Monthly Archives: September 2013

Dust if you must




September 30, 2013 · 10:43


So, today we decided to go back to the scene of the creek crossing mishap (yes, that’s what we are calling it) in an attempt to recover Sandy’s wayward hiking pole and to look during broad daylight at any options we may have missed re: our failed river crossing.

As we were nearing the washed out road crossing, which started this whole mess, we noticed a Park County Road and Bridge truck carrying a huge culvert. We were hopeful they were going to be working on the county road to the trailhead. The two culverts which had previously handled decades of spring runoff failed when the recent 100 year record rainfalls hit. For those who may have missed it, here is a short summary of the situation: The main road to the trailhead was inaccessible, which caused us to look for other ways over the raging creek, which resulted in us falling into said water, which caused Sandy to lose one of her expensive Komperdell hiking poles and oh yes, almost her life.

So, sure enough, the county is working on making the creek crossing a three culvert affair and are asking all those who are parked nearby to kindly move their cars so their heavy equipment can move in. In the meantime a young hiker and his mother are asking how to get across he creek and are not being give any constructive advice, so they decide to semi-wade across, which was not a very good choice. Well, their boots filled up with water but they were actually able to locate a shallow portion of the creek where they made it across without losing an expensive hiking pole. (Sorry about that Sandy)

But now back to our story of the lost pole. So Sandy and I retrace our tracks across several breakaway water flows, a broken out beaver dam and are now just below where she met her fate yesterday. I look into an eddy and low and behold, I see some expensive cork floating right next to the bank. I was like a child at Christmas when I yelled, “Eureka, I’ve found it”, or something similar and less worthy for an already overextended blog story. In any event, what I thought would be an effort in futility ended up turning out to be a monumental success. I don’t think this rates up there with a successful moon landing, but it is very close.

In addition, we are getting a new water crossing which DOES NOT require crossing a rapid creek on an icy round dead tree. So, this means that Rosalie-Part III will be back on again for another nice fall day in the very near future.

Buen Camino – Tenemos nuestros bastones de senderismo!


Filed under Mark & Sandy's Camino 2014

Attempt at crossing Deer Creek turns into near disaster!

Today’s training hike took us to the Pike National Forest where we intended to park at the Deer Creek Trailhead and hike up Tanglewood Trail to the 13,575′ summit of Mt. Rosalie. We awakened well before daylight to temperatures at 27 degrees and clear skies. We left early and prepared well, as we knew this would be our longest and most strenuous hike to date. As we ambled down Park County Road 43 toward the trailhead we had a great view of the surrounding towering mountains. These big fellows can be intimidating but can be conquered with a “one step at a time” hiking mentality.

Once we got close, our first hint this hike was destined for failure was the closure of the road from the campground to the trailhead. Although this would create additional distance to an already long hike, we decided to park and try to find a way over the roaring creek. It doesn’t look like much in this photo, but the swollen and swift moving creek was much too wide to jump and too deep to ford.

So, we decided to make our way upstream to hopefully locate a narrower portion of water or preferably a fallen tree or two to help us cross the creek. It wasn’t easy, but we ended up making our way onto an island where the creek split. Now, to locate a fallen tree.

Perfect! Out of nowhere our fallen tree appeared and after studying it, Sandy decided to be the first across. After taking this photo, I wisely decided to put away the camera to assist her across the creek. What happened next came real quickly.

As the water flows so quickly beneath a log crossing there are times when small drops of water splash atop the fallen tree. When this occurs and the temperatures are below 32 degrees, freezing occurs. Augggh. As Sandy was crossing the log and unknowingly stepped onto the icy section, she quickly lost her balance. She had been using her poles for stability in the water, but at the same moment she lost her balance, her pole tips were not able to touch the creek bed, as the water was much deeper than anticipated. Well, then it happened so quickly. Her feet slid off to her left and into the frigid creek she went. As she was falling she instinctively reached out for the log. She held on as the rapid current pulled her legs under the log. She let out a scream as you can well imagine after going from completely dry and warm to immersed into an icy cold stream.

As this was happening, I jumped off the log into the creek with my left leg while keeping my right leg on the log for support. The small stream was remarkably strong, as it continually tried to pull her legs under the log. She fought the current and maintained her grip on the log the whole time. I pulled upward on her free arm but her right leg was a bit caught in a pile of underwater slash. I then moved to her backpack hand hold and pulled upwards. That seemed to work as we got some elevation out of the water and she was able to release her foot from the underwater debris. With a little more help from me, Sandy used her upper body strength to pull herself out of the water and we both were onto the safety of the bank. During the fast water action, Sandy lost one of her nice hiking poles. Initially, she was more upset about loss of the pole and “ruining the hike”. After calming her about not worrying about the pole or hike, we started focusing on the immediate task at hand. We knew our hike to Rosalie was over and quickly realized we were in a bad situation as hypothermia would soon kick in. We needed to get back to the Toyota fast and warn ourselves up.

As you can see, Sandy was soaked from head to toe. Thankfully, we were very close to our vehicle. So, we sloshed back to the 4Runner and immediately heated it up and got as warm as possible. It was amazing how cold we became in such a short time period. If we were deep along the trail, it could have been a much different story. We stripped off our wet clothing and headed for home posthaste. Once at home, and sufficiently dried up, we decided the day was way too nice to just have a bad memory. We decided to head out to one of the great Jefferson County Open Space Parks which surround us. We decided on having a positive Deer Creek experience, so off to Deer Creek Canyon Park, about 25 miles away from our bad Deer Creek spot.

Deer Creek Canyon was home to lots of historical characters in Colorado history. Legends such as Jesse James, Alferd Packer and others spent time in this area. Like always, Jeffco’s facilities are top rate. Superb trails, super clean facilities and flush toilets! I told Sandy not to expect such fine public restrooms once on the Camino. But of course we will go with the “flow” so to speak and take what we can get.

Deer Creek Canyon is set in the foothills of Denver with great trails climbing from altitudes of 5,700-7,250′. The park is located among scrub oak, spruce and ponderosa forests. While on the trail we noted some early autumn color. It is one of my favorite times of the year.

Here is a much more dry and relaxed Sandy on the trail.

One of the vistas from the Plymouth Trail. This body of water is Chatfield Reservoir, home of Chatfield State Park.

Downtown Denver in the distance with Bear Creek Reservoir in the foreground.

This is an idea of what the trail topography looks like. It really is quite beautiful. Even with today’s near disaster we were able to complete another 7 miles of training toward our goal.

Well, today’s events taught us some important life and hiking lessons. Never take nature for granted. Especially water. The forces generated by a fast flowing creek, even a relatively small creek are unreal. Bring an extra set of under and outerwear when hiking in the back country. The extra weight in your pack is well worth miles of hiking in wet clothing or worse yet hypothermia. Always hike with a partner. Having a buddy who can help out when you are in a fix can literally save your life.

Finally, I commented to Sandy that we are having so many wild experiences on our training for the Camino, I hope we leave some for the route once in Spain.

Buen Camino and be safe!


Filed under Mark & Sandy's Camino 2014

5 miles on Mayhem Gulch Trail

This week’s hike once again takes us to a Jefferson County Open Space Park. We are so fortunate to live in a county where open space has meant so much for the past 40 years. Today, the Open Space System covers more than 52,000 acres, includes 28 regional parks and boasts a trail system that spans 227 miles. Centennial Cone Park is one of open space’s largest parks at over 3,300 acres. It is connected to Clear Creek Open Space Park along US 6. Jefferson County Open Space and Clear Creek County are constructing a segment of the “Peaks to Plains Trail.” The Peaks to Plains Trail will be a 65-mile off-highway opportunity to travel from the Continental Divide to the confluence of the South Platte River in Adams County. Construction is expected to conclude in June of 2015.

The trail leaves the busy route of US 6 as locals and tourists head up and down from Metro Denver to the historic mining (and now gambling) towns of Blackhawk and Central City. Recent rains have swollen Clear Creek to a raging river as it roars down to Denver.

The Denver area boasts 300+ annual days of sunshine, but today was destined to be one of the 65 days of precipitation. The weather reports warned of heaver afternoon showers. We decided to go out and hike no matter what the weather to test out our rain gear we will be using on the Camino. Here, Sandy shows off our waterproof hiking gear as we ascend up the trail.

Mayhem Gulch trail is a single track trail that gently climbs about 400′ above the trailhead and around Centennial Cone. The trail was in great shape, even with the recent heavy rains in the area.

Just over a mile up the trail we came upon an old mine. This was after we transitioned to the Juniper Ridge Trail. This photo shows the mine in the background and the really neat type of forest we hiked through in the foreground.

As we made our way around the loop, we entered Mayhem Gulch. You can see why it is called “mayhem” with photograph. Sandy commented that watching spring run off must be spectacular here.

Sandy with the trail during our decent back to the trailhead. Overall, it was a very successful hike. It did not rain as much as we expected, but we were able to wear our foul weather gear and get some valuable experience with our gear. We especially found the importance of balancing the need to keep dry with the need to keep from overheating. Thank God for pit zips and full side zippers on rain pants!

Total distance 5 miles, elevation gain of 400′.

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How to pack your backpack

Thought I would provide an excellent article on packing your backpack:

Buen Camino!


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