Background: Connally is my niece with a sense of travel adventure. A recent college graduate, she took three weeks to travel South America, and is now starting a job at Marathon Oil. Not only is she brilliant, she has a knack for snapping some fantastic photos in some amazing places.
Image Title: From the Heights of Trolltunga
Location: Trolltunga, Norway
Fun Fact(s): The hike where this photo is taken is called Trolltunga which means troll tongue. The hike takes about 10 hours. Connally and her cousin Catherine started late, so they ended up bringing a tent and camping at the top. It was much less crowded, and they got to see a great sunset. Aside from the spectacular scenery, what made the hike extra special for Connally was receiving her job offer there!
My friends, Brian and Erin, kindly shared their condo in Winter Park with me this weekend. I felt so fortunate to be able to head to the mountains Friday afternoon and miss the Saturday morning ski traffic. What a luxury they afforded me! On top of including me in their weekly winter trek to the mountains, as I don’t ski, they graciously joined me in snow shoeing on one of the biggest powder days of the lackluster snow season.
Saturday morning we geared up, stepped out of the condo, and wondered what in the heck we were doing. Wind whipped tiny flecks of snow into our faces as we shoved our packs and shoes into the trunk of their convertible Audi complete with snow tires! Brian drove us 45 minutes to the outskirts of Rocky Mountain National Parkwhere we found the trailhead to Shadow Mountain Shore.
Trail(s): Spruce Mountain Trail to the Upper Loop Location: Spruce Mountain Open Space Fees: Free Website:Douglas County Open Space Distance: 5.5 miles
Yesterday we tried going to the mountains during ski traffic while I only had a 1/4 tank of gas. This required a reverse course of action, and we ended up watching The Last Jedi which ironically a major theme in the movie was about low fuel! Anyway, we salvaged the day, and I salvaged my weekend hike by heading a different direction, south to the Town of Larkspur.
I didn’t know much about Larkspur except a few passing mentions on the news. I didn’t even know where it was relative to Denver. I have to say, the town was smaller than I expected. The main road passed through the center of town which I might have missed had there not been a slow speed limit and a blinking stop sign. The street was lined with local businesses and government buildings including a vet, a pizzeria, a bar, a mexican food restaurant, a town hall, and a fire station. After a few blocks, I was back in the wilderness just a few miles from Spruce Mountain Open Space. Operated by Douglas County, Spruce Mountain is a large mesa and home to 8.5 miles of trails.
The Spruce Mountain Trail begins in the meadow before turning to the left where it leads hikers up about a mile of switchbacks through a forest of Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir before reaching the summit. Hikers may follow a 2.3 mile trail that loops around the mountain’s large, flat top loaded with rocky lookouts for views in every direction.
Spruce Mountain Trail
View from the top of a pine tree 🙂
There is a service road connection to the upper loop that offers a few more miles of trails and a different way back to the trailhead for a longer and different hike. I stuck with 5.5 mile lollipop loop also known as Mountain Top Loop by the posted signs. The trailhead map as well as the one on the website doesn’t reference this loop in totality (just separate trails), so it’s a little confusing unless time is taken to add up the mileage of each section to figure out which loop to follow as there are several possibilities of loop hikes available.
The 5.5 mile loop includes hiking from the trailhead to the upper loop (also not terribly accurate on the map showing only 1.6 miles associated with the name not 2.3) and back down the same way. Had I understood the combined map/sign posts better, I might have gone for a longer trek, but the temperature felt a lot colder than I expected. Perhaps the snowpacked trail is what made the air feel brisk, but it hardly felt like the forecast 55 degrees, and with only three layers with me, I didn’t want to risk being outside near sundown as the mercury plummets. After one visit, however, it is easy to understand the lay of the land.
This hike would be spectacular for sunset shots as the Greenland Overlook is only about 1.6 miles from the trailhead on Spruce Mountain Road which would likely provide enough time for hikers to get back to their cars with perhaps a little help from a headlamp. There is another lookout that is even better at Windy Point, but this would definitely require hiking in the dark. Had I had another jacket, I may have stayed to watch the sky turn pink, but I finished up the hike just thirty minutes too early and was feeling a bit chilled.
This trail was pretty popular for an afternoon hike, and I enjoyed the lookout with a handful of other hikers, some of whom were definitely hiking up for sunset views as I was returning to the car. This park is worth a visit. Maybe I’ll repeat this in the summer when the wildflowers are out. ETB
WANT TO VACATION SOONER? IF SO, THIS VACATION CLUB IS FOR YOU!
Want to know what to do for two days in Ouray during winter? Here are a few ideas for the top things to do in Ouray.
WHERE TO STAY:
Stay at The China Clipper Inn. I scored a room for $100/night just a month before this busy weekend. This spectacular Bed & Breakfast is located in town just one block off Main Street. The China Clipper Inn is wonderfully decorated. It’s living room includes a fireplace which is very nice to enjoy during the winter months. It’s breakfast is great. It includes warm items like eggs, quiche, potatoes, ham and bacon, as well as mouth watering muffins and a lovely fruit salad. Of course it also includes coffee, tea ,juice, cereals and breads too. My room had its own fireplace! It is a really great, quaint place nearby everything. Continue reading “Road Trip to the Rockies: Two Days in Ouray!”→
Trail(s): Indian Mesa Trail and Eagle Wind Trail Location: Ron Stewart Preserve at Rabbit Mountain Fees: Free Website:Boulder County Open Space Distance: 4 miles
The nice part about winter in Colorado is I can hike in the afternoon without the threat of a thunderstorm which is quite the opposite in the summer time. As a result, I’ve been enjoying the fading light on my recent outings.
Today Maybel and I took a road trip to Ron Stewart Preserve at Rabbit Mountain which is part of Boulder, County Open Space. The park located in the eastern most foothills of Boulder County boasts 6.2 miles of trails.
I started out following the gravel road on Indian Mesa Trail that rose to an intersection with Eagle Wind Trail. The rocky terrain was easy to navigate as the elevation gain was minimal…around 350 feet. The Eagle Wind Trail is a 2.5 lollipop loop that provides expansive views of the valley below and a panoramic view of the Rocky Mountains beyond.
Countless hikers were out enjoying the warm weather prior to the incoming storm. We shared the trail and eventually descended toward the parking lot as the sunset. What a nice, peaceful outing! ETB
WANT TO VACATION SOONER? IF SO, THIS VACATION CLUB IS FOR YOU!