A Weekend in Vail

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A Little Hiking in Vail

Well my weekend in Vail turned out to be a little lackadaisical after I sprained my ankle on my first hike Friday, but it was still enjoyable, and I will definitely be back to explore the area more.  Maybe even later this year.

Vail Racquet Club

I rented the cutest one-bedroom condo through VRBO at the Vail Racquet Club.  Situated in East Vail, the residential community, was a very quiet area compared to Vail Village and really enjoyable. Before I checked in, I took a hike to Upper Piney River Falls in the Eagles Nest Wilderness.

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Upper Piney River Falls

A short six mile hike with little elevation gain seemed like a perfect trail to tackle on my way up to the mountains before checking out a bigger hike on Saturday.

I exited near Vail and followed Red Sandstone Road, a 12 mile dirt road to its terminus at Piney River Ranch.  Had I realized I was headed toward a mountain resort, I might have planned to stay a little longer for paddle boarding and lunch.

Anyway, for most of the way, Red Sandstone Road was smooth sailing.  Well graded, it almost resembled a county road.  There were a few rocky sections, but a sedan could handle it.  Experienced drivers could make the drive up the road in 30-45 minutes, but slow pokes will definitely take 45 minutes to an hour.

The trailhead began at a lot outside of the ranch, though many at the ranch joined the trail near the lake.  I hiked through an aspen grove, past the lake, along the meadow dotted with wildflowers and back into the aspens.  This hike would be spectacular in the fall with the changing colors.

In the distance, granite peaks towered above the meadow.  Soon the trail left the meadow and climbed the mountainside via long switch backs.  I strolled through the forest and stepped over a few small water crossings before I finally made it to the river and falls.

There was a more traveled area where it appeared most people stopped.  I asked some fellow hikers who were resting in the area where the falls were.  They said the tiny one foot cascade was the falls.  That didn’t seem right to me.  Upon further inspection, below this small cascade the river tumbled down some rocks.  The view of the river, however, was obscured by a large overhang so the waterfall was hidden from the top.

I ventured down river a little and found a less trodden trail hidden in the trees.  I carefully hiked down the steep descent to get a few of taller and better falls.  No one was down here!  It seemed like most people visiting the falls actually missed the best part of them.

After a short snack, I climbed back up the trail and headed back toward the car.  The once billowing white clouds turned into black thunder clouds despite the forecast for no rain this afternoon.  Soon it was raining and sleeting just a tad, though not heavily enough to even don a raincoat at first.

I welcomed the cooling drops until the thunder and rain frequency increased.  I quickly slipped on my raincoat and started jogging down the trail which was mostly dirt and relatively flat.  I’m not sure how in the world I managed to mis-step but I caught the side of my foot on a hidden rock and that was the end of my ankle.

I’ve rolled my ankle so many times that I hardly ever sprain it anymore, but I was pretty sure after falling to the ground (which likely resulted in less damage) I had a slight tear in at least one of my ligaments.  I still had another mile to go.  The pain in my initial steps decreased with time, so I was optimistic to be able to hike the following days, but the next day, I realized that would be a poor choice with lots of tennis finals and backpacking in Alaska coming in the next few weeks. Spotting the moose on the drive out, however, certainly lifted my spirits.  I love seeing wildlife.

As such, the rest of my time in Vail included lounging, driving around, having dinner with a friend, and lightly exploring the town.  In hindsight, a restful weekend is probably just what I needed and what better place to rest but in the mountains!  ETB


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photographic note card, elk in rocky mountain national park
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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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