Tag Archives: Boulder

Pawnee Pass Trail – Brainard Lake Recreation Area, Ward CO 8/24/13

27 Aug

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Pawnee Pass Trail

Starting Elevation:  10,500 Feet

Highest Elevation:  12,550 Feet ( total elevation gain approx. 2200 feet)

Trail Length:  9.2 miles, my pedometer said we got around 10.5 miles but we did venture around quite a bit, It took us about 5.5 hours total

Trail Uses:  Hiker only

Degree of DIfficulty:  Moderate difficult given distance & altitude

Bathrooms:  At every parking lot in the Brainard Lake Recreation Area and beautifully taken care of…. Best Vault toilets we have used to date

Pets:  Yes, dogs on leash only, there is a well posted $125 fine if your dog is not on a leash and lots of rangers around to enforce it.  The first trail ever where all the dogs were actually leashed.

Fees: Yes – $10 for 3 days in a car, $1 for a person walking or biking in and $55 for Season pass ( May- Nov).

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I have had this hike on my wish list for some time, its elevation is ideal for getting back up to 14K but with our snowy spring it was taken off my getting ready list in April.  Since I have found myself in this readjusting phase in hopes of getting in one more 14er before the season is done, I figured it was the perfect weekend to check it out.   I can tell you it did not disappoint.

We got to The Brainard Lake Recreation area right at 7AM and honestly it was almost too late to secure a parking spot, we got one of the last 2 in the parking lot at the trailhead.  This park is unique in that you can only park in designated parking and so lots of people were hiking to the trailhead from other parking lots in the recreation area.   Make sure when you go, you go early, as we were driving out at 1PM almost every parking lot was full except the last one by the entrance.  There is so much more to the park then these set of trails and it made me want to plan a May- November where I get the annual pass and just explore every hike in the park.

Plus I saw my first moose!  It was huge, I mean like gianormous,  and like every other idiot that sees something for the first time I stopped right next to it so we could get a picture and then later realized how lucky I was that the moose was not too put off about it.

Moose out the back window

Moose out the back window

Getting on the path was easy, it was really well-marked  throughout and we started moving through pretty quickly.  I had read that it is worth it to take the .2 mile detour and see the views from Long Lake right at the beginning, great advice!  It was stunning even with our overcast skies.  If you find yourself on this hike, go over and see the view from Long Lake.

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Start of the hike

Start of the hike

.2 miles on the Jean Lunning Trail to see the views from Long Lake

.2 miles on the Jean Lunning Trail to see the views from Long Lake

From here we got back on Pawnee Pass trail and enjoyed the lovely surroundings, which was thick with Pine, fir and Englemann Spruce it was so beautiful and serene.  Some the of trees were so huge around, well the ones that were downed seemed like the largest ones I have seen outside the Redwood forest.  I am also falling in love with old tree stumps, this part of the trail was like a gallery of tree stumps in their beautiful stages of decay or deterioration.

Get back on the Pawnee Pass Trail

Get back on the Pawnee Pass Trail

Trail Conditions along Long Lake to Isabelle Lake

Trail Conditions along Long Lake to Isabelle Lake

At  2 miles in we came up to Lake Isabelle and the Isabelle Glacier Trail.  The views from the trailhead of the Indian Peaks surrounding Lake Isabelle were, no surprise here, amazing!  but the lake itself was disappointing.  I didn’t find out the details, it did look like they were certainly doing some work on the lake and I don’t know if that meant they had to drain it or what so it was a little sad-looking when all the other lakes we passed looked pretty good.

Lake Isabelle OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We took the trail break up to the Pawnee Pass and the next 1.1 miles is probably the hardest of the whole hike as we climbed up a series of switchbacks to a natural Bench above Lake Isabelle.  It was perfect… and windy.  As we got to the last little climb the trail does get close to the rocky cliffs above Lake Isabelle so note to those who are uncomfortable heights, this is a tight spot.

There are a couple of Water crossing on this part

There are a couple of water crossings on this part

Climbing to the Bench

Climbing to the Bench

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Next, is a little respite as we walked across the bench to the final climb up to the pass.  It looked really tough but as we started the next series of switchbacks up, it was surprisingly easy and the actual grade was not that bad, the trail was beautifully planned out.  Before we knew it we had made it to the pass….. and then our teeth started chattering.  Even though it was in the 90’s in Denver, it felt like a very brisk and windy 40 at 12,550ft, we were freezing and were so glad we over prepare for every single hike with winter gear in our packs.  I guess the mountains are moving to Fall even though we are still nice an toasty at 5600ft.

Last climb

Looking up at the last climb to the pass

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At the pass you can easily take the trail and summit Pawnee Peak ( 12,943Ft) but we didn’t.  We were worried about the clouds coming up and the wind was REALLY strong, but walking North-Northwest from the pass sign gave us amazing views of everything on the side of the pass.  It was hard to head back down after just 30 minutes but we did, I know that we will do this hike again and next time summit Pawnee peak.

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The trail past the Pawnee Pass sign to Pawnee Peak and more

Pawnee Pass SIgn

Pawnee Peak

Pawnee Peak

People on Pawnee Peak

People on Pawnee Peak

Looking back South East from the Pass sign

Looking back South East from the Pass sign

Seeing the trail from above

Seeing the trail from above

I am starting to look at trails differently because there is so much more we walk away from each time we head back.  I can tell that the next logical step for me is backpacking to get days of views and see the total picture.  Each hike ends too quickly and even though I know I can’t go further, I want too.

It was cool to see where we were going at Long Lake and then to be totally surprised when we got there at how different the top looked.  I mean I know we do it all the time but this hike was different because it was so laid out in a series of steps that led to a beautiful surprise finish.  I hope one day you check this hike out, like so many hikes in Colorado, it is pretty amazing!  After the directions to the hike are my favorite pictures.

Directions:  Take 36 through Boulder and from Broadway( north-end of Boulder) continue 4.8 miles to Left Hand Canyon Rd( 94) turn Left.  At 5.2 miles you will need to turn left to stay on Left Hand Canyon Rd.  Stay on this for 11.6 miles through the town of Ward to the Peak to Peak Highway ( Colorado 72).  Turn right onto 72 and then Immediately left into the Brainard Lake Recreation Area.

Looking North towards Monarch Lake

Looking North towards Monarch Lake

Views at the Bench above Lake Isabelle

Views at the Bench above Lake Isabelle

More Bench views

More Bench views

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Bear Peak Via Fern Canyon, Boulder CO 6/1/13

4 Jun
View of the North Front Range From Bear Peak

View of the North Front Range From Bear Peak

Walter Orr Robert Trail> Mesa> Fern Canyon> Bear Peak Trail> Bear Canyon Trail> Mesa Trail> Walter Orr Robert Trail @NCAR

Starting Elevation:  6104

Highest Elevation: 8461 ( with some up s and downs we had a total Elevation gain of a little more than 2600 feet)

Trip Length: Officially it is anywhere from 7.5 to 9 miles depending on what trip information you can find, we were pretty close to 9 mile

Trail Uses:  Hiker and Joggers- no bikes

Pets:  Dogs are allowed but from Fern Canyon to Bear Canyon Leash only.  For the Mesa Trail as long as they have the Boulder green tag for voice command, they can be off leash.

Fees:  None

Degree of Difficulty: Difficult

Bathrooms:  None that I could find….although it looked like during regular business hours the lobby of NCAR could be used.  We didn’t check to see if regular business hours included Saturday and Sunday.  Sadly we discovered not many people practice leave no trace on this trail…

VIews west from the summit of Bear Canyon

Views west from the summit of Bear Canyon

I have wanted to do this hike for a while, unfortunately much of it was effected last spring/summer when the back part of it caught fire during our horrible wild fire season. I kept checking periodically for when sections would reopen and then last weekend my hiking super hero Wendy did it and said that at least one of the ways were open again.  Since the Continental Divide got hammered with enough snow on Wednesday and Thursday that they close I70 at the Eisenhower Tunnel in both directions Thursday morning, it was time to attempt this hike.  A lot of hikers use it to get in 14er shape when they can’t get altitude hikes in due to weather because it is an almost 2700 foot elevation gain overall and because we opted to go up Fern Canyon, most of that( about 2200Ft) would come in just the 2 miles to get to the top.  It was a great work out with great summit views!

Walter Orr Roberts TrailMap at trialheadTo Mesa from WOR

Lets talk trail, we opted to enter  at  NCAR( National Center of Atmospheric Research), which is easy to see from so many places in Boulder and the trail system is woven all around its ample parking lot.  We got there early at 6:30AM and good thing because we got a close parking spot to the trail head, when we got back to the car a little before 1 it was packed.  You drive right past the trail head as you pull into the parking lot, which we missed but as we walked west there is a huge rock with the trail name for the Walter Orr Robert Trail.  If in doubt of where it is, follow the road west out of the parking lot and it will be obvious as you get closer to the building.

Take this trail around and down to the Mesa trail, you can also make it a little more interesting up here by taking in all the signs and displays that NCAR has set up, we paid more attention to them on the way back because we were too excited when we first started to take extra time reading. You will end up taking the Mesa trail to the Fern Canyon  Trail head, most of the time you will turn left when given the option except when you get onto Fern Canyon that is a right turn off of the Mesa.  Everything is really well marked with area maps and signs as you go, because of this I decided to not post the trail markers.

The Fern Canyon trail is steep, it starts out harmless enough then gets really steep and really rocky.  In some places having poles didn’t help us and we would have to just use our hands to climb up, I am going to post a series of pictures of the different parts of the Fern Canyon trail so you can see how it changes as we made our way to the summit.

Early on Fern Canyon Trail

Early on Fern Canyon Trail

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Where the fire came over the ridge and close to the summit

Where the fire came over the ridge and close to the summit

Final approach to the summit

Final approach to the summit

Me at the summit

Me at the summit

When we got to the summit we actually took turns climbing up, it is climb that requires both hands and concentration.   There were a surprising number of hikers who didn’t even bother going up, they said that there is no point in going up as you can see everything good from the trail breaks.  Plus the way to Boulder peak is still closed because of the fire as is Shadow Canyon.  We had something to eat took a bunch of pictures and then headed down via Bear Canyon trail.

Bear Canyon Trail from the summit

Bear Canyon Trail from the summit

You head to the right and down from the summit climb, then you come to Shadow Canyon and the Bear Canyon trail heads as you can see the Shadow Canyon trail is still closed.  Go Right and down….

trail to bear canyon from summit

We once again put away our poles and used mostly our hands to get down, the first quarter-mile down is steep but not as steep as Fern Canyon.  Personally I feel like down is the harder part of a hike and so I wanted to take the less steep option down, this was not the norm on Saturday I have to say I was surprised.  The truth is I was the biggest person on this loop so maybe the stress of down on knees and ankles isn’t a concern to all the super healthy in shape people who passed us.  Bear Canyon is much less steep and after that first quarter-mile we made good time back to the car.  My knees ankles and feet were very thankful.

Looking back what we climbed down at the start of Bear Canyon

Looking back what we climbed down at the start of Bear Canyon Trail

The trail started leveling out and moved through more of the burn area, which was strangely beautiful with its blacks, golds and then bursts of green where the flowers were sprouting up.

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It took us a solid 3-3:30 hours to get up the mountain and just 2 hours to get down.  It was a lovely path and after we got out of the burn area, we got whiplash from all the flowers everywhere!  We really loved this hike and were super proud of ourselves with how well we did  on it.  My legs were a little shaky at the top but quickly recovered for the hike down.  I hope you try this one out some time, it is definitely strenuous so work up to it but so worth all the effort!  After the directions I will put my favorite pictures.

Directions:

From 36, take Table Mesa Drive west past Colorado 93 all the way until you get to a large parking lot for the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR).

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Boulder

Boulder

Eldora Ski Resort

Eldora Ski Resort

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kat n al

Green Mountain Boulder- Repeat hike 3/16/13

17 Mar
view at the top on 3/16/13

view at the top on 3/16/13

We had so much fun with Lauren and Anne last week and with the benefit of a surprise blizzard, their stay was unexpectedly extended which meant another day of fun for us.  That also meant no hike for us last weekend…. It hit me this week that the summer is fast approaching and our hikes need to get tougher if we want to do our first 14er so I decided that we needed a really good workout.  What I really wanted was a good butt killer and figured this weekend was a good one to revisit Green Mountain in Boulder, I had some problems in posting this one so there are 2 links to the original hike, first the specs and then the details of our assessment.  The other reason I wanted to hit this one was that the weather was calling for rain on Saturday but it had been moved to the early afternoon from first thing in the morning and a tough workout as quickly as we could manage  was in order .

We woke up extra early to make sure the hike would be mostly done before the rain which meant we were the first car in the parking lot.  I have to be honest, I was little worried that the trail would be too much for us not to mention that we  are starting to really get into spring, my Chicago brain was thinking so will this be the hike we see a bear?

Oh and the other big thing about this hike, it is exactly 1 year after we started on this journey.  Which means I needed to show my inner eater/fat girl I knew how to keep it moving for a whole year and beat the hell out of it!

We got out on the trail and started climbing right away…on ice and after like 100 yards we thought “ok time for crampons” and I kid you not, we put them on and walked just around the corner to no ice… no ice at all for like ever.  Off came the crampons, we moved onto heavy breathing and the butt workout we needed.

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The view from the non icy part in the beginning

The view from the non icy part in the beginning

There was no ice until we reached the Ranger trail break, got passed by a jogger at the start of more ice  and while we slid on ice we  saw only ice in the distance.  For the second time we put on crampons, walked a 100 yards and no more ice….. although this time there was actually more ice visible not far  up ahead.  I am so glad we didn’t take them off this time because the ice really never ended the rest of way up.

All ice all the time

All ice all the time

The interesting piece of climbing this part of the trail with all this ice and snow was that the it felt so much smaller than the first time we hiked it.  I was actually looking at the edge thinking hmmm I don’t remember it being so steep and I am comfortable with heights.  I didn’t even want to think about how Aaron was feeling who is actually uncomfortable with that part of hiking.

At the end of the day the hike was awesome again, because of the forecasted weather we had this hike almost to ourselves which was perfect mostly because I could breath heavy without fear of judgement by those insanely healthy people we saw the last time.

Here are our favorite pictures from the hike:

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Us at the top....it was really cold at the summit

Us at the top….it was really cold at the summit

The front range looked especially beautiful from the summit

The front range looked especially beautiful from the summit

Mesa Trail – Boulder Co Hiked 2/2/13

2 Feb
View at the start of the hike

View at the start of the hike

Bluebell Road > Mesa Trail

Starting Elevation:  5700Ft

Highest Elevation: 6482 Ft ( but the trail goes up and down the whole way like we covered  8 ascents and 9 descents, giving an overall elevation gain of 2600- ish for what we completed)  It is a great leg workout!

Trail Length:  Officially the Mesa trail is 6.7 miles from Chautauqua Park all the way south to the Southern trailhead just outside Eldorado Canyon State Park for 13.4 round trip and our goal was to do the whole trail round trip.  What we managed to hit was 5.7 one way, 11.4 miles round trip according to the map, but my fit bit said 6.5 miles.  So I am taking the middle of the road and saying we finished 12 miles today. It took us 5.50 hours 8AM-1:30PM to finish.

Trail Uses: Hiker, Running and I think horses….NO BIKES

Degree of Difficulty:  For the first time, Aaron and I cannot agree – my assessment moderate to difficult, Aaron’s = Moderate the book says easy

Bathrooms:  At each end North and South.  Otherwise this thing is insanely busy all year round so use good judgement…..unlike me

Pets:  Yes, but dogs must be either on leash or have the green tag indicating they passed the voice control test for Boulder.

Fees:  None!

View of the Front range from Bluebell Road

View of the Front range from Bluebell Road

We were feeling pretty awesome after last weeks hike and decided ambitious was the best way to jump into this weekend’s hike.  I picked this hike because it was long and while it is considered an easy trail, I think that rating is only given because if you do any one section it is easy compared to where you are going.  The Mesa Trail is the main artery along the Flat Irons of Boulder, it leads to the some of the best and hardest hikes on the front range.  It goes to Shadow Canyon, Fern Canyon, Bear Peak ( Closed due to fire damage until 7/31/13), Bear Canyon among others.  The total up and down elevation gain is around 3200 feet, which is a pretty tough butt burner, calf builder or cardio challenge.  At the end I think I counted roughly 8 ascents with 9 descents, I am wiped out!

You can pick up any portion of this trail at 3 parking lots, today we chose to go from North to South so the only choice was to start at Chautauqua Park in Boulder or the beginning ( You can also start at NCAR and the South trailhead by Eldorado Canyon).  Take Bluebell Road, directly west of the Rangers station up( South) to the Mesa Trailhead.

Hike starting point.

Hike starting point.Mesa Trailhead

Mesa Trailhead

It isn’t a killer climb until you realize it goes  on for roughly 2 miles and 700 feet in elevation.  It did warm us up super quick! In the distance of the picture above,  there is another outhouse which I thought was poorly placed since it was just over half a mile from the parking lot…. but at the end of the hike I actually ran to it.  The trail was so busy and after mooning 6 fellow hikers I was a little outdoor solution shy….. Anyway we took the left smaller trail, the right is supposed to be a butt buster up to Royal Arch but we haven’t tried it yet.  From the left, this is really the most narrow the trail will ever be.  It was often wide enough for 2 groups to pass each other easily.  As we got to the ice/mud stairs, I was feeling great thinking how awesome I was, hehe if only had a crystal ball.

The top - so easy looking

The top – so easy looking

The Bottom of the mud stairs....not so cute now
The Bottom of the mud stairs….not so cute now

The whole time I was thinking, man those stairs are going to suck on the way back if all that mess melts…it did!  The trail is so well-marked, each trail head is very well identified, as is the Mesa trail and what way is the way you want to go. I was super impressed.  We stuck to following the signs for 5.7 miles until we turned around.

NCAR entrance and trail info

NCAR entrance and trail info

This trail is interesting for so many reasons.  It is really a beautiful hike, in and out of pines, around canyons, the views East and along the front range are stunning.  It makes you want to be out there every weekend to see how it is different each day.  What makes you kinda not want to ever go there again is your fellow trail users.  At first, early in the morning everyone was sort of nice but then the later it gets the nastier your trail companions become, no courtesy or consideration for other people on the trail.  Runners are huge here, and no joke, on the way back as we were on a tough climb up, 2 runners tried to “run” us off the trail as they came down making sure that we knew their workout was more important than ours.  I was shocked and really disappointed  at how many mean or indifferent people there were after 10AM, honestly it made me not want to ever come back.

There was one more thing that made me not want to come back.  On a slow trail, finding a secluded place to “take care of business” is challenging as it is.  On a busy trail like the Mesa Trail it is almost miraculous, which is how I found myself mooning several hikers after my best efforts to find a secluded spot,  shortly before we turned around.  I am newly comfortable to peeing outside so this new hiccup was unexpected and REALLY embarrassing.  Aaron was trying to so hard to misdirect the passing hikers stares by talking to the decoy me on the opposite side of the trail but I just chose unwisely.  It did lead to a ton of laughter and trying not to make eye contact with those hikers that passed Aaron as they realized it was my butt they saw in the trees not so long ago……

This is a year round place to hike, the ice can get tough in the shade just as the mud is super tough on the sunny parts. It is worth doing at least once and honestly we will probably do it one more time to try to get to the end.

After the directions to the hike will be our favorite pictures.

Directions:

From Boulder, take Baseline Road west of Broadway 1 mile to the Chautauqua Park entrance on the left hand side of the road.

From Denver, take I-25 North to HWY 36 towards Boulder. As you enter Boulder, turn left onto Baseline Road and turn left. Take Baseline Road for about 1-2 miles and Chautauqua Park will be on your left.

Goofy faces

Goofy faces

View from the turnaround point

View from the turnaround point

KS n AL

Mesa Trail -Chautauqua

Mesa Trail -Chautauqua

Green Mountain via Gregory Canyon Trail 11/17/12 The Assessment

20 Nov

Sorry for the double posting and duplicate seeming emails- something weird happened with the original post and almost all of it was deleted so I had to rewrite it!

The whole week before we did this hike I was pretty nervous about how hard it would be.   From everything I had read, if it was windy the trail would be tough, if it was snowing or had snowed recently the trial would be tough, if it was cold it was going to be tough and the final common theme was that the views from the top were worth all those challenges.  Oh and there was that other obvious challenge of climbing 2400FT of elevation in just 3 short miles.  It was a constant assault on my butt and legs, I am still a little sore today 3 days later.

We got there pretty early, 7:15AM and were hiking by 7:30 which gave us the good fortune of getting a parking space in the very small 8 space lot.  It gave us the chance to attack that first steep climb with little to no company, as we struggled up the trail, the CU marching band starting playing for some event  and the “we are the Champions” vibe helped give us a little extra momentum in that tough beginning.

This is a pretty heavily used trail, and it seemed like runners were the most frequent users who passed us.  Then again everyone passed us and some of them were so stealthy (or I was breathing so hard) I didn’t hear them until they were right behind us so I did squeal a few times out of shock.

The view on the east side is of Boulder and just got more beautiful as we climbed.

The trail is rocky at first and uses rocks for steps along with a wood based step.  There is a little very easy scrambling involved and for us, patience because we had to keep stopping to peel off clothes, one time we will dress perfectly for our hike.  When it levels out for a short period of time the trail gets wider, about the width of a small road.  As we got higher and came around to the West side of the trial, the views of the Indian Peaks were breathtaking (or that was the incline kicking my butt) especially with the clouds crawling over them.

The very last stretch was an easy scramble that was more like rock steps up to the summit.  It was worth every single step we took up!

This is one we will do again and again, as it seems like it will really help build our stamina and skills to attack more high elevation peaks next summer.   As I read more and more about 14ners, I know we will need to work on our ability to adapt to a lot of different conditions and be prepared to take as long as we need to finish our goal.   It seems this trail will help more than our old standby  Deer Creek Canyon did and serve as an easy go to hike that could challenge us but  is still close to home.   I honestly cannot wait to do it again!

For the specs of the trail go to that post Green Mountain Via Gregory Canyon trail – Specs and below are our favorite pictures from the hike.

Green Mountain Via Gregory Canyon Trail – Boulder 11/17/12; Trail Specs

17 Nov

Gregory Canyon Trail > The Ranger Trail > Green Mountain Summit

Starting Elevation: 5800-ish Feet

Highest Elevation: 8144Ft ( Total Gain 2344FT)

Trail Length: Officially 6ish miles, my fitbit said we got around 7 miles, It took us 4 hours to complete but the book I used said 3-4 hours and the locals were cruising past us constantly.

Trail Uses:  Hiker & Runner ( lots of runners), NO BIKES or horses….

Degree of Difficulty: Difficult to Strenuous ( a butt killer)

Bathrooms:  Yes, at the trailhead and then again at the Green Mountain Lodge, a little over a 1.5 miles in.  They are awful!  In fact the second worse we have been to in the past 8 months of hiking in Colorado (first being Denver Open space).  The smell was super bad at 7AM with a temp of 40F, I cannot imagine what it would be like in the middle of summer .  This is a paradox because the trail is insanely crowded and COVERED with poison ivy so you are kinda stuck…..

Pets:  Dogs only on leash unless they have the Boulder Green tag which means they passed the verbal command test. Love this rule!

Fees:  If you get there early enough and are not a Boulder resident, it is $5 to park in the tiny parking lot at the trailhead.  There are 8 spaces in this parking lot, once filled up everyone begins parking on the tight roadway to the parking lot.  Which makes for interesting exit….

So I am going to try something a little different, today I will focus on the details of the hike and then post an assessment of the hike later in the week once I have chance to digest what we did.  I always feel like I could have said more on the feel of the trail so this week this is my experiment.

We learned about this trail when we were in our sunset photography class….this was one of those classic moments in my life when a person does a look over and decides I can’t handle too much.  I had to explain first that we had done some tough hikes(with names) before he gave up this one.  He said it was a killer workout and he was so right.

So details only, this is a year round hike from what I have read but as the snow starts to fall the backside of the mountain gets icy, so winter/spring are tricky and you will likely need Yak-tracks to get to the summit.  It also gets WINDY so if it is windy down at the trailhead it will be way worse at the top.  Something to think about before you start.

Go to the west end of the parking lot to get the Gregory Canyon trailhead,

The Amphitheater trail is part of an alternate East starting and shorter route, but really we just loved the Enjoy Your time message, a cleaver way to ask people to respect the trail.   It is not long on the Gregory canyon trail ( .1 miles) before the first turnoff hits the Saddle Rock trail, stay right on the Gregory canyon trail.  There is one more  trail turnoff at the Crown Rock Trail, go left ( Or stay straight however you see it).

This first mile of hiking is a 900 foot elevation gain, but it is 1.4 miles overall to the next junction at the Long Canyon Trailhead, this is a break in climbing for just .2 miles but a break none the less.

This map help is at all the big trail junctions to keep you on track.  Conversely, there are no maps to pickup at the trailhead so it is nice that there is at least this.  From here is it is just .2 miles to the Green Mountain Lodge ( Built during the great depression) and the next SMELLY bathroom.

This is where the Ranger trail and the Long Canyon trail split off, go left of the lodge and follow the Ranger trail all the way up and by up, I mean the next 1500 feet up.  Notice the snow….this is essentially ice and the higher switchbacks are covered with it.  It was not so bad today that we needed more assistance then our poles could provide, if it had been a little later, colder and with more snow we would have needed at least yak -tracks and on some days, I would guess crampons .   It is not far to the next trailhead:

This is a great place to decide how you feel, a good place to turnaround or make a nice loop and catch up with the Saddle Rock trail and back, also it is an alternate way down from the summit and could add at least .6 miles to your hike.  Or continue on the Ranger Trail to the Summit of green mountain, it was a good steep grade all the way up with a lot of patches of ice. 300 feet below the summit is the last trail break:

From here it is about 300 feet straight up but the rocks are settled in nice steps. Once on the top there is a very short climb up a big rock to the actual summit like 8-10 feet.  At the top is a Marker and a mountain indicator of all the mountains that can be seen from up top.  Its awesome!

From here you can turnaround the way you came or take the EM Greenman Trail to loop around to the Ranger trail.  It is supposed to be much more steep and rocky then the Ranger Trail so in the end we decided to go down the way we came because I was worried about how much my knees could take after seeing what I came up on the easier ascent.

So in a couple of days, after I have digested the whole experience, I will write an opinion post.  I would love to know your thoughts on the breakup of information so comment away!

Directions:

Take 36 west to the Baseline exit and take Baseline past Chautauqa Park.  Drive to where Baseline becomes Flagstaff Mountain Road and use caution as you turn left to the Gregory Canyon Trailhead.

Big Bluestem Loop – Boulder 10/27/12

28 Oct

South Boulder Creek trail > Mesa Trail> Big Bluestem Trail ( Lower)

Starting Elevation:  5460Ft

Highest Elevation:  6400Ft ( just over halfway through the loop)  Total gain 940ft

Trail Length:  Officially 6.8 miles, my fitbit said just over 7 miles.  It took us 3 hours but mostly because of the trail conditions…mud then ice then mud then ice…..you get the picture.

Degree of difficulty:  Easy/Moderate mostly due to length.

Bathrooms:  Yes, at the beginning.  It is super new and clean ( not sure how long that will last but it was lovely this morning)

Pets: At this time of the year, dogs only on leash unless they have the special “green” tag that means they met the Boulder voice command requirements.  Boulder take this seriously the only dogs off leash had the green tag which meant something to me. I gathered from the signs that until spring passes bears are a big concern and so the need for dogs on leash….

Fees:  None

The trail choice was one I made a few weeks ago but I got sick and couldn’t do it, then my sister was in town.  It has greater meaning though, this is the trail on that fateful day in March that I tried to take my niece on but only made it a mile in before turning around.  I needed to conquer it and after my weird malaise of a week, this was the week to relive what brought me on this journey.

The week brought a nice snow storm for the mountains and couple of inches for us in the front range .  Today was going to be a beautiful beginning to the warm up for next week and it didn’t disappoint.  The hard part about not growing up here is my Illinois roots kick in, snow on the ground with a 30 degree start means COLD!  That is not how it works here, with the sun out 30 is really a warm 50 to my bones but my brain still says “bundle up baby”!!!!  So over-bundled we started off, I am pretty sure those who passed us kinda laughed out loud while trying to be nice….

It was not 15 minutes in before we started pealing off layers, while the beginning of this trail is windy even on a non-windy day we got so warm so fast we had to adjust so lesson 1 of the day, this is NOT Illinois!  We could have done this hike in shorts….seriously shorts even though the temp was just 48 degrees when we got done.

We passed through 4 stockade gates in the first 2 miles, always close them as you pass through, while this a high traveled trail it is also a real grazing ground for cattle, so respect those nice people who let us pass through and close the gate behind you.

At approximately 2.2 miles you reach the Mesa trail, again high traffic:

We were on this trail for 2.4 miles and hit the highest point around 3.5 miles into the total trip, you come across one shortcut back to the starting point which will take this loop down to approx 4.3 miles but if you ask me, taking this shortcut will make you miss the best part of this trail:

Just a shot close to half way

Lesson 2 of hiking in the winter in Colorado a day after a snow fall…..Rain in the sunshine.  This first part of this trail is in the sun and then as we climbed the Mesa trail we started to get some tree cover,unfortunately those trees were covered in snow, which was melting in the sun and randomly dropping its load.  Now I was full-out sweating already, but then I started to get pelted by pine rain so I put away my camera to protect my baby from all that moisture.  It was not 5 minutes later before I got hit with a full branch of snow, then the challenge of extra mud.  Which made an easy trail much harder.  The picture above is my fake smile where I am repeating this mantra ” I love hiking”.  I could tell those runners passing us with mud spatters up to their thighs had the same sort of mantra in their heads.

Because of the odd the conditions I missed a few trail markers,  but one we passed Shadow Canyon trail it was not far to the Lower Bigstem trail and finally through the final paddock to Thomas Lane :

This was a surprisingly beautiful trail, it starts out as nothing special and the further you go in, the better it gets.  When you get around the halfway point the views are stunning, if not for the tree rain and load dumping snow showers, I would have appreciated it more.  I have already decided it must be redone, but no time soon.  Just conquering the trail in the first place was amazingly satisfying, it was just what I needed to jumpstart me out of my malaise.  My plan for next week is 2 trails…one to learn more about photography and one to challenge our stamina.  While this is probably an all year kind of hike, when the weather is bad don’t do it, windy is miserable, post snow muddy and icky, and I am guessing in high summer unless you go early, it is HOT.  As usual, following some favorite pictures I will post the directions:

Directions:

Take 36  West towards Boulder to Table Mesa road, go west on Table Mesa to Broadway/93 south.  Go south on 93/Broadway for approximately 2 miles to the South Boulder Creek Trailhead.  Make a right turn, then quick left turn into the trailhead parking lot.