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The Colorado Trail – Segment 14

June 22-24, 2017

Another segment of the Colorado Trail is marked off the list…Segment 14 (20.4 miles) with a 3-mile side hike to Browns Creek Falls that is definitely worth the detour!

Just about every weekend I am in town this summer is dedicated to finishing up the 484.6 mile trail.  Thus far I have completed 292.7 miles over the past few years.

This weekend I planned backpacking Segment 14 solo, but needed transportation from the end of the segment back to the beginning at Chalk Creek Trailhead to get my car.  The Colorado Trail Foundation provides a list of helpers if asked, but the two places I tried contacting in the area didn’t respond.

In a bit of a bind (as I preferred not to hitchhike even though I’ve heard it is a reasonable option in the area), I posted my plan on the Colorado Backpacker’s Meetup site.  Lucky for me, two backpackers signed up!  Alyssa, who had no experience backpacking, but a lot of experience camping; and Darrell, who knew his way around the woods and loved maps.

I was both excited and apprehensive to have two strangers join me, and I’m pleased to say, I’d backpack with both of them again.  We had a great trip!!

I met Darrell at the Wooly Mammoth parking lot.  He was from Tennessee and moved out to Colorado a few years ago for the mountains.  He is an engineer and owns his own consulting practice.  He really has a passion for hiking and backpacking and has completed the entire John Muir Trail.

We then met Alyssa in the parking lot at the Knotty Pine in Bailey as she was coming from Conifer.  Once we shuttled the cars to the end of the segment at Hwy 50 and piled into Alyssa’s Jeep, we learned that she is an engineer at Lockheed and had planned to through hike the CT the prior summer, but the plans fell apart.  So now, she got to at least experience her first backpacking trip.

We arrived at Chalk Creek Trailhead around 3:30pm and planned to hike in about 4 miles to a dry campsite.  It was quite a warm day for June and VERY dry.  For the first backpacking trip of the season, the 1,000 foot gain over the first 1.4 miles proved slow going as our feet sunk in the sandy trail and we inhaled dust and smoke from a Utah fire.  The switch backs led us through intermittent open areas and pine forests before we finally reached a nice view, where upon we descended to a small, lush valley before crossing Eddy Creek Rd.

We continued on mostly flat terrain for the next few miles until we reached Raspberry Gulch Rd where we planned to look for a campsite.  Apparently, this is a very popular road for camping, as we ran across an RV, a truck, and another car all camping on Thursday night.  We hoped for a quiet night so we slowly made our way a few hundred yards farther and found a somewhat flat, grassy area that seemed reasonable despite a few dry cow patties and a few cow bones.

In the time we set up camp and made our dinners, we determined the mosquitoes and ants were relentless.  I must have missed spraying 100% deet in a few places, as those blood suckers bit me through my clothes!  I couldn’t take the pesky insects any longer, so I turned in early and watched the sunset from my tent window!

Darrell and I both awoke when the sun came up the following morning.  I slowly piddled with every task I could to finally emerge from my tent at 6:30am.  Darrell had been exploring and noted there was a stream just another 100 yards down the trail.  REALLY?!?  We lugged 4 liters of water each (8 extra pounds each) up the mountain to a “DRY” campsite according to the book and there was full force stream running practically right next to us!  DANG IT!! Usually, the databook indicates “seasonal creek” or something to suggest there might be water!  But this time, nothing.  In my dismay, I imagine I woke Alyssa though it was a more reasonable time, about an hour after we were stirring.

The day was gorgeous and we started out beneath clear skies with birds cawing and chirping up a storm.  In fact, we felt like we slept in an aviary and the birds were a secondary wake-up call to the sun!  Again, we enjoyed the view of open spaces and the shade of lodgepole pine forests for a few miles before we reached the junction to Browns Creek Falls.

Here we ditched our packs and enjoyed a lovely 1.5-mile stroll to the roaring falls.  Along the way, we admired beautiful wildflowers as we dodged stale piles of horse manure.  This trail was clearly popular among horse back riders as there were hitching posts and creek crossings for the horses.  In addition, there we several great camping spots and other trails to explore nearby.  This area is worth another visit.

Upon return to the junction, we filled up with water and nibbled on our morning snacks before the cool air finally encouraged us to move along.  Over the next five miles, we crossed a few more creeks, passed through some aspen groves, and climbed a few more ridges with marvelous views before we settled into our camp just past Squaw Creek at mile 12.2.

With only 8.3 miles of backpacking and 3 miles of hiking it was an easy day, and we finished by 2:30.  We chilled around camp while discussing photography and eventually built a small fire in a large fire ring to keep the bugs away, though we were cautious of the dry surroundings.  It was all we could do to wait until 5:30pm to eat dinner…blue hair special coming right up!  Who knew dried food could taste so good! Being camped in a valley, we couldn’t see the sunset and I think we all turned in around 8:30!

Of course, with early bedtime, came an early rising…once again with sunup.  Even Alyssa woke sooner.  Given the last hour of our hike yesterday was rather warm, we figured an early start was a good choice.  Not to mention we had a three-hour drive home after completing the trail.

The first six miles of our morning were simply spectacular.  The trail took us in and out of countless aspen groves.  I don’t know how I don’t have any good pictures to show for them.  We all really loved this portion of the trail.  In addition, for part of the time, the trail followed a ridge with a spectacular 180⁰ view of the valley below.

The last two miles or so, however, we a disappointment.  Along with a few road crossings, we entered a logging zone and listened to large machinery working in the forest.  Several trees were cut and stacked along side the trail.  Presumably it was all beetle kill, but tractor tire tracks peppered the trail and surrounding area.  We could only imagine the possible erosion if the damage is not repaired.  On a positive note, the sawdust smelled sharply of pine, so there was nice aroma in the air along with countless blackbirds.  I’ve never seen so many swarming in one place.

As we left the zone, we crossed a creek and then ascended to our last view where the trail led us right beneath a tower supporting power lines.  Nature at its finest…NOT!  The last of our hike took us along the maintenance road for the powerlines, across a railroad bed, past a deer carcass and to my car where we loaded up and headed home. It was definitely anti-climatic after the first six miles of the day.  Regardless, we were happy to finish by 11:15am as the brisk mountain air had already warmed up.  Who knew it would be cooler in Denver upon arriving home!  I loved my hiking companions and hope we will end up on another trip together.  ETB


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Dining in Dallas

January 20-22, 2017

What a nice weekend in Dallas celebrating my mom’s birthday a few weeks late.  We had the nicest time chilling out, watching football and eating out!

Friday night we went to Adelmo’s.  It is a long-time Italian restaurant in Dallas that used to be in a house in the Knox-Henderson area.  It recently relocated to Inwood Village.  The dinner and service were lovely.  While I can’t say the food was the best ever, it was an enjoyable, quiet evening.


Saturday night we went to Fearings located in the Ritz-Carlton in uptown.  Dean Fearing himself came out to our table to say hello.  Fearings’ plates were absolutely mouth-watering good!  Almost all of us ordered the Lobster bisque which included a lobster pot sticker at the bottom of the bowl…delicious!

The entrees were fantastic as well.  Three of our party ordered the Arctic Char and raved about it.  My lamb chops, though not cooked to the medium temperature requested, had phenomenal flavor.  Phil, my god-father, ordered the scallops and king crab, and he found them to be quite satisfying.  We ordered a few shared desserts too.  I didn’t try my mom’s peanut butter crunch bar, but it looked remarkable!  I just drooled over it.

Fair warning, both restaurants provided amuse-bouche between the appetizer and main course as well as after dessert, so if you don’t have a big appetite, a three-course meal isn’t necessary.  Of course, it is fun to indulge on special occasions.  Fearings even served a bite-size, gratis tomato bisque prior to our appetizer which was tasty too.  If I’m being picky, for a fancy place, the service could have slightly improved, but it certainly didn’t damper the occasion.

With Dallas being a test market for restaurants, it’s tough to beat the food here.  If the eatery isn’t good, it goes out of business in a year and another fills its place.  The food scene is something!

The flowers in the lobby of the Ritz were another spectacular scene and made a perfect back drop for our pictures.  It was sort of fun to dress up.  I don’t do that often, nor do I really want to regularly, but once in a while it is probably good to put on a little make up.  Not to sound obnoxious, but I think we all looked good!

Sunday, when we weren’t watching the football games, I was training for my Olympic distance Triathlon.  I’m not sure why I decided to compete in a triathlon, but one benefit is weighing what I did in high school!  Anyway, when possible I prefer a soft surface path rather than pavement for running, so I searched out a nature preserve.

The Oak Cliff Nature Preserve was definitely the most unique nature preserve I’ve visited.  I suggest taking a picture of the map at the trailhead which shows all the colored loops as there are many intersecting trails (some less traveled) without signs.  Having said that, there are many signs pointing in the direction of the loops in an open space so you can at least find them, it just might be hard to find the parking lot on one’s first visit.

I had to run for 40 minutes or 4 miles today, so I planned to connect the white loop, to the blue loop, to the purple loop.  I didn’t take much time reviewing the map because the damp air coupled with 20-mile per hour winds made we want to find the cover of the trees quickly.  I probably should have focused a bit harder as I never did connect all three trails and sometimes ended up on the same portion of a trail twice.  But all that really mattered was getting in the mileage.


After the big thunder storm last night, I thought the trails might be somewhat muddy, but they really weren’t too bad.  I only had to watch out for tree roots and slick limestone at times.  I expected to have to look out for mountain bikers as it seemed like the nature preserve catered to them.  The description of each loop discussed bike jumps and technical portions of the trail.  Most nature preserves I’ve been to don’t even allow bikes, so it seemed odd to me.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to dodge any cyclists, and for that matter, I only saw about six people on the 7+ miles of trails the preserve offered.  The preserve must attract mountain bikers at some point, however.  Many trees are decorated with bike reflectors and there is a pump station for tires.  There is a variety of “art” (for lack of a better word) on the trails as well.

Anyway, I can’t say it was the most beautiful place I’ve been, especially in the winter, but there were a few different types of berries growing, birds flitting around, and a bush with lavender colored leaves that I have never before seen. It was definitely a nicer way to get in my miles rather than weaving around runners and cyclists on the Katy Trail or at White Rock Lake.

The only thing that proved frustrating was to wonder which gadget I should believe.  My Fitbit claimed I ran just over five miles while MapMyHike calculated only 4 miles in 48 minutes!  As much as I’d like my Fitbit, which is set to automatically calculate the length of my stride, to be correct, I don’t think I averaged less than a 10-minute mile pace.  By the same token, I surely hope I ran better than a 12-minute mile!  I guess I’ll have to go to the track some-day soon.  All-in-all, it was a nice visit home, and it was nice to catch up with one of my best friends from my horse show days too.  ETB



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Fallbrook, California

June 2012

Well, after an 8 month hiatus from blogging, I am back!  I almost don’t remember how to do this, despite positing every day for a year!

I just recently took a weekend trip to Fallbrook, California to celebrate my dad’s cousin’s 60 1/2 surprise birthday.  Many of my dad’s cousins, who I met for the first time on my trip around the USA, came for Bill’s birthday as well, so it was like a family reunion!  We enjoyed a nice dinner outside in Bill and Pam’s backyard with beautiful weather.

While the family wasn’t congregated together, I took a short drive, winding along narrow roads that cut through hillsides of avocado orchards on my way to Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve.  I would call it farmland, however, each orchard included a decorative gate adorned with seasonal flowers opening to a long driveway which led to Mediterranean mansions.  No wonder avocados are so expensive!

img_8977 avocado 3

Actually, due to droughts and water restrictions, many of the avocado trees in the area are being replaced by grapes.  Someday, the entire state of California will be a vineyard.

It was a little weird not to have VANilla and my mutt as climbed up 18% grades and looped around blind turns, though I still ended up with a Volkswagen from the rental car company…kind of spooky.

Upon arrival at the Reserve, I took a 4.5 mile hiker along the Vernal Pool Trail and the Adobe Loop Trail.  The Vernal Pool Trail led me through golden grassy plains that shimmered in the breeze like a rattlesnake’s tail.  In fact, I had my eyes peeled for the three different species of rattlers that reside in the Reserve.

In addition to rattlesnakes, mountains lions travel through the Reserve and warning signs seemed to be posted at every fence post.  When I wasn’t busy watching for snakes, I was hopping over mountain lion feces that peppered the trail.  At first, I thought disrespectful dog owners frequented the trail, but dogs weren’t allowed and there was way too much.  I found myself thankful to be hiking mid-day, in warm weather, and sharing the trail with others, so that I did end up as a cat’s dinner.

I was excited to see the pools, as I prefer hikes near water, only to find out they were seasonal and dried up in June!  In order to entertain myself, I decided to see if there were any geocaches around – another activity I haven’t done in ages.  According to the earth cache description, the vernal pools are the only known examples of Southern Basalt Flow Vernal pools.  The basalt is the key to the large number of pools as it is nearly impervious to water (perhaps the water evaporated in the heat).  There are only 14 pools in Riverside County, 13 of which can be found in the preserve.

The flat, dry trail passed by prickly pear cacti and then dropped down the hillside through some shrubs before it led me to the oldest adobe structures still standing in Riverside County.  I stopped for a few minutes near the barn and adobe house to enjoy the shade as I expected the rest of the walk would take me across more sunny plateaus.  Not so: I ended strolling beneath enormous trees that lined the narrow Adobe Creek as birds rustled in the leaves.

After half a mile of shade, I returned to the car on the open trail that was used by cattle ranchers in the 1800’s.

I had a final chance to see my relatives Sunday morning for breakfast before returning back to Denver.  While half the state seems to be on fire, currently I am safe and sound and preparing for the MS150 bike ride to Fort Collins next week.  If anyone feels like donating, it’s not too late!  I’m only $225 away from raising $4,000.  Any amount helps…http://main.nationalmssociety.org/site/TR/Bike/COCBikeEvents?px=4628235&pg=personal&fr_id=17994


Day 201 – Rocky Mountain Ramble – Part 2

Day 201 – Rocky Mountain Ramble, July 1, 2011

Elk, elk, and more elk…that is the best way to describe my
day!  They were everywhere, though the
first elk I spotted this morning couldn’t have posed any better for the
camera.  I stayed on the east side of the
park last night, and took Trail Ridge Road 45 miles to Grand Lake.  We passed through meadows, began climbing,
and sputtered by a sign marking two miles above sea level.  Soon thereafter, we flanked the mountain side
as water from melting snow streamed off the slope between the ground and the
snowpack.  The road finally reached
Forest Canyon Overlook, where stunted pines are contorted into odd shapes from
relentless winds.  Many of the trees
limbs only grow on the leeward side of the tree trunks.

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A red road sign with white block letters cautioned that
driving conditions could change quickly just before we ascended above the
timberline into an immense expanse of tundra; grasses and wildflowers only a
few inches high.  I considered taking a
walk along the tundra nature trail, but the wind was something fierce, and I
wasn’t dressed appropriately.  The beauty
was so amazing just sitting in VANilla, that I didn’t really feel the need to
wander along the trail in hopes to spot a marmot given I had already gotten a
close up view of one in Telluride a few weeks ago, and shortly after my
decision to stay warm one scampered across the road.

As I came up on the ridge an elk of substantial size stood
stately in front of the towering peaks as clouds sifted across the deep blue sky.  I stopped behind four other passenger cars
that were admiring the view in the middle of the roadway.  Just as I began to press on, another elk
arose atop the ridge.  The two briefly
stared at one another and returned to grazing.
Just up the way, a parking lot on the left-hand side of the road catered
to tourists.  I stopped to find a small herd
of elk on the horizon…more pictures.  We
carried on around the bend and were greeted with hundreds of them spread across
the tundra.

We continued on to Lava Cliffs, but seemed to stop every few
hundred yards to capture views of the cloud covered peaks and barren slopes
swathed in snow and to admire both the eeriness and splendor
simultaneously.  Thankfully the biting
summer wind was much slower and warmer than the winter wind that tops 200 miles
per hour and brings temperatures down to sixty degrees below zero.  My next opportunity for a view was blocked
by low clouds, and I found myself thankful that I could skip one pull out and
not feel like I was missing a good photo!

The lava in Lava Cliffs is volcanic ash deposited 26 million
years ago and compacted into the rock called tuff.  Glaciers stripped away the overlying material
exposing the volcanic past.  One mile
after reaching the Lava Cliffs, the road crested to its highest point at 12,183
feet.  More white-patched peaks, also
known as the Never Summer Mountains, stood to the west.

As we began our descent, we stopped at the Alpine Visitor
Center, whose latticework logs keep the roof in place during hurricane-force
winter storms.  Perhaps Florida should
adopt this architectural feature!  Further
along the way we crossed the Continental Divide at Milner Pass.  Poudre Lake drains into the Mississippi River
ultimately reaching the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean.  On the opposite side of the divide, Beaver
Creek drains into the Colorado River which flows through the Grand Canyon
National Park and into the Gulf of California, part of the Pacific Ocean.

The next 16 miles of relatively straight road descended
through pine forests, past campgrounds, and through beaver dammed meadows.  This area was supposedly good for spotting
moose.  I tried in vain.  I actually drove down the road, turned around
and drove up it, and then drove down it again.
I was bound and determined to spot one.
Each time another car was pulled off the side, I slowed as quickly as
possible, causing Petey to hang on for his life!  No luck…but I found more elk.

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Eventually I reached Grand Lake and found some remote
camping where ATVing seemed to be the attraction.  We hadn’t taken a walk all day as we had
spent the morning at overlooks, so we walked from the meadow, our makeshift
campground, up the dirt road and into the national forest where we found an ATV
trail to follow.  The trail ran through
the pines, mostly dead from the Rocky Mountain Pine Beetle, so I focused my
attention toward the myriad of wildflowers…wild rose, blue columbine, wild
geraniums and more.

We crossed a small creek where I followed a woodpecker to
the top of the ridge.  He continuously
tried to allude my camera.  Standing as
still as possible, I’d adjust the camera to full zoom, slowly raise the
viewfinder to my eye and focus when it would flit to the next dead tree.  After about six times of repeating these
motions, I finally snapped a decent photo.
Birds hear everything…I need a bigger zoom!

Finally we returned to our campground where we enjoyed a
lovely sunset as the snow-capped mountains took on a pink hue and turned in for
the evening.  ETB

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