765-foot summit due to a ridiculous incline at the top of the trail. I have no idea how people can possibly get up it without climbing tools to latch onto the surface.
Making the smart decision this past week to go up the correct side that everyone hikes on, we realized that the early portion of the hike was much harder than the experienced side of things. About a quarter of the way into the hike, two gentlemen were coming down the path as we were going up. Upon meeting us, the one man said to me, “I’m not sure which is harder: the burn of your lungs heading up or the pain in your knees coming down.” That about summed it up perfectly for me.
Halfway up my lungs were on fire. The day before our hike, Karlie and I took our three dogs — Journey, Chance and Grace — for a 2-mile walk and then took our new mountain bikes out for a 4-mile ride that was mostly uphill throughout Battlement Mesa. It was safe to say our legs were shot from that day’s work.
It was not a smart decision to do the hike the very next morning, but we powered through despite our legs feeling like Jell-O. I have no idea how I made it up the mountain myself, especially considering I couldn’t feel my legs for a large portion of the uphill climb.
At around that same point, I started to feel like I wanted to quit. It’s been hard getting back into a fitness routine, but I knew that if I quit I wouldn’t be happy with myself for the rest of the evening. Fortunately for Karlie and me, we both caught a second wind and climbed the last portion of the trail with ease, scurrying over rocks and blasting up the hill having plenty of fun with it.
I can’t even begin to describe the feelings that came over me when we reached the top. Part of me was slightly scared due to my fear of heights (which is now starting to disappear with every adventure) and part of me was elated that I conquered the mountain and pushed through urges to turn around and go home.
There’s nothing like accomplishing a goal.
Coming back down was the tricky part, considering how steep it is. Mixing in the loose rocks and the sand at some spots didn’t help either. Fortunately for us, a large storm was rolling in, so that put caution aside because we knew we needed to get down the hill as fast as possible to make sure we weren’t caught in the rain.
The descent took less than 25 minutes, and yes, our knees and legs hurt from it.
Even if you’re an avid hiker or someone who is just starting out like Karlie and I, we highly recommend Mount Garfield. The trip up is certainly worth the view at the top.
Now, we just need to figure out what we’ll do next in our summer adventure of Colorado. If you have any suggestions, please feel free to email them to me.
Josh Carney, who grew up at about 1,200 feet around Pittsburgh, is the Post Independent sports editor.
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