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Burning Bear Trail #601, Grant Co Snowshoed 4/19/14

25 Apr
Best View

Best View

Starting Elevation:  9627Ft

Highest Elevation:   10,708Ft is the highest we made it but the highest part of the hike is supposed to be 10,740 ft

Trail Length:  The full length of the trail round trip is a 13 miles to Hall Valley  Trailhead we made it just under 8 miles round trip almost to the ridge top which was supposed to be 7.4 miles round trip, we didn’t make it to the Ridge line.  It took us 5 hours.

Trail Uses: Hiker, Biker, Snowshoe, cross-country skiing, Horses

Degree of Difficulty:  Moderate to Difficult

Fees:  None

Bathrooms:  Not near this trailhead but we passed a few outhouses on the Road up….they looked scary going outside would be better.

Pets:  Yes on leash

Beginning views

Beginning views

Last Fall I found this random website that gave a whole bunch of trail names with no information on where, length, difficulty or elevation.  I wrote down a couple of pages of them, found a few details and last week was the first time I actually studied them.  I wanted something that got us over 10,000Ft and in studying them I found this particular trail.  It looked perfect for our goals, lots of mileage, possible 2000-ish feet total elevation gain, getting above 10k and possible awesome views.  The other great thing about the trail is every report I found, and there weren’t many of them, said there was low to no traffic.  The only thing I wasn’t sure of was if we would need snowshoes or not… the week had been really warm and sunny so I figured if we needed them, it would only be to get over the ridge to get to that last 1.5 miles to the turnaround point.  When the news was reporting from Vail on Friday, there was no snow at the lower elevations which was about where we would be starting so I figured if we carried the snowshoes it would at least help me with my strength building for backpacking.

Saturday we got up early and started our almost 2 hour drive to the trailhead, the weather called for possible light rain in the AM, with thunderstorms starting around 2PM so I wanted to make sure we had enough time to finish before those possible thunderstorms started.  You have to park .2 miles past the trailhead.

Parking lot

Parking lot

Walking back to the trailhead

Walking back to the trailhead

The trail is immediately off of Park County Road 62 :

thru the gate Trail sign

It starts out really well-defined and marked, we took just 5-10 minutes to get to this bridge.

Trail in teh beginning cross the bridgecrossing geneva creek

The creek was beautiful and at first the snow was not a big deal, we went along our way for about 20 minutes before the first posthole.   Through the trees the postholing was minimal and the views were lovely.

DSCN1398 DSCN1400creek n meadow

We saw our first trail marker before the meadow of our downfall

This marker is how you follow the trail

This marker is how you follow the trail

We  got to this meadow with the next trail sign and the postholing was epic, the last one went above my knee and I hoped Aaron wouldn’t break through when he came over to help me out.  Then we shuffled to the most stable spot we could find and put on our snowshoes, just a little more than half mile from the trailhead.

meadow  of snowshoe

It was much easier going with our snowshoes one, the trail skirts this huge meadow for around a mile when there is supposed to be a trail break  left takes you to the ridge( Our destination) or further.  While right takes you around the meadow back to Guanella Pass Road (Park CO 62).   We noticed lots of old tracks heading left 5-6 times looking for the right path.  You really need to follow the meadow for about a mile, maybe a little more with the trees on the left.  Once the trail reached the trees we went left, saw a marker and knew we were on the correct path.  We were also now thoroughly in the trees with a nice slow climb.

thru the trees

It was in this section we passed this tepee, it made me wonder under what circumstances it was built because it had to take some time to gather all those trees.

tree tepee

From here we wove over and around the creek.


Along the Creek

Along the Creek

The snow was pretty deep the whole way and just before we hit the second meadow, it disappeared for maybe a tenth of a mile.

Oh that is what the trail looks like

Oh so that is what the trail looks like

Second Meadow before the  Sun came out

Second Meadow before the Sun came out

The cabin ruins aren’t too far past this second meadow, about half a mile.  Most people turn around here from what I read and from the tracks we saw, no one went past in a long time.


The trail goes past the cabin and then climbs steeply up switch backs to the ridge.  The sun also came out strong and bright, which was lovely but super snow destabilizing warm.  We decided it was too pretty not to continue on and we felt good, like another mile or so wouldn’t be so bad.

A lot of the blueish gray markers had fallen down at this point so we used the notches to keep us on track

A lot of the plastic markers had fallen down at this point so we used the notches to keep us on track

This last mile was a struggle, in hind sight I should have called it much sooner, my legs become jello so much sooner in snowshoes and while we knew we had to be right at the ridge at 3.75 miles, the trail just continued to climb up as far as we could see.  We had two issues to consider… first we knew that while skies were blue, the clouds hanging out were definitely of the thunder storm variety and with the conditions of my legs at this point meant a fast escape if the weather changed wouldn’t be likely.

Just us with 4ish feet of snow at the turnaround point

Just us with 4ish feet of snow at the turnaround point

We turned around and headed back down, I fell 3 times in awesome fashion.  Then we got to that second meadow closest to the cabin and the effects of the sun made me bummed I didn’t turn us around sooner…. ever posthole with snowshoes on…. EXHAUSTING.  Our quick return was suddenly stalled and after an hour of it I was moving very slow when we finally got to that first meadows the views were spectacular.

Looking back from where we came from OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I will tell you this last half  mile or so was painfully long, but I wouldn’t stop moving because we could see the storm coming.  As we finally got back to the bridge and took off our snow shoes, the first drops started  falling which turned into an immediate downpour.  We tried to run but our legs were just toast, fortunately we made it to the car before the sleet started.  Almost perfect timing and despite our exhaustion we were also exhilarated, so worth every bruise I woke up with on Sunday.


I loved this trail, the views, the forest climb, the meadows, the creek and everything else.  I cannot wait to get back when there is no snow and make it to the ridge, hopefully further.

I hope whatever your weekend has in store for you, it involves getting out there and hiking!!!

Directions:  From Bailey  drive west on 285 for 10.8 miles to Grant.  Turn right on Park county Road #62( Sometimes called the Guanella pass road) and drive 4.9 miles to the trailhead at a turn in the road.  There is a sign and a gate on the left (North) side of the road at the trailhead.  Parking is available .2 miles further at the parking for Abyss Lake Trail.

Ben Tyler Trail #606 – 3rd time is NOT the charm! 5/25/13

26 May
The best view from the top

The best view from the top

Ahh how we are gluttons for punishment!  This past week was another perfect, warm week in Denver and as a result we convinced ourselves that we would try Ben Tyler ( Hike Details here) this weekend in hopes the snow was manageable enough to make it to the top.  I cannot tell you how desperate I am getting to see the top of this hike and so the hike started out almost perfect plus we heard other hikers talk about the peak as if it was clear.  We started up the switchbacks pretty optimistic and as we took in the view around the 2nd or 3rd traverse we started to wonder….

Optimistic start....but I spy snow

Optimistic start….but I spy snow

We were making great time and so far the snow was nowhere to be seen even as we crossed the creek the first time:

2 weeks ago snow was all around this crossing

2 weeks ago snow was all around this crossing

When the trail turned into a creek on its own, we were pretty psyched because we were certain it meant the top was ours this time.  Not to mention that at this point 2 weeks ago we were almost up to our knees in snow.

This is actually the trail with our own little creek occasionally

This is actually the trail with our own little creek occasionally

We didn’t even see our first patch of snow until we got to the point we turned around just 2 weeks ago, we were crazy excited we were moving at a good pace seeing beautiful sites and reaching the end of the of the Aspen grove.  That meant we were getting really close to the last stretch of trail before the top.

When we first started, we were soundly passed by that group of hikers talking about conditions at the top.  It was probably about a mile after our turnaround point last time that we ran back into them….coming down….dejected, ugh! Their words, huge wall of snow blocking the trail about 20 minutes up the trail.  This group was lovely and gave great advice, one of the gentleman said he had never seen it this bad this late in the year and he had been hiking here for years!  We got to their turnaround point and did something I am completely against….we went off trail.   We didn’t get far but far enough to realize that we were chasing a dream at this point.  After a valiant effort we threw in the towel again, not before I took an epic fall that made the most beautiful colors on my calf and left butt cheek, mostly my left cheek.  When I slipped and fell on the rock hiding under the snow my leg actually went immediately numb for about 30 seconds, I knew it was a bad sign.  It kept waking me up last night when I tried turning over but didn’t stop our hike today so I will chalk it up to just a bad fall with a deep tissue bruise as a result.

The best part of Colorado this time of the year was that it was in the 50’s the whole time and we were in shorts, shorts and gators eventually but mostly shorts.  I am becoming more sure every day that we are living in Heaven on earth.  Before I put up our favorite pictures from the hike, does any one know what kind of bird this is?  It was pretty flirty with us and posing like crazy:

What kind of bird is this, anyone?

What kind of bird is this, anyone?

Fingers crossed that next time we see Kenosha pass.

It was hard to resist not trying harder... the view of where we are trying to go

It was hard to resist not trying harder… the view of where we are trying to go

shorts n gators

shorts n gators

Ugh 3+ ft of unstable snow....

Ugh 3+ ft of unstable snow….

Pretty Cactus Flowers

Pretty Cactus Flowers


Ben Tyler Trail #606-Pike National forest. 2nd attempt failed- 5/11/13

12 May
The view of our destination from the beginning

The view of our destination from the beginning

When we kind of stubbornly decided we were going to do Ben Tyler Trail (hike details here) this weekend, I knew deep down there was no way in hell we would make it to the top……. AGAIN.  It is really close to Kenosha Pass and one of the areas that probably got 4-5 feet of snow over the last month and then this week we had rain all week which meant snow storms up high, but still we got up insanely early and headed out to this trail.

A little closer the curve of the mountain to the middle right is where we are trying to get to.

A little closer the curve of the mountain to the middle right is where we are trying to get to.

At the beginning of the hike we were really optimistic, the trail conditions were straight up awesome and the weather was perfect.  I mean check out that sky, have you ever seen a more perfect color blue!

No gators yet

No gators yet

About a mile or so in, the snow really was taking over and we were trying to not comment about how deep it was starting to get.  There was only one other set of foot prints in front of us and honestly we were really hoping it was someone who had made it to the top.   We saw him jogging down not long before we crossed the stream for the first time and we were so excited he was actually there today (and not the day before) that we forgot to ask how far up he made it.

Crossing the creek

Crossing the creek

It wasn’t too far after this that we saw where the runner turned around, headed back and then we realized that it was time for gators.  I picked up some new ones at a great price and I am so glad they arrived before this hike because I needed them today.

Gator time

Gator time

Snow is getting higher

Snow is getting higher

At least the views made the snow not such a big deal

At least the views made the snow not such a big deal

We honestly didn’t take that many pictures and when we did, these are all with my iPhone or our Olympus tough camera not our canon, but the day was so beautiful I think it would have been hard to take a bad picture.

iPhone - Aaron's favorite from the hike

iPhone – Aaron’s favorite from the hike

After we saw where the runner turned around, it was just us blazing the trail through the snow.  Which we love but man was it a workout, first a foot, then 2 and 3 when finally we got to the trail marker around 10,000 feet up.

hmm it is getting worsefav 6

We were huffing and puffing all through here still feeling good so we continued forward although we knew that it was unlikely we could get all that much further. It was actually getting warmer, the snow was getting deeper and more unstable yet we still had hope that we might make it up a little higher or that the snow would be a little less but finally we had to admit….the snow was too much.


Before we took these pictures, Aaron slid down almost to his waist, for like a second we wanted to try to go further and try too hard to make it to the top.  But the clouds were really moving in and the reality that the snow was not going down at all hit us.  We turned around and started heading back, as I have begun to learn going down is not as easy as I once thought it was, the temperature had started raising and the snow was melting pretty quickly.  Only from the bottom up or so it seemed, the stress to our knees was intense.

the way back is not so great

the way back is not so great

The hardest part of heading down before we wanted too, was that the clouds almost disappeared and the sky turned this intense amazing blue that made us wish we hadn’t turned around ( even though it was the right decision) because the views on a day like yesterday would have been unbelievable.  I cannot wait to make it to the top one day and we will!

Seriously blue with my iPhone no less

Seriously blue with my iPhone no less

I feel like I had never seen this color blue in nature until I moved here and now I cannot get enough.


In the end we managed to get to a little over 8 miles of hiking with a total elevation gain of 1700ft but it took us 5 hours round trip. One stupid feeling of awesomeness hit us on the way back, there was another pair of foot prints in the snow that suddenly appeared but they turned around at least half a mile or more before we did.  We got to the parking lot as they were finishing up their de-clothing post hike ritual, 2 guys younger and in better shape than us the look on their faces when they realized we went further than them was priceless.  We could almost read their lips “like seriously they beat us”, it felt crazy great!

We just loved the views too much and our favorite pictures got out of control so forgive me.




fav 18fav 19

Waterton Canyon, Littleton 1/12/13

12 Jan
A view of the mountains along the canyon

A view of the mountains along the canyon

Waterton Canyon/ The Colorado Trail Segment 1:

Starting elevation:  5550 Ft

Highest Elevation: 5721 Ft ( total gain of 171 ft but strangely I got 90 flight of stairs on my fitbit….)

Trail Length: We did a total trip of 8.5 miles, 4.25 in and back.  This is a trail with endless possibilities given it is part of the Colorado Trail all the way to Durango ( approx. 500 total miles).  One day I would like to connect with the Carpenters Peak Trail in Roxborough State park or better yet do a multiple day hike on the Colorado trail…..

Trail Uses: Hiker, Biker and horses.

Degree of Difficulty:  EASY

Bathrooms: Yes and plentiful.  However this is a heavily populated trail in spring, summer and fall so it might not hurt to have a roll of toilet paper along for the journey just in case one of the many restrooms along the trail is out when you have need to use it.

Pets: Dogs are NOT allowed because there are actually herds of long horned sheep in this canyon.

Waterton canyon Map and rules

Waterton canyon Map and rulesOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After my crud finally let up last Sunday-ish, I was able to start working out again.  It was a slow week and I only got in about half of my usual workouts or working out time.  I knew my lungs and body weren’t up to too much so I decided an old standby was in order.  Waterton Canyon is very easy, when we started getting into shape last March this would often be our second hike in a weekend and then it would be our easy hike.  There is almost no elevation gain but you can make it LLLOOOONNNGGG.  Plus it is close to Denver and one of Aaron’s favorite features is that we can walk side by side ( he still likes to hold my hand occasionally, I am such a lucky girl!).  The trail itself is the width of an almost 2 lane dirt road and every time I have walked, at least 2 cars have driven up it.  Mostly the Denver Water treatment people as it runs along the Platte River and eventually to one of the reservoirs that is part of the Denver water system.   While it is insanely crowded almost every time I have used it on a weekend day, today was a bitterly cold day which is actually unusual in the Denver area, so we were almost completely alone the whole hike.  My first January/February here it actually averaged around 60 -70 degrees a day, sure it would go down to 20-ish at night but who cares, it was 70 in January during the day!  Today though it started out at a bitter 1 degree and a wind chill of -13….when we started it had warmed up to 11 with a wind chill of -1 and when we finished 3 hours later it had only gone up just 2 degrees.  Needless to say, we bundled up the most we have to date and did not peel off one layer for the duration of the hike.

The first mile is partially paved and a little industrial, which makes it Aaron’s least favorite of all the hikes we have done so far.

Water treatment pipes for Denver Water

Water treatment pipes for Denver Water

After these pipes the only industrial aspects are the various dams and river crossings you could work your way through.  The restrooms seem to hit between 1-2 miles apart which gives you a lot of options, I did feel bad for the scantily clad runner who had to wait for me today while I pulled all my layers back up during one of my pit stops….


These picnic/rest areas also having learning signs to help newbies learn about the wildlife in the area, which was incredibly helpful to us in the beginning.

Black Bear Information

I love it because surprisingly, there is the opportunity to see a ton of wildlife along this trail.  I have walked through a huge herd of mule deer, long horned sheep and a family of beautiful red foxes before.  My girlfriend said one day she even saw a black bear on one of the mountainsides.  Don’t even get me started on all the varieties of birds that hang out around here.  In this way it is a very special trail and one every Coloradoan should check out.  Today we saw a few mule deer and one beautiful long horned sheep, a ram.  Unfortunately, we only brought our tough Olympus cameras because of the extreme cold, so our limited zoom made it impossible to capture them from today but here is a picture of a herd of long horned sheep I caught in April a few years ago.

Long Horned sheep

Today we walked up a little past the main dam, I only call it the main dam as when someone asks you if you made it to the dam, this is the one they are talking about even though you pass a smaller one earlier…. it is about 3.1 miles up

The dam

We actually walked almost to where you cross over the river, but the wind picked up and we had been in shadows for a while by this point it was getting COLD so at 4.25 miles we turned around.

Ice forming on the Platte river

The trail after we turned around....

The trail after we turned around….

It took us longer then we expected, about 3 hours, when we have cleared 12 miles in 3.5 hours in the past on this trail.  The cold was an unexpected factor to Aaron’s blood sugar, the poor guy was eating sugar every 15 minutes for more than half the hike and still we had to stop a lot to wait for it to rise. We have learned a lot over the past 10 months on how to manage it at different altitudes but the cold was a new wrinkle.  He is such a trooper and kept at it until he felt better.  Being a type 1 diabetic has added challenges we never thought we would have to work through, but I am so thankful it has brought us closer together and taught us so much about ourselves and each other.  I don’t mention it much because it is still relatively new and painful for us but one of the side effects for us of moving to Denver was that it triggered that type 1 diabetes gene in Aaron so at 32 we had to learn a new way of life.  His sister is also a type 1 diabetic so it wasn’t completely foreign, but it has been incredibly hard.   He is amazing in his determination to make it work and continue to do the things he loves, but he goes through a lot every single hike and so do I…… If you know a type 1 diabetic, hug them ….hard, what they have to go through on any given day  for the weirdest reasons is awful but they keep on keeping on.  This week the barometric pressure was changing quickly and for no reason he almost passed out in a meeting with his coworkers because it shifted, imagine doing everything he could to stay at a good blood sugar only to have the weather make it harder for you.  It is freaky to be on the other side of that, fortunately the one blessing is once his blood sugar goes extremely high or low he often has no memory of what happens, if only I could get that same blessing…..

Kathy n Aaron at the DamA super cold Kathy and Aaron

Any-who, I digress.  This hike is a great gateway hike to help you figure out if hiking Colorado is for you and a great way to build stamina.  Like I said before, most of the time there are a zillion people out here and the huge parking lot on those days is hardly enough, so come early.

Directions:   From Denver, take I70 West to C470. Take C470 East to the Wadsworth Boulevard exit. Go south (right turn) off this exit and travel about 4.2 miles. Turn left onto Waterton Road and the parking lot will be about 0.2 miles on your left. It is a big open parking lot and is hard to miss.

Ben Tyler Trail #606 – Pike National Forest 12/1/12

2 Dec

Our Goal- I think

Ben Tyler Trail #606

Starting Elevation: Approximately 8300Ft

Highest Elevation:  Approximately 11,700Ft ( total gain would have been 3400ft) ….Unfortunately we only made it to just shy of 11,oooFt, we think

Trail Length: 11.5 miles officially but since I left my fitbit at home I have no idea what it would have tracked.  In the end we only made it 9-10 miles due to altitude sickness.

Trail Uses:  Hiking & Horses….No Bikes

Degree of Difficulty:  Difficult – a long in and out with a big altitude gain

Bathrooms: None  and I mean none anywhere close so glad I got over issue with being one with mother nature a few months ago because it would have been awful!!!!!  There is a nice gas station in Bailey as you leave town a Loaf and Jug on the right of 285, use it on the way in and way out if that is something you need.  Otherwise be prepared with ziplock baggies, TP, hand sanitizer and all their glory…..

Fees: None but you do have to register for a free permit at the trailhead. Which would be easy if there were any blank permits…I kinda got the feeling the National Forest Ranger hadn’t been there since September the box was full with filled out permits.  I picked a permit from August and then put my information in with today’s date, mostly because of the time of year we were hiking but I did also have my hiking Emergency Contact fully aware of all of our details.

To be honest we had fallen out of preparedness to do hikes this high but I guess I didn’t really think this through.  My only thoughts were, I need to get re-energized on my life change and I saw pictures of the hike from last weekend with little to no snow showing.  This is pretty unusual this high up and at this time of year so I figured a few amazing views of spectacular mountains would remind me that in order to keep seeing these things I need to be at a healthier weight and stronger.   So I pretty willfully planned doing this hike today.

TrailheadPermit boxTrail sign

We got to the trailhead at 7:30AM, mostly because I was worried at how long it would take us to complete 12-ish miles with a 3400 FT elevation gain, from what I had read it could take between 5-10 hours.  It is inclines fast on these initial switchbacks and then flattens out until the creek.

beginning trailLost Creek Wilderness Pike National Forest

About a 1.5 miles in the trail has an option to go either over the creek or stay straight.  Stay straight, in a half a mile the trail will cross the creek at this second point.  This is the route you want to be on.

1st river crossingStay Straight at first creek crossing2nd creek crossing

The next 2 miles go through the most amazing Aspen grove I have ever seen, it is over 3000 acres large and here the grade got pretty steep as we climbed to our goal.

Aspen GroveAspen Grove to the other mountain

As we climbed out of the Aspen grove, the views started to really open up, unfortunately so did the dizziness….

View ove 10k close to the treeline

While we climbed through the first 2 miles we were right on track at 2 miles an hour, when we go to this point I saw it had taken another 2 hours to go just 2-3 miles…… I am guessing here, but I think we were really close to the next trail break which is at 11,000Ft and almost 5 miles.  I kept stopping Aaron and making him wait while I dealt with my dizziness really slowing us down.  Then he checked his blood sugar (He is a type 1 diabetic) unfortunately he was REALLY high, but the real problem was that he thought he was really low because he was having vertigo with visual issues.  Needless to say, we made the decision to turnaround at that point, as a result no fun pictures other than those I took of trail specs with my iPhone.  We immediately went down as quickly as we could and then drank as much water as was possible.  It was a first for us and as we slowly went down battling our nausea and dizziness, I realized everything I had done wrong.

When we were doing trails this high a few months ago, I very carefully planned each hike to climb one week a little higher and then the next week going just below that, building until we  ended  with our first 13,000+ foot peak, Mt. Flora.  But up to this hike, the past 5-8 hikes had all been around or below 8300Ft.  It was the first failure in a really long time, 6 months in fact, and it hurt both literally and figuratively…..

Honestly this trail was amazing and this is way off-season.  There was only one other couple we saw in 6 hours of hiking, but again this is off-season for hiking it the best time to hike it is late spring/summer and fall.  Really I bet in Fall this is the gem you can’t miss doing with that 3000 acre Aspen grove…. we are so doing this again and I hope soon.

Directions:  From Denver, drive South on U.S. 285 and when you get to Bailey, the trailhead is just under 7 miles further on the left (South) side of U.S. 285.  The parking lot is small and maybe looks more like a shoulder , it can’t hold more than 10 cars so get there early – well only during the busier times now come when you want!

Cool TreeKS n AL