Tag Archives: hiking

Ouzel Falls at Rocky Mountain National Park

September 28, 2015

What a nice day to visit Rocky Mountain National Park. Ann and I took the 1.5 hour drive to the Wild Basin Entrance on the southeast corner of the park. After following the one lane dirt road to the parking lot equipped with vault toilets, we arrived at the Wild Basin Trailhead.

The trail follows the creek with a variety of waterfalls. Copeland Falls was the first feature, not far into the trail. We continued our ascent, enjoyed a few turning aspen, and soon reached Calypso Cascades. We thought this tall cascading waterfall was simply lovely.

The path led us through pine forest and along new and improved trail since the 100 year flood a few years ago. At Ouzel Falls a new bridge was under construction and the trail was closed. Here was sat down for a snack before we returned to the car beneath sunny skies. We beat the rain! ETB

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Herman Gulch in the Summer

August 22, 2015

Herman Lake
Location:
0.1 mile north of exit #218 from I-70
Elevation: 10,332-11,987
Roundtrip: 6.5 miles
Fees: None

I finally made it to Herman Lake. This is a hike I have wanted to complete since I moved to Colorado four years ago. I finally tried getting to the lake this past winter and didn’t make it. I decided to try it in the summer with Heather, Jaz, and David.

This time we made it. We made the left turn soon after the trailhead and climbed up through and aspen grove and beneath the conifers until we reached an open area blanketed in wild flowers. Again, we entered the forest and soon popped out above the treeline.

We gained around 1,600 feet over 3.25 miles to lake situated beneath the peaks around 12,000 feet. We enjoyed lunch at the lake beneath finicky skies…sometimes sunny, sometimes cloudy and cool. Little did we know that when we returned to Denver, we’d be entering a down pour! We felt fortunate for the lovely morning in the mountains. ETB

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Cripple Creek and Manitou Springs with Hikes in Between

May 2-3, 2015

Garden of the Gods
Location: 5 miles northwest of Colorado Springs
Fees: None

Cripple Creek
Location: 45 miles west of Colorado Springs

Horsethief Falls and Pancake Rock Trailhead
Location:
9.4 miles north of Cripple Creek
Elevation: 9,760-11,000
Roundtrip: 7.6 miles
Fees: None

Manitou Springs
Location: 6.5 miles west of Colorado Springs

Just sixty miles south of Denver a national natural landmark, Garden of the Gods is a unique, free park to visit. David and I stopped in the visitor center to find out the best trails to follow for cool views of the rock formations, but also to get in at least a four mile hike.

Upon the instruction of the ranger, we walked from the visitor center under the road to Gateway Trail which we connected to all or portions of three more trails; Chambers/Bretag/Palmer Trail, Siamese Twins Trail, and Perkins Central Garden Trail. The trails led us along the dusty path past twisted trees and small shrubs, between a variety of rock formations, and beneath many climbers enjoying a sunny day.

After completing the four mile loop, we drove to Cripple Creek, an old gold mining town. In its heyday, over 10,000 prospectors lived in the now sleepy town of 1,100. Now the main street is lined with casinos. The casino just on the outskirts of town has the cheapest craps table in the state (only $1), and from what I understand, good odds. We spent a few hours learning how to play. It only cost us $20 each. It was a fun time filler while we waited to watch the Kentucky Derby.

Cripple Creek is also home to a few museums and a theatre. I wouldn’t mind coming back for a theatre production, as I’m told actors come in from all over. Only a movie was showing, Three Amigos, while we were there. For a small $5 contribution, we visited the Cripple Creek District Museum operated by an enthusiastic married couple. We mostly wanted to take our picture in the cut-out board, but then enjoyed seeing all the old pictures and maps of the town and gold mines. It was worth a visit!

The weather put a bit of a damper on walking around the town, but we got a glimpse before we left the next morning to hike Horsethief Falls and Pancake Rocks. The trailhead is located at the closed Little Ike Tunnel. If hiking to both Horsethief Falls and Pancake Rocks, the overall distance is 7.6 miles. It is also possible to just hike one or the other for a shorter distance, 2.2 miles or 6.6 miles respectively. The trail also offers a detour to the left on Ring the Peak Trail that goes into the nearby meadow and towards Pikes Peak (this is actually the first trail junction).

While the weather was rather crappy the last few weeks of April, we were surprised to see how much snow was still on the trail. I expected some, but much of the path was snowpacked. Micro-spikes would have been a nice addition for the hike that began at 9,700 feet of elevation and gained another 1,200 along the way to Pancake Rocks.

The hike to Horsethief Falls was relatively simple though most of the falls were covered in snow, so I was a little bummed to only see a trickle of water. The hike to Pancake Rocks was a bit more challenging. Our poles helped us climb up the icy switchbacks to some neat rock formations. I’m uncertain if we made it all the way as the path somewhat ended into a mass of snow shortly after we stopped to admire some of the rocks. As the day warmed up, we alternated between post holing and sliding down the path on our return.

On our way back to Denver, we stopped for lunch in Manitou Springs and to wander around the town. I would have liked to wander around the town a bit longer, but we made a poor lunch choice by visiting BooDad’s. We saw our waiter twice over 1.5 hours…to bring us a beer and to bring us the bill. We had to order our meal from the young girl cleaning tables, our beer from the waitress handling the table next to us, and then ask for our bill from the person seating people as our waiter was no-where to be found on the balcony or inside the restaurant! I would not recommend, though Manitou Springs is worth a visit. ETB

Hike to Silver Dollar Lake

March 21, 2015

Silver Dollar Lake
Location: Approximately 10 miles South of Georgetown on Guanella Pass Road
Round-trip: 3.2 miles
Elevation: 10,512-12,145
Fees: None

Well, I’m 0-2 in trying to reach alpine lakes in the winter time, but for some reason it doesn’t bother me when I have to turn around and not make my final destination in the snow.

We drove to Georgetown and up Guanella Pass road to the parking lot for Silver Dollar Lakes Trailhead. We were fortunate to snag the last parking spot at 10:30am.

We started out on the snow packed trail that we followed through the green forest. We gradually climbed the path until we reached a fork. We guess left and few steps later we found a trail sign poking through the heavy base of snow. It pointed to the left so we continued through a few trees to an open area with three paths leading to the right. Should we take the lower, middle, or upper path?

We started climbing steeply and upon looking down, we thought maybe the middle path was the best to take. We found ourselves sliding quite a bit so we turned back to the high path again. We followed it to a rock outcropping where the snow had melted. After enjoying the view of Naylor Lake we scanned the area for the best path to take.

We could only find one path where a snowshoer had broken trail. We followed it for a while until we began post-holing. We knew it would only be worse in the afternoon sun upon our return, so we backtracked to the rock outcropping for lunch.

After brief stop, we followed the trail to the fork where we decided to go right this time since there were several tracks. We figured we may as well explore since we didn’t make it to the lake and had some extra time. It didn’t take long before we were post-holing above our knees, so we finally accepted defeat and returned to the car.

The good news is we were outside on a crystal clear sixty degree day enjoying the beauty of the mountains. It was a fantastic day with Dan and Bryan. ETB

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Hiking Royal Arch Trail in Boulder

March 11, 2015

Royal Arch Trail
Location: SW of Boulder in Chautauqua Park
Round-trip: 3.2 miles
Elevation: 5,710-6,915
Fees: None

David and I arrived to Chautauqua Park in the late morning on Wednesday. The parking gods looked upon us as we snagged the last parking spot in the lot. We planned on hiking to the Royal Arch which I have wanted to do for a while now. It hadn’t snowed for a week and temperatures were unseasonably warm, so it looked like it might be a somewhat muddy trek as we surveyed the trail options.

We started out on Chautauqua Trail and trounced through the mud to a snowy path that ascended through the evergreen forest. After about half a mile we reached a trail intersection and began climbing toward the 3rd flatiron. The steep path weaved around snow-covered boulders. Soon we found the frozen-over compressed snow to be quite slick. We were wishing we had our hiking boots instead of trail runners, but happy to some of the few who came equipped with hiking poles.

As we pressed our poles down into the snow, others clinged to tree limbs. While we stopped plenty of times for photos, the one step forward, slide two-steps back process caused the 3.2 mile roundtrip hike with 1,400 feet of elevation to take much longer than we anticipated. Finally we reached the pass, where we were happy to see a mileage marker…a quarter of a mile to the arch!

Here we climbed down through a rocky chute, descended along the path briefly and then climbed up a small waterfall. Soon we arrived at the magnificent arch and spectacular views for our picnic lunch. After soaking in the sun beneath Colorado’s clear sky, we headed back down. This time I strapped on my micro-spikes. I thought they would be too large to use on my trail shoes, but thankfully, though slightly loose, they worked wonders. I should have strapped them on for the ascent as well, though the descent was harder, so I was happy to make life easier.

David is not a micro-spike owner, but after this hike may be a proud new owner. He followed a few fellow hikers lead and basically skied down the trail on his tennis shoes with only a few expected wipeouts. I managed to stay on my feet all the way down Royal Arch Trail and Blue Mesa Trail only to fall in the MUD about 100 yards from the car! Figures. Overall, it was a gorgeous hike and despite the slick conditions was worth the extra effort and extended time it took to reach the top. Fun day! ETB

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Herman Gulch Trail and Lake Attempt

February 7, 2015

Herman Gulch Trail
Location: 52 miles west of Denver on I-70
Round-Trip: 6.5 miles
Elevation: 10,332-11,987
Fees: None

It was a glorious, winter day in Denver…sunny, 70 degrees and record-breaking! I thought what better time to go for a snowshoe as I won’t freeze.

Jim and I met in the Wooly Mammoth parking lot at 9:30. The late start was specifically chosen to let the ski traffic die down and to enjoy the warm weather. We hopped on I-70 West, sat in intermittent traffic, and in a little over an hour exited #218 and made a hard U-turn into the parking lot for the trailhead to Herman Gulch Trailhead (and lake).

The snow seemed packed at the trailhead, so we stepped into our micro-spikes, strapped our snowshoes to our pack, and pulled on our hat and gloves in preparation for our hike. Armed with the trail description, we expected a flat start with a steep climb only to level off again in a valley and then a final climb.

Without my sunglasses (Ugh) and one eye squinted closed, I led us up the snow packed trail than began at 10,000 feet. At first we walked through evergreens, and then along a flat, open area, and then up again through the trees. I kept thinking to myself that the trail didn’t seem as steep as I expected a 2,000 foot gain over 3 miles to be, but I decided to give myself credit for all my recent trips to the gym.

Soon, after about a mile, the forged trail abruptly stopped. No snowshoe or cross country ski tracks could be found. After post-holing for the last thirty feet and then reaching the end of the trail, I turned to Jim and said, “I don’t think this is right. Do you think we missed a trail junction?”

He replied, “I didn’t see another trail junction. Let’s keep going.”

Based on the cars in the parking lot, I knew others went out on the trail ahead of us, therefore, I had some hesitation with breaking the trail. In addition, in the back of my mind I felt like I saw a trail go off to the left from the corner of my eye, but it seemed less traveled so I followed the trail straight ahead.

I asked, “Will you pull the trail description out of the back of my pack?”

After studying the description and Jim adding a few waypoints to his GPS, Jim decisively determined we went the wrong way. I suppose he won’t follow me anymore! Normally, he has all the coordinates in his GPS before we go, but after a long week in California, he just relied on me printing the trail directions which were relatively simple.

As we backtracked the mile, we met a group of five.

Jim nonchalantly inquired, “Where are you guys headed?”

The leader of the pack looked at him inquisitively and replied, “The lake”.

Jim informed them that we think they are headed the wrong way, so they turned around.

Sure enough, near the beginning of the trail, we needed to do a hairpin left turn instead of following the trail to the right. Our print out didn’t mention a switch back, but it did mention at trail junction at 0.17 miles. Unfortunately, there wasn’t even a sign deciphering the two trails. It must have been covered in the snow?!?

Now that we were on what we felt like was the right track, we climbed up the incline through the aspen grove. The next couple we found, who were lucky enough to notice the trail junction, waited for someone to come along but when no one did they guessed left. At this point, I wasn’t feeling too bad about my misdirection, and we had plenty of time to make it to the lake.

As we continued up the tacky, soft snow, each group we met hadn’t made it to the lake. Having wanted to do this hike for over a year, I was feeling a bit discouraged, but determined to make it.

Once we exited the shade of trees and hit the level meadow of rippled snow in the blazing sun, we started post-holing regularly. Each time we fell thigh deep into the snow, we’d lean on our pole to push out only for our pole to sink or our other leg to sink. Finally, we succumbed and strapped on our snow shoes, something we were trying to avoid because they are clumsy and slow going. Not to mention, we could see the next section of packed snow just ahead where snow shoes wouldn’t be needed.

I must admit, in this instance, snowshoeing was much easier. We should have switched over sooner, especially me since I was falling through the snow three times more often than Jim. We’d probably only hiked a little over three miles by now, and I was exhausted from all the squats and lunges I was doing to get out of the snow!

We kept going intermittently through open areas, with views of towering snow-capped mountains, and the trees. Soon we were less than a mile from the lake, yet not one snowshoer had made it. One girl, who was a regular on the trail suggested that we not break our own trail to the lake since we didn’t know where we were going. Silently, I agreed with her. In addition, another couple mentioned they had never made it to the lake in the winter time. With those two comments, I told Jim, “We are turning around!”

Not one to quit, I’m kind of glad we turned around when we did. A dark cloud rolled in, and it began lightly snowing on us! Oh the joys of mountain weather. Not to mention, I rubbed one heck of a blister on the back of my heal, so I wasn’t extraordinarily faster going down hill than up!

We still got the 6.5 miles in that we planned, though at a much slower pace. We probably got in four hours of exercise and were on the trail for almost five.

Not making the lake only fuels the fire for me to go this summer. It is supposed to be home to fantastic wildflowers, moose, big horn sheep and mountain goats!! Overall, we had a blast laughing at ourselves and enjoying a lovely day! ETB

PS…Should you forget you sunglasses on a sunny day in the mountain snow, remember to put sunblock on your eyelids!

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Take a Road Trip to Colorado Springs

I wrote this post on my other blog about painted mines, the incline, and the Broadmoor. Since Colorado Springs isn’t too far from Denver and even closer than some mountain jaunts, I figured this post would also be suited for a day around town 5280.

http://adventuresofacouchsurfer.com/2014/12/21/painted-mines-the-incline-and-christmas-at-the-broadmoor-a-cracking-time-in-colorado-springs/

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Visit Castlewood Canyon State Park

December 7, 2014

Castlewood Canyon State Park
2989 S Hwy 83
Franktown, CO 80116
Phone: 303-688-5242
Website: http://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/CastlewoodCanyon

Fees: Daily Parks Pass $7, Annual Pass $70
Hours: 8am-5pm

Dogs allowed on most trails

I had heard Castlewood Canyon was pretty, but I found such a statement somewhat hard to believe given the park’s location. The canyon is nestled on the plains in the southwest suburbs of Denver, and I have to admit it is quite pretty.

There are two entrances to the park, the main entrance on the east side and the more remote entrance on the west side. I chose the less commercialized west side entrance and followed the dirt road to the parking area at the Lucas Homestead.

I love old ruins, so I found the Lucas Homestead quite interesting. Patrick and Margaret Lucas were Irish immigrants who met in Arizona and moved to Colorado in 1893 where they settled on 160 acres. The Lucases originally built a wood house and later a cement home to house their family of 10. It is unknown what exactly they did with their land as it was too steep to drive cattle or equipment. It thought they were attracted to the area due to the newly constructed dam. Beginning in the 1920’s, it is said Mr. Lucas began charging travelers twenty-five cents to cross his land to visit the dam.

I eventually made it to the dam, but I first followed the Homestead Trail to the Rimrock Trail. The Rimrock Trail led me across the creek and then up a steady climb of switch backs and stairs to the rim of the canyon. The canyon rim offered a view of the snowcapped Rocky Mountains which was lovely. As I followed the trail along the rim, scooching to the edge a few times to take a look in the canyon, I came across three deer grazing to my left. It is always a treat to spot wildlife! Amazingly I spotted three more deer toward the end of my hike and on my drive back to Denver, I passed by a herd of 15 or more pronghorn.

Soon I reached the trail’s descent and followed the path to a trail junction near the creek’s bottom where I veered to the right to check out the remnants of the old dam. The dam, which was built in the late 1800’s burst in 1933 which sent a 15 foot wave all the way to downtown Denver! That must have been a surprise.

After following the Dam Trail and checking out the historic structure, I connected to the Creek Bottom Trail to complete just over a four mile loop. The Creek Bottom Trail in many places was rather muddy from snow melt, but it did provide a great view of the icy water fall. I followed the undulating trail through the juniper until I ended at the parking area. What a nice way to get a few hours of exercise! ETB

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