Roadtrip to the Rockies: Estabrook

September 22-23, 2017

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


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

September 22-25, 2016

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!

September 15, 2016

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

September 20, 2015

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

September 12, 2015

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 supposed 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.

at the bus stop
at the bus stop

The next morning, we hopped the free Summit Stage bus to the Tiger Run stop, crossed the street and began our hike. I was hoping the beautiful fall color from segments 4-6 would carry over to segment 7, but no such luck. There was hardly an aspen grove, and for that matter for the first several miles there was hardly a tree or pretty forest anyway. The pine beetle has taken its toll on the lodge pole pines.

After passing by a trail to the left and crossing a few logging roads, we eventually reached a sign that directed us to Miner’s Creek Trail. This left/right jog led us through some prettier scenery as we enjoyed some shade. The Miner’s Creek tributary crossed the trail a handful of times as we began climbing for the next five miles.

With the wet year, the seasonal streams and springs to the left of the trail were flowing. Soon we emerged from the forest to the tundra above the treeline and enjoyed a lovely view of the lake below before we stopped for lunch as we topped the first ridge. I think both of us could have fallen asleep on the hillside beneath the sunny, cloudless sky.

We continued along the path that began switchbacking up the mountain to the crest of the Tenmile Range between peaks 5 and 6. At the crest, the wind blew strong and cold. We had to sift out our puffy jackets as we descended the other side until we reached treeline again.

The rest of our hike was rather uneventful. We turned right on Wheeler Trail, and criss-crossed some more seasonal water flow for a few miles before we reached the river and parking lot at the bottom. Much of this 12.8 mile trail was very steep, both up and down, so my legs were happy to reach the Segment’s end.

We drove back from Copper to Breckenridge and decided to take a very long route home over Boreas Pass to take in some of the fall color. This was a very good decision! The road wasn’t too crowded and the green, yellow, and orange aspen leaves were a treat. ETB


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End of the Season at Estabrook

September 20/21 and October 4/5

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!

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.

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.

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

September 18, 2014

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.

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.

After dropping a car off at Long Gulch and then returning to the start (a 2 hour process though a beautiful drive at sunrise), we finally ventured in a northwesterly direction along the trail. We gained the first 0.3 miles of the service road in the car. I didn’t feel too bad about this extra help given I’ve hiked this road at least four times in the past.

The trail took us past colorful aspens immediately upon entering the forest. At about a mile (including the 0.3), the trail connects with a logging road built by W.H. Hooper for $1,700 between 1885 and 1887. The cost was over budget due to the boggy stretches that are now closed off to hikers. Mr. Hooper also ran a sawmill operation in Lost Park which was closed down by the Department of Interior for illegalities.

The road, though rocky at times and draped by a few fallen trees, is extremely well maintained. We strolled along the wide swath for the next five miles while admiring limited views of Mt. Evans and Mt. Beirstadt to the north and Windy Peak to the south when it aligned itself with Hooper Road. Lodge pole pines and aspen groves alternately blanketed the trail in the Lost Creek Wilderness, though by my pictures, it appears that aspen groves have overtaken the forest. Some leaves were just changing from green to yellow while others leaves from golden to orange and red. The colors were absolutely splendid and the trunks of some of the aspens were the biggest I’ve seen.

We also passed Payne Creek Trail, the headwaters of Craig Creek (around 4.5 miles) and an old truck before we eventually exited the road to the left and followed the trail which switched back and forth up the mountain. For the first 5.5 miles, the trail gradually ascended along the road from 8,279 feet to 9,897 feet. At the well marked cutoff, the trail climbed 1,500 feet over two miles through lodge pole pines (one with a waterfall of sap trickling down its trunk, fallen trees, funky fungus, and boulder fields until we reached the road again at mile 7.4.

Soon we crossed a small spring, left the Lost Creek Wilderness area, and came upon a clearing as we began our descent. Though we had snacked along the way, it wasn’t until around mile 8.5 that we finally found a log with a view of the valley blanketed in flaxen willows. We lightened our load as we devoured sandwiches, apples, salami, cheese and crackers…wait no cheese; it didn’t make the trip from the refrigerator. None the less, our lunch refueled us for the second and easier half of the trek.

For the next six miles we slowly climbed 1,000 feet as we followed the North Fork of Lost Creek. The willows were so dense in places, the creek wasn’t visible. Other times, we spotted a small stream or beaver ponds. We passed by remnants of an old building, thought to be Hooper’s sawmill, and the intersection with Brookside-McCurdy Trail which leads to the Lost Park Campground.

The CT official guide book suggests watching for deer and bear. An older version suggests cows may watch us trek beneath the sunny skies. I kept my eyes peeled for animals. I even spotted a wild white rock in the distance, though the only sign of animals was the amount of scat on the trail. At times we felt like this segment should be called “the poo segment” (no relation to Winnie). We came to the conclusion that most of it must have belonged to coyotes, though one large pile seemed like it came from a mountain lion.

Admittedly, this part of the trail was a bit tedious. As Bart said, no wonder this is called “Long Gulch”, which was our final destination. The yellow willows went on forever. I must say, I was thankful to be hiking through the meadow in the fall and not the middle of summer. The temperature was glorious at 67, and the changing colors added variety to the valley. I only found myself getting impatient because I could see more magnificent aspens ahead, and I couldn’t wait to admire their beauty.


Before we left the valley we stopped twice for more snacks, once by a large rock (that didn’t offer shade), and once by some fallen trees which appeared to have burned from a fire long ago. In between our stops, we were blessed to see two moose!! A mama and her baby were hiding in the shade of evergreens to our right and staring out toward the marshy waters. I’m not sure if they wanted a drink or not, but fortunately given we were blocking their path, the mama decided to turn into the forest versus charging us. So much for deer, bears, and cows…how about a MOOSE!
And after the moose came the aspen groves of all colors. Some of the aspens were just losing their leaves which spotted the trail. The rest gleamed in the afternoon sun. The valley met the forest at the head of the North Fork of Lost Creek where we passed through a gate into the forest at the highest altitude (10,929) of the day.

From here, at mile 14.5, we descended steeply as the trail switched back and forth down the mountain through the forest. Occasionally we caught a glimpse of the aspens blanketing the mountainside across the valley, and we even stopped for a view of South Park. At the end of the trail, which crosses a small stream to the parking area, we found a bunny. Tired, but happy to be finished, we piled into the car and admired countless aspen trees along the drive back to the trailhead as the sun set. Here, we spied our first deer in the dark! We hiked slowly and enjoyed all nature had to offer on this spectacular day of 16.6 miles. With Bart and Sue’s help, I’m now 57.1 miles closer to finishing the Colorado Trail. ETB

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