The Rockies: Exploring the Narrows In the Foothills

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As a kid, my parents took me and my two brothers on a hike to the “Narrows”, a place in Pike National Forest on Craig Creek flanked by high boulders with a waterfall that tumbled into a pool. The challenge, however, became getting there. We never made it, as the path tapered off which required us to climb up and over imposing boulders.

Today, Bart Berger said he’d show me another way to the “Narrows” that didn’t require hiking up the creek. I looked forward to the hike all morning. We got started around 9:30, crossing the creek via a fallen log and wading through a marshy area where I soaked my feet before we even started on a logging road that I didn’t even know was on our property.

We followed the logging road up the mountain through the lodge pole pine forest. I’m not sure if there were more trees standing or criss-crossing the ground. I felt like a football player completing a “running through tires” practice drill as we veered off the road in search of a ridge connecting two mountains together.

Bart wanted to keep the higher elevation as to not drop down and ascend again. After traversing the side of the mountain and enjoying the views, we crossed a portion of the ridge, but eventually ended up on another logging road that we climbed up and down, but not before wandering through fields of wildflowers and a lovely aspen grove! We also spotted a rabbit and a nesting grouse.

Once we reached the creek, we had to cross it. Bart succeeded at skipping over the rocks to keep his feet dry. I was too short for that, so I got to soak my feet. Surprisingly, the icy water felt really good. Just as soon as we crossed, we were at the Narrows, towering rock formations on both sides of the creek though we had to climb up and over the rocks to view the waterfall from above. The opposite direction was Windy Peak.

Unfortunately it wasn’t the best view, but I wasn’t climbing down again. We had been ascending for the better part of the last two hours, many times on loose pine needles and no path. We kept our elevation as we continued climbing over two more rock outcroppings.
We felt like we needed to descend soon and found an area that wasn’t too steep so we side-stepped down the mountain. At the creek’s edge, we were greeted by an overgrown mess. We opted to duck through it, brushing branches out of our way. By now, I was dripping blood from every extremity and thinking this would have been right up my alley when I was 20. I’m not quite as extreme now.

IMG_5374 side of mtn

Soon we met our match, a rock ledge that required scaling or a creek crossing. Bart opted for rock scaling as his shoes were still dry. I wasn’t too enthusiastic over the choice, but watching him scooch by, I coaxed myself onto the edge, and only had one moment of panic when I felt I might slip off! I wouldn’t have fallen far, but I would have been very wet and ruined my camera (ie photos).

We continued on until we were forced to cross the creek, this time over another fallen tree. Bart wasn’t quite as graceful this time, but we made it, and enjoyed a partially cleared path. Wildflowers and ferns blanketed the area. We also stumbled across an animal skeleton and some funky looking beetles before we finally succumbed to continually crossing the creek.

I think we must have crossed the creek twenty times. Many of the crossings toward the end, when the path was clear, used to have bridges. It would have been nice if they were still there, though we became experts at wading across the slick, wet rocks!
We finally completed a 6.6 mile loop hike in 4.5 hours…yes, it was a bit rough and backcountry. I have the war wounds to prove it! Now I know why we never made it up the creek to the Narrows, it was one heck of hike down the creek.

Just as we arrived back at the houses, my friends Ramona and Mike from Memphis stopped in after their hike. No one can visit Estabrook without going to my favorite place in the world, “The Bear’s Cave”. We followed the path along the creek to the amazing rock formations and decided to continue on to the hanging bridge. This is always my zen hike, so I didn’t mind adding on another three miles to share my happy spots with Mike and Ramona.

Only eating a handful of cherries and goldfish on the trail for the day, I couldn’t get to The Cutthroat Cafe in Bailey fast enough. We inhaled our dinners before heading back to Denver. What a great day of hiking! ETB


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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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