Update: Bob Salem completed his journey on Friday, July 15. Read about his achievement here.
Lying on his stomach in the red dirt at the base of the Barr Trail in Manitou Springs, Bob Salem wears a device affixed to his face that looks like both a homemade gas mask and the trunk of a very skinny elephant. A peanut, in its shell, rests on the ground in front of him.
"So basically I'm just gonna sit here and low-crawl my way up here and flick the peanut up the mountain," he says, laser-focused on the task at hand.
The homemade contraption on his face is actually a mask from a CPAP sleep machine with a black plastic serving spoon duct-taped to it. With its help, Salem hopes to be the fourth person to successfully climb Pikes Peak, on his hands and knees, while pushing a peanut with his nose.
There's nothing fast about being a peanut pusher. That's clear as Salem creeps up the Barr Trail steps, occasionally getting a good enough flick to clear a few at a time. He never touches the peanut with his hands.
"From what I can tell, I should be able to get about a mile an hour," he says as he continues to move the peanut up the hill.
The peanut rolls backward down the trail - lost ground for Salem. But he shimmies toward it and starts over, noting that the entire 12.6-mile journey has three miles of steps. He thinks that will be the most difficult part.
As he continues practicing, a few hikers come down the trail, utterly perplexed by the scene in front of them.
"Hello folks, come on by. I'm just practicing," he laughs.
A man walking by tells him he's "nuts," presumably with the pun intended.
"That's what I've been told," Salem smiles, unphased by the skepticism.
In Manitou Springs, the peanut pusher concept is nothing new. The idea's been resurrected a few times since a Texan named Bill Williams made the first trip up the Pikes Peak Highway in May 1929 on a $50 bet.
Michael Maio, president of the Manitou Springs Heritage Center and Museum, says it took Williams 21 days.
"He wore out his knee pads and at the end of the push he had used, I believe it was 21 pairs of gloves and up to 184 peanuts," Maio says. "There were stories about squirrels and tourists taking his peanuts. And so he had to keep replacing the peanuts with a new supply."
Another man, Ulysses Baxter, made his way up Pikes Peak in 1963 using a salad spoon attached to his nose. It took him just eight days. In 1976, Tom Miller pushed a peanut to the top in four days, but Maio says no one actually saw him do it.
Maio hopes Bob Salem can bring the challenge into the 21st century.
"As we look forward to this push, we're hoping that it'll add to the mystique and the history of the peanut push," he says.
And while most would be intimidated by the thought of simply hiking up a mountain, let alone inching to the summit on all fours, Bob Salem is pretty nonchalant about it. He decided to try his luck at peanut pushing after seeing a Facebook post saying how neat it would be for someone to do it again. He's also hoping to raise awareness for a charity he's partnered with to help house people experiencing homelessness.
As for preparation, Salem says he's only trained a few times, practicing with rocks, until he found some peanuts.
"It was more exercise than anything," he says, explaining his preparation. "I was doing sit-ups, pushups, pull-ups. As for crawling on the ground, there's really not much practice. It's sort of a basic move and idea."
The entire trip is 12.6 miles. He's shooting to be done in three days, as long as the weather cooperates.
Salem's 12-year-old son Banyan just might be his dad's biggest fan. He says his friends think he's pretty cool too.
"It's fun that, you know, one day he's just there and then the other day he's pushing a peanut up a giant mountain," Banyan says.
Salem plans to camp along the way and a spotter will carry his backpack and food and water. Other than that, he says he doesn't need much.
"Well, I got knee pads and elbow pads and my trustee little hat here," he says, gesturing to a green stocking cap on his head. "For the higher elevations, I've got a one-piece snowsuit if I need it. But other than that, you know, just some sunscreen."
Back on Barr Trail, his peanut bounces and rolls in front of him with each toss from the spoon stuck to his face. Salem makes his way up the steps just as a runner is coming down. His name is John Shelhamer.
"You're not doing this all the way up to the peak, are you?" Shelhamer asks.
"Oh yeah," Salem laughs, flicking the peanut around the bend in the trail.
"Well, at least you're not going down on your backside because you'd probably wear a hole in your pants by the time that's done. Kudos to you, man," Shelhamer says.
And while Salem didn't say anything about bringing a spare pair of pants, he is planning to pack some extra peanuts, just in case. The attempt comes as part of Manitou Springs 150th birthday celebration.
The challenge is scheduled to take place on Saturday, July 9 at 9 a.m. Information on how to watch is available here.
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