Try a Trail Off 285

January 17, 2014

So a great place to hike is off 285.  There are a variety of trails to choose from and I-70 traffic is avoided.  My preference is to hike along creeks or to an alpine lake, but today I opted for a different trail that I had yet to hike called Meridian.  The trail climbs 1,600 feet over three miles through aspen groves to a saddle that marks the Arapahoe and Pike Forests borders.  I suspect the best time to hike this trail is in the fall for the colors and the views.  Given it doesn’t offer my preferences, it wouldn’t be my first pick, but it does offer a nice place to exercise within 50 miles of Denver.

The most difficult part of the trail for me was finding it! My book with directions to the trail was slightly confusing with the description “At 0.3 miles, then 0.6…”.  I wasn’t sure what that meant, so when I saw the sign for Meridian Campground, I turned into this area.  I figured I had to drive 0.9 miles down the dirt road to the campground, but the road was closed, so I trounced along the snow covered road in search of the trailhead.  No luck!

I enjoyed following the road the wound up the mountain through the trees to some private property, but it was not where I wanted to be, so after getting about a mile in, slipped back in the drivers seat and searched a bit more.  I decided to continue down the paved road from which I turned into the campground another 0.9 miles.  Here I found a sign that pointed to Meridian Trail one mile down the dirt road to the left.  Pleased to find the sign, I took my Subaru as far as I felt comfortable along the rutted, snow packed road.

I found I was so distracted by the tire tracks in the snow and where they abruptly stopped, I failed to count exactly how far I had gone.  According to my book, I was to park by a horse coral, that I did not see.  I did, however, park in an area marked by dead branches which was in front of an unmarked trail.  I also saw that the snow-covered road, with only foot traffic imprints, continued on.  I wandered down the road a bit beneath the evergreens which was quite nice, but didn’t go quite far enough to find the trailhead which was a half-mile farther down.  It seemed like I drove in farther than half a mile.

Needless to say, I already had two miles under my belt before I finally headed in the right direction as I found a local who thought the trail might be at the end of the road, but wasn’t certain.  She did know there was a sign and parking area there.  Funny, there wasn’t a horse coral, but it was the trail, and I was pleased to finally get started as I crossed the log bridge over the shallow creek.  Crossing the creek may have been the prettiest part of the hike to me this winter.

I continued on across intermittent red granite and snow.  I only need my microspikes until about a mile and a half into the hike. At this point I began post holing through thick snow as the wind picked up.  I could have stripped off my micro-spikes and strapped on my snow shoes had I found a dry place to sit and continued on, but I decided to pass.  My headache wasn’t encouraging me onward.  Given the whole trail is below the treeline, I expected that the views would remain similar even when I reached the saddle, so I wasn’t missing too much.  Had I not wasted valuable time at the beginning, I would have finished the whole hike, but I was pressing the time I needed to be back home, so I accepted hiking between 5-6 miles in a variety of places as my exercise for the day.

I’ll have to try the hike again, now that I know where it is.  I think I will save it for the fall!  ETB

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