A few days before my 79th birthday, my wife and I and two friends decided to hike Hahn’s Peak north of Steamboat Springs, just eleven miles shy of the Wyoming border. The peak rises two thousand feet above the village of Hahn’s Peak, Colorado, founded in 1865 as a gold mining town named after a German prospector Joseph Hahn, who came to America during the Civil War in search of gold in the Rocky Mountains.
Hahn discovered gold nuggets on this towering extinct volcano that rises to almost 11,000 feet above sea level. He and two other men, named William Doyle and George Way, started to cut timber for a mine shaft to be built more than half way up Hahn’s Peak. However, they had to endure one of the most rugged winters in Colorado history that wore down these prospectors. Poor Joseph Hahn died of exhaustion the following April in search of food and supplies. Others who came named their camp and its rising peak after Joseph Hahn and proceeded to mine gold for ten more years until none was left. Although, the town remains to this day with a fine historic museum.
The four of us proceeded past this cute little village up to the even smaller settlement of Columbine and followed a forest service road for several miles up to the trailhead for Hahn’s Peak, some 1,600 vertical feet below the summit. We set our pace at a comfortable rate, with shouldered backpacks and walking sticks. At at altitude of about 9,200 feet, we walked past delightful groves of white-barked aspen trees, fields of bright yellow sunflowers, and stalks of white whiplash daisies gently blowing in the wind.
After the trail became quite steep, we stopped for drinks of cool water at a spot where we could look down on the village of Columbine and across to Iron Mountain, with its dark knob of rock a few miles to the west. Onward we hoofed past meadows of bright red Indian paintbrush (Wyoming’s State Flower) and clusters of white yarrow. By now we could see through the thinning forest to the immense and rocky upper slopes of Hahn’s Peak and an old Forest Service lookout tower at its very summit.
My wife, Maura, wondered if she could make it all the way to the top, but we encouraged her by saying that we would take frequent breaks with no desire to break Olympic records. At last we came to the remains of an old gold mine in the midst of a stunted forest of spruce and fir. From here we enjoyed a fine view of crisscrossing trails through stony scree up to the summit. There was no way that we could race up this scree, so we continued through all these rocks and stones with caution and care.
After about thirty minutes of weaving and angling steadily upward, we passed a lone spruce tree perhaps a hundred vertical feet below the fire tower lookout. At last we reached the summit of 10,839 feet, with fantastic views of a forest-fire hazed Wyoming and across the western valleys to Iron Mountain, and eastward to Saw-Tooth Mountain. The chilly winds refreshed us as we high-fived it and sat down to eat sandwiches and nice, juicy oranges. At seventy-plus years, we felt proud of ourselves as did our younger hiking companions from Steamboat Springs. We all looked forward to indulging ourselves at a brew pub down in the valleys far below.