Tag Archives: Denver

My Last Hikes of 2013

28 Dec

Ok my goal with this post is to catch up on my back log of hikes that I did in December, it was both busy and slow hiking wise by my choice.

Best view facing West on Green mountain

Best view facing West on Green mountain

We actually started out so strong and got a 3rd hike in 4 days done on 12/1/13.  We hit Green Mountain in Lakewood CO ( hike details here)and just enjoyed a nice quick 4 mile hike to get a good stretch of our legs after the nice hike we had the day before.  It was super nice outside and the trail was pretty busy> which I think is normal for the weekend.  I have started to notice something bizarre about this parking lot… the bikers, and there are a lot of them, totally don’t care about getting hit by the cars coming in/going out of the parking lot or hitting the hikers/joggers that are trying to make their way to and from the trail. They just ride around the parking oblivious to anyone else using the park. It’s completely annoying, especially when you are trying to pull out but one strange biker just keeps doing little loops right behind your car…. or get into a spot while one zooms in front of you.  Outside of parking lot stress, the hike itself was lovely!

Close up of Evans on Green Mt.

Close up of Evans on Green Mt.

Best view East

Best view East at Green Mountain

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The best view West At Green Mt.

That first week of December was almost record cold in Colorado and on Saturday 12/7 the high was a hopeful 4 degrees.  Knowing that I would get limited  opportunity to hike this month, we bundled up and went somewhere close but challenging – Mt. Falcon.  We had received some snow a few days before with all the freezing temperatures and knew that the window to hike comfortably with sun was limited.  We actually started at 10AM and took a little over 4 hours to just go the normal 8.5 miles up and down the Castle view trail.  The snow and cold really impacted our usual pace.  It was so cold in fact that at one point( even though we would clear our water tubes after every drink) we had to melt our tubes with my freaky hot hands…. don’t ask I barely passed pie making in culinary school because of them(one of those blessings/curse things).  We had almost the whole trail to ourselves with some cheeky deer for company .  There was about a foot of snow on the trail in the beginning and it got deeper as we went higher, which is where we actually saw the most people, like 6 total…all day. There were a couple of people snowshoeing, something I haven’t done yet and I was fascinated but also a little confused because the snow didn’t seem all that deep.  I am so renting some soon so I can try it out!  Overall it was a tough day to hike but still felt great getting out, even if it did take me a day or so to warm back up.

Looking icy cold when we start at Mt. Falcon - my car said it was -2

Looking icy cold when we start at Mt. Falcon – my car said it was -2

Yep cold

Yep cold

In the shade on the way up and I am bundled

In the shade on the way up and I am bundled

Climbing up in the cold and beauty

Climbing up in the cold and beauty

Good Company on the trail

Good Company on the trail

I am both frosted and melting the ice in my water tube with my freaky hot hands

I am both frosted and melting the ice in my water tube with my freaky hot hands

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My birthday gift to myself was a new tattoo… so I planned on taking the day off before I got said tattoo to get my last hike in for a couple of weeks.  I got to hike solo for the first time ever and I have to say I didn’t hate it.  It was interesting to see how I drove myself without anyone else around motivating or inspiring me.   I went to my favorite standby Deer creek canyon( hike details here) I didn’t go as fast as I might have other times but I wasn’t a slacker either, I just did 6.8 miles in around 2.5 hours.  The day was beautiful but the snow and ice were annoying, fortunately I did have traction devices for my shoes(even though it took me 20 minutes to get them on without my usual assistance) that helped me keep a nice pace.  I also just had a great attitude, I mean what a better way to start a long weekend then hiking?  Oh and my new tattoo…. AWESOME!!!  I mean seriously my tattoo artist rocks!  If you find yourself in Colorado and want an excellent tattoo see Piotr at Godspeed he is amazing!!! The other huge impact to my attitude…. the night before my girlfriends surprised me and whisked me away in a limo for a night on the town to celebrate my 40th birthday.  It really brought things in perspective for me and just helped me appreciate the wonderful life I have.  Thank you Ladies, you have made my 40th year in life start out better than perfect!!!

Climbing up Plymouth Creek Trail

Climbing up Plymouth Creek Trail in snow and ice

Awesome views at Deer creek

Awesome views at Deer creek

A poor selfie of myself on Deer creek

A poor selfie of myself on Deer creek

My Super Awesome new tattoo for turning 40

My Super Awesome new tattoo for turning 40

After 2 weeks of no hiking while my super awesome tattoo healed( so worth it), this morning I was anxious to get out and get some miles under my feet.  But not just that, I wanted to try out my new prize, a true backpack.  Yep my Christmas elves(or cats) picked out this bad boy for me…. them or the great staff at REI, it’s a toss-up.  Either way, my new challenge for 2014, outside of losing the rest of my weight, is to try for my first backpacking trip.   This morning we decided that NightHawk Trail at Hall Ranch ( hike details here) was a perfect place to get a feel for my new pack and it was an easier trail that had the challenge of distance if not total altitude gain.  I have to say the hike itself was pretty awesome with lots of deer all over the place as company, wearing the new pack not so much.  It was awkward and I hardly had anything more than water in it.  Apparently it is like learning to hike a whole different way, I swayed when I didn’t want to, my balance was off and my knees and hips were throwing around curses I haven’t used myself….. EVER.   At one point it felt like my ankles were hand cuffed!  I still love this trail and know I will do it again and again, maybe even when the sun it out one time since we have never had it as a hiking partner on this trail…. but now I am sitting here  with angry hips and knees  thinking about when I can get out again with my new pack.  Life it pretty awesome in Colorado!

View at the start of Hall Ranch with a little sun

View at the start of Hall Ranch with a little sun

Best non animal view of the day

Best non animal view of the day

What… you think I can't see you?

What… you think I can’t see you?

I totally see you!

I totally see you

The New Backpack.. EMpty and lame but with great hopes

The New Backpack.. Empty and lame but with great hopes

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Green Mountain – Lakewood CO Girlfriend Hike #4 11/17/13

2 Dec

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Rooney Road > To Green Mt Summit trail

Starting Elevation: 6061 ft

HIghest Elevation: 6804 ft ( 900 Ft Total elevation gain)

Trail Length: I thought 4 miles but we came up short at the summit and then went long…. so we got in 5 miles.

Trail Uses: Hiker and biker

Degree Of Difficulty: Easy to Moderate, although I have heard the Rooney Road start point is a considered a hell climb I don’t think it is that bad.

Bathrooms: Yes: at the parking lot

Pets:  Yes on leash only

Fees:  None

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View of Denver from the summit of Green Mountain

I have come across meet up hikes a lot while researching for hikes we might attempt.  A few months ago I realized I needed to spread out, meet new people and learn more about hikes in Colorado.   So I signed up for Meet up… have you ever seen meet up or taken part of an event by them?  I am strangely curious.

There is one group that is a hiking after work group and I thought, why not?  I also asked my girlfriend Lisa if she wanted to try meet up and to submit for this hike….. we both got in.  Come hiking evening, Lisa had a lot going against her and didn’t make it very far, while I went on to finish with lots of curiosity about what this trail looked like during the day.  On the way home we were chatting about the hike and she really wanted to beat it, since we had a girls hike coming up I figured why not.

I usually try to pick easy hikes and this hike is at its core easy, what is hard is that initial climb but the rest of the park is relatively easy.  The trails are very well planned out, wide and have VERY high usage.

On this day, the forecast was for 40-60 mile an hour winds during our hike.  I seriously considered canceling….. but I really super love these hikes with my girlfriends and I  wanted to give Lisa that chance to beat this hike, plus sometimes the weather forecast is off.  So instead I texted them all late Saturday night to say prepare for crazy winds.

We got tot the trailhead at 7:30…. with NO wind (stupid forecasters) .  This trail is really popular and that morning was no different, but we still had the freedom to move at our own pace.  Our goal was to finish and not worry about time, my company was amazing!  They hadn’t exactly worked up to a 700-800 foot elevation gain in just a mile but they were troopers every step of the way.  We made our way up the beginning to come up to the most amazing views of the front range and Denver itself.  The view is always the best part of any hike… oh and I am always looking to gain more converts to my love of hiking…. good views SUPER help with that.

trail 1 trail 2 going to the summit

Karin and Lisa did awesome!  I promised them that we would summit and had own since I knew the  summit was more than they had prepared for, what i didn’t expect was for them to want to do more.  I was thrilled!

Lisa, Karin and Levi( Karin crazy adorable dog) were super troopers in wanting to push themselves a little further to see more and work harder that morning. I said I am totally willing to push when they say the word so we headed over to the tower further down the path.  It was a great morning I could see the summit lust in their eyes, it happens when those views are perfect like there were that day.  The nice thing about getting a taste of summit lust, is it makes you want to see more.  We were talking about harder hikes in the future for more amazing views…. I think I am getting them hooked, yay me more hiking buddies!!!

LEVI!!!!

LEVI!!!!

I have come to appreciate this hike for how close it is to home and how easy it is to get too.  I am looking forward to getting more people there to feed their summit lust.

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Mt. Falcon, Morrison CO (repeater) hiked 11/3/13

16 Nov
views on the way up.

views on the way up.

I had great expectations for that this second hike of my 3 day weekend on Saturday…. like climb Mt. Everest expectations….. What I got was not so great.

*** WARNING FEMALE ISSUES WILL BE DISCUSSED****There are just days that are not meant to be…. I have been off the pill for 2 years, I can tell you 15 years ago, before I got on the pill, each month was a juggle of time and advil… and it was bad, like throw up once a month can’t get out of bed bad.  But like so many before me, we figure it out and live our lives.  I think the blessing has been, that for the past 2 years off the pill I have never reverted back to those dark days until this particular morning….at approximately 2:30 am.  At first I tried to pretend it wasn’t happening and got in the car and drove to our designated trail head. It was a crazy beautiful drive and the day was unspeakably beautiful, I knew this was the day for the hike I had planned.

When I pulled up to the trail head all I could think was, I can’t take any more Advil without throwing up and I can’t walk without any more advil….. It was decided right then,  as the most spectacular pinks lit up the sky and mountains all around, this hike was not happening….*** DONE WITH FEMALE ISSUES DISCUSSION******

I spent that day in bed and woke on Sunday hungry for a hike and that is how I found myself on Mt. Falcon ( hike details here).

I love November on the front range…one of the best kept secrets is that Denver is crazy mild while the mountains get hammered all winter long, Mt. Falcon was perfect for the hiking that Sunday. It was sunny warm and exhilarating as we flew up the mountain.  We started later than we normally do, so it was much more crowded than we are used too.

I left late and was breaking in new hiking shoes but we still made great time.  We did 10-ish miles with 2100ft+ elevation gain in just 3 hours, it felt so good.  Well mostly good, it was also an interesting and perfect day to be out on the trail.  Sundays aren’t a regular occurrence anymore and the people out with us were a great variety.  I could do without the smokers though…….

The views were amazing, the hike invigorating and my spirits up…. Love hiking!

Denver from the tower

Denver from the tower

Hells Hole Trail #53, Idaho Springs CO hiked 10/26/13

29 Oct

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Hell’s Hole Trail #53

Starting Elevation:  9600Ft

Highest Elevation: 11,578 Ft ( total Elevation gain was around 2200 ft.) Hells Hole is actually at 11,200 but we went past and above it.

Trail Length:  I read anywhere from 8-10 miles on the accounts of it I could find.  My fitbit was close to 10 miles round trip,  it too us 4.5- 5 hrs

Trail uses: Hiker, horses & snow shoe

Degree of DIfficulty:  Moderate to difficult, mostly because of altitude and length of trail.

Fees:  No fees, but there is a required permit to be filled out on the trail upon entering the Mt. Evans Wilderness

Bathrooms: Yes at the parking lot

Pets:  Yes on leash only

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A couple of things started coming together for this hike during the week….1 I am running out of new trails to hit through the 3 books I invested in 18 months ago, 2- I wanted to be above 10,000 feet this weekend and finally (and most importantly for selection this week) it needed a Halloween themed name.  When I started looking for hikes, I had found a bunch of places listing all the hikes in certain national forests and so I started looking for ones with spooky type names.  Hells Hole was perfect and close, now if only we had thought of bringing masks before we started hiking…. Did I ever mention what  a Halloween super freak I was?

Pre-Weight loss costume a few years ago

Pre-Weight loss costume a few years ago

We got up early even though I knew it meant a pretty cold start ( 24 degrees), I still wanted to start early because I hoped it meant having the trail mostly to ourselves and I can tell you it worked, we didn’t see anyone else until we were well on our way back to the car.

New Trail SIgn....nice but I really wanted the dilapidated one that said HEll's hell for the creep purpose

New Trail SIgn….nice but I really wanted the dilapidated one that said Hell’s hole for the creep factor

Needed some proof we were at Hell's Hole

Needed some proof we were at Hell’s Hole

Permit station and only place I saw the official trail name...too bad it isn't as ominous as the old sign

Permit station and only place I saw the official trail name…too bad it isn’t as ominous as the old sign

The trail starts out climbing through a beautiful aspen grove, which I have come to love as much without leaves as I do with.  I would say that this was by far the steepest climb of the entire hike and lasts for a solid mile.

the beginning isn't so bad

the beginning isn’t so bad

A little snowy as we leave the aspen grove.

A little snowy as we leave the aspen grove.

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There were some water crossings

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After the Aspen grove you officially enter Mt. Evans Wilderness

After the Aspen grove you officially enter Mt. Evans Wilderness

The next 2ish miles climbed through pines at a much milder grade and as the sun started to climb we warmed up a little while the mountains were starting to bask in it, creating a beautiful destination to hike towards. The snow on the ground became more consistent towards the end of the Aspen grove, through the pines it was even more persistent.  This brings me to  the other great thing about being the first on the trail, we get to enjoy the benefit of first tracks of the day.  Which meant no yaktrax or crampons needed for first tracks.   Going down was much harder because all that snow had started turning to ice with the other hikers now out on it and the sun starting to warm up everything.

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The final 1-1.5 miles we broke out of the trees and moved along the plateau towards Hells Hole when this stunning bristle cone pine grove presented itself.   Have you ever seen a Bristle cone pine? I am sure you have, they are those amazing trees that are both living and yet look like they have died in a spectacular display of color with twisted tortured limbs.

The view as we broke out of the trees

The view as we broke out of the trees

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Same spot but looking back towards the beginning

I have to say reaching this point was by far the best part of the whole hike, I mean I have seen one or two of these trees before on a hike but I have to tell you this was the biggest most stunning grove of them I have ever seen.  I spent an hour taking pictures after we made it to our break point just above Hells hole.

Thought this one looked like the tree of the dead

Thought this one looked like the tree of the dead

Me on the tree of the dead, although totally not dead

Me on the tree of the dead, although totally not dead

Lots of Bristle cone pines

Lots of Bristle cone pines

Hells hole was kind of pitiful, it was frozen over and really unremarkable but the bowl we were in with all the Bristle cone pines and the majestic mountains was what made the hike.  It was lovely from beginning to end and the perfect way to commemorate the weekend before Halloween!

Hell's Hole....not very hellish

Hell’s Hole….not very hellish

Once again we met great people on the trail….it was just before we were done when a super nice couple was asking about the trail and what we thought about where it went.   Before I knew it we were all talking about Chicago of all things and blogging and how incredibly awesome Colorado is, among other things!  Surprisingly James had found my blog while looking for hikes and recognized me from it, how wild is that!?! It was so nice meeting you James and Wendy you are both so inspiring!

Leave no trace is important, remember to always pack out what you brought in so everyone can enjoy the beauty like you did.

Leave no trace is important, remember to always pack out what you brought in so everyone can enjoy the beauty like you did.

After the directions will be some of my favorite pictures from the hike.

Directions: Take I70 west from Denver, take exit 240- highway 103 at Idaho Springs.  Go South on CO 103 from Idaho Springs, at the first Switchback go straight onto Clear Creek County #114 to its end at the West Chicago Creek Campground.  FYI the road is dirt but well maintained until maybe the last half mile but it was still in OK condition, it was no problem for my civic.

Me and the moon

Me and the moon

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Fun with snow

fun with reflection

Being artsy

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Try to find the moon

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Bristle cone pine and the moon

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A nice perspective

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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.

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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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Chicago Lakes Trail #52, Arapahoe National Forest – Idaho Springs CO 8/10/13

15 Aug
Upper Chicago Lake

Upper Chicago Lake

The Chicago Lakes Trail #52

Starting Elevation: 10,650 ( Lowest point of the hike 10,320)

Highest Elevation: 11,740 ( Lower lake at 11,420ft.  Total elevation gain approximately 2000ft)

Trail Length:  Officially I saw everything from 9-10 miles, my fitbit said we went 11 miles but we did walk around the upper lake a lot.

Trail Uses:  hiker in all places and then horses in some….NO BIKES

Degree of difficulty:  Moderate to difficult mostly due to length and one scramble to Upper Chicago Lake.

Bathrooms:  1 Creepy one at the Echo Lake Picnic parking lot ( For some reason Denver County Mountain Park use the S shaped ones with no doors…..)

Pets:  Yes for dogs, I am not sure if a leash was required but we saw dog owners with dogs on leash and off.

Fees:  None

Lower lake trail on right

I have been wanting to try this hike since April.  I had targeted as one of our conditioning hikes to get ready for our first 14er, but then we got those crazy snow storms throughout April and May which meant the trail was under many feet of snow when I originally wanted to attempt it.  When it was finally possible to hike it, it was mountain goat and sheep mating season and Park Rangers ask that you do not hike here in order to let the goats and sheep do their thing.   Which of course I respected since the poor animals deserve some peace while they mate.  We weren’t expecting to do these re-acclimating hikes, but since I was forced to get used to it all again I figured now was the perfect time to check them out.

I got to the trail head at 7AM and it was COLD, I guess fall is coming more quickly then I want.  I got bundled up and was even glad I had gloves on hand, as I think it was like 35 degrees at the start of our hike.

Starting from the parking lot

Starting from the parking lot

My suggestion is to park at the Echo Lake Picnic Area, as that is really close to the Chicago Lakes Trail which is the hardest part of the hike to actually find.  Since I followed the book suggestion and we got there insanely early, parking here was no problem( not a lot of parking spots here) but you can park all around the Lake and at the Echo Lake Lodge.  The trail head is a little off the Lake Path on the Southwest side of the Echo Lake.

Echo Lake

Echo Lake

The trail entrance on the southwest of the Lake

The trail entrance on the southwest of the Lake

Chicago Lakes Trail #52 Official start

Chicago Lakes Trail #52 Official start

Not long after you get on the official trail, you immediately descend about 3-400 feet and cross over the Chicago Creek.  Portions of this descent will challenge those who may  have “issues” with heights as the Switchback initially is very close to the a nice steep drop off.  It also gives great views of your final destination and Mt. Evans.  It was a beautiful view to have while heading down.

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Crossing the Chicago Creek at the bottom of the initial descent.

Crossing the Chicago Creek at the bottom of the initial descent.

From this point forward the trail is very well-marked, you take an access road up for about a mile, past the Idaho Springs Reservoir.  I have to admit during my research for the hike, I was worried about this road section but actually it’s fine and looks more like a wide path then road.  They are doing some type of maintenance by the Reservoir but on a weekend there was nothing to see but the equipment.

Entering the Road portion

Entering the Road portion

You want to look for this sign on the way back so you don't miss the way back to your car

You want to look for this sign on the way back to your car it is across the road from the sign above

The road part of the trail

The road part of the trail

Cabins as you pass Idaho Springs Reservoir

Cabins as you pass Idaho Springs Reservoir

As we crossed over to the Mt. Evans Wilderness, the trail went back to single track and starts climbing more aggressively through an old burn scar from a fire in the 70’s. As it flattened out for a short stretch, the wild flowers were everywhere and the views of mountains on either side of us was pretty amazing.

Mt. Evans WildernessPermit Box for Mt. Evans wilderness

Trail goes back to single track and gets steeper.

Trail goes back to single track and gets steeper.

I am always surprised at how beautiful a burn scar is as it ages.  All the below are from that burn scar.

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Water Crossing in the Burn Scar

Water Crossing in the Burn Scar

Trail levels out before we descend to the lower Lake

Trail levels out before we descend to the lower Lake

As we came up to the lower Chicago lake, outside of the obvious beauty, we were enchanted by how dense the brush was on either side of the trail and how moist everything was.  We also started descending again and there was more and more mud with standing water on the trail.

Entering the Dense coverage

Entering the Dense coverage

This was also a little tricky through here as I knew we had to stay right on the trail to get to the upper Chicago Lake and since we were heading down through such dense coverage, I was certain we missed the turn off.  We came to this huge boulder and thought maybe this is where we go right but it wasn’t.

When you come to this huge boulder go left

When you come to this huge boulder go left

Coming out of the dense coverage

Coming out of the dense coverage

In fact, it isn’t really until we started climbing out of the dense tree/bush coverage,  that we came to the trail going off left to lower Chicago Lake and we stayed right to climb to upper Chicago Lake.

This last climb does require some scrambling but nothing too bad, we did put away our poles so that we could use our hands freely.

Trail conditions up the scramble Scramble

Upon cresting the final lip of the scramble, the upper Chicago lake was spread out below us.  It was spectacular!  It took us about 2.5 hours to get there and we ended up sitting around taking pictures while snacking for almost an hour.  Plus we were fascinated with the people climbing up to Summit Lake and possibly Mt. Evans (14er) as this is also the crazy long route ( 14-16 miles round trip) to summit Mt. Evans, on the south side of the lake.  It looked really steep and as the wind picked up we saw the little group slow down quite a bit.

Upper Chicago Lake

Upper Chicago Lake

This is the trail going up to Summit Lake I tried to zoom up as there as people ascending

This is the trail going up to Summit Lake I tried to zoom up as there as people ascending

This is an in and back hike, the first one where my books said it would take longer on the trip back then it does on the trip there.   There were a couple of reasons we took longer on our way back, that scramble to the upper lake is actually pretty steep and we took our time getting down it, then the last .8 miles is straight up 3-400 vertical feet up a single track trail that is heavily used. It did take us almost 3 hours to get back.

Also the trail started getting pretty busy on the way back with like 50 back packers coming in to camp by the lakes for the night, among a bunch of regular hikers.  It made us very jealous as camping up there must be so lovely!  It was even more busy between the Mt. Evans Wilderness boundary and the start of the hike with people picnicking by Echo Lake looking for some pre- Picnic exercise.  Overall it was a beautiful hike and again renewed my love of hiking and Colorado!  If you ever have the chance, please check this one out, it is worth the effort!  After the directions to the trail head will my favorite pictures

Directions: 

The Chicago Lakes Trail begins at Echo Lake (west side), 13.25 miles south of I-70 on HWY 103.

From I-70, exit #240 and head south on HWY 103 (toward Mt Evans) for 13 miles to Echo Lake. Turn right at the Echo Lake Picnic Area, down the first dirt road on your right and continue .25 miles to the parking area.

Flying Pig Cloud

Flying Pig Cloud

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St. Vrain Mountain Trail, Allens Park CO 6/15/13 – Part 2

20 Jun
Southern view from the summit

Southern view from the summit

Check out part 1 here

When we finally got to the top of St. Vrain mountain, the views were really breath-taking and if the wind hadn’t been so bad we would have spent a lot more time up there.  We knew there was a chance of a storm rolling in so we kept a close eye on the clouds moving our way as the wind actually picked up in intensity.  At one point I seriously thought I was going to get blown over.

Just before I was almost blown over.

Just before I was almost blown over.

We took just 20 minutes of resting at the top and immediately started down.  If I was worried when I was climbing up the summit, going down I was incredibly nervous with how steep it was especially after falling the weekend before on the hike down off of Twin sisters.  Aaron told me to just take my time and follow him as much as I could.  We were also kind of following the couple who was in the wind shelter with us, they mentioned that following the border posts was supposed to be the easiest way down.  We were all of the mind that going down a slightly different way then how we went up might be a better idea and at first it was.

Me going down slowly.

Me going down slowly.

At least the views on the way down were beautiful

At least the views on the way down were beautiful

But we wanted to get around the snow field at the base of the summit climb and from up top it looked possible so we started heading right while they went left.  It took me longer to get down from the summit then it did to go up, for like the first time ever.  When we finally got to the bottom I was thrilled when we saw the trail that goes all the way past the mountain onto other trails and eventually the Continental Divide Trail, it was way south of the where we had turned up the mountain.  As we tried to get around the snow, trees and bushes we were moving downward and further down then we expected.  We weren’t getting any closer to our route down and the snow field was worse in this direction, ie the snow was deeper then we were tall.  We decided that the smart thing to was to get to a trail entrance of the snow field and try to get across it safely to get back on trail.  Neither one of us said anything to the other, but we knew that if one us went through the snow here there wasn’t much we would be able to do to get out or help the other because it was so deep at this part of the crossing.  Needless to say we didn’t take out a camera to capture it all.  We moved quickly and as lightly as we could, in short order we were back on trail.

Now things were changing very quickly, the dark clouds were rolling in fast over Long’s Peak, Mount Meeker, Lady Washington and building in over us while the sun was baking us.  Suddenly Aaron started to slow down and I couldn’t figure out why when he tested his blood, he was pretty low with insulin on board.  This was not a good time to stop and deal with it but we really had no choice, so in between he sugar feeding frenzy I got these pictures of the storm coming in.

Storm starting over Long's Peak

Storm starting over Long’s Peak

The sky closer to us still showing some sun.

The sky closer to us still showing some sun.

He was such a trooper and started moving as soon as he could so we could try to get off the pass before the storm started while I looked for places we could take shelter or at least not be the highest point on the pass.  I was pretty sure we were going to get soaked.  Surprisingly the storm completely passed us by.

We were both spent now 6.5 hours into the hike with more than halfway down still to get through.  We moved slowly but did keep moving, we passed about 6 or 7 groups of hikers just starting up and I bet they were treated to a beautiful sunset.  The snow fields we crossed earlier were melting and much harder to get through the runoff deeper.  Despite all that we were insanely proud of what we had accomplished because it proved to us both that we had come so far from last summer and told us we could do so much more!

There are those moments on the way down where you see stuff you don’t know how you could have missed on the way up, like this:

Nature's flower pot

Nature’s flower pot

And the bottom part of the trail was a bloom with these flowers:

Flower 1

We were probably about half a mile from the end when came across the final group of hikers we would see.  They casually asked if we had made it to the top we were excited to say yes and then she said so how long did it take you like 2.5 hours, because I have done this before, that’s how long it took me…. I was a little crestfallen when I answered, oh um we started at 8AM ( it was 4PM ) I started making all these excuses as to why we took so long but stopped, who cares how long it took us, we finished and that is all that matters.   We walked up to the parking lot and saw our wind shelter buddies just getting into their car, it lifted our spirits because they needed 8 hours too and were like 15 years younger than us.

Things you should keep in mind when you do this trail:

1. It takes a long time to complete and if you start the same time we did you will be in the direct sun as you climb from the East to the West.  Then when you come back down from the West to the East, the sun is still beating on you be liberal with the sun block and wear a hat.  My sunburned scalp is mad at me.

2. Bring lots of water as we ran out of our 100 ounces just as we walked up to our car. We also always have a water filtration system with us just in case, this is exactly the kind of hike we carry it for.  Plus we always have more water in our car.

3. Brings lots of fuel to keep you going over the course of the whole hike,  we were moving for almost 8 hours straight that is a crazy amount of energy to expend and you need to be able to keep going.

4. know the weather and watch the sky, you do not want to be on the mountain or the pass when weather changes.

Even if the Mountain itself looks too daunting do this hike to the pass, that alone is worth it.  You don’t get the amazing 360 views you can from the top but pass views are spectacular on their own.  Here are the rest of my favorite pictures, I hope one day you find yourself able to try this hike it will be worth it.

South facing view at the summit

South facing view at the summit

Southwest view from the summit

Southwest view from the summit

West view

West view

More West view

More West view

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Northwest View from the wind shelter

Northwest View from the wind shelter

Meadow mountain and Twin Sisters from the Summit

Meadow mountain and Twin Sisters from the Summit

The view to the East

The view to the East