I was giddy as I huffed up the steep mountainside on the way to the climbing crag. Soon I would be at Jurassic Park.
At nearly 10,000 feet, there is no better scenic climbing crag in Colorado. The the views of Rocky Mountain National Park and Longs Peak are epic, and the rock climbs are enjoyable and varied. The Edge of Time is one of my go to favorites.
Mind you, this place has nothing to do with T-Rexes and overly redundant movie sequels (spoiler alert: the dinosaurs go crazy and start eating people and shut down the park—again).
I decided to go climbing here on a weekday in July. It had been awhile since I had been out (see my previous post “The Life of an Adventure Dad”) and I was eager to see some old friends who were in town.
We chose a Monday morning at 8 a.m., in hopes of skirting the crowds. Though, the thought seemed paranoid considering I’ve usually had the place to myself. But like anything good in the outdoors in Colorado, it is only a matter of time before it gets discovered. As the saying goes, “nothing attracts a crowd like a crowd.”
As we arrived at Index Toe and Middle Toe climbs to warm up, I could hear voices from farther up the path. As we listened closer, the cacophony of voices sounded more like an entire village than a small group.
We hiked farther for a closer look: a group of 20. In a short time, another group of 15 showed up, too.
But then two more guys came up. Then another three. Then three guys from Illinois. Then a couple with three kids—all wanting to climb. At least 50 people filled the small crag. Pretty soon I felt I was climbing in Movement Climbing Gym in Boulder.
It reminded me of the movie Three Amigos, when all the towns people dress up in costumes to resemble the three sequined heroes. “There’s too many of them El Guapo!” the bad guys said. “Now they are over here, too!”
There were Just. So. Many. People. How did this place get so crowded??
For one thing, when temperatures spike to nearly 100 degrees in Denver, Jurassic hits maybe be 80, though, the high altitude also makes it susceptible to thunderstorms. For another, The Edge of Time is an incredibly aesthetic climb that graces the cover of at least one popular guidebook. At 5-9, it is doable for most mortals (though it feels stiff for the grade to me) and people flock to it like moths to an incandescent.
Also note the proximity to Rocky Mountain National Park, which is a zoo in the summer.
The longer I have lived in the Front Range of Colorado, the more I feel it rapidly changing. Maybe something approaching—eeeeek, I hate to say it—California? The roads buzz with traffic, even during off-peak times. Climbing crags teem with people like Yosemite, even on weekdays. The costs of housing skyrockets exponentially, not to mention the demand and scarcity. Google is even moving an office here. Hmmm…
It’s on days like this when I want to rename the state: Colofornia, or even Calarado. Consider these stats: In 2014, Colorado was the 4th fastest growing state, adding 83,780 residents, according to the U.S. Census. Not only that, in 2013, 64.6 million tourists visited the state—an all time record. And the population growth continues to explode this year.
And can you blame people? Colorado is a great state, though, I wish it were as densely populated as Wyoming. Keep in mind my grid is growing up in one of the least populated states in the country; I also went to college in Montana. I remember Missoula, at 90,000 people, feeling crowded.
Back to my climbing day at Jurassic, it would have been easy to be annoyed with the crowds. But I didn’t care. Considering I’ve spent the past 3-4 weeks answering to a crying baby (don’t get me wrong, I love my daughter and I would never go back to life without her!) getting out for a change was REALLY nice. I felt so free. When my friends balked at leading a climb, I quickly jumped on the sharp end. “Eh, someone needs to set this up before more people come, so I might as well…” I got on The Edge, along with two other climbs and along with a gymnastic 5-10. All in all, a pretty good day.
And while I am sometimes annoyed by my state’s Coloforniacation, in reality, it has a LONG way to go before it becomes a California. In the end, I am very thankful to be in Colorado. After all, places like Jurassic are only a mere 55 minutes from my house!
When the day comes when thing do get too crazy here, there is always Montana. Or maybe even Alaska. I often remind my Colorado-native wife of this fact.
Me climbing on a far less crowded day a few years ago. Photo: Ted Wilcox.