Tag Archives: Denver

St. Vrain Mountain Epic Fail- Hall Ranch Park To the Rescue 5/18/13

24 May

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Last week was a perfect week here in Denver, very warm and sunny with the mountains taunting us all week with their insane beauty.  We really wanted to climb up high and see it for ourselves up close, I know it was our naiveté but we made the decision to try another high hike above 10,000 feet and one that was on the edge of Rocky Mountain National Park which got twice as much snow as the Continental Divide.  I have been wanting to hike St. Vrain Mountain since last fall and by the time I had the confidence to even think about trying it, winter had settled in.   This was the hike we decided to try on Saturday.  We talked about it all week and so were extra anxious to get started but nervous we wouldn’t get very far.

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We were right to be nervous, it took us almost 2 hours to go just 1.2 miles and the last time I post-holed it was pretty bad, up to my hips and it took me like 20 minutes to get out…. What we did see was amazingly beautiful and just got us excited for when we could actually finish it.  In that 20 minutes of digging me out, we decided that the only way to salvage the day was to get down as quickly as we could and hit Hall Ranch (Hike Details here) which we had passed on the way up to this hike.

Here is the little bit we caught of what we could see of this trail:

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We rushed to the Hall Ranch trailhead deciding to just do as much of the Nighthawk trial as we could and we were kind of excited because the first time we were here it was in the middle of a snow storm so all of our promised views were obscured.

We started at noon and finished at 3:30, the trail had a surprisingly low volume of other hikers.  Which was nice in that it allowed us to cruise up the trail, I think this is the fastest we have ever hiked.  The wild flowers were amazing and the weather was perfect in that is was cool little cloudy but warm enough for us to wear shorts and short-sleeved shirts!

When we got to the top this time the views of Longs Peak, Mt. Meeker & Rocky Mountain National Park were really amazing.  Actually the views all around were amazing.  South, East and North all had different stunning views to offer more than I had hoped for to be honest.

Best view at the top

Best view at the top

Longs Peak & Meeker

Longs Peak & Meeker

In the end we made it exactly to the trail break of NightHawk ( 4.7 miles) and then turned around and headed back.   The whole day of hiking gave us a total hiking of 12 miles with 2300 total feet of elevation gain it was sadly 7 hours of hiking with a 30 minute gap to drive from one trail head to the other.  At first it was a little disappointing to have to turnaround on the first trail, but if I think about where I was 2 years ago or even last year, I never would have made it through one of these trails let alone stopping one after 3.5 hours only to do another one for 3.5 hours.  It felt pretty awesome!

Eastward view about halfway back down

Eastward view about halfway back down

We decided it was a pretty huge win and so celebrated with lunch/dinner at Oskar Blues Grill & Brew.

Here are some of our favorite pictures from the hike!

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Hiking out of a Hangover – Deer Creek Canyon 4/13/13

16 Apr
View of Denver

View of Denver sort of

Since I started hiking to healthy over a year ago I have been really good about not drinking on Friday nights before our hike, while it is my cheat day I never want to run the chance of a hangover hindering my hike on Saturday. That’s not to say that I still don’t get my drink on, I just wait until I have showered post hike on Saturday and then start knocking them back. This past Friday however, was special and so I drank! I had my best girls on deck to hit this place in Denver called the Green Russell, it is supposed to be like an old school speak easy with great drinks and atmosphere….and it was all that and more. Honestly I had so much fun that I didn’t really watch how much I drank and I tried to be really good about drinking a huge glass of water in between each drink.  I really thought I would beat the potential for a hangover and still knock out a tough hike on Saturday. After a safe ride home I passed out at a respectable 11:00.

A few hours later I woke up and knew I was in for a good solid hang over. I was determined to not give into it so I pounded water, took two Advil and tried to fall back to sleep only to lay there for a couple of hours getting mad at myself, chanting I was going to do the hike no matter what. Then at 4AM-ish Aaron got up and said he was feeling really awful, like can’t hike awful and was going to take his meds to see if it helped.  I am embarrassed to say I rejoiced and immediately shut off my alarm and fell right to sleep, clearly more concerned about myself than Aaron.

When I started waking up around 7:30, I looked at the weather and knew our only chance to hike this weekend would be on Saturday, if we left right then we could still get to Bergen Peak with enough time to get in our 13.5 miles. Unfortunately Aaron still wasn’t feeling well, so I decided I would torture myself do the taxes and if he was still not feeling well when I finished,  I would just hit Deer Creek Canyon on my own. Surprisingly, I didn’t start drinking while I did the taxes but mostly because I really wanted to get some hiking in.

When I finished my annual torture taxes, Aaron was waking up from a nap and feeling up to joining me for 6.5 miles at Deer Creek Canyon (Hike Details here). Now I will admit I was still hung over when we started, but we decided to try and go for time since we weren’t going for distance or stamina. Man was it hard, I was nauseous most of the hike but then there was a moment around mile 4 when I felt that last drop of alcohol sweat out of me. It was like someone had lifted a huge weight off of me.  The last 2.5 miles flew by as I finally felt better, and I really needed to get to the bathroom.  In the end, we managed to finish 6.5 miles with a total of a 1300 ft elevation gain in just over 2 hours, not to shabby.

A couple of things we noticed about hiking this trail later in the afternoon on a starting to get insanely windy day before bad weather hits.  First, it was surprisingly empty, something we have only experienced here when it is actually snowing while we hike.   I think we passed maybe 15-20 other hikers/runners the whole 2 hours it took us.  Pretty sure they were all hung over too, well except the group of pregnant women who were too cute not to just applaud and grin at, and so no one was very cheerful to be out.  The other weird contingent was the dates we saw, seriously 2 couples on dates and like early on dating, where one person didn’t prepare or dress appropriately but the other isn’t going to point it out because they are not sure if they like them yet- early on.  Or the one person wasn’t honest about their activity level but was trying their best to impress the other person, while also trying not to pass out because they can’t breathe heavy in fear of letting on to the deception…..  It led to really fun people watching.

All and all it wasn’t  what we wanted to accomplish this past weekend, and honestly has left me in a funk because I feel like I didn’t get a good solid hike in.  I am trying to remind myself that at least I got out and moved but I am struggling with motivation and staying on track.  This week we are getting hammered with snow, like 20 inches or more in the foothills have already fallen, with more expected tonight and tomorrow.  I am thrilled to have the moisture when we so desperately need it but sad because I have no idea where are we  going to hike this weekend if all the foothills got a couple of feet of snow.   It should be interesting for sure!

Belcher Hill Trail – White Ranch Park, Golden CO 2/23/13

23 Feb
Belcher Hill Trail - White ranch park

Belcher Hill Trail – White ranch park

Belcher Hill Trail

Lowest Elevation:  Approximately 6100 feet

Highest Elevation: 7800 + ( total Elevation gain of almost 2000 feet with a few declines and then having to climb back up)

Trail Length:  According to the Park Map it is 8.8 miles roundtrip but my fitbit said we got 10.5 miles and every account of hiking the trail said it was 9 miles round trip.

Trail Uses: Hiker, Biker, Horses

Degree of Difficulty:  Moderate to difficult ( today we got an extra hard workout because of the snow) mostly due to length and incline

Bathrooms:  Yes, at the trailhead and then I assume there is one at the sawmill campsite and then at the west parking lot if you want to walk over there

Dogs:  Yes,  I think they are supposed to be on leash but none were so maybe not….

A good View

A good View

When I was thinking about today’s hike, I wanted to be realistic about how much snow we might encounter.  We actually got a little snow this week, not as much as we need but it is at least something and since we are so desperate for precipitation I will not complain at all about it.  Almost exactly a year ago I found this particular trail when my good friend Karin was telling me about how much she loved White Ranch Park and I looked up the open space to see what I could try there.  I was terrified by what I read about the Belcher Hill trail, the descriptions were all about how tough the incline was and how busy it was.  Lately I have been wondering how hard it really is and how much hype I have given it based on my physicality a year ago.  Since we got the snow I thought today was a good day to face my fears.

We LOVED it!  Yes, it is challenging in that it is pretty much a straight climb up over the length of 3-ish miles with a 1700 foot elevation gain.  But oh the views, they are just amazing!  I have been to this park a dozen times on the easier Rawhide trail and while there are some really spectacular views of Denver and the front range on that trail, it is nothing like what we saw today.  We could see Mt. Evans at one point and the sun perfectly highlighted all the beauty for us while we had some cloud cover overhead.

Parking lot

Parking lot

Open Space Signage

Open Space Signage

Ok let’s talk trail, we started from the East Parking lot for White Ranch Park  and it is surrounded by private land in fact we went through a few gates and crossed over someone’s driveway.  They had horses and the horses were given free reign, it was pretty cool.

Horses

Horses

The trail actually drops down and goes past some pretty amazing estates and so is surrounded by private property signs and barbed wire just to make sure you don’t go off trail.  It is pretty cool that these people let us go through or around their properties and enjoy the beauty they paid for… and paid a lot!

Trail conditions at the beginnig

It was pretty snowy when we started, but fortunately there had been enough people before us that we had a solid path to follow and with no ice.  We really came at the right time as only a few people had stamped down the snow.  We continued down until we crossed over a short bridge and then the climbing began and never seemed to stop.  At first the snow was a non-issue:

Steep incline

Steep incline

We climbed for almost 2 miles before we started to hit the other trail junctions.  I have read that a lot of people opt to take the Sawmill or Mustang loops instead of doing the straight in, straight out of Belcher Hill, on today’s adventure we kinda understood why as the snow was way deeper on Belcher Hill.  At the same time there is an attraction in getting a full loop that we miss in doing straight in straight out.  We wanted the toughest workout we could get so it was all Belcher Hill all the way and the trail was so easy to follow.  Here are the trails we passed on our journey:

Mustange 1Roundup trailbreakSawmill Trail Break

At the Sawhill Trailhead, the Belcher Hill Trail was almost lost in the snow and went down to a single track.  It was hard to see the trail in the picture but Aaron was nice enough to show us the way.  We weren’t sure how deep it got because no one had gone this way since at least the last snow.  We probably went in for a longer then we should have before we put on our gators to deal with all the snow but we were the one making all the tracks for those who followed, it was pretty awesome.

Trail COnditions at the top

It doesn’t look too bad here, but we were mostly walking through snow that was half way to our knees a lot of the time.  It was a great workout and even better, I still felt strong through the toughest parts.  It was a really great hiking day for me. From here we climbed a lot more, higher than we have ever been in White Ranch Park and the views were breathtaking.  When we got the second crossing with the Mustang trail we started to descend to the West parking lot and the final stretch of the trail.

Mustange 2 trail breaklast section of trail Trail marker from west entrance

Initially our intention was to do this final stretch( just .4 miles according to the map) but all the snow traversing above had made us  a little nervous about our stamina and how we would fare on our way back, so we turned around at the West parking lot and headed back to the east parking lot.  On the return trip we encountered the most traffic of the day, I guess everyone was thinking later is better, lucky for us!

This is a great trail and while not at all popular when there is snow on the ground, I personally think it was the best possible time to be out on it.  From what I read getting ready to hike this trail, it sounds pretty busy in the summer/fall and mostly with bikers.  But today was almost perfect and very low traffic.  I know we will do this one again and again there was just something about getting to the highest point and the views we had of the surrounding mountains, I could live up there!  It also occurred to me while we were climbing away, we have managed to hike at least 44 out of the past 52 weeks.  It felt so good!  The weekend doesn’t feel right anymore unless I am out on a trail getting my Colorado mountain views fill.

This trail may be for the more hardy but all in all, it is so worth doing!  After the directions I will post our favorite pictures.

Directions:

East Access: 5611 Glencoe Valley Road, Golden
Take State Highway 93 north from Golden 1.7 miles to West 56th Avenue. Turn left (west) on Pine Ridge Road and travel about 1 mile east to the parking lot.

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North Table Loop – North Table Mountain Park, Golden CO 2/9/13

10 Feb
North Table Loop

North Table Loop

North Table Loop ( Jefferson County Open Space)

Lowest Elevation: 5850-ish Feet

Highest Elevation: 6500-ish feet (we went up and down a few times so the overall elevation gain was 900-ish feet)

Trail Length:  Officially 7.5 miles via a full loop and my fitbit wasn’t too far off at just over 8 miles.  It took us almost exactly 3 hours to complete

Trail Uses:  Hiker, Biker and Horses and rock climbing cliffs ( at least 3 designated areas)

Degree of difficulty:  Moderate but mostly due to length and the initial climb but the trail is very nicely planned the declines and inclines (mostly except the first one) seem mild and easy to conquer.

Bathrooms:  At the trailhead and so nice, brand new and super clean….as I stepped towards the toilet a fan went on, I don’t know if it was a heater or just ventilation but I was impressed.

Pets:  Yes – But Leash only.

Park Map

Park Map

Today’s hike was one I learned about from my hiking super hero friend Wendy.  She said that it is a staple for her and her husband on bad weather days and when they want to focus on inclines.  Not because the whole park has hard inclines but the first one is a killer and so they just go up and down it to help them get in shape….after hitting it myself, she has once again cemented her reign as my hiking superhero!  I have been holding it in my back pocket for a bad weather day and today was supposed to be a bad weather day here, so all week this is the trail I prepared for us to do.  It was supposed to start snowing around noon and continue to Sunday, then 1, then 4……it actually started at 2 but then it only lasted for a sneeze, which is way too bad because we desperately need it here.  I guess the good thing is the mountains were supposed to get the majority of it and I think their storm at least came through.

Cool map upgrade

As we went to grab a map and a surprise to me,  they had it app enabled so that you can scan the code and have the park details handy on your phone….strangely I haven’t downloaded the bar code app so we went old school and just took the brochure… But I thought this was so cool!  I love how the Boulder and Jefferson county open spaces are on top of social media and smart phones!

wicked Incline

wicked Incline

Let’s talk trail, we did the whole North Table Loop which starts right at the parking lot.  You can grab it 2 places but either way you are making the climb so like ripping off a band-aid we took the trail that starts right at the park map and heads south.  We huffed and puffed and struggled up an almost 500 foot elevation gain in just  under a mile, it is definitely a calf and butt burner.  Usually this would have me concerned about the rest of the trail but in fact I knew already this was the hardest part but maybe still harbored a little doubt.

Trail marker 1

This trail was recently lengthened, and it looks like they updated everything but I liked this part the best, half the trail markers are on rocks and the North Table Loop is incredibly well-marked so getting lost is impossible.  After climbing up initially,  there  is then a very slow descent that is just lovely.

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As we came out of this beautiful canyon we started getting views of Coors Brewery and then Denver in the distance and for some reason today there was a bizarre fog/smog early in the morning surrounding Denver so my picture wasn’t great but this is exactly what it looked like to us too.

Denver

The trail itself goes from a wide road to a single track and back again which was nice because passing was easy and there were sections we could walk side by side.

Trail 2

If you want to cut the trail down to just 5 miles you can take the Mesa Top trail back to the parking lot, otherwise keep on the North Table Mountain Loop.

trailbreak 2

As we came around the Mountain it got decidedly residential but still very beautiful, I couldn’t help but grab a picture of this house it was so interesting and it kinda made me think of a Hobbit hole…..

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And then the views of the front range just took over, we saw where we hiked the weekend before in front of the flatirons and way northwest.

View northwest on the back end

Then Southwest as the storm clouds started rolling in.

View Southwest on the backend

This is the worst part of the trail in the last 2 miles there is a brief stretch where you walk past these power lines and man were they crackling

Power lines

Just before the second power line tower is the last trail break and then it is not long before you get back to the parking lot.  It is an alternate to the final small incline to the end of the trail, plus residential access we decided it would be awesome to have this park be your backyard it was perfectly challenging and beautiful.

Last Trailbreak

We were surprised at how much we liked this trail, I will admit that the residential views were a little concerning at first but the overall views of the mountains west, north and south not to mention the beautiful views of Denver and Golden, put it all to rest.  We encountered moderate traffic, mostly bikers and joggers and everyone was so nice and friendly such a refreshing change from last weekends bizarre meanness.   I had expected there to be a lot more people there since the new section just opened a little over a month ago but it wasn’t too bad although I am sure it was because of the uncertain weather expected for the day.   One other thing worth mentioning is this trail is entirely exposed, there are almost no shady parts which means it is HOT trail in the summer  so go early or late and slather on the SPF!  There is also a seasonal closure fast approaching on the Rim Rock trail 3/15- 7/31 as it is a nesting ground for cliff nesting birds.  This is a new favorite for us so I hope you check it out if you get the chance.

Directions:

4758 Highway 93, Golden CO 80403
The trailhead is north of Golden on State Highway 93, just north of Pine Ridge Road. There are six dedicated spaces for horse trailers. Left turns are not permitted when leaving the parking lot and turning onto Highway 93.

Us

Us

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

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Mesa Trail -Chautauqua

Mesa Trail -Chautauqua

Repeater hike(s) Roxborough State Park – Carpenters Peak & Fountain Valley Trail 1/25/13

26 Jan
View on the Carpenters Peak trail about half way up.

View on the Carpenters Peak trail about half way up.

Whenever I go out-of-town, especially to sea level, coming back to Denver is an adjustment, an almost 2 week adjustment.  Since I went to LA for my annual girls trip last Thursday and returned just this past Tuesday, I was not optimistic about my ability to hike anything new or tough.  We decided to go back to Roxborough State Park to see what we could manage.  Plus this would be our 11th visit to a Colorado State park which means we made money on our pass today, yay us!  The really nice thing about the park is the trail set up, you could easily hike all 3 big trails without crossing over the same terrain or going out of you way to get to the next segment.  When I got up this morning I was worried that the Carpenters Peak Trail ( for trail details click the link ) may be too much for me and a couple of times it was.  I definitely struggled up this mountain and had some altitude tough moments, but the physical activity wasn’t at all a problem.  I was surprised when we came down this trail, I could do more.   Between our 2 options I decided the easier Fountain Valley trail ( for trail details click the link) was the wiser choice.  At the end of the hike we had cleared 8.7 miles based on the map and 9.5 miles based on my Fitbit, not too shabby.  Plus we got a total of 189 flights of stairs climbed, I love my Fitbit I am obsessed with finding out how many flights of stairs we have climbed.

The quirky thing about hiking today was 2 fold, one we are desperate for some moisture here.  It is so dry that our fire season is actually starting now instead of during the summer months.  I remember our first month here people were thrilled that it was raining and at the time I thought it was cute, now I totally get it. I find myself trying out rain/snow dances in hopes the gods will favor us!  The insanely dry weather along with warm temperatures also means the brown cloud of the front range ramped up early and got thick. You can actually see it in the picture of Denver at the beginning of my post. By the time we got home it was 10 times worse.  The air quality warnings were red or high today, saying to avoid driving and stay indoors….which we ignored of course.

The other quirky thing is the temperature.  It was nice and sunny this morning and while just under 40 when we started, we were quickly sweating and stripping down, but at the top of Carpenters peak it was windy and chilly we turned around almost immediately.  I almost went to the shorts feature of my hiking pants during my second stage of taking stuff off but was so glad I didn’t do it.  The trail itself had a ton of ice on it and so we knew it would be a muddy trip down.  This trail is not one you want to do when it is muddy, its like hiking with 3 extra pounds of mud on your shoes or wearing 4 inch heels, going downhill on a moving platform.

Trail conditions

Trail conditions

The mud was pretty bad and another reason why I chose the Fountain Valley trail as my add-on option, because they cover it with pebbles pretty regularly and the mud and ice are not a problem.

Trail Conditions on Fountain Valley

Trail Conditions on Fountain Valley

The best part about today was practically flying out of bed to get on the trail.  It has been a weird month+, traveling home for Xmas, getting sick for so long and then barely a week of exercising before heading off to my girls trip.  I have felt like a slug and staying on track with my weight became really hard, harder than I thought it would.  I need to learn how to control my eating and drinking behaviors on trips.  But getting out there and hiking a hike that has gorgeous views and a nice climb is exactly the medicine I needed.  Nothing charges my batteries like a good sweaty hike!

Next week should be a brand new hike and repeaters shouldn’t so frequently anymore.

Kathy and Aaron at the summit of Carpenters Peak

Kathy and Aaron at the summit of Carpenters Peak

Waterton Canyon, Littleton 1/12/13

12 Jan
A view of the mountains along the canyon

A view of the mountains along the canyon

Waterton Canyon/ The Colorado Trail Segment 1:

Starting elevation:  5550 Ft

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

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

Trail Uses: Hiker, Biker and horses.

Degree of Difficulty:  EASY

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

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

Waterton canyon Map and rules

Waterton canyon Map and rulesOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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

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

Water treatment pipes for Denver Water

Water treatment pipes for Denver Water

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

outhouseTrail

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

Black Bear Information

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

Long Horned sheep

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

The dam

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

Ice forming on the Platte river

The trail after we turned around....

The trail after we turned around….

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

Kathy n Aaron at the DamA super cold Kathy and Aaron

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

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