Do you live in Orlando, FL, or another similar "flatland"? Apparently, there is a classification of information that might be considered 'Mountain Knowledge,' that isn't common knowledge to a Flatlanders. Here are some helpful tips for Floridians heading to the Mountains.
The temperature drops quickly as you scale a mountain, which I know sounds obvious but not everyone realizes this. After rambling around Denver and Boulder, we went to one of my favorite natural wonders, Garden of the Gods. Colorado Springs itself is an adorable town full of kind strangers smiling to themselves as they walk around the park and I can imagine why. Just outside the city is Garden of the Gods, an incredible feat of wondrous creation. It actually got its name from a conversation had by two explorers, one saying "This would be a great place for a Beer Garden." To which the other replied snarkily, "Forget beer! This is a Garden for the Gods." And there we have it. The next day we scaled Pike's Peak. Quite a few tourists were obviously miserable because they were wearing only a tank-top and shorts, which was completely comfortable back in Manitou Springs (at the base of the mountain). As I'm writing this, I just checked the temperature difference (which you can do here) from the bottom of the peak to the top and right now we're looking at a 34.8-degree difference. Be sure to pack for temperature change!
Once we hit our own shiver limit, we started back down the mountain and within a few minutes, I could smell the burning brakes. My flatlander friend didn't really know what to sniff for, but I did, being from Tennessee. It's similar to the smell of burning rust, not like the burning rubber of a tire. Put your car in neutral to go down a mountain! Having a car in drive propels you forward, acting in contradiction to the brarking. It's a good idea to Keep a window cracked when going down big mountains, so you can not only enjoy the experience on a more intimate level but to also note the possibly overheating breaks. If you do start to smell overheating brakes, just find a safe spot to pull off and wait for 15 minutes or so.
The next night we camped out in the Pike National Forestbecause National Forests are free to camp in while you have to pay for the same privilege in a National Park. As my friend prepared dinner, I started setting up the tents and accidentally snapped one of the pole sections of my Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 2. The tent still stood up but I knew it wouldn't survive a strong wind. After taking the split pole to a hardware store and a mechanic both, I finally decided to Call the outdoor store or manufacturer for help. Most outdoor retailers (like Travel Country Outfitters near Orlando, FL) bend over backwards to satisfy their customers. The same is true for many of the manufaccturers. They understand that their products are designed for outdoor enthusiasts doing adventurous things. I called the customer service line for Big Agnes and was greeted by the most helpful (and hilarious) professional who shipped a splint right to me, free of charge.
On our way to the Grand Tetons in Wyoming, I started looking up fun facts. They're always entertaining, adding an element of humor to the whole experience. I reiterate, Look Up Fun Facts! We laughed and laughed at this one: back in the pre-technology era, a bunch of French-Canadian trappers were traveling through the plains of Wyoming and became so incredibly lonely that when they finally arrived at the mountains, they looked up and thought, "Wow! Those look like titties!" Our most pristine natural landscape, the Grand Teton, which literally translates to the 'Big Tittie.'
My favorite night of the experience in the Grand Tetons, and perhaps the trip entirely, was taking a kayak out on Jackson Lake and paddling out to Elk Island. The view from the calm, quiet water on the lake was absolutely breathtaking. Camping on Elk Island and watching the sun set behind the mountains, free from the summer crowd, was simply spectacular. Which brings me to our final tip: Expect, and prepare for, the uncomfortable. In both gear and emotional stability, plan to push yourself for the sake of the experience and have good gear that will let you do that. You can check out reviews of the gear that I used, such as the Osprey Ariel 55 backpack and my Arc'teryx Atom AR jacket. We absolutely froze that night. Partly due to the freezing temperatures and partly because it started to rain in the middle of the night and I had neglected to put up my rain tarp. I didn't actually wake up when it started raining though. No, instead, my brilliant sleeping self just pulled the sleeping bag over my head and tucked myself away to hide and soak! I'm typically cold in my sleeping bag anyway (I just get cold at night) so I use a Sea to Summit thermal liner inside my bag for extra warmth (which works surprisingly well). However, nothing saved me from the frozen misery that morning.
We woke at 4 AM the next morning, cold, wet and a little grumpy to catch the sunrise from the water which made the discomfort worthwhile.
Expect, and prepare for, the uncomfortable. Those are the moments you'll remember.