Monthly Archives: June 2013

Which step have you reached today?

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June 27, 2013 · 07:37

Cub Creek Trail in Mt. Evans Wilderness, Colorado

This weeks major training hike incorporated our fully weighted, Camino ready packs, a moderate distance and some serious elevation gain.

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We chose the Cub Creek Trail for a few reasons. First, it was close to home and second, the US Forest Service will be extending Cub Creek to meet up with Staunton State Park. Mark works and Sandy volunteers at Staunton, so we both thought it would be neat to see what it was like before the expansion. Since neither of us had hiked it before, we decided today would be as good a day as any to train there.

The weather called for temperatures in the 80’s at elevation with gusty winds and low humidity, so we decided to get an early start. We arrived at the trailhead a little after 0800 and it was already starting to get warm.

We were the only car in the lot and as we made our way up the trail, we understood why. The initial sections of the trail were in pretty shoddy shape, resembling a rocky dry river bed more than a hiking trail.

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Our discussion centered on being careful not to twist an ankle or blow out a knew on the kazillion or so loose rocks. Next, we discussed what was the worse trail conditions – loose rocks or sticky mud. We both agreed it was a toss up.

After about a mile of negotiating each foot placement we finally escaped the rocks! We entered a nice clearing where we could see a stunning vista.

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A bit further up the trail we began to wonder just where Cub Creek was and when we would encounter it. I really like hiking next to a stream. It just seems to take your mind off the walking and provides an interesting stimulus for the brain. Well, we never came across any creek, no less Cub Creek, but we did see two neat springs bubbling up from the ground.

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We continued hiking up hill until we reached the top of a mountain with an elevation of 9,550′. The peak was just northwest of Staunton. The rocky terrain provided us with a great table to drop off our heavy packs and rock chairs to rest our feet. After a short break for a snack we were once again on the trail, this time heading back down the trail.

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Hiking back was much more easy until the final mile of loose rocks. We made sure to firmly plant our poles before each step. Even so, we both felt pretty lucky to have made it through this section of trail without a significant injury.

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All in all it was a strenuous training hike of 5.15 miles with an elevation gain of 1,250′. That, plus the fact we were both carrying over 20 pounds in our packs, gave us great satisfaction that we are well on our way toward being in “Camino shape.”

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Urban Hiking – Downtown Denver

Sometimes it is good to take a slight change of direction when training for the Camino. Well, on Tuesday we did just that. Sandy and I decided to go down to Denver and the mile high city for our weekly extended hike. Many people still believe Denver to be a “cow town”, but actually the economy is booming locally and many folks are moving here. In fact, Denver is now the 21st largest metropolitan areas in the United States. OK, enough chamber of commerce talk!

We drove the 35 minutes to Golden, CO, where we boarded the Regional Transit District’s (RTD) new W light rail line. RTD provides six light rail lines in metro Denver, stopping at 46 stations along the way. We took the brand new W Line from Golden to Union Station in downtown.

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The new route offers trains every fifteen minutes and provided us with a relaxing way to avoid Denver traffic. After approximately thirty minutes we were at Union Station where a multi-million dollar transit station is being constructed.

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We hiked from the light rail station past the conveniently free mall shuttles and onto the pedestrian friendly 16th Street Mall. We hiked from lower downtown up toward the State Capitol and back again.

As we were hiking back thoughts of all the fine restaurants crossed our minds. After much discussion about trying new restaurants we decided to try one of our old time favorites, the Wynkoop Brewing Company, Denver’s first brew pub. Factoid: Denver and Colorado now boast more breweries than any metropolitan area in the United States.

At Wynkoop, we tried some new beers they were brewing and Sandy really enjoyed their Wixa Weiss. After a great lunch and a few beers, it was off to the light rail station for the trip home.

Total distance hiking, 3.4 miles, with a great lunch and home crafted beers. Not a bad combination…we could actually get into this urban hiking thing!

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Lower Maxwell Falls

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On Friday we decided to take a short hike to see local Maxwell Falls in the summer, as we previously hiked it a couple of months ago when it was iced over. We parked in the lower lot and hiked the Lower Maxwell Falls Trail (Forest Service 111).

We arrived at 0900 and by looking at the cars in the lot figured we were the third group on the trail. It starts with a slight incline in a thick lodgepole forest. This made for a cooler hike on the incline. As you get closer to the falls, the trail becomes more rocky.

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We made it to the falls around 1015 and enjoyed some breakfast snacks at its base. Met just one other group at the falls, and they were leaving as we arrived, so we pretty much had it to ourselves.

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There are some pretty interesting rock outcroppings at the base of the falls. The one we ate beneath was defying gravity.

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All in all, a nice 3.9 mile hike to start the day off right.

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Our first double digit training hike!

Sandy and I have decided to participate in training hikes every Tuesday, weather permitting. That being said, so far this week Sandy has accumulated 26 miles hiking while I have 15. Today, we started out with an ambitious plan to summit Lions Head Peak within nearby Staunton State Park.

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Photo: At the start of the trailhead with Lions Head in the background

We arrived at the trailhead at 8:30 AM and immediately noticed it was already quite warm (54 degrees) for so early at our 8,250 foot elevation. There were red flag warnings issued for most of Colorado for the day due to high winds, record breaking high temperatures with extremely low humidity predicted. As a Certified Wildland Firefighter I knew that it was smart to get up and down this mountain in the middle of Colorado’s front range “red zone” before late afternoon when the higher winds started picking up. So, we drove to the park’s group picnic area and started our hike with little to no winds present.

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Photo: Many rocky outcroppings amidst Colorado’s signature blue skies

As we reached the 2 mile point, the winds started getting a bit breezy. By the 3 mile mark it was downright windy, estimated gusts to be at 30-40 MPH. We continued the hike up SR trail to BE, into the Pike National Forest. After less than a mile of nicely shaded hiking, we re-entered the park as the trail joined the north Elk Creek as it flows toward the north Fork of Elk Creek. It was neat to see, that even with temperatures in the 80’s for the past several days, there were still thick ice blocks, dripping like an open faucet, feeding the stream.

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Photo: An ice bridge over the North Fork of Elk Creek

As we made it to beautiful Elk Falls Lake the winds were really howling. I commented to Sandy that our state was sure to experience wildland fires today. Undeterred, we hiked a up steep LB trail at mile 9 and decided to go for the summit of Lions Head. We can see Lions Head from our living room as it is the most prominent local peaks in our area. Not as spectacular in our view as snow capped Mt. Rosalie, Mt. Evans, Mt. Epaulet, and Mt. Logan but much closer.

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Photo: What a view! Looking toward our property.

Once at the top, the hike proved well worth it. I have been there about a dozen times, and the vista still amazes me. This was Sandy’s first assent so it was extra special. From the top one can see all the way southeast to snowcapped Pikes Peak. We also were able to locate our house and daughter Anita’s home from this 9,400 foot vantage point.

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Photo: Sandy at the top!

While on the top it became apparent that the red flag conditions were in fact causing wildfires. No plumes of smoke were noticed, but the usual crystal clear vistas were quite hazy and smokey. After those observations we decided to not spend too much time at the top, so we started our trek back to the trailhead.

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Photo: Some nice sized flat portions on the shoulder

By the time we were getting close, the winds had picked up to 45-50 MPH gusts, enough to blow our hats off and make our trail balance uneasy. We made it back to the trail head safely with our GPS readings as follows:

Total Length – 10.14 miles, Total Time – 5 hours 53 minutes, Elevation Gain – 1,150 feet

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Photo: This is the trail I was fortunate enough to be able to name during park development

Sandy and I were pretty proud of our progress especially the fact that this was the first training hike in double digits. We were also encouraged as recently, our local chapter president of American Pilgrims on the Camino, Gene McCullough, commented on his 9 mile hike in Staunton as being more challenging than anything one would experience anywhere on the Camino.

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Photo: Looking down on Elk Falls as it rumbles 100′

So, I think we are well on our way toward readying ourselves for our upcoming trek. Now that we have distances down, we will start concentrating on increased backpack weight.

Final note: Our thoughts and prayers go out to the residents and our firefighters who are battling all four wildfires that started today in Colorado.

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The Denver Chapter of the American Pilgrims on the Camino hikes Staunton S.P.

On Saturday, members of the Denver chapter of American Pilgrims on the Camino traveled to Conifer to hike Staunton State Park’s challenging trail network. Sandy and I welcomed the group at the Mason Creek Trailhead. After about 15 minutes of park history and trail geography, Sandy joined them up the trail. Unfortunately, I had to work but there are a lot of worse things you could be doing than working as a park ranger at this fantastic place.

The group hiked the Mason Creek Trail to the Borderline trail and up the the Staunton Rocks Overlook. Lunch was consumed atop the rocky point with views all the way to Pikes Peak. After lunch, the group continued down Old Mill Trail to Staunton Ranch Trail and back to the trailhead. Overall, the hike was 9 miles with 1,500 feet in elevation gain (8,100-9,600′) and ranks up there as the longest training hikes we, or should I say Sandy has ever taken. Sandy survived with no foot or joint issues and just minor muscle pain in her back.

Thanks to all that visited Staunton on the hike!

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Meyers Ranch full pack mini-hike

This morning Sandy and I traveled to nearby Meyers Ranch Park, part of the Jefferson County Open Space system.  It was a beautiful morning with temperatures in the high 40’s and not a cloud in the sky. Quite a change from yesterday’s Pacific Northwest like fog bank we endured.

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Since I report to work at 1pm today the hike needed to be short but we still wanted to make it a bit more difficult.  So, I loaded up my Deuter pack system to 20 pounds and off we went.

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Sandy and I ended up hiking 3 miles at a pretty good clip so we finished in time for a great breakfast at Aspen Perk in Conifer.

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