We keep a close weed watch on our pastures and recently noticed a few musk, Canada, and bull thistles popping up. All are class B invasive weeds and according to Colorado Revised Statutes all property owners are required to remove them. When we first purchased the ranch many years ago, it had been a bit overgrazed by the “save the wild mustang” organization which was operated on it. Overgrazing tended to open up our high country meadows to many bad weeds. There were some portions of our property in pretty bad shape, to say the least. Over the years, even before the weed statute became law, we began to mitigate weeds. Most of the hard work is over, so for the past 10 years or so we have been in a maintenance mode. Factoid: The average musk thistle plant’s seed head will distribute up to 20,000 seeds which can live dormant for decades before dropping into the soil and turning into an invasive weed.
Anyway, after a morning of chores we decided to take our hike at a nearby Jefferson County Open Space park, called Alderfer/Three Sisters. It is located between Conifer and downtown Evergreen off of County Road 73. As you can see from the above photograph, this park has beautiful meadows mixed with amazing rock formations. The original property owner settled on the land in 1873. The Alderfer family purchased the land in 1945 and raised silver foxes, Angus cattle, ran a saw mill and did custom haying. The “Three Sisters” name comes from the three rocky peaks, all side by side. The park consists of 1,128 acres and 13.9 miles of trails.
We decided to hike on some of the park’s lessor known trails, well away from the common dog walk paths, so we ventured north on Mountain Muhly Trail. Most of this trail is an old two track which goes right over a small stock dam and spillway. It was there we saw a great looking young bull elk. His summer coat was reddish brown and shined as if he were just groomed. He was eating grass, just below the spillway and we were able to get quite close to him before he scampered off into the woods. I commented to Sandy that we were likely the first humans he saw on this less traveled trail.
After climbing a steep portion of the trail we rounded a bend and the popular Evergreen Lake came into view. Fed by Bear Creek, Evergreen Lake is a very popular mountain getaway from Denver. Summer offers hiking, boating, fishing and lots of special events at the Lake House, while winter brings ice skating, hockey and ice fishing.
After another half mile or so, we came upon a neat cabin district. Some of the cabins were very large, like the one pictured above. It was interesting to see all of the amazing rock work on the roads and cabin as well as the work it took to bring running water there. Well, pump house, wooded banded water tank above the cabin, etc.
Just as we passed the cabin district, our daily Colorado monsoon’s dark clouds roll in and we decided to take the remaining trails back toward the main parking lot. Lots of lightning associated with the monsoon season, so no need risking our safety for an extra mile or two. We made to within a quarter mile of our vehicle when the rain began, so our decision was wise. Overall, we walked 3.5 miles on a 20 minute per mile pace, so we are definitely increasing our pace as we continue to ready ourselves for the Camino.