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Spring Break: Breckenridge Adventures 3/3/13 – 3/5/13

15 Mar
The view Monday morning at Breakfast

The view Monday morning at Breakfast

We went right from our hike at White Ranch Park to Breckenridge for 2 nights. The weather we had been planning on completely changed between Saturday night and Sunday morning. Instead of no snow with sunny bluebird skies, a huge snow storm was moving in for Sunday afternoon and supposed to go until Monday morning. I don’t know if you have ever experienced driving west on I70 past the Eisenhower Tunnel during a snow storm but I consider it a white knuckler as you head down a 6-8%grade decline on a typically icy road, and no I don’t have 4 wheel drive which is so stupid living here hiking like we do. I started working up my nerves at the back end of the hike as I was watching those clouds churn off to the west of us. Fortunately mother nature was on our side, the first snow flake didn’t hit until we were almost down that steep grade decline and the car was safely parked in the garage before any real snow hit. We didn’t move it again until we left Tuesday morning which was beautifully sunny so there was no ice on the return trip either, yay me!

This is how we spent Monday morning hoping we would be able to get to keystone for tubing

This is how we spent Monday morning hoping we would be able to get to keystone for tubing

Anyway, we had planned on doing tubing at Keystone on Monday with the snow coaster in Breckenridge as a follow-up. After 9 inches of snow falling they actually closed the interstate and the one road between Breckenridge and Keystone, so we had to regroup. I was able to delay our tubing reservation by 2 hours but then that meant no snow coaster for us, we took advantage of all the free transportation in Summit County. There was a free gondola ride from our condo to the bus station just off of Main street in Breckenridge and then we hopped a free bus to Keystone. The tubing was actually at the top of the mountain and so we had to ride up that Gondola too, but the snow had picked up again and we didn’t have much of a view.

The Tubing tracks at Keystone

The Tubing tracks at Keystone

A little closer

A little closer

As we walked up to the Yurt for tubing we were pretty excited, the tracks they had set up for tubing were awesome, then they had a people mover to get you back up from the bottom. We could go alone, in groups of 2, 3 or all 4 of us which we did a lot of. I think we got in 10-14 runs and we laughed and screamed the whole time. It was so fast the snow looked like moving to warp speed in Star Trek ( as observed by Anne). There were Keystone workers at the top making sure the track was clear and then they asked if you wanted to go straight or spin and spinning was freaky but AWESOME!!!! The hour went too fast and at first I thought oh man I have to get us another hour, but at the end we were all ready to be done and so we began the journey back to Breckenridge.

Anne and Lauren spinning together

Anne and Lauren spinning together

Action shot of Lauren and the 4 of us tubing together

Action shot of Anne and the 4 of us tubing together

Lauren with the white snow fog as we sped up

Lauren with the white snow fog as we sped up

We ate and hot tubbed the night away as everyone should do when in Breckenridge, then headed back home on Tuesday for our next adventures….

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Riverside Trail – Breckenridge 12/8/12

11 Dec

Kathy and Aaron

Riverside Trail Between Breckenridge and Frisco

Starting and ending Elevation: 9600

Trail Length:  The path goes all the way to Frisco from Breckenridge, which is 9 miles one way 18 miles round trip.  We did 9.5 miles round trip.

Trail Uses:  Bikes, hiking whatever its paved….

Degree of Difficulty:  Easy

Bathrooms:  As you walk along the path there are some public places that likely have a bathroom.

Fees:  None

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This is not our kind of path/trail, but our original plans had to be scrapped as a snow storm moved into Breckenridge this past Saturday.  We had planned a weekend in Breckenridge as a pre-birthday celebration for me and just to get away for a few days.  We wanted to get some type of walking in and we decided that no matter how bad the snow got this trail would still be doable.  It actually starts just behind Mainstreet as you walk through parking lots along the river.  Then a paved path makes its appearance around Ski Hill Road where it will start to go under the roads.   As we got further out of town, there was more of a natural path that went right along the edge of the river and if not for the busy road a few yards away, it would have been very lovely.

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The snow helped with the traffic noise but not all that much.  Also about 2 miles from the town the only choice became the paved path, which really was ok at this point because the rate of snowfall had doubled since we started.  The one nice thing was in that there was no one else really on it because the snow was getting so heavy.  Everyone was either skiing or tucked away inside nice and warm.

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We went all the way to Tiger Road and then turnaround and headed back.  The snow just kept getting heavier so we tried to speed it up a little to get back as quickly as we could in order to get warm and some drinks in hand.

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It’s not an exciting trail but certainly did us just fine in a pinch.  Sometimes weather will get the best of the situation and this was a great way to get in almost 10 miles at 9600Ft.  We finished in 3.5 hours and started my pre-birthday celebration, which entailed a lot of drinking, soaking in a hot tub and the occasional appetizer.

We will probably find ourselves doing this one again because we love Breckenridge, but it will likely only be when we have company in town or when we have nothing else we can do because of weather.  It is a great way to get the legs moving and the blood pumping.  I also think I might be able to attempt Ben Tyler again since we spent the whole weekend up at 9600Ft.  I am trying to decide what would be best this weekend, so much to think about.

We didn’t get many pictures because of the snow but here is one of the last ones we took as the snow got to its heaviest while we were hiking.

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And since there wasn’t much to share of this weeks hike, here is our youngest cat sitting in judgement as we get ready to leave for the weekend.

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Iowa Hill Hydraulic Mining Site – Breckenridge 10/19/12 & Mt. Evergreen 10/20/12

26 Oct

 

Iowa Hill Hydraulic Mining Site

Starting Elevation:  9600 FT

Highest Elevation:  9910FT ( Total Gain 310 Ft)

Trail Length:  1.2 miles, although there are interactive spurs throughout, we spent a little over an hour taking our time reading everything.

Trail Uses:  Hiking ( I don’t think there were restrictions on how the trail is used but wouldn’t be much fun for bikers or horses)

Degree of Difficulty:  Easy/ Moderate ( only because of altitude)

Bathrooms:  None

Pets:  Dogs on leash only

Fees:  None

 

When I was planning the activities for my sister’s visit, I knew we wanted to spend 2 nights in Breckenridge.  Mary said she didn’t want to try hiking over 10,000 ft on this trip, well Breckenridge sits at a tidy  9600ft up so it was a good challenge to find something while in Breckenridge.  We left White Ranch Park and drove straight up to Breckenridge where we planned on drinking, eating, hot tubbing, shopping and hopefully some exercise in no particular order.  So on target with our plans we checked in and immediately grabbed margarita’s at Mi Casa, after a round (or 3 ) we thought we should walk around town and stretch a little, maybe shop.  Unfortunately everything was closed but restaurants, which is typical during shoulder season( those season’s where there is not enough snow to ski but not warm enough for it to be all gone either).  Plan B was to grab some pizza from our favorite place, Giampietro Pasta & Pizza, head back to our condo and hit the hot tub with drinks( duh, vacation!)  It was in this relaxed state that we decided doing a nice easy trail the next day made the most sense, get it done early and we could shop, eat left over pizza then repeat our margarita happy hour to hot tub with drinks routine.

When we were getting ready after breakfast, my sister very smartly asked how we should dress and knowing a minimal amount of information about the Iowa Hill trail I very un-smartly replied, I think we are fine in what we have on. Which was danskos and jeans…. So fast forward to getting a shuttle to the trail head,  a nice thing about Breckenridge is they run a free shuttles all over the place, including this particular trailhead.  We actually also had a free shuttle with our condo so we took advantage of that one.   The trail head is just on the north edge of town about 1500 feet north of the intersection of Airport and Valley Brook Roads.  Follow the dirt road and you will see the trailhead immediately West ( to your left when facing North).

It was a really beautiful day to be on this trail, it was sunny mild and just a little snow on the ground.  As we started up the trail, it took me all of 5 minutes to realize we should have worn real hiking shoes or gym shoes…Danskos are not meant for hiking uphill on snow in a sort of muddy sandy mix.  But we were already there so we bravely went on.  It is a great trail that tells all about the mining history of that particular mine/mountain in Breckenridge, it is really well-marked with main trail and interactive spurs:

 

At the interactive parts there are descriptions of what was used & how, as well as some period pieces that are out for you to see.  I don’t know if they are the originals or not but it was cool to have them there.

 

It goes up one of the gulches they used their Hydraulic giants on to get the gold particles “sluiced” out.  It was pretty cool, I have read it is one of the best mining museums around.  At the top of one these gulches is an old boarding house for company men.  I think they have future plans for enhancing this part of the trail but it was still cool to walk up on.

 

We took an insane amount of pictures…mostly of the birds flying overhead in hopes of catching an amazing shot but finely we had to move on and head back down.  While our (mine) poor choice of footwear hadn’t yet been a real problem, this is where I really regretted my choice.  Going down was interesting, as the path was narrow, snowy and slick but we stayed upbeat and happy, I mean seriously it was so beautiful around us it was no big deal we had to take our time.

 

 

We walked back to Main street and our condo instead of taking the shuttle, it was just over 2 miles and the day was too beautiful to take a bus back to town.  Here are some more pictures that were my favorites:

 

This is a great hike for kids and/or if you have a little extra time to kill while on a summer or winter vacation.  I know we enjoyed all it had to offer!

 

We really enjoyed the rest of our day and night in Breckenridge and my hiking plan worked out perfectly.  On Saturday we headed back east to Evergreen and Three Sisters a hike I have already posted about but I knew from the first time I did it, this was the one to take Mary on.  At the top, Mt. Evergreen has amazing views of Mt. Evans and the whole hike is everything I love about Colorado!  She did amazing!  Spending those 2 nights at 9600Ft was just what she needed to have no problems doing a hike that has a top elevation of 8500+ft.  She kicked my butt on it not needing to stop once, which is no surprise but the nice thing is I finally brought her to the places I kept promising but couldn’t make it to myself!

For details of this hike, check out my earlier post on Three Sisters , but here were our victory shots on top:

 

Mary and Aaron are “uncomfortable” with heights but Aaron has had some time to work on it.  Mary wasn’t too sure about throwing her hands up for our victory picture….  It was a little funny to have them both chiding me on where I was walking since I have no problem with heights.

I know have been long-winded already but I just have to share this last picture. We did the ghost history tour of the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park and I put my camera on the sun-dial so I could do a timed picture of us in front of the hotel…. The surprise was the reflection of the hotel in the dial.  It was a perfect summation of our visit, just awesome!

Upper Mohawk Lake – Breckenridge CO 9/1/12

2 Sep Mohawk Lakes Trail

Spruce Creek Trail -> Continental Falls Trail-> Mohawk Lakes Trail:

Starting Elevation:  Approximately 10,400 ft

Final Elevation:  Approximately 12,120 ft ( 1700 ft gain)

Trip Length:  According to the trail head and all research, 7 miles round trip ( 3.5 out and 3.5 back)  According to my fitbit 8.5 miles.  We really took our time and took a ridiculous amount of pictures, if not for our awe-delay we would have been done in 4 hours likely….however we managed to spend about 2 extra hours just taking in all the spectacular sights at so many different points.

Trail Uses:  Hiker, Biker & Horses

Degree of difficulty:  Moderate to Difficult due to altitude and the last 1.5 miles.

Bathrooms:  No, as in none anywhere along the way or at either end of the trail. ( A challenge for those of us who cannot randomly pee outside and don’t want to get dehydrated)

Pets:  Yes, and on six-foot leash under control at all times.  I don’t care how well-behaved your pet is, use the leash.  I was almost knocked over twice by unleashed dogs at tough parts of the hike and the owners seemed to think it was “cute” that the dog was so excited to get to the end. Yeah, not from my perspective.

I have confession, I picked this hike for 2 reasons, first ( and probably the reason with the most weight) I needed a change of scenery for a few days and Breckenridge is one of my favorite places to spend time.  Second, this hike was one many other people said was amazing and they were all right!  The above reflection picture was one I caught while we were still on the lower part of the hike.  I have always loved pictures like this where you can get a perfect reflection in the water, this was my first time doing it myself!   So when I proposed this hike to my husband I tried to focus on how it would really help with getting us better at higher elevation hikes to keep us on the road to our first 14ner by next summer.   But really I was thinking, “Yay, a break from my own 4 walls and a hot tub”!  Oh and of course looking forward to a new adventure, really I swear….

Ok, let’s talk trail.  This is a high altitude trail in the mountains, which means we were starting higher than we had ever even hiked up to before, 10,400 ft so we knew we would need to take our time in order to deal with the higher altitude.   The other challenge, and this one is true of all summit hikes at this altitude, is that weather comes in fast here so be prepared.   We tried to be on the trail by 7 but we were moving slower then we wanted and didn’t get started until 8AM.  I knew by the weather reports that there was a good chance rain would roll in around noon.  The trail head is not very far from Breckenridge, the road in, Spruce Creek Rd, is a well maintained dirt road through a residential area with the trail head a little over a mile in.  You can’t miss the parking lot, on the other side of the parking lot is a 4×4 road which if you wanted to do the summit only you could drive up it as far as you can go and do the final 1.5 miles ( 3 miles roundtrip)  up only.  You can also hike up this 4×4 road, if you prefer that type of hiking to the forested Spruce Creek trail.

We took the Spruce Creek trail head:

While Aaron was dealing with a wardrobe malfunction, I actually read the trailhead board mainly because it looked like one of the people getting to hike was a hunter and I wasn’t sure if this was a hunting area and/or a hunting area.  It wasn’t as far as I could tell.  What I did learn was that the Spruce Creek trail is marked by squares carved into the trees, which did come in handy throughout this early part of the trail.   There are also blue diamonds placed along the trail as well.   The first 2 miles is through this beautiful wooded forest is so different from what we had been hiking through along the foothills.  I actually felt like I was in all those Grimm fairy tales where it seems all the magical stuff happens.  It starts out going along a stream, which you will cross over a few times.  I have to post a few pictures here, just because it was so pretty:

We were getting pretty excited at this point because we knew the Mohawk Lakes trail was not too far away.  What we didn’t expect was the small pond shortly past this intersection, it was reflecting Mount Helen perfectly.  We killed a solid 20 minutes taking pictures of this.  I felt so proud to have actually captured these images, although is was more likely the quality of camera then any talent of mine….

So the next trailhead is not too far from here and we popped out of the wooded coverage onto the 4×4 road I mentioned earlier.  We saw a couple hiking up the road and they said it was very exposed so on the way back they would take the way we came from to avoid extra sun exposure.  The wooded trail was shaded and so nice and cool the whole way.

Just follow this road around the curve, there is fence and the trail picks up again just past that on the left:

From here the incline increases greatly, the couple we met on the road was still with us and they both had hiking poles.  This is a good time to point out that if you have poles and want to do this hike, bring them along maybe not a big deal at this point but later on they will be so helpful….  It is not to far to the next split, you have Mayflower lake on the right and then the Mohawk Lakes and Continental falls on the left…go left!

Ok, from here on out it is quite a hike.  There are the lower falls, then the Continental falls and then all long the way are remains of the old mining operation.  We took about 30 minutes taking pictures at the lowers falls and when we popped back out to the trail our beautiful blue sky was starting to get cluttered with clouds.  At this point we made the decision to focus on getting to the top to avoid weather changes and then we would take our time going down capturing more images.  Here is what the lower falls had to offer:

So from here you get back on the trail at some old cabins, one is restored and used by hikers who get stuck when weather comes in too fast.  Something to keep in mind when planning to do this trail, make sure you are prepared for any weather.   We had on layers of clothes and more in Aaron’s backpack just in case.  It is always easier to take off clothes then to try to figure out how to get warm when things change.

From here we tackled the last part of the trail, and I read everything I could find on this hike there was a constant term used to describe this last part….a scramble and I don’t know about you but I have no idea what a scramble is.  I googled it and it was a climbing term that recommended bringing a rope.  I could only find 1 picture of this scramble and it was the very beginning where it is a series of large rock(s) you have crawl up but then it is not AS bad as I had imagined.  I was determined to get pictures but on the way down…. unfortunately Mother nature had a wicked sense of humor after we headed back down.  Every time I pulled out my camera it started raining and hailing, yep hailing!  I wanted to kick myself for not taking the time to capture the “scramble”, but here is my advice take your time and look around.  They have adjusted the trail recently, before you would scramble up along the falls using the cable left over from the mining operation to pull yourself up.  The new path is not easy but it is easier, it would have been nice to have poles to help navigate it and add some stability for my poor knees that are fighting with all my extra weight already.  Now it takes a series of steep switchbacks over lots of rocks and boulders up to the lower Mohawk lake ( I think) which a is a beautiful destination on its own.

Along the left of this lake the trail continues up to the next lake and at the time I thought this was upper Mohawk lake from all the pictures I saw but I am not so sure any longer it could be Mohawk lake and we failed to make it to the upper lake.   But it is where we stopped and spent almost an hour taking pictures because it looked like everything I saw for Upper Mohawk lake:

Where this other hiker is located is where the path comes up to the next lake, you can also see behind her the trail that goes up to at least 3-4 more lakes.  I understand from this lake on it is pretty challenging to get to the remaining lakes and actual rock climbing skills would come in handy.  We stopped here and took pictures like crazy people.  The views were just amazing, everything we moved to Colorado for.  We could see Breckenridge in the distance along with the surrounding mountains and ranges.

We are really proud of ourselves on this one, it was a new and exciting challenge.  Unfortunately we took too long at so many different points during the morning, we headed down at 11:30 with our cameras out and it started to rain big alligator tears sized drops.  We captured a few things but had packed away our cameras because of the rain.  Then we started down the scramble he sun came out and went to the top of the continental falls, took out our cameras to catch how beautiful they were and it started hailing.  We stayed there for a while thinking it would stop and then finally gave up and as soon as we got back to the trail the sun came out blazing hot….I think you get the point, it was like this the rest of the way down until we actually gave up pulling out the camera and then I think it drizzled only one more time.

This is a spectacular hike, I think it should be on everyone’s bucket list as it has some of everything that makes Colorado so special.   Take your time doing it and don’t ignore the changing weather, it was a tough time getting down the scramble when it was wet.  Start early and know the weather for the day.  It is really only a summer hike although I have read it can be a good snow shoe route, really the beauty is best now!  I think snow shoeing would be quite a challenge, one I am not ready for yet.

How to get there:

From Breckenridge, drive south on U.S. Highway 9. From the last stoplight in Breckenridge to Spruce Creek Road is about 2.4 miles, turn right on Spruce Creek Road. Drive about 1 mile to a well-marked parking area and trailhead.

Here are just some more pictures from the day: