Monthly Archives: October 2013

Milestone for our trip to Europe

Today was a benchmark day for our plans to travel Europe and experience the Camino de Santiago. We booked our flight through Endless Travel in Evergreen, CO. Sandy and I will be departing for Rome, Italy on February 26 and will be returning from Madrid, Spain on May 12th. A big thanks to travel agent, Sharon Wright, for finding speedy connections and a great fare.

We originally looked at flying with IcelandAir, spending a few days to explore Reykjavik. We have heard that the country is spectacular and the possibility of seeing the northern lights are reported to be at ten year highs. Well, it would have been a great experience, but in the off/shoulder season Icelandair’s flights to Rome and Madrid are limited and we just couldn’t make it work. Well, it could have worked, but it would have been very expensive due to one way fares on their partner airlines. Iceland Air flies nonstop to Reykjavik from Denver and has great fares and packages. We are seriously considering a future trip with them.

Our confirmed travel plans are to fly to Rome, (one of our favorite Italian cities) via Delta Airlines. We will spend a few days there and then fly down to Sicily. A week touring the island, then back to mainland Italy. Leisurely working our way around southern Italy, then back up to Liguria where we will spend a week with Mark’s relatives. Then, off to France where we will spend time in Amiens, near Paris, where Mark’s mother’s side of the family originated. We will work our way to Paris, then down the French coast and see the D Day memorial sights. Next, we will begin our Camino experience at St. Jean Pied de Port.

20131031-133924.jpgThe first day on the Camino will take us across the Pyrenees Mountains and into Spain. The next 35 days will be along pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, where we will spend a day or two.

20131031-133632.jpgFinally, we plan on trekking another few days to Finisterre, at one time thought to be the “end of the world.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_Finisterre

Then to Madrid, where we will meet up with Mark’s friend Jose, who guarantees a grand tour of the city. We may have time to visit Barcelona too, but not totally sure about this until we see how much time it takes to hike the Camino.

Funny isn’t it how purchasing non refundable airline tickets can get your travel adrenaline flowing! Great times ahead for sure.

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Distance training hike on the Highline Canal

Today’s hike was planned to add some distance and also the extra stress of hiking on consecutive days. It was basically a test to see how our feet and muscles would respond to some of what we will experience along he Camino de Santiago in April. We hiked yesterday for 4+ miles at hilly Staunton State Park, elevation 8,200 feet and today we planned a 10+ mile hike on the relatively flat Highline Canal Trail in Centennial, CO.

The weather was forecast to be a glorious on this fall day, with temperatures in the mid to upper 60’s. We decided to forgo our large 40 and 60 liter packs and take our light fanny packs instead. We headed down to Centennial after rush hour and arrived at 1030 at our chosen beginning point, DeKoevend Open Space Park. We parked at the South Suburban Ice Arena, home to many Olympians and hockey stars, and quickly hit the trail.

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Just as predicted, the weather was beautiful and the scenery was fantastic. The fall colors and snow capped views of Colorado’s Front Range were incredible. We decided to hike south on the trail which led us through the City of Centennial into the City of Littleton.

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The Highline Canal was originally constructed in 1879 to provide water from the South Platte River to many farms along its route, but now most of the farmlands have become well established residential communities. It meanders 66 miles through Douglas, Arapahoe, Denver and Adams Counties. The canal still flows and provides water to farms, but now it is most famous for is recreational uses.

Here is a neat map of the canal’s course: http://www.denverwater.org/docs/assets/30FCFB89…/highline_printable1.pdf

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At the intersection of Lee Gulch Trail and the Highline there is an interesting old water bridge which was constructed to allow the canal to pass over the stream. The City of Littleton’s Lee Gulch trail allows hikers to trek northwest to the Platte River Trail, which goes from the far south suburbs of Denver to north of the city. Metro Denver has a great trail network and we will be using many of their trails in the upcoming months as we get closer to our Camino experience.

Today’s entire 10+ mile hike took us just under 4 hours and the trek was very pleasurable. We did not experience any problems with our muscles, knees, foot hot spots or callouses. Overall, we seem to be on track with the right hiking gear and are getting in pretty good shape for the Camino.

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Mt. Evans Wilderness area on Meridian and Cub Creek Trails

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This week’s training hike took us alongside the headwaters of Elk Creek as we hiked into the Pike National Forest. Elk Creek is the stream which passes very near our ranch on its way to the North Fork of the South Platte River. The South Platte heads north from Denver into Nebraska and then east to the Missouri River. The Missouri then dumps into the mighty Mississippi and into the Gulf.

The trailhead is hidden with the Park County community of Harris Park and can be very confusing to locate. Once there, the trail begins at an elevation of 9,000′ and immediately crosses Elk Creek.

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The fractured granite trail base gives it a groomed appearance and climbs at a comfortable 5-7% grade continuously as you make your way up through a mix of aspen and conifer forests. Immediately we were presented with some glorious fall colors.

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After approximately two miles and 800′ of elevation gain, the trail pulls you into fantastic aspen grove. This photo uses the foliage to highlights a high rocky outcrop.

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Aspens towering over the trail. This portion of the trail featured several small stream crossings and was a bit muddy in spots. There were also interesting boulder fields to navigate and several springs were observed bubbling up from the ground.

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The vistas were spectacular, and we were lucky to be on the trail this week as the fall colors at 10,000′ elevation come and go very rapidly. I would expect that most of the aspen leaves shown on this post will have fallen within a weeks time.

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Tall and colorful aspens against the beautiful blue Colorado sky. A Rocky Mountain high for sure!

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We encountered our first snow at 10,750′ elevation, very near the end of Meridian Trail. At this point, Meridian meets Cub Creek Trail at a “T” intersection. If you head east you are on your way toward the Cub Creek Trailhead near Maxwell Falls in Evergreen. A left turn takes you west and further uphill into the Mt. Evans Wilderness. We turned west and continued uphill.

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This portion of Cub Creek Trail is so heavily wooded that it was nearly impossible to see anything other than the trail and closely spaced spruce trees. Rarely, you could see a vista through the forest. In this photo the camera is pointed east and you can barely make out the Denver skyline and eastern plains, approximately 40 miles away.

We continued climbing Cub Creek Trail until about 1:30 when we decided to stop for lunch. We ate along the trail and shortly thereafter encountered a group of hikers from the Colorado Mountain Club making there way down from the 11,400′ saddle just above us. They indicated the saddle was just above timberline and offered spectacular views of Mt. Evans, Mt. Rosalie and Colorado eastern plains. We were at 10,900′ elevation when we decided to turn back and leave the saddle for a future hike.

The hike down was beautiful but when we encountered the loose fractured granite trail we slid on nearly every step for about a mile. Nevertheless, it was a great 8+ mile hike in wonderful conditions.

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