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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.