North Table Mountain hike in hurricane category winds

Today we decided to add some training miles while tackling another Jefferson County Open Space Park. The weather forecast was great: temperatures in the 50’s with gusty winds in some locations. We decided to head down to the Golden, CO area where we would give North Table Mountain Open Space Park a try.
North Table Mountain Park has just under 2000 acres of land and lots of wildlife – all situated high between Golden and metro Denver. Lava flows formed North Table Mountain and it sister mesa, South Table Mountain, some 60 million years ago. Jefferson County’s aggressive open space program acquired both the north and south mesas which would ensure the natural beauty for future generations. The park’s 15 miles of trails fit well with our desire for a double digit distance hike today.
We left our ranch at about 0920 and the weather was perfect. As we were driving north along the hogback, we noticed that the winds were picking up a bit. This was a sure sign that the upslope winter storm which was to hit on Monday was working it’s way into Colorado.
We arrived at the trailhead parking lot around 1000 and grabbed the last remaining parking space. It seemed like everyone else in the area had the same idea we did! Once on the trail, it became apparent that the winds were going to be an issue. At the start, I estimate the average winds to be between 35-45 MPH with some gusts up to 60 MPH. Well, we heard that there are portions of the Camino that are windy, so this would make for a good training situation. About halfway up the steep incline, we had some interaction with hikers and joggers on their way down. One reported, “The winds get worse up at the top.” Great!

20140126-164235.jpgWe finished climbing the 15-20% grade while working our way up the northern slope of the mesa. We were both carrying packs with 20-25 pounds of our gear. We were aided by the strong tail wind, which nearly knocked us over on several occasions. The packs often acted like mini-sails.
You will notice fewer photos than normal on this blog entry. This, as a result of the wind nearly blowing the camera out of my hands on a couple of occasions. Take my word for it, it was windy!

20140126-164310.jpgThere were some really interesting volcanic rock formations, ponds, streams and peaks on the mesa, but quite frankly we were literally getting blown all over the trail, so taking the time to enjoy these features was not high on the “to do list.” Just trying to keep your gait correct and staying on the trail was job number one. In this photo, Sandy is working her way down the east side of the Mesa trail.

20140126-164325.jpgThe City and. County of Denver from above. This was the photo that resulted in me catching the camera as the wind blew it out of my hand. I decided not to risk damaging the camera so no more hiking photos on this trek. Once the trail winded back up to the top, the winds increased to a steady 55-60 MPH. When there was a second or two of no wind, you would nearly fall over from your overcompensation. During the entire hike, Sandy led the way. I have to give her major kudos as she never complained and maintained a great pace. Once we arrived at a decision point on the trail, we decided discretion was the better part of valor and took the quickest trail back to the lot. The trail back was a constant 21% decline (according to my hiking app) which was a bit hard on the knees. All tolled, we hiked 6.0 miles under pretty miserable conditions. We had a 773′ elevation gain. Our hike started out at 5,990′ and topped out at 6,550′. We both agreed that we would like to return on a better weather day to more thoroughly enjoy the park.

20140126-164337.jpgOn the return trip home, we decided to swing through Red Rocks Park. It is simply spectacular. We took a few photographs from the car as the park road winds it’s way through the amazing red rock formations. Yes, I felt guilty about so few photographs on the hike I had to offer this bonus. Enjoy and Buen Camino!

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Filed under Mark & Sandy's Camino 2014

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