October 7, 2017
Trail(s): Turkey Trot Trail to Castle Trail to Walkers Dream and back down Castle Trail
Location: Mount Falcon State Park
Elevation: 6,000-7,600 feet
Distance: 6.2 miles roundtrip
Hours: Sunrise to Sunset daily
It has already been snowing in the mountains, and a big snow storm is coming to Denver on Monday, so today we made the most of the sunny, seventy degree day by heading to Jeffco Open Space.
Jefferson County does a great job with their parks. There are a wide variety, and they are free. I should really hike these trails more often due to the close proximity to Denver, but I guess sometimes I like to go far enough into the mountains that my view from the summit doesn’t include a city.
Regardless, today Mike, Paula, Ross and I opted for a short hike to the Summer White House Ruins, a “summer white house” dreamed up by John Brisben Walker for then president Woodrow Wilson.
Walker was a true Renaissance man. He bought and sold the Cosmopolitan Magazine after increasing its circulation from 16,000 to 400,000 in six years; he built the longest COG railway in the world to the summit of Mount Morrison; he manufactured several models of automobiles and sponsored the first automobile race in the USA; and he invested in land including Mount Falcon and Red Rocks to which he built a road and trails, and promoted the venue as acoustically perfect for concerts. These were just a few of his endeavors.
I doubt if building a house on top of a summit for the president seemed like much of an endeavor! Unfortunately, the house never made it past the foundation due to lack of funds (despite all Colorado school children investing a dime), and the coming of WWI. Sadly, Walker died penniless at the age of 83.
Our hike began at the East parking lot of the park. We didn’t begin until 1pm, so I was leery about finding a parking space on this glorious day. Lucky for us, many people were finishing up their visit to the park, so we found some empty spaces on the nearby street.
From the parking lot, we followed Castle Trail just briefly until we reached Turkey Trot Trail which branches off to the right. The Turkey Trot Trail is a mountain bike free zone, so the first 1.7 miles of the hike were rather peaceful as we only shared the trail with fellow hikers and one rattlesnake. Fortunately the snake seemed very happy quietly resting in the shade.
The dry, dusty trail mostly led us uphill beneath the sun, though occasionally we found the shade of a conifer. Soon it connected back to Castle Trail where we turned right and continued uphill for another 1.2 miles where we connected to Walkers Dream Trail just past the shelter.
After 0.4 more miles of climbing, we finally reached the ruins which was a small wall with a plaque! We ascended 1,600 feet for that?!? The end result was a little disappointing, but the exercise, company, and nice weather made up for it. Also, the view to the west of snow-capped mountains was lovely.
Our return hike took us back to Castle Trail which we stayed on all the way to the parking lot. We came across several mountain bikers, though I have to say they were quite courteous. Most of them yielded for us! They claimed they needed an excuse to rest, but if I were on a mountain bike going uphill, if I stopped that would be the end of that. Hikers do have the right away, but generally it is easier for us to move over. Anyway, the descent to the parking lot was easy and quick.
The hike was very nice, and while I usually try to do different hikes, I did a “repeater”. This was the first hike I completed after moving to Denver when I had no familiarity with the area, so it was kind of fun to redo, though I was trying to change the final destination to the Walker Home Ruins, not the Summer White House (had I known which were which).
I think I will go back to the park and start from the West parking lot to explore some other trails in the park which are closer to the Walker Home Ruins! Maybe Mike, Paula and Ross will do that with me and then come over for some more Settlers of Catan…what a fun way to end the evening! ETB
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