To tackle Mount Antero, I spent the night in a hotel in Salida, a small town along the Arkansas River in Central Colorado known for summer fun. It’s within a short drive of the trailhead to several “14ers” (peaks 14,000 feet above sea level or higher). Salida’s probably best known for its water sports, with this stretch of the Arkansas River being one of the most common destinations for whitewater rafting.
Despite it being a Wednesday evening, the town was quite lively. Salida also has some affordable pet friendly hotels and plenty of restaurants where you can eat on the patio with your dog.
While most people who climb 14ers camp near the trailhead, I decided to pay for a hotel, primarily because I chose to take only one day off for the trip. My energy was needed for the exhausting hike and the three hour drive back to Denver.
The morning temperatures in Salida were in the low to mid 50s, slightly warmer than the long term averages for August (47°F, 8°C) and also the warmest start to a 14er I’ve ever had.
Getting to Mount Antero involves following a road called Chalk Creek Drive. It’s accessed off highway 24 halfway between Buena VIsta and Salida. The road passes by the Princeton Hot Springs and the Chalk Cliffs, and provides access to both Mount Antero and Mount Princeton.
The most unique thing about this hike is that most of it follows a “Jeep Road”. In fact, some people were able to drive most of the way to the top
When done right, it is best to start a 14er quite early in the day, before sunrise, which makes the appearance of the sun one of the first exciting exhibitions of the hike.
14ers are challenging climbs. This one is no exception. The total vertical climb was about 4,500 feet (1350 m), and it starts getting challenging pretty much right away.
After about a mile, there is a flatter part. Then, around the 2.5 mile mark, we encountered the first area of major concern for anyone bringing a dog on the hike, an area completely covered by rocks.
This is something anyone hiking with their dog needs to keep an eye on. Dogs paws blister over time but dogs do not always prepare for this possibility. They need to be either given booties to protect their feet or guidance on how to minimize their exposure to rocks starting pretty early on in the hike.
The trail up Mount Antero approaches the peak from the West side, meaning it takes longer for hikers to experience the sun in the morning.
We would get to tree line by 8:30 and enter the sun only shortly thereafter. Once tree line is reached, this hike becomes nothing short of absolutely breathtaking.
When hiking with dogs, especially challenging hikes like this one in dry climates, it is essential to keep them hydrated. For this, I not only bring water for my dog, but also allow my dog to drink from flowing creeks.
The key here is to only allow your dogs to drink from creeks that are flowing. Standing water could lead to Giardia.
Like every other 14er I’ve done, Mount Antero has two features that will drive most people to exhaustion.
First, a steep ascent to the top of some kind of ridge.
Then, a scramble to the top, over rocks.
I had hiked over seven miles before getting to the final scramble. With the exhaustion, challenging scramble and high elevation, I needed to take quite a few breaks on this final ascent to the top. This is perfectly normal.
The top of this mountain feels like being on top of the world. Countless other peaks were below me.
So was the Arkansas River Valley, where Buena Vista and Salida are.
We spent about half an hour at the top, enjoying the views, a little bit of food and some conversations with other hikers.
And, the descent was also quite beautiful.
Overall, it was an amazing day, but like most things that are truly amazing, it had to be earned. It had to be earned through the lengthy drive, proper preparation and physical exhaustion involved in climbing this much.
By the time I reached the end of the journey I realized that what was earned goes far beyond what could be captured in these photos. Sure, the areas below tree line were peaceful and the areas above tree line had spectacular views. But, the experience was also about a state of mind.
Since it was a Thursday, the trail was relatively empty. The few people I encountered kind of represented humanity at its best. Nobody was arguing over whatever topics people seem to be angry and divided over at the time. Even though some people were on the mountain to hike, others to ride their Jeeps and ATVs and others to mine gold or aquamarine. A couple of the people I encountered even helped me out by giving me and my dog a ride down the final few miles of the mountain when I was concerned about blisters on her paws. They stopped and talked to people they encountered, picked up litter from the road and had nothing but the most positive conversations about nature, camping, travel and music. The experience made me wonder if this is a reality we can create in our day to day lives, so long as we focus on the right things and earn it.