Roadtrip to the Rockies: Estabrook

Another fall, another weekend at Estabrook!  I have some regulars joining me now which is nice.  I also added a few newbies who loved learning the 100 year history of the family ranch.

The weather wasn’t nearly as nice as last year, but it didn’t stop us from getting in a  five or six mile hike around the property.  I was actually feeling rather unenergetic and like having an excuse of cold weather and threatening rain to sit around and play card games and Settlers of Catan.  I must give credit to Erin, who has been on a mission to climb a fourteener this year, as she wanted to do a training hike.

I’m so glad she wanted to walk around as the weather held off, and we got to enjoy the fall colors.  We also managed to spot a few deer which was surprising given our noisy chatter.  I will attribute that to Brad’s eagle, hunting eye.

I’m so glad new parents Moria and Mario made the trek up with six month old Alinea.  I imagine it’s a lot of work to bring a baby to the mountains…one bag for them, ten for the baby, right?!?  Alinea is such a great baby!  She sat right at the table with us.

The rain did come later, so I did get to play some games and was thankful for a few other fellow gamers.  Erin, Brian, Mario and Moria liked “Oh, Hell”.  Brad and Angela liked Settlers of Katan…YAY!  We also had some nice meals and got some good porch time while watching the incoming clouds.  It was a relaxing weekend in the mountains.

Finally, Erin was nice enough to gift a Colorado paver to Estabrook.  What a nice hammock view!  ETB

Meridian Trail, Kenosha Pass, Ben Tyler Trail, and Estabrook

What a great week I had with friends and fall colors! On Thursday, Belinda, Tanya, and I hiked the Meridian Trail. Normally, I wouldn’t find this trail too exciting as it is an out and back path that climbs to a saddle with little view, no lake, and not much of a stream to speak of (all things I prefer on a hike), but for the fall this hike was a treat.

The trail is lined in several golden aspen groves. Occasionally we were treated to some orangy red aspens too. When we weren’t enjoying the intermittent groves that we walked through, we were admiring views along the way of green hillsides peppered with yellow and red. It was a lovely six mile hike on a gorgeous day.

On Friday, Tanya and I visited Kenosha Pass, known for its fall beauty and it didn’t disappoint. The golden hillsides were simply spectacular! I’m not sure my words or pictures could do it justice. Golden leaves floated to the soft ground in the strong wind while we stayed bundled up in the cool temperatures.

Our view from lunch on the ridge was magnificent. We hiked far enough in (a few miles) that we got to enjoy the solitude. For a Friday, the pass was quite crowded with cars parked along 285. I’m glad we made it there before the weekend!

Saturday, Erin, Brian, Mario and I hiked the Ben Tyler Trail, also known for its fall colors. This is another trail I wouldn’t normally find too exciting as it starts immediately with switchbacks up the mountain next to highway noise. But then, it weaves it way back through several aspen groves with views of a nearby hillside blanketed in fall colors.

What made the 2,500 foot climb over four miles even better was the dusting of snow near 10,500 feet. The fallen leaves in the snow was an added bonus to the lovely views. We felt lucky to hike when we did, as the aspen were already succombing to the winter weather that blew in overnight.

The cold weather also made Estabrook a little nippy! We hung out by the fire and had an awesome night…tacos and margaritas! Our final hike of the week was to the Bear’s Cave. I do it just about every time I go to Estabrook. It’s such a serene place to me! I had so much fun with my friends! ETB

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Surprise Lake…Sort Of!

Tanya, Ann, and I set out to enjoy the fall colors today. We had some time restrictions, so we thought we would just take a short 2.25 mile hike to Lower Cataract Lake and then grab lunch somewhere in Silverthorne.

Lower Cataract Lake Trailhead and Surprise Lake Trailhead are both off the same dirt road and probably only 100 yards apart. Unfortunately, we weren’t sure of this at the time we arrived at Surprise Lake Trailhead that also leads to Upper Cataract Lake. Tanya’s book was more official than my directions so we ended up stopping slightly short of Lower Cataract Lake Trailhead. Usually, the lower and upper lakes with the same name are on the same trailhead which is what caused the confusion.

In the end, it didn’t matter, except we never made it to a lake because Surprise Lake was too far to hike with our time limitation. Our goal, however, was to see fall colors and we were rewarded with lovely yellows, reds, and greens along the path and on our drive out to the hike. In addition, we got some extra exercise…always a plus for the long drive from Denver. We logged 5.5 miles instead of 2.25 while making our destination a junction at two trails.

Lunch was quickly kicked out of the equation as we took a leisurely stroll through the aspen groves and pine forests. There was a bit of an incline as well, so the hike turned out to be a bit harder than we expected, but nothing too bad. The wind was cool, the air crisp, and the sun warm; so needless to say, we seemed to layer and unlayer regularly over the 3 hours on the trail.

I love the fall and am looking forward to more leaf peeping over the next week! ETB

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Enjoying the Fall Colors

David, Jaz, and I took a trip to Estabrook to enjoy a nice weekend with my mom and Bart. It was a very restful weekend with hardly any strenuous activity. On Saturday morning, we tested out David’s new Subaru on the logging roads around our property. We got into some narrow spots as we four-wheeled through the pine forests and aspen groves. For the afternoon, we tried out some fishing. I caught a baby brown trout and had a few more strikes, but then lost the fly the fish seemed to like! Margaritas, brisket and S’mores called our names for the evening.

Despite turning in early, 6 a.m. came too fast so we slept in and skipped hiking Evans. Instead we ventured up to Kenosha Pass to check out the aspens. Kenosha Pass is very well known for its beautiful colors. This year, some of the aspens were subject to mold from all the rain, so the leaves browned early, but we still found some lovely spots. We slipped in another hour of fishing to no avail, but still had fun taking it easy in the mountains. ETB

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Segment 7 of The Colorado Trail

With Segment 7 of the Colorado Trail complete this weekend, I have now finished Segments 1-10 (170.5 miles) over the past two summers. Only 315 miles more to go…I suppose I’ve made a small dent.

David and I visited Breckenridge Friday night which coincidentally coincided with Oktoberfest (in September) and were fortunate enough to meet Cat for dinner at Blue Stag. After a great meal, Cat was nice enough to shuttle a car with us to our pick-up point at Copper’s East Lot. Continue reading “Segment 7 of The Colorado Trail”

End of the Season at Estabrook

Two of the last three weekends I’ve gotten to spend at Estabrook, what a treat! Of the two weekends, the first one I spent much of the time hiking the Colorado Trail with Bart, Sue and Jim and I blogged these events. I also took my token walk up to the Bear’s Cave with Jim, Brian and Erin. For some reason, following Craig Creek through the unkempt forest and crossing some dangerously old bridges never gets tiresome. We continued on over the hanging bridge, to Johnson’s Gulch, and followed the logging road along the mountain top back to the house. Along with hikes we enjoyed margarita night, s’mores and fireside chats.

This past weekend called for closing time. Cat and Suman helped me out with the chores, but not before we had some fun. While Cat got in some practice mountain biking time at Buffalo Creek for her upcoming race, Suman and I ventured to Georgetown to ride the train! We took the long, pretty way over Guanella Pass into Georgetown. It was a perfect choice. The yellow aspen twinkled beneath the bright sun in the brisk morning breeze along Guanella Pass Road. The bighorn sheep seemed to think the best grass was roadside…what a treat to see them!

After a leisurely drive to and through town, we arrived at the Georgetown depot early enough to browse the shop and shoot some photos along the creek before boarding the train from Georgetown to Silver Plume for the 12:10 departure. I believe the round trip is just over an hour and the Georgetown Loop Railroad offers a variety of options and departure times. We chose a Parlor Car which provides tables and chairs, free snacks of the Crack Jack style and Coke products, alcoholic beverages for purchase, and the car is enclosed. This first class experience cost us $35. Coach cars, which are open air and bench seating without food and beverage service are $9 less. Dinner options are also available.

The train was completely full. We stretched our legs in Silver Plume for ten minutes, but were not able to explore the tiny town, hopped back on board, and returned back to Georgetown where we spent the afternoon browsing the antique shops and then enjoying tea at the Dusty Rose Tea Room. We just went back in time about 100 years I think. If only we had dressed for the occasion! http://dustyrosetearoom.com/

Regardless it was a fun time to stroll through the old town and to learn the history of the short-lived Georgetown Loop. In 1877 word of monumental silver discoveries in Leadville spurred a rush to the new ore fields 45 miles southwest of town. Union Pacific, anxious to join in the bonanza, planned several routes, one west from Georgetown over Loveland Pass. Unfortunately, Clear Creek Valley at Georgetown posed a problematic 6% grade, too steep for a locomotive. Union Pacific’s chief engineer was able to design a track that looped over itself and reduce the grade to 3.5%, but by the time the remarkable feat was completed three years later, other less complicated routes had been discovered and plans to continue the Georgetown line over the Divide were abandoned.

The Loop’s ingenuity, however, became a tourist attraction, and people from all over began taking the railroad from Denver to Georgetown and over the loop to Silver Plume. From Silver Plume, visitors took the Argentine Central Railroad to the top of Mount McClellan or rode the Aerial Tramway up Sunrise Peak. Tourism lasted until WWI and the arrival of the automobile ended the Denver line, but the reconstructed Georgetown Loop is here for anyone to enjoy. http://georgetownlooprr.com/

We took a different way home through Evergreen and enjoyed a night of margaritas and Settlers before we opted for another somewhat different activity on Sunday. We ventured to Castle Mountain Recreation at Wellington Lake and attempted hiking to the “castle”. Obviously, hiking is not a different activity, but actually paying to go to Wellington Lake hasn’t made the list often. It is a lovely site. The lake is large (167 acres). The giant rocks overhead look like their namesake, the “castle”. The mild and sunny October day with yellow aspen sprinkled in the forest of evergreen along the mountainside couldn’t have made for a better setting. http://www.castlemountainrec.com/

IMG_6604 beg of hike

Camping, fishing and boating is also available, though I can’t say much about that as we were simply there to hike. After we paid $5/person and $5/car, which seemed a bit steep, we began our adventure on the other side of the lake near the boy scout camp. The manager told Cat to follow the trail from the parking lot to the waterfall and at the waterfall we would find the trail to the castle. He said we would climb 2,000 feet in 2 miles.

To start, there wasn’t a trail at the parking, only a road! Luckily, some folks were just finishing up their hike, so we asked them. The husband made the hike sound like a simple loop, “the road forks, the right side is easier, or you can go left and follow the creek up a steep trail.”

Great, we thought as we walked 100 feet and found several forks in the road. We followed the fork to the farthest right though in hindsight should have headed toward the picnic tables in the middle. Our road took us to an opening in a fence with a sign “” with arrows on each side. Above “scouts” was “waterfall” with an arrow pointing diagonally to the left. Trails went to the left, right, and somewhat straight but veered to the left. Logically, we went straight, veering left as the diagonal arrow seemed. This was wrong. We should have followed the due left scouts arrow. We found this out two hours later after a grand adventure to the castle.

For much of the way, we did follow a steep trail up the mountain. Overlooks afforded us fantastic views of the lake. We kept looking for the waterfall and could hear water once in a while, but we could never find it. We continued up, even when the trail became poor and non-existent mostly because the boulders were awesome, the adventure was fun, and we were hopeful to find a trail to walk down as we didn’t want to descend the same way we went up!

Unfortunately, we eventually reached a point where we were not going up or around, so we found a decent place to descend. So while we didn’t reach the top, we certainly created our own experience. We never felt afraid either, as despite being lost, we always had our reference to the lake so we knew where we were, just not the trail. Suman, however, has decided she will no longer hike with me or Cat! Though we descended in a completely different spot, we ended up at the misleading sign. This time we chose left. In a few hundred feet, we found another sign pointing to the “castle” trail.

I can’t believe we made it so difficult on ourselves. It’s amazing how much difference a few hundred feet make in so many things in the world. For that matter inches and centimeters at times. Anyway, after a leisurely lunch by the waterfall, Suman indulged us and let Cat and I attempt the climb to the castle again. We didn’t want her to have to wait too long, so we hiked as fast as we could up the rather steep, granite scree trail.

We made it to the base. Climbed up the edge of the rock on one side then stop. It looked like we could have hike around the front face or maybe the back, but it would have required some investigating, time and energy that we may have had, but needed to save for another time. After enjoying the view for a minute or two, we faced a treacherous return. I’m not sure if the loose scree or the packed trail was harder to hike down, but many times it was harder to stay on our feet than our bushwacking earlier in the day. I would have enjoyed having my hiking poles on this one. I really enjoyed the hike, and I think I will have to donate to Castle Mountain Recreation again, as I want to spend more time on the summit.

I understand it can be reached from the Rolling Creek Trailhead for free, though it requires leaving the trail and bushwacking as well. It is also much farther so a $5-$10 may be worth it! Overall, it was a wonderful two weekends at Estabrook with good friends and fun activities. ETB

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The Colorado Trail – Segment 4

I’m feeling exhilarated and exhausted simultaneously. Segment 4 of the Colorado Trail was simply magnificent! I highly suggest hiking this segment during the fall when the aspens and willows change from green to golden. I know through hikers may not have this luxury, but day hikers shouldn’t miss this part of the trail in the fall.

How to Get There

The trailhead can be found 8 miles from Bailey down County Road 68 in the Pike National Forest. The road changes names to FS-560, but consistently staying to the right at any splits results in arriving at the Rolling Creek Trailhead parking area. A forest service road extends from this parking area 0.3 miles up to another parking area directly across from the trail to the right. Continue reading “The Colorado Trail – Segment 4”

The Rockies: Shelf Lake Trail, Colorado – SUCCESS!

Shelf Lake Trail, Colorado

Two days ago I planned on hiking Shelf Lake Trail, but I was slightly challenged in finding the trailhead, so by the time I came upon it, I scrapped the idea of making the 6.4 mile roundtrip.  This morning, 6.4 miles sounded appealing as that was one of the shortest options of the trails in the area and the difficulty level in my hiking book was described as easy despite beginning at an elevation of 9,900 feet and gaining 2,100 feet in 3.2 miles.

The excitement began as soon as I reached the Burning Bear Campground on Guanella Pass Road.  I was only a mile from the turn off to the three-mile stretch of dirt road when I caught a glimpse of a mountain lion!  I had my eyes peeled for big horn sheep and mountain goats, so I was surprised to see the large tan animal turn from the edge up the road and leap up the hill two beats at a time like a cat versus the three beat canter of a coyote or a dog.

This movement is what made me think it was a mountain lion as I never got a good look at its face.  It took about five leaps before it vanished in front of my eyes.  It’s amazing how animals slink behind a tree and seem to disappear into a mountainside.  I know it was sitting there watching my car…so eerie…but I was glad to be in a vehicle!

I continued on to the turn off for the trail and this time drove directly to the trailhead.  The 0.75 miles or so of the trail steadily follows switchbacks up the mountain through the pines, firs and spruce until it reaches the first of five creek crossings.  Shortly thereafter, its helpful to have goat-like abilities to traverse a very steep portion of the trail on the edge of the mountain that offers a magnificent view of the valley below.

After scrambling up this area, the trail levels out and wends its way through forest and a rock quarry covered in fluorescent green lichen.  Sometimes I wonder how the rocks end up in certain locations.  Mountains protruded all around and trails seemed to skirt out in all directions.  My guide book advised to maintain elevation if in doubt of which trail to follow, so I did.  I wandered through the maze and followed the most traveled trail until I came into an open meadow of tundra and willows.

I felt like I should be a sheep herder in Iceland.  I was out in the open wilderness….nothing around but beaver ponds, tundra, and craggy cliffs that a mountain goat had to be climbing on somewhere.  I just couldn’t see them in the expansiveness.  I felt so alone and free at the same time.  The description of the easy hike kept rolling around in my head as I was leaning at a 45 degree angle against the constant twenty-five miles per hour wind that gusted up to forty miles per hour.  I wondered, is this hike easy when it isn’t windy because it doesn’t feel easy now!

After about a mile of walking through the open space against the wind, the final 3/4 mile stretch was a series of steep switchbacks that continued above the treeline and ended at Shelf Lake tucked in a high mountain cirque.  The lake, which is usually frozen until mid-June, is rated good for cutthroat trout.  I clambered around the rocky terrain looking for a protected area where I could eat a quick lunch when I saw something reflecting by the shore.  I walked a little further and found someone’s backpack.  I couldn’t believe it.  I was in the middle of nowhere….didn’t see a soul on the trail…felt like I was a pioneer…or an icelandic sheep herder…and then there were two of us at the lake!

He was fishing.  I bounced from rock to rock all the while looking for mountain goats until I reached the angler.  They had to be here.  Rocks and a water source…where were they!?!  Perhaps they were hiding from all the wind.  Personally I don’t know why goats and bighorn sheep would want to live in areas like this, except for the view and perhaps to stay away from predators.

The fisherman hadn’t had too much luck.  Only a few trout had shown, but I don’t know how he could fly fish in this wind which was virtually circular at the lake.  It was his first time on the hike, and he thought it was magnificent as well.  The lake, a deep sapphire blue, was gorgeous and tranquil despite the white caps on its shoreline today.

Mr. Angler took one look at my camera and said pointing behind him, “There are some mountain goats up on that ridge.”

“Really”, I responded, “I’ve been looking all over for them and haven’t seen them.”

“I wouldn’t have seen them”, he said, “but they caused a huge rock slide.  I counted six.”

So I left the fisherman at his task of catching cutthroat while I scoured the ridge for mountain goats.  I finally caught sight of three sunning themselves.  They looked like specs in my 270 zoom lens which then really made me feel small in the world’s surroundings.  Nature is just so grand!  After a short lunch, with the wind at my back, I got blown down the mountain…Another amazing hike.  I look forward to taking the Shelf Lake Trail in the summer because my guide-book claims there are several cascading waterfalls and spectacular wildflowers, both of which were gone for the fall.

ETB

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The Rockies: Ben Tyler Trail

Ben Tyler Trail

I packed up my gear and headed out to my car this morning to find frost on the windshield and side windows…it was going to be a cold morning for a hike on the Ben Tyler Trail, #606 in Pike National Forest.  The locals seem to have an affinity for this hike.  The tiny parking area is always full and meetup groups tend to pick this hiking trail often.

Having driven by it countless times, I never could figure out why it was so popular.  The trailhead abuts 285, a relatively busy highway and then the trail proceeds straight up the mountain via multiple switchbacks through trees with no water or views in sight.  This type of trail tends to be my least favorite type.  But since I was simply judging it from a car as I drove by, I thought it would be best to see it for myself.

The first part of the trail was just as I had seen from the car.  The first 0.4 miles climbed steeply in a series of eleven switchbacks.  The trail, named for Ben Tyler who operated a lumber mill during the gold rush days, begins to level for a bit and offers views of the farmland across the highway before it drops down to a creek where the golden aspen were plentiful.  This part, I loved.

The trail gradient then becomes quite steep again, rising 1,800 feet in three miles.  I felt as though I was climbing up a waterfall as I high-stepped over dark stones the jutted up through the layers of chocolate-brown, aspen leaves.  At the higher elevation, the wind whipped through the bare aspen branches.

I can only imagine what the mountainside looked like just a few weeks prior and now understand why the locals love this hike, at least for the fall colors.  Not only does the path led the hiker beneath an aspen grove, the entire western and northern view is of a continuous aspen grove.  I’m sick I missed the glorious color this year, but I will be sure to see the sea of yellow next year!

I continued on to the Craig Park Trail Junction via another mile of long switchbacks…this is the five-mile mark.  I was expecting the junction to be at the saddle, but I believe I was going to have to travel another mile, so I decided to turn around, as Petey was patiently waiting for me back at the cabin (and at a 2 mph pace, that was already going to be a five-hour hike).

On my way up, I basically had the trail to myself and in the first half mile found myself stripping down to shorts and a T-shirt despite the cool temperatures as my heart rate spiked while making the climb.  But on my way down, I found myself zipping back into my wind breaker as I ran across several people.  One girl, walked ten feet off the trail to go around me.  I’ve never had that happen.  Did I smell that bad or did she have tuberculosis or something?  Odd.

Then, which I have found to be pretty common in Colorado, I got greeted by off-leash dogs.  While I love dogs, I find this to be frustrating at times, because not all people love dogs, and when I have mine with me, he isn’t dog friendly which makes things rather challenging.  These dogs, first growled at me!  And then, they were wet and they shook by me and jumped up and hit my camera!!!  They weren’t trained well enough to be off-leash!!!  UGH!

Anyway, at the end of the hike I picked up two geocaches and called it a day.  It was a great hike and I can’t wait the try the Ben Tyler Trail next fall and perhaps go a bit further on some of the connecting trails.

ETB

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The Rockies: Abyss Lake Trail, Colorado

Abyss Lake Trail

Today I drove up toward Guanella Pass to join a Meetup Hiking Group at Abyss Lake Trail, also known as Scott Gomer Trail, to enjoy the Colorado fall colors which a peaking early this year due to the dry weather.  I was already up in the area, and the group was coming from Denver, so I planned on meeting them at the trailhead at 8:45.

I ended up being fifteen minutes late, so with two cars in the parking area, I thought I missed them a jumped on the trail quickly.  I started up the path on the brisk morning and met Karen, a lady from Boulder, who also planned on meeting the group from Denver.  It turns out, we must have been ahead of them, so we hiked together.

Karen was retired from Sun Micro Systems and a strong Democrat.  It was interesting to hear her political views.  In fact, just living in a swing state has been somewhat eye opening with the barrage of political ads…it’s insane.  I saw a state the other day that people over 40 or 50 in Colorado will vote Democrat and people under will vote Republican: opposite of norm.  Hmmm.  Well, my blog isn’t about politics…it’s about travel, and all my travel has been to the mountains before the cold comes…then I’ll go some place else!

The Abyss Lake Trail, Number 602 winds 8 miles through the Mount Evans Wilderness to the Abyss Lake, located high in the mountains between two fourteeners, Mt. Evans and Mt. Bierstadt.  The trail is rated difficult, begins at an elevation of 9,620 feet, and gains 3,030.  The group only planned a 7 mile hike, so I was curious to see where the turn around point was going to be.

Karen and I climbed path upward that followed along the Scott Gomer Creek and that got prettier and prettier as we passed through multiple groves of golden aspen trees.  The aspens lined both sides of trail that was also dotted with yellow leaves that had already fall to the ground.

We crossed the creek three times as Mt. Bierstadt, rock cliffs, and the multi-colored mountainside came into view.  Eventually we reached a large meadow skirted by beaver ponds on one side where we sat to enjoy a quick lunch.  This seemed to be the half-way point where the Abyss Lake Trail crossed the Rosalie Trail, number 603.

Instead of turning around or following the Abyss Lake Trail up multiple switchbacks, we followed the Rosalie Trail toward Guanella Pass until it took us into an expansive open space.  At this time, I turned around, as I had already hiked a few miles farther than I had planned and Karen continued on.  Another beautiful hike, another 4 miles longer and couple hours longer than planned! ETB

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