This weekend I joined David, Armando, Jim, and Ron in Breckenridge, where we rented a townhouse off of 4 O’Clock Trail Road. After a long week at work, I braved I-70 and drove up on Friday evening. I stopped for provisions at the liquor store and City Market and went straight to the hot tub, where we waited for Jim to arrive before having a home-cooked dinner.
On Saturday, I had the best intentions of utilizing my time in the mountains to get out and be in them, but being lazy while dehydrated was a whole lot more appealing. We had breakfast and hung around the house until the afternoon, when we walked down the road to attend the Breckenridge Summer Beer Festival at the parking lot of the Beaver Run Resort near Base Nine.
It was a temperate, sunny day, the beer was cold, and the crowds weren’t overwhelming. We had a good time checking out the various beer, cider, and liquor offerings; I lost count of how many vendors were in attendance, but I’d estimate 60 stalls. Back-of-the-envelope math says we each had around 90 ounces of beer (about 7.5 12-ounce beer bottles) over the course of a several hours. I’m pretty sure my favorite was Destihl Brewery’s Sour Cherry Stout, though it was also the last thing I tried. After inhaling a bowl of Indian food and other snacks, we wandered back up the hill and relaxed for the rest of the night. We didn’t have the momentum to venture out in the town, as previously discussed.
The next morning I abandoned my plans again for an early hike at Mayflower Gulch, opting to head back home before all the other flatlanders had the same idea. I parted ways with the rest of the group, who stayed in town either for the day or for another night. Good times, good company!
Despite my body’s several attempts to thwart awakening, I got up and out of the house by 5:40a. I picked up Clark along the way and we drove past Boulder, heading west through Ward and arriving at the Long Lake trailhead parking lot inside Brainard National Recreation Area at 7:24a, only to find it full. Disappointed, we drove to the next parking lot and easily found a spot.
While looking at the map to see which trails the lot serviced, the parking lot attendant arrived and I inquired about Blue Lake. I’ve been wanting to hike there for months, but recent trail reports stated that the trail was still covered in snow and that it was still too early to make it all the way. Thankfully, the reports were two weeks old and the attendant said it was completely accessible, so our disappointment turned quickly to excitement as we collected our things and got on the trail.
We kept coming across interesting things along the way that were slightly more noteworthy than the last. First there was the small bridge showcasing wildflowers with amazing backlighting, then came the wooden bridge over the waterfall, and about a mile in we found Mitchell Lake, scenic and serene. We kept moving and got to the river crossing, where snowmelt was rushing down to meet the lake below. The bridge across was wide enough to make safe passage, but narrow enough to question each step out of fear for falling into the presumably frigid waters.
Once navigated, the trail took us upwards and I noticed the trees were getting smaller. There were large patches of snow all around, which made for numerous vernal pools, a fair amount of bugs, and a muddy trail. We even saw a number of rodents, including a marmot or two, running through the newly alpine landscape. The trail flattened out some, as we made our way along the river, crossing several remaining patches of snow; I was so glad I opted to bring the trekking poles on such a rocky trail! It was a bluebird day and the scenery was spectacular – I couldn’t believe our surroundings throughout the entire ascent.
Seeing as it was a holiday, I figured there would be a fair amount of people on the trail, but when we finally arrived at Blue Lake, we were able to easily find some shelter from the winds coming down off the peaks ahead. The lake was half-frozen still, with much of the ice pushed against the near shore. We took many pictures before settling in for some much-needed reflection on the rocks overlooking the incredible scene. In retrospect, this would have been a perfect time for lunch, but a Cliff Bar and water perfectly sufficed.
Clark and I spent about 45 minutes at the lake, watching some hikers scramble along the far shore to reach the upper lake. I’ll happily wait until later in the season before attempting that. The winds were permeating our jackets, so we gathered our things and made our way back to the trail. I was astonished at how many people had reached the lake and turned right back around, barely taking note of the natural beauty before them.
The sun was higher in the sky, which allowed for better photos on the way down. Again, the trekking poles proved their worth. When we arrived back at the bridge over the waterfall, we heard what sounded like a rifle firing. Upon arriving at the parking lot, the attendant advised us that hunting is legal on Federal lands a certain distance away from the trails. I made a note to wear a bright orange vest on my next outing, vowing to return as many times as I could.
Cars were still lined up along the road in front of the lake near the entrance of the park, where a moose we saw on the way in had summoned a friend to pose for photos (and maybe find some food). We made our way through the hills back to Boulder and found an excellent and inexpensive Indian buffet. I dropped Clark off after lunch and I was back home by 1:30p – just in time for a nap. A memorable Fourth of July!
6.1 miles round-trip, approximately 2 hours up and 90 minutes down (though we definitely took our time)
It was raining steadily in town when I got in the car at 6:20a. Knowing the weather could be very different up the hill, I decided to take the risk. While driving, the cloud ceiling was getting higher, the rain was diminishing, and I felt increasingly better about my decision.
After a quick stop in Idaho Springs for coffee, I arrived in Georgetown somewhere after 7:30a and started the drive up the pass. Vehicles belonging to soggy campers were parked all along Guanella Pass Road. I arrived at the main parking lot at 7:45a, and though the actual trailhead was another mile or so up Naylor Lake Road, the Internet said that vehicles with low-clearance shouldn’t attempt to traverse it. Had I known that the Prius I saw could make it, I would have taken the Battle Wagon…
The rain had stopped and there were patches of sun appearing in between clouds. A couple hikers intending to do some fishing were on the trail ahead of me, but I soon passed them once we left the woods and began the real ascent. The trees progressively got smaller and smaller as we approached the tree-line. Small patches of lingering snow no more than 10 yards across made the climb more interesting. Thankfully it was packed down, so there was little fear of sinking.
There was still a fair amount of cloud coverage, but the hikers I played leap-frog with agreed that it wasn’t anything to worry about yet. Soon the trees turned into bushes and a couple hikers passed us. It was obviously still Spring in this bowl, as there were many places along the trail suffering from runoff – it was muddy! The trail climbed steadily until the bushes turned into grass. Wildflowers were scattered along the hillside and we had a great view of the lakes and valleys below.
I eventually settled in formation on the trail behind a couple originally from the midwest. We talked about all the great places to hike and explore nearby and they gave me some great tips on where to try out snowshoeing. Before I knew it, we had arrived at Silver Dollar Lake!
The weather was still mostly cooperating, so we continued up the trail another half-mile to see Murray Lake. We didn’t make it to the lake’s edge, but we took some photos and decided that the clouds were starting to turn ominous, so we started back down. This was a trail that you didn’t want to be stuck walking down in the rain. Not only was it completely exposed, but it was fairly steep in places and resembled a slide more than a trail. I’m not sure if I need boots with better treads or if the rocks along the trail were overly slick, but my normal foot-placement resulted in a couple slips and falls.
I slowed to take some photos, parting ways with the couple as they make their way back to their car. There were still people fishing at both lakes, so I didn’t feel uncomfortable hiking alone at 11,900 feet, despite not seeing any more people hiking up. To my surprise, shortly after I decided to make my descent I ran into Ben and James! We had talked earlier about meeting up, but there was some weather-based hesitation so I wasn’t sure if they were going to make it. We chatted for a few moments and went on our separate ways, tentatively planning to meet up in Georgetown afterwards.
The walk down is always faster than the walk up. I passed a few more people ascending and that’s when I first noticed the raindrops. I picked up my pace as best I could, taking care not to misstep anymore, but the rain increased and the trail became even more slippery. It didn’t quite reach downpour levels, but the rain was steady and was certainly testing my rain gear.
As I was about to take a selfie in front of a snowpack, I heard several rounds of gunshots coming from the cabin near the privately owned Naylor Lake. I had read comments about hikers hearing gunshots and subsequent bullets whizzing past their heads into the trees, so I ducked out of site for a few moments until the gunfire stopped. This was yet another motivator to get back to the car!
I passed several more groups who were not dissuaded by the rainfall and stopped long enough to give them some cautionary advice, but was getting soggier by the minute. By the time I reached the trailhead, I was drenched… and I still had another mile to walk down the dirt road until I reached the car. Thankfully I had a dry tee-shirt and shoes waiting for me, but had to drive home in wet boxers with a blanket draped over me while my pants dried on the passenger’s seat. I skipped Georgetown and went straight home.
Was it worth it the trouble? Yes! I can only imagine how green the bowl looks on a clear summer day. I saw a few marmots scurry across the rocks and one person pointed out an American pika grazing nearby. I didn’t see a lot of birds, but I could hear them. No mountain lions. In retrospect, I was successful in staying in the moment not overthinking much of anything.
The hike was just over six miles and roughly 1,300 feet in elevation gain.
The Battle Wagon left Denver around 6:30a and arrived at the Lower Trailhead parking lot at 7:45a, taking the last empty spot. I geared up and hit the trail.
It was a steady uphill in the shade for the first half-mile. At first I was enjoying the quiet and lack of crowds, but then I started wondering if there was potential for being breakfast for a mountain lion. I soon passed some hikers and assumed the mountain lions would opt for the stragglers. I didn’t see anyone else until I was near the falls, which took about an hour to reach.
I played photographer for some fellow hikers and sat on a rock in what appeared to be a camp site, listening to the sounds and rehydrating. After finishing a Cliff Bar, I applied more sunscreen and headed back down. It was a bluebird day! The temps were mild and comfortable, though I could envision this being brutally hot later on.
This hike was a practice in focusing on the things that I know for a fact (what-is) and turning off my brain from endlessly and painfully mulling over the things that I can’t possibly begin to guess (what-if); a practice in staying present.
Nearing the parking lot, I began to see streams of people ascending, one group of about 20. Another instance where I’m glad I arrived early! Sadly, I was done hiking well before Cuisine of the Himalayas opened for the day. Next time!
Tim and I decided to get the bikes out and go for a ride this weekend. Thankfully it was cloudy and the temperature was much more tolerable than it had been. We decided on a route and a where to place the cars. The plan was to ride from my house down to the High Line Canal, taking it west to meet up with the Cherry Creek Trail, then riding north/west to Garland Park, where Tim’s car was waiting for us.
On the way back from the park, we stopped for a quick bite to eat and to get some caffeine before pumping up the tires and hitting the road. We headed south and found Fairmount Drive, where we found an entrance to the High Line Canal Trail.
The trail was mostly flat and we made good time, enjoying the comfortable weather and conversation. Eventually the sun came out as we made our way to the Cherry Creek Trail. While nearing the end of our journey, I noticed something strange with my pedal. Minutes later, Tim handed me my bike’s left side crank and screw. We walked the rest of the way back to his car.
On the way back home we stopped at Bush and Bull for a pint and some food. This was a great ride (save for the bike issues), one I would repeat and take even further.
I got a late start heading to Golden, but I arrived at the Mt. Galbraith parking lot to find it surprisingly full. I was the first car in the overflow parking area and, despite my best efforts, I couldn’t get moving fast enough to beat a gaggle of cheerleader tweens and their chaperones from starting up the trail. Thankfully (somehow) they made a wrong turn and I was able to pass them a short distance away from the parking lot. This was strangely motivating.
The trail was more difficult than I remembered. A steady uphill with limited shade; I kept reminding myself that the longer I kept moving, the longer I would avoid the heat. The weather report predicted the day’s high would be in the upper 90’s, so I wanted to find shade on the trail before long.
I made my way up the contour of the hill, enjoying the limited views of nearby Golden and a hazy Denver in the background. After much panting and yearning for rest, I reached some shady spots where the trail split. I decided to walk south, uphill in the sun while the temps were reasonable. In retrospect, I should have gone north to enjoy the trail wandering uphill in the shade.
Eventually the trail flattened out some and turned west, providing a lovely view of Mt. Evans in the distance. The “peak” of Galbraith was anticlimactic, and I remembered from my last summit in 2014 that the actual peak had obstructed views (and subsequently made for a poor lunch spot).
Though the east side was a steady downhill, I regretted not bringing my hiking poles with me. On the way down, hikers traveling in the opposite direction warned myself and two other descending hikers of a rattlesnake, something I had been wary of the entire outing. They must have scared the snake off, because despite expert-level trail-scanning, no signs of the rattler were had.
It occurred to me while walking that we’ve reached the time of year where either I need to go to a higher elevation or arrive earlier; the heat was not enjoyable. When I completed the loop and rejoined the main trail back towards the car, I kept hearing gunshots echoing through the valleys below. I hoped there was a shooting range below and I noticed that it detracted from my overall enjoyment of this trail. Towards the end, the trail narrowed and a traffic jam formed, further testing my patience.
When I started hiking, my car reported a temperature of 72 degrees and later showed 82 upon my return. Overall, this not the hike I remembered and therefore not as enjoyable as I was expecting. That said, I think Mt. Galbraith would make an excellent test site for hiking with a full pack, so I may be back in the fall when things cool down.
In preparation for hiking the Nakahechi route of the Kumano Kodo pilgrimage trails later this year, I’m attempting to do a hike every two weeks (or less) in the months leading up to the trip.
To kick off my hiking season, I decided to ease myself back into the swing of things by doing something local. I woke up early on Saturday, grabbed a Cliff Bar, and hit the road to Boulder, arriving at the near-empty parking lot around 7:15a. The air was crisp, but it was sunny and I knew it would warm up soon. I strapped on my boots, sprayed on the obligatory SPF 30, and hit the trail!
It started off as a steady ascent, and the wide, gravel path slowly turned into a rocky but well-worn trail. There were already a half dozen runners and a few bicyclists out taking advantage of the cool temps. As I walked, I marveled at the looming Flatiron mountains and appreciated the wildflowers littering the surrounding grassy foothills, thoroughly enjoying my time of reflection and solitude.
Because the weather was near-perfect and there was plethora of scenery to take in, the hike went by quickly and I was done within two hours. By the time I reached the parking lot again, cars were spilling out into the street trying to park along the road. I happily gave up my prime spot and headed back east to start my day.
After an intense weekend of well-fought games, I’m proud to say that we won the 2015 DASL lower division championship! This was my first season with the team and I’m pretty impressed with what we accomplished. We worked hard, but having fun was the priority – and it paid off!
Chris was in town visiting from San Diego for the weekend. Hoping for better luck at Rocky Mountain National Park this time, we filled our Camelbaks, loaded up the Battle Wagon™ and cruised up to Estes Park to hike to Lake Helene.
We arrived at the park-and-ride lot around 8:15a and ran to the crowded shuttle bus that took us up the hill to Bear Lake. Once properly sunscreened, we took to the trail. It seemed like we had chosen a less-popular route; the crowds quickly diminished as we ascended into the pines.
The trail was a steady grade upwards, but not steep enough to require frequent water stops. I brought my REI trekking poles (thanks, dividend!) to try out and found them to be pretty helpful on the hills. It was a beautiful, clear summer day and we took our time, arriving at the cutoff trail to Lake Helene in short order. After taking a rest, a few bites of meat bar, and snapping some photos, we made the descent back to Bear Lake.
When we got back to one of the earlier splits in the trail, we took inventory and decided we felt good enough to walk the 3 miles back to the parking lot. We don’t need a shuttle! The trail was mostly downhill and passed by Lake Bierstadt, where we stopped to finish our snacks and rest. The clouds were starting to roll in and it was getting warmer, but the breeze was refreshing and the view was spectacular.
We continued on down the trail, which progressively became steeper. Rains earlier in the season had exposed many small rocks in the trail, which, combined with the current dryness and grade, frequently challenged our footing. After a mile of this, we both agreed we should have taken the shuttle back from Lake Bierstadt. We trudged on and made it back to the car around 12:30p, totaling 9.9 miles of hiking for the day. Not too bad!
On our way back to Denver, we stopped at the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder for a delicious lunch at Oak and to visit one of two Mont Bell stores in the U.S. Once closer to town, we stopped again for a tasting flight of sour beers at Crooked Stave and to stock up on odd beers and Boxcar coffee at the other stalls housed in The Source. A pleasant end to a relaxing day in the mountains.