Monthly Archives: July 2013

7.1 mile hike from Matthews/Winters to Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater

This week’s training hike begins and concludes at another great Jefferson County Open Space Park, called Matthew/Winters. The middle of the hike will take us to the infamous Red Rocks Park and Amphitheater.

This park has quite the Colorado history associated with it. As the Jefferson County Open Space’s website states, ” ‘Chief’ Colorow, a ubiquitous, half-Ute, half-Apache Indian, held councils with his renegade band on the Hogback area of Matthews/Winters Park. Colorow loved biscuits and molasses, which pioneer housewives baked whenever he and his followers appeared in the area. The Matthews/Winters area has been used since settlers arrived for agricultural production, ranching and mineral extraction. The Indians first mined clay from the Hogback for mud baths. Settlers mined the Hogback extensively for clay, sandstone, limestone, marble and coal. Clay mining continued in the area until the 1960s.

Dr. Joseph Casto founded the Town of Mount Vernon in 1859 on what is now Matthews/Winters Park. A lay preacher and land promoter, Casto came from Ohio to make his fortune in the gold rush. He reputedly grubstaked John H. Gregory on his prospect in Gregory Gulch, and later discovered the famous Casto lode near Central City. Casto hoped Mount Vernon would become a supply town for the mines. He advertised in the Rocky Mountain News and The Golden Mountaineer that building lots were available at no cost to anyone who would build on them.

Gov. Steele settled in Mount Vernon, which became, de facto, the first state capitol. Having no official building, the new legislature met in various buildings, including the Mount Vernon Stage Stop, near Steele’s residence in Mount Vernon. By January of 1860 Mount Vernon boasted 44 registered voters.

Mount Vernon boasted the first Wells Fargo Express stop, probably located in Matthews House and was the first opportunity to change horses. Morrison House served as a toll station for the Denver, Auraria and Colorado Wagon Road Company. Their toll road climbed Mount Vernon Canyon and then ran southwest to Bergen Park (Evergreen) and Bradford Junction (Conifer) , and on to Park County (Fairplay) . Travelers on it paid $1.00 for their first span of horses and 25¢ for each additional span. The Denver, Idaho and Georgetown Express Company inaugurated service on June 20, 1867, via Mount Vernon. Wells Fargo Express originally offered twice-weekly service, but by 1869 provided daily service to Georgetown via Mount Vernon.

In 1888, William Matthews bought four full town lots and fractions of five other town lots (total value $825.00) at a tax sale for $315.00. Apparently, William gradually enlarged his holdings, buying more land whenever possible.

The 1885 U.S. Census for Mount Vernon lists William E. Matthews (farmer, age 65), his wife, Elizabeth F. (47), and their seven children, Thomas G. (13), Elizabeth (11), Rowland (9), John (8), Robert (6), Clara (3), and Rose (9 months). William and Elizabeth were born in England, and the children were born in Colorado. In 1974, Nick Matthews, William’s descendent, sold 353 acres to the new Jefferson County Open Space System. June, 1972, William Winters bought 520 acres of Hogback land, which he sold to Open Space in 1974.”

As you can probably tell, I really enjoy history. Now, on to today’s beautiful hike.

After leaving the trail head you immediately come upon a heavily wooded area adorned with park benches and picnic tables. After crossing a small creek you start climbing through the old town of Mt. Vernon. All that remains are a couple of homes (still occupied to this day) and several flattened hillside homesites. After hiking up to a ridge you come across a very old cemetery. There are only four markers still standing, but they all are from the late 1800’s and they describe the deceased as in their 20’s and 30’s. It really must have been difficult living back in those gold and silver mining days.

Soon, you start seeing the amazing geological features which make this hike so interesting. The photo also shows my Deuter pack system with 28 pounds on board.

There are some neat and challenging red rock formations which require sure footing. Here Sandy is on top of one section of the trail which had a bit of loose gravel and a drop off of about 25 feet.

After gaining a little altitude the wonderful vistas of the hogback formations and Denver skyline become visible.

Most of the trail is wide and easy, while there are also some amazing red rock sections that require clear thinking and steady balance. Soon after this photo was taken we watched as an inexperienced mountain biker took a spill trying to navigate down this steep portion.

After about 2 miles on the Red Rocks Trail, you leave Jeffco Open Space and cross into the Denver Mountain Parks system. This photo shows the rocks that comprise the famous Amphitheater in the background.

Sandy on the trail as we work our way closer to Red Rocks Amphitheater.

After hiking to the lower parking lot, we used the main entry road to climb the remaining distance to the amphitheater. Once on top, you get to experience how this venue is used by so many people other than concert goers. There were tour busses dropping off folks who were walking around wide eyed and filling the museum. There were at lease 50 people working out on the seats. Some of the workouts involved running the rows, others involved running up the 69 bench seats to the top, while some MMA hard core athletes were seen doing “inchworms” up the seats. It reminded me of the scene at California’s “muscle beach”, only 100% cleaner – Colorado style.

After people watching for several minutes, Sandy and I went down to the Red Rocks Grill for a light lunch and some Colorado microbrews. What a amazing place to take a lunch break from our hike.

After lunch, we packed up and headed back to the trail head. All tolled, we hiked 7.1 miles on a simply beautiful Colorado day.



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Train Crash

Our thoughts and prayers to the victims of yesterday’s terrible train crash in Santiago, Spain. Prayers to the first responders as well.

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Americans on the Camino

Interesting information showing the increasing numbers of Americans on the Camino.
Compiled by Johnny Walker.

Buen Camino!


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All Albergues on the Camino Frances

Here is a complete listing, via the Camino de Santiago Forum, of all the places to stay along the 800K Camino Frances Route:

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Camino distance hike on the Highline Canal

Today’s hike combined the distances of what is normally associated with a day on the Camino with the beautiful Highline Canal trail system in Denver, Colorado. We hiked 12.49 miles – our longest distance yet!


I’m sure the workers who built the Highline Canal more than a century ago didn’t envision that people would be using their ambitious irrigation project as a recreational outlet in the midst of a busy urban area.

The Highline Canal meanders for more than 71 miles from the foothills in Jefferson County, into Arapahoe County, through Denver County until it ends in Adams County. It was built to provide water to farmers on Colorado’s eastern plains from the South Platte River Basin. The canal still provides water today, but is much more well known as a fantastic trail for hikers, mountain bikers, and horse lovers. Those recreating on the trail love it for the relative flatness (only 2 feet of elevation loss/gain per mile), the huge cottonwood trees which provide much needed shade and the diversity that every mile promises.

Today’s training hike started at the Cherry Hills trailhead near Hampden Boulevard. We then proceeded south along the Highline Canal through two of Colorado’s richest communities of Cherry Hills and Greenwood Villages.


In addition to observing how the lifestyles of the rich and famous were doing, we had the opportunity see some truly beautiful open space.


Todays trek was by far our longest distance hike which will equal what our average total distance per day will be on the Camino. I must admit hiking for 12.5 miles in a day is challenging on our old bones. However we accomplished today’s hike in a little over 5 hours which will allow for quite a bit of down time to rest and relax before starting the next days hike.


Now that we’ve established that we can hike a distance of 12 miles it is time to concentrate on increasing our fitness level. This may mean that our hikes will not necessarily be quite as long as today’s hike but perhaps our pace will increase to provide a higher level of fitness overall.



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Pilgrimage routes in Europe



July 12, 2013 · 07:47

Hiking above timberline

We decided to travel up to the high country for our weekly training hike. Our choice was pretty simple, as our closest access to high country peaks is Guanella Pass. Guanella Pass is the mountain connection between the communities along U.S. 285 to those on I-70 in Colorado’s high Country. Specifically, the mountain communities of Grant and Georgetown, Colorado.

We got up bright and early so we could get up and down the trail well before the afternoon monsoon storms kicked up. There is no worse place on earth than on a trail above timberline when a lightning storm strikes. It a totally helpless and frightening experience. So, up early – complete the 45 minute drive and on the trail before 0900 for our 4 mile hike.

Today’s hike will start at 11,500′ and take us to 12,100′ and two neat alpine lakes.

The top of Guanella Pass has two trailheads, one on each side of the road. One trailhead is for those wishing to attempt to summit, Mt. Bierstadt at 14,065′ elevation. Side note: there are 88 peaks in America over 14,000′ in elevation and 54 of them are in Colorado. Rocky Mountain High! This photo shows the side slope of Bierstadt and the “sawtooth” which connects the mountain to Mt. Evans. Many climbers have been killed over the years trying to cross the sawtooth. My son and I have reached the summit on both Evans and Bierstadt, but avoided the sawtooth.

Our hike today will take us on the other side of the street and the Square Lakes trail. The trail has “only” 600′ of elevation gain, but we will be carrying our fully weighted Camino backpacks. Plus, we will be well above timberline, so breathing the rarified air will make this a true test. Once on the trail one of the first things we noticed was the amazing vistas. We could see 11 levels of mountain ranges as we looked to the south. It was incredibly beautiful.


The next thing we noticed was how the recent rains have really punctuated our amazing wildflowers. The Indian Paintbrush was he deepest red we have ever seen. The flowers blanketed the alpine grasses and were just amazing.

As our hike took us further upward, we managed our way across several small streams, which moments before were ice and snow.

As we hiked closer to the lakes we passed several rather large snowfields. Snow in July – gotta love Colorado!

Finally, one last steep climb before the lakes. Once there, we took a break on the banks of the crystal clear lower Square Lake.


We decided to head back from the lower lake as the clouds started rolling in. Along the way, we took the time for one last photo.

Photos cannot accurately portray the vastness and beauty of Colorado’s backcountry hiking trails. You really need to see for yourself. We feel blessed to be able to train for our upcoming Camino adventure in such an environment.


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