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The Incline, Manitou Springs CO, Hiked on Easter – 4/5/2015

20 May

At the Top.jpg

Starting Elevation:  6530 Ft

Highest Elevation: 8550 Ft

Trail Length: We did the Standard loop so 3.7 miles

Trail Uses: Hiking only up the incline

Degree of Difficulty: Strenuous

Bathroom: Yes in the parking lot

Pets:  Supposed to be no dogs but there were lots and off leash too and 2 almost knocked me down no owner in sight.

Fees: Yes – $5 when we went last April but I suspect it may go up or already has.

It has been over a year since I posted last and I actually started writing this post way back when we did the hike. I had kinda forgot about the blog except to look up hikes or show friends hikes I thought they might like, but I got my renewal notice a few weeks ago and today I realized I need new motivation to get back on the healthy bandwagon.

A lot has happened over the last year but through it all we never stopped hiking.  Last Fall I had a bad hip injury that kept me on flat short hikes for about 4 months but I started taking photography classes to help keep up my spirits. I have been very slowly working on getting back to climbing since the beginning of the year and had one big set back that was very depressing.

The super bummer, while injured I gained back a lot of weight. So I am going to try this again.  I am going to Germany next week and then when I get back I am full on back to hiking to healthy I have at least a dozen new hikes to write up and I am back at 60 pounds I have to lose to get to my goal.  I am not sure how I will continue with the format, if I will do a weigh in separate from hikes or combine them.  I see wordpress has changed a lot since I was on last so I have lots of new learning to do.

I will also try to show off some of my new photography skills and I am super excited about that.  Another motivation to get back to writing.  Thanks to all of you who have kept checking out the blog while I have been gone, I hope to get reacquainted with the blogging world.

incline sunrise.jpg

 

Now on to this particular hike.

On Easter 2015, since I couldn’t be home with my family I was lucky enough to go on a hiking date with my hiking superheros, Wendy and Didier.

They patiently took us too the Manitou Incline which is known all over the place as straight up torture.  In the first mile you climb straight up 2000 vertical feet. It is used regularly by the Olympic athletes that train very close by and lots of fitness enthusiasts.

We started just before sunrise and thought that since it was Easter it might be less crowded, but in fact the it was lit up with lots of headlamps ahead of us.

getting a sunrise picture.jpg

It is essentially a giant staircase that we were climbing with a couple hundred other people and I know for a fact that it was a light crowd that day. There is a bail out about half way up, and it gets evermore steep after that.  Also the steps aren’t at even height so I often found myself using both my hands and feet to climb it like a ladder at its steepest point.
Once you get to the top, it is amazing views of Colorado Springs and beyond and Sunrise was gorgeous.

Past the bail out.jpg

Looking down.jpg

Once at the top and you have finished celebrating with lots of selfies, take the Barr trail down.  Do not go back down the incline it is so steep and people fall and get hurt all the time.  The Barr trail was updated as well and it an easy decent back to the parking lot. As I recall it is about 3 miles down.

Barr trail.jpg

Barr trail view.JPG

All in all, I feel like you have to do the Incline at least once in your life.  The number of people doing it is so crazy that I honestly never want to do it again.  It is great exercise for sure and a great way to get into climbing shape, maybe just go during the week when there are less people.  I would also go as early as possible and start that one hour before sunrise as it is exposed and can be very warm.

A few more pictures will follow the directions.

Directions( copied from the website http://www.manitouincline.net ::

The easiest way to reach the trailhead is to take highway 24 West to the last Exit for Manitou Springs on Serpentine Drive. This is also the stoplight for the Cave of the Winds. Turn left (away from Cave of the Winds)onto Serpintine Drive which will descend quickly and end at Manitou Avenue. Veer left onto Manitou Aveneue and follow it to a roundabout(rotary). Exit the roundabout on Ruxton Ave heading southwest towards the Cog Railway. The trailhead is located just west of the Iron Springs Theater. Parking is usually difficult to find. Trying to find a close spot usually just results in a lot of wasted time. Just think of your walk to the trailhead as your warm up.

The standard route no longer begins in the Barr Trail parking lot. This parking lot is to be used for the Barr trail alone, access to the trail is now to be from near the old Manitoul Incline Base Station and incline hikers should park on Ruxton Ave.

Do NOT park in the parking spots for the Cog Railway. They will tow you. If you really want a close spot you can pay to park in the Iron Springs Theater parking spots. Last I saw it was $5 to park there.

Prize at the top.JPG

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East Castlewood Canyon Trail, Franktown CO hiked 5/26/14

1 Jun

1

Starting Elevation: 6604 ft

Highest Elevation: 6653 Ft ( there is some up and down overall I think we climbed maybe 400 ft total)

Trail Length: 4 Miles from the trailhead but we had to park a mile away so we hiked 6 miles total.

Trail Uses: Hiker Only

Degree of Difficulty: Easy

Fees: $7 a day

Bathrooms: There are bathrooms at the visitor center and some of the parking lots.

Pets: Dogs are allowed in the park on leash but on this particular trail NO dogs at all are allowed because of the fragile ecology of the trail.

2

The best part of a 3 day weekend is that it means 2 hikes over the course of the weekend is guaranteed. This was our 3rd walk of the weekend and strangely my heels had been chewed up worse than I thought on the previous 2 walks.  I needed something easy and had learned that Castlewood Canyon State Park had recently re-opened the East Canyon Hike it was rated as easy as well as one of the longer hikes in the Park.  I think everyone in Colorado decided Castlewood Canyon State Park was the place to go on Memorial Day, when we drove into the park the first 2 parking lots were full so we drove on to the 3rd one which was huge but filling up fast.  Besides the droves of people getting some good outdoor activity in, we were now a mile away from the trail I wanted to hit.

The trail from the car to the trailhead was paved

The trail from the car to the trailhead was paved

I am going to be honest, putting on shoes was tough with my blisters… walking on pavement was even harder.  The mile to the trailhead wasn’t too bad but I was trying to ignore how bad my feet were hurting, so far so good….

Trailhead

The best place to park for this hike is the very first parking lot upon entry into the park from Route 83.  We actually walked right past this sign but when we saw a park volunteer he told us to go off the pavement and look for cairns these would take us through the path.

Looking for cairns

Looking for cairns

This hike turned into a treasure hunt at this point, as the majority of the trail was over huge boulders so we were just looking for cairns the whole time.  I have to tell you it was pretty fun, the geology of this place was totally different then what we were used to and so beautiful!  I have done other trails in this State Park but this one is so much fun!  I mean like I wish I had some kids with me fun.   After cairn hunting for a short period the trail goes under Route 83.

Cairn hunting

Cairn hunting

Going under Route 83

Going under Route 83

All the way under route 83

All the way under route 83

Then back to the treasure hunt.  Slowly we made our way down into the canyon where we hit water – slowly not because the treasure hunt was hard but because my heels were in really terrible shape already.

Creek crossing

Creek crossing

Views while crossing the creek

Views while crossing the creek

Other side of the creek

Other side of the creek

After this low point we started climbing again but not very much, we turned a corner and there were these awesome pools with some fun rock jumping…..again perfect for kids.

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It is not far from here that we hit the 1.14 mile loop and all we could talk about was who kids could we take here?

thru canyon

The loop itself was unremarkable and strangely empty of much traffic.  We did get some amazing views of Pikes Peak and all of the front range, plus there were lots of flowers, lizards and an array of butterflies.  That doesn’t even cover all the birds we saw.

Trail loop conditions

Trail loop conditions

All in all it was a fun trail, perfect for a short easy hike when your feet are in trouble.  I think it would be a great place to take kids for a million reasons but mostly because the whole time I was thinking I would have loved this as a kid.  As an adult it was beautiful and fun, bringing me back to those days when I would explore the creek behind a school as a kid.  It is really exposed and so meant more for spring, fall or winter, I would never do this one in the summer unless it was the end of the day or the very beginning.

In the end I had to take off my shoes and walk in my socks the blisters were so bad but I pushed it to the paved part and as close to the parking lot as I could.  I hate blisters and really I am not sure how I got back here but it was a bad place to be after years of hiking every weekend.  We did the whole 6 miles in just 2 hours which is right for easy and had my feet been in better condition we would have moved faster.

This State Park is really beautiful, not just because of the canyon but because of the endless views, beautiful flowers, adventurous trails and fun discovery.  I may not come out here often as I am currently addicted to summit views, but I will for sure brings lots of friends and families here because it is FUN!

Directions: To reach the main entrance of Castlewood Canyon State Park, take I-25 to Castle Rock, exit onto Founders Parkway eastbound. Take Founders Parkway to Hwy 86, go east on Hwy 86 four miles to Franktown. Turn South on Hwy 83 (S. Parker Rd) and go five miles south to the main park entrance.

flowers flowers 2 pikes peak lizards

 

Matthews/Winters Park, Lakeview CO Hiked 5/17/14

23 May

best view

Zorro Trail> Dakota Ridge Trail> Village Walk>Red Rocks Trail> Morrison Slide> Red Rocks Trail> Dakota Ridge> Zorro Trail

Starting elevation: 6055 ft

Highest Elevation: 6800ft ( total Elevation gain was around 1600 ft)

Trail Length: Approximately 9 miles, it took us 4 hours to do the whole hike

Trail Uses: Some sections are hiking & horses only, most are hiker, biker & horses

Degree of Difficulty:  Moderate-mostly because of length

Fees:  None

Bathrooms:  At the parking lot of both Green Mountain and Matthews/Winters Park parking lots

Pets:  Yes – On Leash

2

At 5PM on Friday I found our hike for the weekend, it didn’t give me the climbing I wanted for the but it did give us some good mileage plus we had never done this one, extra bonus.  I had wanted to do this one for over a year, but I had written across the map “lots of snakes only hike in winter”  and yet this winter we were obsessed with snowshoeing and completely forgot about this one.

Saturday was strangely humid for Denver so when we pulled up to the trailhead we were cold but determined to not overdress this time.  We actually parked in the lot for Green Mountain (hike details)in Lakewood because that was the best place to start for the loop hike we wanted to attempt.

Starting out

Starting out looking towards the trailhead

The trailhead across Rooney Road

The trailhead across Rooney Road

Zorro is a nice easy climb up about 500 ft over the course of almost of a mile to the Dakota Ridge Trail.  The bad part of this section is all the noise from 470 on this side and then when we got over the ridge, I70 noise was also super loud.

One of the views as we approached the top of Zorro

One of the views as we approached the top of Zorro

Some rocky steps close to the top of Zorro.

Some rocky steps close to the top of Zorro.

As we were on this side of the mountain or hogback, there were clouds all over the front range and they were low.  Green mountain just across the road was covered in clouds, when we got to the top it was all blue skies over Red Rocks.

Green Mountain all cloudy

Green Mountain all cloudy

Dakota Ridge Trail - Go right.

Dakota Ridge Trail – Go right.

Yay Blue skies

Yay Blue skies

Me on Dakota Ridge with Red Rocks in the background

Me on Dakota Ridge with Red Rocks in the background

We walked along this until we crossed over to the west side and through some trees, had a small break from traffic noise until we could see I70 and then the noise was all back.  We could also see the parking lot for Matthews/Winters Park below us.

Coming down Dakota Ridge

Coming down Dakota Ridge

There is Matthews/Winters Park...and I70

There is Matthews/Winters Park…and I70

Coming down Dakota Ridge was the most muddy part of the whole hike but wasn’t super bad and before we knew it we were at the road crossing to get to the next set of trails.

Matthews/Winters Park

Matthews/Winters Park

Trail Map

Trail Map

As we got to the next section of our hike, there were a bunch of vault toilets that we could take advantage of.  It was also the start of all of this fantastic red beauty and because of all the snow the weekend before, the green was amazing against the red.  We took Village Walk ( no Bikes allowed) To the Red Rocks Trail.

Changing over from Dakota Ridge to Village walk.

Changing over from Dakota Ridge to Village walk.

The next trail section starts just after this creek crossing.

The next trail section starts just after this creek crossing.

Village walk

There is an old Cemetery just off the Village Walk Trail.

There is an old Cemetery just off the Village Walk Trail.

Red Rocks goes back to bikers and hikers

Red Rocks Trail start

Red Rocks Trail start

I have to tell when we got to this part of the hike, I was so glad it snowed the week before because the flowers were so plentiful and as we got to the lowest part on this trail there was an oasis of green & red with the running water was stunning.  It was the best part of the hike!

An Oasis

An Oasis

2nd creek DSCN1721

From here we started climbing back up to the Morrision Slide trail, which climbs up to a lovely flat with lots of views of everywhere we had been so far and where we were going.  It is also the highest part of the hike.

Picking up Morrison Slide

Picking up Morrison Slide

Views of Red Rocks and the Part of Dakota Ridge we had already been on

Views of Red Rocks and the part of Dakota Ridge we had already been on

Morrison Slide flat part on a beautiful day

Morrison Slide flat part on a beautiful day

After the beautiful flat top of Morrison Slide we started descending back to Red Rocks Trail.

Back on Red Rocks Trail

Back on Red Rocks Trail

Trail Conditions coming down Red Rocks Trail

Trail Conditions coming down Red Rocks Trail

I have to tell you coming down this portion of red rocks trail was really hard to not keep looking behind us as it was just a perfect view.  Which made the next section a little disappointing because it was detour on a regular road with car traffic, down to the other side of the Dakota Ridge Trail which also is known as Dinosaur Ridge.  I saw that the construction in Red Rocks had forced a detour of the trail but I never guessed it was actually on the road.

Boo - Detour :(

Boo – Detour 😦

Crossing over to the Dinosaur Ridge part and a closed road.

Crossing over to the Dinosaur Ridge part and a closed road.

This is cool!

This is cool!

I have heard about this place but I have to tell you it was way cooler then I thought it would be.   They left dinosaur bones in the rock so that people could see what they look like when they are discovered!  We were like little kids checking it all out, oohing and ahhing

Dinosaur bones

As we finished up reading about all the bones and the changing landscape, we got back to the original Dakota ridge trail.

End of detour

no more paved road

no more paved road

This last section of the hike was all white and felt so different from the rest of the hike and I loved the change!

The last stretch

I really enjoyed this hike and I honestly think we did it with perfect conditions, on the best day possible.   It is a really exposed trail which means in the summer it is likely HOT, I mean it didn’t get much above 60 while we were hiking and the sweat was pouring off of us-now I get why there are typically a lot of snakes here.   The downside(outside of the snakes of course) is how close it is to both 470 & I70, the noise went away for a good portion of the hike but when it was around it was pretty bad.   Despite that, I will for sure do it again and likely bring guest hikers here because of the great views of Red Rocks.  After the directions will be pictures of all the flowers we had the good fortune to catch before they burn off in the sun.

This 3 day weekend we will get in 2 hikes that will both likely be repeaters!  I hope you all have great plans for the holiday weekend that includes a hike!  Life is too short… you should hike more!

Directions: Take I-70 West from Denver for about 9 miles to C470-East exit (exit 260). Go about 2 miles on C470 East and take the Alameda Parkway exit. Turn right onto Alameda Parkway, then take your first right onto Rooney Road. Go about 1.5 miles and the trail head parking lot will be on your right.

flowers 1 flowers2 Flowers 3 flowers4

Mt. Falcon (repeater), Morrison CO hiked 5/10/14

16 May
Red Rocks from the trail

Red Rocks from the trail

This past weekend I had a meeting I had to attend  at 11AM on Saturday and to be honest I figured we would just hike on Sunday.  Then this wicked storm was predicted to hit on Sunday, it started out not being so bad and moved to a couple of feet in the mountains several inches on the Front Range.  Given this impending weather wrinkle we decided to get the best bang for our late start buck by hitting something close but challenging, yay Mt. Falcon ( Hike Details here)!  Unfortunately the weather forecast continued to change dramatically even between Friday and Saturday morning, so our day of beautiful sunshine turned into breaks between rain during our hiking window.   The worst rain shower actually hit before we started hiking when we first pulled up, nothing like a rain storm to make you question if you should go or not.  We decided we had enough gear to risk it and fortunately the rest of the hike ended up being pretty tame weather wise.

Flower3 Flower1

The best part of the hike was the flowers, they were everywhere and just lovely!  It was also obvious that Jefferson County had some trail work done on the bottom half of the trail to repair damage from the floods last fall, it was all leveled out at the bottom of Turkey trot and then nicely packed as it wound up to the trail break with Castle view.  The volunteers did a great job fixing it up!

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Because of the rain, this normally high traffic trail was decidedly pretty empty on Saturday which was a nice change.  We also were coming down late enough in the afternoon that we could hear music from Red Rocks  coming over to the trail, it was kinda cool.

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I keep forgetting how fickle May is for high altitude hiking, all the snow that hit on Sunday is still lingering as low as 7ooo ft.  Plus the mountains have been getting hit once a day with snow/rain since Sunday and I don’t know if I have mentioned it yet, but I am kinda done with the snow!  I know we have been trudging around in it for months, but spring snow is different you can’t float on it in snowshoes and  you are guaranteed postholing anytime after 10AM when the sun starts really to ramp up.  I am not a fan of postholing.

I am struggling to find a hike for tomorrow and praying that inspiration hits me sometime tonight!  Wish me luck!

I hope where ever you are, you find time to get out and hike soon!

These lovely ladies were just a few feet away from us on our way down

These lovely ladies were just a few feet away from us on our way down

Lookout Mountain via Chimney Gulch, Golden CO Hiked 2/15/14

20 Feb
Best view of the day before the clouds moved in.

Best view of the day before the clouds moved in.

Chimney Gulch> Windy Saddle Trail> Lookout Mountain

Starting Elevation:  5780 Ft

Highest Elevation: 7570 Ft ( total elevation gain around 1800 feet)

Trail uses: Hiker, Biker & Horses

Trail Length:  Officially Approximately 8 miles, my fitbit said a little over 9 miles

Degree of difficulty: Moderate, it is steep in some parts but I am not sure I would say it is difficult.

Bathrooms: Not at the entrance off of 6th Avenue but there is one at the Windy Saddle parking lot and at the Lookout Mountain Nature Center.

Pets:  Yes on leash.

View from the Lookout Mountain Nature Center

View from the Lookout Mountain Nature Center

I have driven past this hike a million times and I am always wondering 2 things.  First, what a weird place to pick up a trail and second, dang that is crowded!  It has seemed crowded regardless of conditions too!

This past Saturday, I had hoped beyond hope that we would have our new snowshoes but we didn’t so I decided it was time to check this particular trail out.   I am not sure why I have been avoiding this one for the past 2 years, but strangely I have manged to completely block it out of my mind.  It is a shame too because after the first mile and a half it is beautiful.

You start out literally on the side of 6th Avenue in Golden… And I mean on the side of the road.  If I hadn’t passed it a million times I would never know the Chimney Gulch trail head was here.

The pull off On 6th Avenue to start the trail

The pull off On 6th Avenue to start the trail

Starting out on Chimney Gulch

Starting out on Chimney Gulch

The first mile just starts climbing up along the road and the neighborhood.  Before it gets steep, we came to this cement something or other that acted as a bridge over a little creek or drainage crossing.  I only mention it because there is also a path you can take over to your left which seems more likely but it is the neighborhood access trail, not the Chimney Gulch Trail.  So climb that cement thing and cross over, continuing up.

Drainage Crossing

Drainage Crossing

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On Saturday the trail was super muddy all through this section, with the wind blowing good and strong but strangely warm, we were sliding all over the place!

trail conditions on the first half of Chimney Gulch

trail conditions on the first half of Chimney Gulch

After the first mile you come up to a dirt road/driveway… more likely driveway, go left and look on your right and you will see the continuation of the trail.

Me at the Driveway break with the sign Aaron made for my backpack advertising my blog...isn't he sweet!?!

Me at the Driveway break with the sign Aaron made for my backpack advertising my blog…isn’t he sweet!?!

go left when you get here

go left when you get here

Trail picks up again on the right

Trail picks up again on the right

This next section of the trail goes for 1.5 miles and crosses over a true paved road 2 times.  This is a windy mountain road that I assume ultimately goes to the top of lookout mountain too, but you have to watch out for both cars and bikers.  It was pretty slick from snow/ice, we did have to put on traction devices to help us walk through it safely about a half a mile in.  We must have hit at the right time or the wind and clouds kept everyone at bay, because we had most of the way up to ourselves.

Crossing the road to get to the second section of Chimney Gulch

Crossing the road to get to the second section of Chimney Gulch

Icy conditions

Icy conditions

Views are changing

Views are changing

At the second Road crossing you come to this very picturesque parking lot with a great view of mountains and beautiful stonework.  This is the Windy Saddle Trailhead and parking lot where the one port-o-potty is.  From here it is just over a mile to the Lookout Mountain Nature Center and top of the mountain.

As we climb up to the Windy Saddle Trailhead

As we climb up to the Windy Saddle Trailhead

Windy Saddle Parking lot

Windy Saddle Parking lot

Windy Saddle

Windy Saddle Trail

Windy Saddle Trail

I am not sure exactly when it moved in, but about half way up this final climb, clouds encompassed the top of the mountain and all views evaporated.  Don’t get me wrong, the cloud and fog brought its own beauty to the hike, but I have no good summit shots for you.  Instead of ohhing  and ahhing at Golden down below, we hit the Nature Center talked to the people running it that and found out that Boettcher Mansion was open to the public right that minute for wedding reception tours.  I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to check that out so we walked through there too.  I am sure the views are spectacular here  but the clouds just got thicker.  The house was hauntingly beautiful in all the fog.

Take the Lookout Mt Trail

Take the Lookout Mt Trail

Trail Conditions on Lookout Mt Trail

Trail Conditions on Lookout Mt Trail

At the Top of Lookout Mountain

At the Top of Lookout Mountain

Nature Reserve

Nature Reserve

Inside Nature Reserve

Inside Nature Reserve

Boettcher Mansion

Boettcher Mansion

We made a super quick descent because it was cold up in the clouds!  There were way more people out on the trail now and much of the ice that caused problems on the middle 1.5 miles was melting at a good pace.

On the way down

On the way down

I will tell you I am not very fond of the first mile of this hike, it is kind of boring and your views are of houses with some of Golden spread out below you.  But once we got to that second part, the surroundings totally changed and it was all trees, mountains and terrain which was all lovely.  I think if we do this one again, I would start at the first road crossing on the second section of Chimney Gulch.   I am not sure how to get to that road but I think  it is the light just south of the turn off for the first section.   If you find yourself in Golden CO and need a good diversion, check this hike out, I think you will like it.  My Favorite Pictures from the hike will be after the directions.

Directions: Take 6th Ave West from Denver to Golden for about 12 miles. About ¼ mile before the 6th Ave/Route 58/Route 93 intersection there will be an unmarked pullout on the left side of the road. Park here. You will see some single track leading up the mountain. Take this.

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My hiking adventures on 1/18 & 1/19/14

28 Jan

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My one goal this past weekend was just to make it above 9000Ft on our hike.  I had wanted to hit a new trail and then we got on I70 going west on a Saturday morning.  It was a parking lot even before Evergreen which is pretty bad.  With the traffic nightmare ahead of us, I just pulled off at Evergreen and hit Bergen Peak( Hike details here).  It gets above 9500Ft and is an excellent workout.  Can I tell you how nice it was to have the knowledge to switch hikes at the drop of a hat!  It was a proud moment for me.

Traffic with a view

Traffic with a view

The trail wasn’t too bad at all, yes there was snow and ice but not near the levels it was last spring or even this past fall.  In fact, it had less snow than Evergreen Mt the weekend before, which is just down the road from it.  It did still slow us down, that and hiking with our new backpacks on with some added weight made the whole hike take about 5 hours.  It felt great!  I was exhausted from the added intensity that snow brings to a hike.   Plus the day was almost perfect with beautiful blue skies and almost no wind.

Bergen Peak Trail conditions OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA pikes peak Denver

Oh and everyone must have been skiing, because we practically had it to ourselves until the last mile down.  A great day of hiking for sure.

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We felt very good Sunday morning and so suited back up and hit an easy 5 miles at South Valley Ranch.  I felt so good, in fact, I added 5 lbs to my backpack for Sunday’s hike which effectively made it suck.  Who knew 5 lbs would kill me like that!?!?!  I was like the little kid being dragged along with my head and shoulders hanging down the whole way.  And while Aaron was sweet enough to offer to take my extra weight, I refused because how else am I going to get used to it if I just throw stuff in his pack when it starts to feel hard.  It made our quick 5 miles take a little longer then we hoped.

The day itself was AMAZING – 63 and sunny.  We were hiking in shorts and just our shirt.  Being on this trail on a nice day showed how insanely busy it gets.  We were hiking with 100 or more other people, while more were showing up all the time.

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Last Thursday I got to go to Seattle for a weekend of fun with my bestie Jason and his fiancé Molly, so no hike last weekend, but we plan to make up for it with 2 hikes again this weekend.  I need to get my altitude lungs back quick because on 2/8 is our all day guided snow shoe and I am crazy excited for it.

I am itching to get out and hike now, it is going to be a long week of work!

Get out there and hike if you can!

South Valley Ranch, Littleton CO hiked 1/4/14

8 Jan

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Swallow Trail>Coyote Trail> Parking lot:

Lowest Elevation: 6000 Ft

Highest elevation: 6000 Ft

Trail Length: 2.8 officially for one loop around, we did it 2 times for about 5.5-6 miles

Trail uses: Hiker

Degree of Difficulty:  Easy

Fees:  None

Bathrooms: Yes

Pets: Yes

trail condiitons

It was crazy>thinking those weather forecasters might have it right.  I laughed when Al Roker on the Today show said we would get 6-10 inches of snow on Saturday, because our weather people were saying trace amounts… maybe 2 inches on the front range at the most.  Plus it was like 62 degrees on Friday so how bad could it be?

Apparently way worse than I thought, especially for my civic. That was bad decision #1, taking my Civic and not our CRV.

The first trail we planned on was to get over 8000 Ft.  and along 70, which seemed impossible to get to about 10 minutes into the drive with terrible roads and pretty heavy snow fall.  I switched directions going south thinking it would be lighter… again based on our weather forecasters.  It was a slow but not bad drive and until I pulled on to the final road to the trail head, I got stuck  about 200 feet in.  Stupid decision #2, as it is a pretty steep uphill drive on a semi residential road that likely never gets plowed.  The deer 4 feet away from where we got stuck actually had looks of disdain on their faces clearly thinking “stupid human”

This super nice guy driving past asked if we were ok and I said um…. I think we are stuck.  He acted as a spotter while I drove down the road in reverse, taking advantage of gravity to get unstuck.  Thank goodness for physics! When we got back on the road he seriously offered to drive us up to where we needed to go.  How nice is that!?!?!?  We didn’t take him up on his offer but instead hit South Valley Ranch  on the road back towards home, a park  I honestly thought I would never hike.

South Valley Ranch is a pretty easy hike with a simple 2.5 mile loop and almost no elevation gain, but the parking lot is totally flat and on the same level as the road for a hopefully easy out.  AKA perfect in bad weather for a low clearance Civic.

South Valley Ranch Trail map

South Valley Ranch Trail map

As we bundled up, I was super stressed about not being able to get out ever (drama queen) and thinking who do I know that lives close to here that I could hike to if we get stuck.  In case you’re wondering, I have 2 friends a few miles away we could have hiked to if necessary.

The trail starts out on the right of the parking lot, even with the snow it seemed pretty wide and level.  In just .4 miles you hit the first trail break and we decided to go left, it is a simple loop so left or right is about the same.  The first time through we could actually see Lockheed Martin and the community directly North of the park plus some of the mountains south of us on the trail.  The snow was surprisingly deep too, like 3-4 inches, stupid weather people.

We went left here

We went left here

It was actually a lovely hike and we had it mostly to ourselves, I guess others were making smarter decisions about going out in the bad weather then I was.   We came up to this other trail break where, if the weather was better I think we could have taken it all the way to Deer Creek Canyon.

We went right onto Swallow Trail

We went right onto Swallow Trail

trail condiitons

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It is not too far to the 2nd parking lot which actually had more cars than I expected.

2nd Parking lot

2nd Parking lot

Picnic Area by the 2nd parking lot

Picnic Area by the 2nd parking lot

We just went up and past this cute picnic area, I suspect in better weather employees from Lockheed Martin spend a lot of time over here.

From here we came to the Coyote Song Trail which looks like it goes further north and perhaps up along the hogbacks.  I think another time we might have explored further but for this hike  we just did the simple loop.

coyote trail

Taking the Coyote trail back to the car

trail condiitions

We came across one more trail spike that looked intriguing but again just stayed on the loop.

Lyons back back toithe parking lot

The Loop the first time around was interesting, with the snow giving a nice challenge to an otherwise  easy trail.  We got back to the car at exactly 1 hour and we stopped a few times to adjust stuff.  We did a quick survey of the car to see how much snow had fallen in that hour and decided to go around again.  As we topped the one climb in the beginning, the snow increased significantly.  We could no longer see Lockheed Martin or the Neighborhood to the north we saw on the first loop, then I noticed that our foot prints from the first time around had a lot of snow in it.   I drama queened it up and practically ran the second loop, worried I would get stuck again.  We worked up a crazy sweat and there were even less people the second time around.  We finished in just 45 minutes, thankfully  got the car out and home, no problem.

The park reminded m e a lot of  Fountain Valley Trail ( hike details here) at Roxborough, even the way the huge rocks were shaped along the trail.  I have gotten over my disinterest towards this hike, it would be great place to try cross-country skiing out and a good easy hiking day location, with doing more loops to extend your workout.  On this day the weather helped increase its loveliness but I suspect on sunny days the views  might be a little boring and it is totally exposed so sunblock it up.  I am willing to give this open space another shot, we may even do it this Sunday to get 2 hikes in this weekend… who knows!

Directions:

Main Trailhead: 90 South Valley Road, Littleton.
From C-470, exit westbound on Ken Caryl Avenue. Turn left onto South Valley Road to the park’s north parking area.

South Trailhead: 12399 Deer Creek Canyon Road, Littleton. From South Platte Canyon Road (S. Wadsworth and C-470), take Deer Creek Canyon Road west to the smaller parking area.

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