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

25 Dec

1

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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