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Mason Creek at Staunton State Park, Conifer CO hiked 4/12/14

17 Apr

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Mason Creek Trail> Border Line Trail> Staunton Ranch Trail

Starting Elevation:  8197 ft

Highest Elevation:  9450 Ft ( Almost 1600 ft total with a little up and down from Mason Creek to Border Line)

Trail Length: 10.6 miles officially and my fitbit was pretty close with right around 11 miles

Trail Uses: Hiker, Biker, Horses

Degree Of Difficulty:  Moderate to Difficult: mostly due to length.

Fees: $7 a day or $70 for the annual Colorado State Park Pas… we have the pass

Bathrooms:  Yes at every parking lot

Pets:  Yes- dogs allowed as long as they are on leash.

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We have been super enjoying all the snowshoeing opportunities these past 2 months but to be honest I feel like we are totally out of shape. None of our snowshoes were very long or had a ton of elevation gain, we stayed up highish but didn’t climb a ton.  I was starting to worry that all that stamina we had fought hard for might be gone.  That’s why we went back to Staunton State Park on Saturday.  This park is just beautiful, the trail options make it easy to challenge yourself or quickly escape if you bit off more than you can chew.

Picking our Route

Picking our Route

The other driver to get in as many miles as possible on Saturday, was the spring snow storm expected for Sunday.  The mountains were predicted to get a foot or more of snow and we here on the Front Range 3-6 inches so we had to make a bang on Saturday.   I am pretty sure everyone in Colorado had the same goal for Saturday as Spring fever has officially set in!

We started out on Mason Creek Trail and at first it was straight forward so we cruised through the 2.2 miles without blinking an eye.  It was wild flying  through this part when the last time we attempted it in the snow it took us forever!  I am torn which I liked more.  It is beautiful for sure, but I think I might actually like a snowy Mason Creek ( our first hike details here) a little more… but I need to see it in summer.  It wove beautifully along the creek which was babbling in and out of ice and snow.  We crossed it a few times and once again I was so impressed with how they planned this state park, everything is so well thought out!  Overall the trail mostly climbs and the last half mile or so declines to the trail break.

Mason Creek Trail conditions

Mason Creek Trail conditions

one of many creek crossings on Mason Creek

one of many creek crossings on Mason Creek

The last mile on Mason Creek went down...on ice and snow

The last half mile on Mason Creek went down…on ice and snow

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When we got to the trail break, we had a choice to do just 7 ish miles or push on and try for the 10.3 miles.  If you get here and want the shorter route take Old Mill, it is just .9 miles to Staunton Ranch and then 1.7 to the parking lot.  The old original Mill is here too, surrounding by fencing to protect it but it was cool to see.

Old Mill

Old Mill

Boarder Line Trail

Border Line Trail

There is actually an Old Mill  in ruins at the trail break

There is actually an Old Mill in ruins at the trail break

We took Border Line and decided further was going to work… honestly I felt good and just doing the whole original planned loop felt really good.

From here it means climbing again and the first mile is straight up but not a super steep grade or anything plus it is a lot of switchbacks.

Boarder Line Trail Conditions

Border Line Trail Conditions

I was loving the views as we climbed, all the beautiful rock faces we saw as driving to the parking lot were right there…..spectacular.

Views on Border Line

Views on Border Line

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We got to the Staunton view-point after a mile on Border Line, it is a little offshoot from the Border Line trail and we took it knowing it added .2 miles to our overall hike.  I am so glad we did, the views were perfect.  It would have been better had the sky been cloudless but there is something about the moodiness clouds add that make it a sight to behold!  It is just .1 miles to the official view and then we kind of adventured to this other outcropping and got 180 degree views of everything….. I super love Colorado.

Staunton Overlook

Conditions at the overlook

Conditions at the overlook

Me at the overlook Views at overlook

From this point we climbed a little more and then it was straight down to the Staunton Ranch trail.

Coming down on Boarder Line

Coming down on Border Line

Staunton Ranch from Border Line

Staunton Ranch from Border Line

Getting on to Staunton Ranch Trail

Getting on to Staunton Ranch Trail

The Staunton Ranch Trail does a little up and down throughout and overall it is the easier stretch of the hike, just 3.3 miles of a stretch so be prepared if you do this loop.  I will admit the last 2 miles were a struggle for me on Saturday, my feet and legs were protesting the whole way but it felt great to get our original goal accomplished.

I am excited for the next hike, the weather is changing and so am I…. I am struggling with my healthy part but I am so looking forward to so many new hikes.  I want to be higher sooner and the snowshoes helped with that, we are comfortable at 10K already, thank you snowshoes!!!  Now I need to get better at carrying my snowshoes so we can be good at 11k, 12K, 13K and finally some 14k.  As always after the directions will be our favorite pictures…

I Hope your spring also started beautifully, so now just get out there and hike where ever you are!

Directions: Take US Highway 285 south to Shaffers Crossing, about 6 miles west of Conifer. Turn north on Elk Creek Road and follow the signs 1.5 miles to the park entrance

Pikes Peak was all lit up whenever we saw it from the trail.

Pikes Peak was all lit up whenever we saw it from the trail.

Rocks along Mason Creek Winter

Rocks along Mason Creek Winter 1/19/14

Same Rocks on 4/12/14

Same Rocks on 4/12/14

 

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Spring Break hiking 3/1- 3/6/14 All Repeaters

15 Mar
view from Evergreen Mt.

view from Evergreen Mt.

When my nieces came to visit me last year, their one request was more hiking.  I honestly had no idea they would like it as much as they did.  I wanted to get them out as much as possible while still giving them a break from school.  I had grand plans, hike 3/1, snowshoe 3/2, sunrise hike 3/3, break on 3/4, hike of their choice on 3/5 play 3/6 by ear…. our first hike fell apart quickly while the snowshoe on 3/2 was excellent as I mentioned here.

For our sunrise hike on 3/3 I was pretty uncertain we would ever be able to do it because the avalanche risk was so high all through the high country and I am not yet educated on avalanche safety and awareness.  I picked a mountain that I knew was a low risk but tricky to get to, Colorado Mines Mountain.  With the snow storm we had on 3/1 I wasn’t certain the road up would be open but it was so we got up at 2AM and headed out to attempt their first sunrise hike.  When we arrived at the Berthoud Pass parking lot I was not expecting the 15 foot high wall of snow all around the parking lot nor Aaron getting bad coffee from 7-11.  He hardly had the car in park before he was running to the warming hut vault toilets to be sick.  Which I might add is one of the most awful places in the world to have that kind of situation in…. And my old negative Nellie said out loud “oh yeah we aren’t doing this”.

At the top of the continental divide sign

At the top of the continental divide sign

While Aaron was being sick I told them to get their snow pants on and wait in the car while I scouted out the trail to see what we had to work with.  The snow was actually hard enough to walk on and the snowshoe trail was just like Butler’s Gulch the week before in that we didn’t need snowshoes where all the other snowshoers had gone before us.  I walked a good quarter-mile up without anything but my hiking boots.  That walk felt good so I went back, checked on Aaron and the 3 of us adventured up the trail a bit to get a feel.  I should have had them put on their snowshoes and just gone for it but I didn’t, and my lack of confidence probably contributed to their unease.  We went up about half a mile, shut off our headlamps and then turned around.  We decided we would wait for sunrise in the parking lot and then head back for naps as soon as Aaron could safely leave the bathroom.  We goofed around where we could and then as the sun started to rise the snow picked up along with the wind… it was almost a white out.  I took a look down Berthoud pass and we weren’t going to catch any of the sunrise from there the snow was so thick in crazy blowing winds.  I am still kicking myself for not just taking them up alone, I am perfectly capable but I let doubt rule me!  Regardless it would have been miserable at the top with absolutely no views.  I promised them that if they came in the summer we would do this again on a better mountain.

On Wednesday, we hit Staunton State Park and the weather was absolutely perfect, the views were amazing and my nieces were the perfect company.  We hiked about 8 of the miles Aaron and I hiked last fall.  We did the Staunton Ranch trail to Scout Line, took Marmot down and then Staunton Ranch back out.   The hardest part was the little bit of snow we had to contend with, it was just enough to have slipping and sliding more than we wanted too.

The best view on Scout line - see pikes peak?

The best view on Scout line – see pikes peak?

What I loved was just talking with my nieces about whatever, they are adults now and so incredibly smart it was a revelation.   I found myself wanting to study again so I could keep up!

pikes peak and views staunton view on scout line

We did the length of Scout Line trail and then headed down Marmot passage to get a little loop back to Staunton Ranch trial.  Overall it gave us 8-9 miles of hiking with perfect weather and amazing company.

marmot passage sign

Taking marmot passage

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View on the way down Marmot Passage

Staunton view on marmot

too good to miss

After making them hike a lot on Wednesday, my nieces were still up for another hike on Thursday so we decided that the first hike we wanted to take them on- Evergreen Mountain– would be the one to do.  It was like night and day from just 5 days before.  The only downside was the snow on the path with the ice underneath that snow.  Once again Lauren and Anne proved how awesome they are!   It was supposed to a warm beautiful day, and while it was warm the sun stayed hidden which meant it wasn’t as warm as we had hoped it would be.

I love showing new people to this trail, when I do I usually take them to it before we hike much else only because the route up can be kind of boring after other hikes.  I felt that boring aspect the most this last time with no sun and the pesky snow making us slip and slide all over the place even more than the day before.   But the summit views were lovely to behold as always.  I think that was the redeeming part of the hike for us all after a struggle to get up through the melting, sloppy snow… that and the drinks afterwards.

us on evergreen mt. at the top summit of evergreen

This visit overall was so nice, having my nieces here made me both miss my family terribly and want to redouble my efforts to get them all to move here to Colorado…. now I am patiently waiting until my next family visit.  It needs to come faster!

ice castle moment

I hope you are experiencing some form of spring awesomeness and if you are, get out there and hike, life is too short!!!!

Mills Lake via Galcier Gorge RMNP Snowshoed 2/8/14

12 Feb
Mills Lake is just over there... trust me

Mills Lake is just over there… trust me

I know I usually start with all the details of a new hike but this snowshoe was not what I expected, instead it was everything I could have hoped for and more.  Because of that I have no hard facts and no path to tell you to follow but I can tell you I am totally in love with snow shoeing and even purchased some snowshoes this week….just waiting for them to arrive.

these signs are usually about chest high in the summer. We are almost walking on it

these signs are usually about chest high in the summer. We are almost walking on it

On the way up we were hardly on a path… we broke our own trail and eventually made our way up to Mills Lake in Glacier Gorge.  The weather was terrible, heavy snow and the wind just got worse the higher up we climbed but I still had an amazing time! The best part about the snowshoe was the guides and their comfort with the area, with that knowledge they said we could pretty much explore where ever we wanted and let me tell you it got pretty creative.  If I was honest with myself,  I was ok with this approach  because the weather was so bad that there were no views to see anyway, but on a nice day this might have been a little bit of a bummer as I have read that this trail has amazing views!

The view as we went off the winter trail

The view as we went off the winter trail

I think originally the plan had been to sort of follow the summer trail to Mills Lake, we wove in and out of huge drifts of snow and along a creek bed until we eventually came to the Alberta Falls, which were of course covered in lots of snow.

looking back

Once we got past the falls we crossed over the creek a few times until one of our group broke through the ice and soaked her foot.  This wouldn’t have been a big deal except she had on gym shoes…. yep she wore gym shoes to snowshoe in even after the email and phone call the day before said how important waterproof boots were.   To make it worse, for whatever reason she insisted on breaking trail… in gym shoes and the guides were not going to fight with her so they gave general directions and told her to just have fun with it.   Needless to say after they got her out of the creek, into dry socks and caught back up with the rest of us, we had gone pretty far afield of the summer route.

Alberta Falls

Alberta Falls Somewhere over there

Again not a problem, as they just took the lead and got us back on track, we did everything you could hope to do in snowshoes during this correction path and it was so fun.  We climbed up steep inclines, through thick trees and around massive boulders, I fell a lot but it wasn’t a big deal because it was in like 6 feet of snow so no injuries!

Leaving Tracks

Leaving Tracks

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As we got closer to the lake, the wind and snow really picked up intensity it was pretty much like walking in a blizzard.  One of the guides knew of a great spot for the fondue across the lake… like walking across it…. so we snowshoed across Mills lake and had a lovely fondue out of the wind while watching it whip around the lake with a crazy amount of snow.  Did I mention it wasn’t supposed to really snow at all on Saturday, maybe an inch at most?  On Monday I read the park itself got around 35 inches of snow, most of that was on Saturday.

These guides were quick in getting the fondue together, it was simple but delicious and ready in like 5 minutes.  We had been snowshoeing for 4 hours before the fondue and everyone was spent but exhilarated.   When we had all had our fill, they asked us if we wanted to go straight down or take the longer way down.  If it had been different weather I know I would have gone longer but it was wicked windy and the snow was very heavy at this point, as a group we agreed fastest way down was best.  We took the winter route back down which gave me great comfort in terms of our first solo snowshoes that we certainly have in our future. How awesome is it that the guides were completely ready to take us out for as long as we wanted? An hour later we were back at our cars and heading home.

On the way back

On the way back

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I will tell you the weather could have made this a miserable experience but the guides were so great, laid back and engaging, it kept everyone’s attitude happy and fun.

Here are the details behind the trip,  this was a groupon that I got for a day long guided snowshoe with fondue and cider lunch.  It included the snowshoes and poles all for $98, the additional cost was  tipping the guides and the $20 fee daily car fee to get into Rocky Mountain National Park (OR you can pay $40 for annual pass to the park,  I bought the pass,) I can see us spending a lot of time in Rocky Mountain National Park this year so it was a good investment!  Normally the Day long guided snowshoe with fondue and cider is $399 per person.

It was run through Apex Ex , they do all sorts of Mountain activities and adventures in Rocky Mountain National Park.  I was very leery of how it may turn out as I always am a little fearful of groupons, but I cannot convey strongly enough how truly awesome our guides were.  I don’t know how many of you have a chance to take advantage of something like this but if you are here in Colorado and want to do it , request Tyler and Mike they made it a perfect trip.

I cannot wait until our next snowshoe adventure, I wish those snowshoes would show up quick!

Weigh in Day 2/7/14 -1LB, 53.8 LBS down – 36.2 left to go.

8 Feb

Yay!  My first loss of the new year… that seems a little shameful since we are 6 weeks in but I am ok with it.  I traveled in that time and gave up diet coke and now I finally feel like I am back in a groove.

Working out has felt really great each day and I managed to get weights in 4 times this week… to be honest I hate weights but I know it is important for my future well-being  and for getting ready to backpack.  I think the best part of the week was not chowing down sweets because I gave up diet coke.

The other great part of this week, I worked out with my backpack on for 3 of my 4 morning workouts. It totally made a difference, Aaron was right!  Even though it didn’t have water or much weight just having it on while I did the elliptical was a huge jump in comfort on the snowshoe today.

I don’t know what your options are this week but if you can get out and hike, do it!

Mason Creek Trail – Staunton State Park, Conifer CO Hiked 2/1/14

6 Feb

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Mason Creek Trail

Lowest Elevation: 8200 ish feet

Highest Elevation: 9300 isn feet( Total Elevation gain 1100Ft)

Trail Length: we were shooting for 7-9 miles, what we got was 6 miles round trip.

Trail Uses: Hiker, Biker, Horses and in winter snow shoe and cross country skiing

Degree of difficulty:  Moderate

Fees: $7 a day OR $70 for the state park annual pass.

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking lots

Pets:  Yes, Dogs on Leash only.

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My biggest challenge after going to sea level is always getting my altitude lungs back, this past weekend I only had this one chance to get back up to 9,000ft in prep for our snowshoe this upcoming weekend.  I had decided that Staunton State Park would be great to revisit as there were so many trails we didn’t yet explore and  the trails we had done were pretty tame with altitudes between 8000-9500FT.  What I hadn’t planned for was the 1-2 feet snow that started falling in the high country the 2 days before our hike and was set to continue through Saturday afternoon.

When we got to the trail head around 9AM,  there was just one other car and we had passed a group of snowshoers who had not yet started their journey.  As we bundled up, I will admit I was a little put off by how much snow I was seeing… I had somehow convinced my self that this area wasn’t hit as hard as other mountain areas.  The bonus to that snow, everything was stunning!  The sky was becoming more cobalt blue than cloudy, while it was still snowing with clouds moving and changing like crazy.

starting out

starting out

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We started out pretty optimistic that we would be able to hammer out 11 miles, but planning on only doing 7-9 and it seemed possible that first quarter-mile.  Then we had to start pealing off layers and at the same time the snow shoeing group passed us.  They all looked so happy and fun.  At this point the trail was somewhat broken in with traffic from either super early morning users or the day before, so there was only a couple of inches to really deal with.

As we moved on, I took a turn at being in front because I want to make sure that I take equal time in finding the path and getting us to our destination once we start backpacking.  It wasn’t long before we passed the snowshoers as they peeled off layers.  I didn’t think much of it at the time and just kept plowing through.

We really started to climb about half a mile after passing the group and then slowed down.  The snow was much deeper, no one had come this way in a while, likely since before the storm and  under the snow was not so fun ice.  It was hard work! The trail  moved along a nice ravine, the trees were heavy with all the snow but crazy beautiful…We pulled over to peel off another layer and the group of Snowshoers were there again.  I was thrilled no more breaking trail for us…but then they stopped….right next to where we kindly pulled off the trail…. and waited.   I admit at first I was wondering why they wouldn’t want to get ahead of us, but it turns out they didn’t want to break trail either.

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I will tell you that this felt like the longest 2.25 miles I had ever hiked and when at just over 2 hours we hit that trail marker for halfway on the Mason Creek Trail.  I started laughing, knowing we would be lucky to make the shorter loop I had planned, let alone do anything more than 7.5 miles. Oh and clearly at the halfway sign was where everyone had been turning around, there were NO trail prints after this sign.

getting close to the halfway mark of the Mason Creek Trail

getting close to the halfway mark of the Mason Creek Trail

The snow is just below my knees...although this looks odd

The snow is just below my knees…although this looks odd

We went just 3/4’s of a mile further and my legs were straight up jelly mush, we were taking pictures of a pretty aspen grove(aka – catching our breath) when I had a heart to heart with  myself.  If my legs were in this shape and we weren’t even half way through, how likely was I to hurt myself if I continued on.  It was then that I called the hike and we headed back.   I am glad I did, as on the way back down I did indeed fall but it wasn’t too bad.The best part of the day was insane beauty all round us!  We had moody skies with breathtaking blues, grays and whites.  The snow-covered surroundings made me feel like we were in a fairy tale of some sort, we even had some serious snow fall as we were hiking at one point.   And the treevalanches ( when the snow all falls off of a tree for no apparent reason) were fun to try to catch with the camera… until one caught me… all down my back …. with all my base layers showing since I was so hot from the climb and trail breaking.  Surprisingly Aaron caught it on film…

Before Treevalanche

Before Treevalanche

Getting hit by the treevalanche

Getting hit by the treevalanche

post treevalanche

post treevalanche

Near miss

Near miss

Turnaround point 2

Turnaround point

Turnaround point

After 4 hours of hiking just 6 miles we headed home a little defeated and a lot worked out, we wimped out our Sunday hike and just enjoyed the sore muscles from Saturday.   After the directions are some of our favorite pictures from the day.

Where ever you are, I hope you get out and hike soon!

Directions:   Take US Highway 285 south to Shaffers Crossing, about 6 miles west of Conifer. Turn north on Elk Creek Road and follow the signs 1.5 miles to the park entrance

On the way back

On the way back

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The state park did a great job plowing the parking lot!

The state park did a great job plowing the parking lot!

Pine Valley Ranch to Buck Gulch, Pine CO hiked 11/30/13

25 Dec

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Pine Lake >Buck Gulch>Skipper Trail> Strawberry Jack Trail> Park VIew Trail

Lowest Elevation:  6800Ft

Highest Elevation: 7900 Ft( although total elevation gain was closer to 1300+ Ft)

Trail Length: 7-8 miles, it took us under 3 hours to complete

Trail Uses: Hiker, Biker & Horses

Degree of difficulty:  Easy to moderate

Fees: None

Bathrooms: At the parking lot only

Pets:  Yes on Leash only

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There is so much to see still of Colorado and for a while I wasn’t challenging myself to find that more but Staunton Park renewed that discovery lust in me again.  I also wanted to make sure that whatever trail we did left us with enough energy to hike again on Sunday.  Pine Valley Ranch seemed perfect!  It is a small park mileage wise but right on the edge of the Pike National Forest, which makes the possibilities very expansive.

When I got there, I was pretty amazed by the 3 huge parking lots on the way to all the trailheads and main park.  It also made me wonder how crazy busy this place might be in spring, summer & fall.  On this morning it was freaky cold and so we had it mostly to ourselves.  It was in fact colder then expected and we almost shy of enough clothing to stay warm.

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Crossing over the beautiful river with its ice and flow.

Crossing over the beautiful river with its ice and flow.

Once we crossed over the river we had the option of walking along the shaded side of the Lake or the sunny side of the lake, given we were crazy cold  it was the sunny side for us.

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We didn’t walk along Pine Lake long before we hit the trail break for Buck Gulch Trail.

Buck Gulch Trailhead

Buck Gulch Trailhead

From here we started climbing and went into shade and I will admit I was thankful for the climbing just to warm up everything.  Normally we are over prepared, but since I broke my day pack we have been cutting it close this was the hardest hike of them all with so little back up available.  But the day itself was just lovely and as it warmed up we were dressed perfectly.  This part of the trail had the most climbing of the entire hike but it wasn’t that steep.

Buck Gulch Trail

Buck Gulch Trail

Entering Pike National Forest via Buck Gulch Trail

Entering Pike National Forest via Buck Gulch Trail

It wasn’t long before we left the Jefferson County open space and entered Pike National Forest.  With that change over we also  came upon an old burn area from the High Meadows Fire in 2000.  I am becoming to really enjoy these areas, not for the devastation the fire causes but for the beauty it leaves behind.  It is a different kind of beauty for sure, but it tells a story of struggle, desperation, loss and triumph.  It forced me to reflect and identify that feeling while I hiked through and along the remains, it reminded me of how an old battleground would feel or a cemetery.  For the record, I am totally one of those people that loves to walk through cemeteries, the older the better and more majestic.  I guess it is no surprise I am falling in love with recovering burn areas.

Views

We were on the Buck Gulch trail for just over 2 miles, I understand it is a popular biking route that takes you into the Lost Creek Wilderness for a 11-13 mile route with lots of elevation gain.  I have to tell you I totally want to hike it some time.  In fact the only other people we saw that day was a huge group of bikers doing that route.  The downside of the whole day…. there were some people shooting the whole time we were in the National forest and it felt like they were a little too close and/or moving in our direction. It was disconcerting and made me paranoid my colors weren’t bright or unnatural enough to point to a human AKA not a target.

From here we took the Skipper trail to the Strawberry Jack Trail.  This was the one of the easier parts of the hike, with slight ups and downs but nothing too aggressive.  The views were lovely, if not breath taking and made me want to come and explore more.

Skipper Trail  Just outside of Lost Creek Wilderness

Skipper Trail Just outside of Lost Creek Wilderness

Strawberry Jack Trail Head

Strawberry Jack Trail Head

Skipper trail conditions to Strawberry Jack

Skipper trail conditions to Strawberry Jack

Outside of the lake in the beginning, there isn’t a ton of water on the hike but there was this one crossing and I am afraid I forgot if it was on Skipper or Strawberry Jack but somewhere along those trails.

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Strawberry Jack Tail conditions

Strawberry Jack Tail conditions

We made a good loop hike by taking the Park View Trail back to Pine Lake,  it was incredibly beautiful coming down with the lake in view.

Park View Trail Break

Park View Trail Break

The lower half of this section is mostly stairs back to the lake.

Stairs coming down

Stairs coming down

The Bottom of Park view trail on the other side of Pine Lake

The Bottom of Park view trail on the other side of Pine Lake

Overall, this is a nice easy hike with lots of options to make it harder or not depending on your mood.  On this particular day for me, a new issue had decided to present itself- interesting joint pain in my hips.  It has forced me to slow down a little, which in turn has effected everything.  Regardless, for this hike I was glad that it was a shorter and easier hike when the end came along.  As my second hike in 3 days, I was feeling better than I thought I might but  a little worried about my hip action.  I cannot wait to get out here again, likely in the summer and challenge myself by doing the full Buck Gulch route for a tough day hike.  I hope if you find yourself out this way that you check this one out, it is so worth it!  After the directions a few favorites pictures from the day.

Directions:

30400 Crystal Lake Rd., Pine External Link Icon

From U.S. Highway 285, turn south on Pine Valley Road (County Road 126) to Crystal Lake Road. Turn right one mile into the park.

Cool Tree

Cool Tree that survived the fire

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Staunton State Park, Conifer CO Hiked 11/23/13

7 Dec

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Staunton Ranch > Scout Line> Marmot Passage>Bugling Elk> Stauton Ranch

Lowest Elevation:  8120 Ft

Highest Elevation: 9240 Ft ( I think total we got around 1800+ ft of elevation gain with the ups and downs)

Trail Length:  Roughly 10 miles

Trail Uses: Most of the trails were hiking, biking & Horses Scout Line is hiking only

Degree of Difficulty:  Most trails themselves are easy but doing them all together is moderate or difficult mostly

Fees: $7 a day OR $70 for the state park annual pass…. on this day we bought the pass since ours expired

Bathrooms:  Yes at each parking area there are vault toilets or Port-o-potties

Pets: Yes Dogs On leash only

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Work has been crazy and getting more crazy everyday, at the time I picked this trail I had not had even a minute the entire week to research hikes.  It was at 10PM that Friday night that I saw Mark and Sandy over a buencamino2014.wordpress.com talking about their hike at Staunton State park that morning.  They have been talking about the merits of this state park since it opened this summer while Mark worked there to get it ready for opening.  One thing I love about Colorado is that when a new state park opens there is as much excitement about it or more, as there was when Ikea opened.  I heard about the lines to get in the park all summer long and just didn’t want to deal with the crowds .  On  a pretty cold Saturday with potentially no sun, it was the perfect time to check it out!  Mark & Sandy  were nice enough to suggest a couple of routes that would get us around 10 miles and some of the best views in Park.  Honestly I would never had picked this route if not for them so thank you Mark & Sandy!

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This particular view was like a beacon of beauty, all lit up from the sun above the clouds.

We started the hike via Staunton Ranch trail,  which also happens to start at the Mason Creek Trailhead.  It is a little confusing as you walk up the trail but look up and left, you will see the trailhead:

Starting out

Starting out

This trail is not tough at all, the path is very well-groomed with a gradual climb as it winds up and around the park.  I really like how they have marked the trails in the park, they use the initials of the trail name on a simple iron post.  I would say this portion is easy to moderate, moderate mostly because round trip it is a 6.6 mile hike.

Staunton Ranch Trail marker

Staunton Ranch Trail marker

It felt like about 2 miles or just under, when we reached our trail break at the Scout Line Trailhead, also very well-marked where the 3 trails intersect and the signs have the mileage to the next trail break – I loved it!

SL Trail sign

This trail is all single track and starts a pretty aggressive climb up to some beautiful bluffs.  I have to say this was my favorite section of the hike, the views were amazing and the way they built up the trail using natural resources was actually really beautiful.

A creek crossing right at the trail break starting up Scout Line

A creek crossing right at the trail break starting up Scout Line

Climbing up SL

Climbing up SL

use of rocks as the trail… Beautiful

use of rocks as the trail… Beautiful

More Climbing after some stunning views

More Climbing after some stunning views

One of the views on SL

One of the views on SL

Me on Scout Line

Me on Scout Line

I have to tell you Scout Line was just gorgeous and reignited that love of discovering a new trail in me.  We spent more time then necessary on the trail just taking it all in the were views all over as we hiked along it.  As we got closer to the next trail break at Marmot Passage we had this great climb along the mountain.

Another great use of rocks to make the trail work

Another great use of rocks to make the trail work

Marmot Passage Trail Head

Marmot Passage Trail Head

Marmot Passage is an easy trail that does a little climbing and then mostly heads back down.  It actually started getting pretty cold while we were on this trail and so we started moving much faster.  As we descended to the Elk Falls Pond, the cloud cover really settled in but the pond still looked pretty from above, it could not dampen our excited and joy.

Elk falls pond Elk Falls pond signage

Once down by the pond, finding Bugling Elk trail to head back was very easy and the trail itself is some type of access road very wide and easy to hike:

BE Trailhead

We climbed up a little and then headed back down to Staunton Ranch Trail.

back to Staunton ranch Trail conditions from BE to SR

Knowing that we were just 3.3 miles from the end had us in great spirits, discovering this gem for ourselves…. well we were pretty chatty about it all.  So chatty in fact we almost missed the herd of deer on our left.  Then while taking too many pictures of them cavorting, we found out almost a minute too late that the main buck was on our right rounding up the rest of his herd and he was CLOSE.   Honestly I have never been that close to a buck, I would say he was just 5-6 feet away from us and totally unconcerned with what we were doing as he got his last doe back in line.

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I have to tell you that this hike was awesome!  I am so glad I happened upon Mark and Sandy’s most recent hike post to pick the park and even more thrilled they could give me advice on such short notice!  There is so much beauty in this state park and I totally get why there were lines of people waiting to discover it all.  Yes the route we took was long but it was crazy beautiful and so worth every step.  For approximately 70% of the hike, we had it totally to ourselves which added to its awesomeness .  We saw the most traffic on Staunton Ranch trail as we were returning to our car and what we did encounter still wasn’t all that much.   Honestly I cannot wait to get back to this State park and see more, I hope you can find your way out here to see it all for yourself!  After the directions will some of my favorite pictures from the day.

Directions:   Take US Highway 285 south to Shaffers Crossing, about 6 miles west of Conifer. Turn north on Elk Creek Road and follow the signs 1.5 miles to the park entrance

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