Climbing Castle Rock at Rock Park

January 8, 2018

Trail(s): Paul Hill Trail and John Emerson Summit Trail
Location: Rock Park
Fees: Free
Website: Rock Park
Distance: 1.4 miles

Today we decided to take a short road trip and explore Castle Rock.  I feel like I’ve driven by it at least 100 times.  It’s hard to miss as the butte towers above the flat plains and I-25.  It’s a bit of a drive from Denver for only a 1.4 mile trail, so the outing turned into watching the sunset and grabbing dinner afterward in Littleton Town Square.  We read that the short trail would take an hour which seemed sort of long, so we expected the climb up to the rock to be hard despite only gaining 300+ feet in half a mile.

We followed the gradual incline around the “back” of the rock as we passed scrub oak and small pinon on the hillside.  We quickly reached the base of “Castle” whose ledges were decorated by nesting pigeons.  We spiraled around the base to find the climbing area that would get us to the summit.

This 75 feet required rock scrambling.  Fortunately, the rock was course, almost like cement, so hand and foot holds were easy to find.  We squeezed through a narrow crevice and quickly the flat top of the butte.  I don’t think it took us more than 20 minutes in total, but I also wasn’t counting.  Regardless, the sun was quite setting yet, so we played around making shadows.



Eventually we enjoyed the setting sun, though the original forecast for some clouds didn’t really pan out, so there were only a few pink clouds in the sky. All in all, it was still pretty and we were gladly we finally climbed the rock we pass by regularly!

Oh well…we still savored some cajun food.  ETB


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My First Hut Trip: Broome Hut!

Broome Hut

Well, I have to start out by saying I had issues with my camera on this trip which is a bummer!  It might have something to do with a piece of metal stick out of the camera by the lens.  Anyway, focusing was a challenge, and I probably shouldn’t post my pics, but then not many of my fun friends would be included in this post about my first hut trip.

This was so fun, and I am so glad Erin included me in Brian’s 40th birthday celebration.  What a treat!  I’m ready to plan another trip…maybe this summer?

So Colorado has several “huts” in its backcountry for exploring its Rocky Mountain beauty.  The huts are essentially log cabins with a few bedrooms, a common area, a kitchen with necessary cooking utensils and usually running water, and an outhouse.  All hut users have to bring is a sleeping bag, clothes, and food.

Erin booked Broome Hut, part of the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association.  It is located near Winter Park and Berthoud Pass.  The snowshoe into the hut is only a mile, but it gains 800 feet in elevation.  While short, it definitely got our heart rate up.

We had the hut for one night.  I joined Brad and Angela for the hike up around 5pm on Friday, so we hiked in the snow in the dark!  I hadn’t ever done this and at first I wasn’t looking forward to a night time hike as the temperature was in the low twenties and I couldn’t take pictures.  Admittedly, however, I found it to be beautiful!

The snow on the evergreens glistened in our light of our headlamps.  An alpine glow shined in the distance.  The stars slowly appeared in the night sky.  And the trail was tracked out enough to follow without noticing the blue diamond trail markers.  Fortunately we had a map with us too, so at certain confusing junctions, we found our way.  I actually felt the snowshoe in the night was prettier than the hike out the next morning under the grey sky.

Anyway, we made it to the hut, found our shared rooms…three sets of bunk beds per two rooms along with a couple of private rooms.  The common room included a pellet burning stove which heated the place nicely.  The dinner crew whipped up a nice spaghetti dinner with salad, baguettes and a fantastic cheese cake dessert.  We hung around the table playing cards and chatting until tiredness visited.

The next morning the breakfast crew whipped up bacon, egg, and potato burritos with fruit salad.  It was a really fun evening.  I suspect the skiers would have liked more snow as the mountain was rather bare, but the non-skier in me liked the easy hike in and out on a packed base.  What an awesome birthday celebration!  ETB



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Roadtrip to the Rockies: Diamond Lake

November 4, 2017

Trail(s): Diamond Lake Trail
Location: Fourth of July Road
Fees: Free
Elevation: 10,172-10,940 feet
Distance: 5.3 miles roundtrip

We sure enjoyed a beautiful hike today.  We were originally planning to hike 8.8 miles to Jasper Lake, but we heard much of the lake had been drained for the season, so when we saw Fourth of July Road was still open for the winter, we drove up the dirt road to Diamond Lake Trailhead.  The hike to Diamond Lake was much shorter, 5.3 miles, but with the looming ominous clouds overhead, a shorter hike seemed like a good choice.

The path starts at 10,172 feet, thus ice and snow lighted coated the surrounding area. We carefully trekked across the intermittent icy as a light snow fell upon us.  We soon realized there was not enough tacky snow to cover the slick ice to help with traction, so we strapped on our micro-spikes for easier hiking.  We still took it slowly as not all of us had traction devices, though we were far more prepared than fellow hikers who showed up in shorts and Tevas!

The trail was simply spectacular.  We spent most of our time in the evergreen forest though occasionally it opened up providing a lovely view of snow dusted mountains.  To my surprise, we passed several waterfalls, which of course is one of my favorite features on hikes.  The combined tumbling water, ice-cycles, and snow proved picturesque.  We stopped multiple times to admire the snow-covered creeks and cascades.

We continued through the forest enjoying the surprisingly nice weather despite cloudy skies.  We found the trees served as great protection from the gusting wind that chilled us to the bone once we reached the remarkable scenic lake.  We added layers swiftly, including putting Paul’s extra jacket on Utani.  We snacked quickly as ducked into a patch of trees near the icy lake before we hustled back to the trail for warmth.

The hike back down the trail took almost as long as the climb up as sure footing was sometimes elusive.  Overall, however, the hike was pretty easy as the elevation gain to the lake at 10, 940 feet was minimal.  I really liked this trek.  It was just beautiful!  The trail is supposed to be spectacular in the summer too, so I may have to repeat it, eventhough I’d rather explore new ones.  ETB


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Roadtrip to the Rockies: Crater Lake

October 28, 2017

Trail:  Crater Lake
Location: East Portal Moffat Tunnel near Rollinsville
Fees: Free
Elevation: 9,200-10,600-7,600 feet
Distance: 6 miles roundtrip

Another Saturday, another hike.  We have been fortunate to enjoy decent weather the last few weekends.  Today Ross and I headed toward the East Portal near Rollinsville (not far from Nederland).  Our original plan was to hike to Clayton Lake, a 5.8 mile trek noted as moderate to strenuous.  I forgot to print out the description of the hike and I couldn’t remember all the details I read.  I knew it was steep but didn’t recall the hike followed an unmarked path for a portion of the trek.

Since no signs directed us toward Clayton Lake, we altered course to hike Crater Lakes.  I had read the description of this hike too and knew it was about the same length, 6 miles to the lower lakes.  I sort of wanted to save this hike for the summer as there is a scramble to the upper lakes which adds two miles that I didn’t want to do in the snow.

Today the weather wasn’t great.  The forecast called for cloudy skies which was an understatement when we started as light (not pretty) snow was falling.  Fortunately, the weathermen got the temperature right, so we enjoyed a warm 40 degrees and shed layers quickly as we made our way through the evergreen forest.

The path at the beginning of the trail was icy.  We decided it rained and promptly froze.  As we continued alongside the creek we glided over a soft layer of fresh snow.  Soon we reached a trail junction where we turned right and followed switchbacks up the mountain.  This was a steep climb that warranted removing another layer!

With the elevation gain came deeper snow, but only a few inches which we easily handled traction devices.  This mile climb felt like it took forever, though I think most of the 1,300 feet we gained from the trailhead to the lake took place during the last mile.

Upon reaching the lake, located at 10,600 feet, we lost the wind protection from the trees and cooled down considerably.  We added hats and gloves quickly and didn’t stay too long to admire the frozen lake and surrounding frozen tundra.  Pine trees, grasses, and the remains of wildflowers were blanketed in a thin layer of ice.

Overall, the hike was very nice.  I’m trying to embrace the winter.  I think as long as the temperature hovers around forty and the wind isn’t bad, I’ll be hiking, spiking, or snowshoeing this winter!  ETB


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Roadtrip to the Rockies: Como, Alma, and South Park City

September 21, 2017

My aunt Jennifer and uncle John like to go on different outings, and they inspired me to stop at a variety of old mining towns that I generally pass by on the way to my next hike.


My first stop of the day was in Como.  Como owes its existence to the railroad and mines.  Gold, discovered nearby in 1859, lured miners and later ranchers to area.  Soon coal was discovered too.  For trains, which ran on coal, this was the first source of coal after leaving Denver.  As such, in 1881, the Denver, South Park & Pacific Railway built a roundhouse and depot in Como.  This once thriving town, named by Italian miners from Lake Como, met its demise after multiple railroad reorgs and a final removal of tracks in 1938.

Regardless, there are still cool buildings in the town including the roundhouse, the depot, an old hotel, an old Catholic church, and an old school house.  I got lucky and arrived when a gentleman had just finished giving a tour of the otherwise closed roundhouse.  He let me walk around the property and then unlocked the door to let me in to see an old locomotive and printing equipment!


My next stop was Alma, the highest incorporated municipality (town not city) in North America.  There wasn’t much to see in this small town, though it is possible to grab a beer at the highest bar, South Park Saloon.  Alma is a good portal to bag a few peaks.  The Decalibron Loop is a popular nearby hike that helps peak baggers mark off four fourteeners: Democrat, Cameron, Lincoln and Bross!


From Alma, I continued on to South Park City, a historical area next to Fairplay which is supported by the South Park Historical Foundation.  South Park City is a collection of old buildings, some on their original site and some moved to this now museum.  Inside the buildings are all sorts of collections of rocks, minerals, irons, and period items.

I personally loved the mining mill, the doctor’s office, the school house, the blacksmith shop, the bank, the general store, and the drugstore.  The variety of tools, drugs, compressors, lunch boxes, and medical supplies were simply fantastic.  At first I thought the $10 entry fee was a bit steep, but after visiting, it was worth every penny.  I probably spent at least an hour, maybe two, wandering around the 40 buildings!


Finally, I just took a drive down Lost Park Road.  I had been there before to hike Segment 5 of the Colorado Trail, but several back roads connect to it that I have never explored.  And what a time to explore, during the fall and changing colors.  What a nice day!  ETB


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Two Days in Durango, Colorado

September 1-2, 2017

I enjoyed two days in Durango after finishing the Colorado Trail.  Given I had just backpacked 53 miles on the Colorado Trail, I opted for an extremely relaxing day.  I stayed at the Best Western Durango Inn & Suites.  It is conveniently located at the South end of town within walking distance of Durango’s historic district loaded with shops and restaurants as well as the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Museum and Train Station.

I started the day at Durango Bagel as it is located near the train station and I planned to take the train ride to Silverton.  Durango Bagel seemed popular among the local young folks.  After grabbing a breakfast sandwich, I wandered over to the train station to find out about my ticket that I ordered online the previous evening.

I recommend getting the ticket sooner than I did (especially in the summer) as many choices were sold out.  The weather had been so bad the previous month, however, I wanted to wait as I was interested in one of the open-air cars.  After having read many reviews, I wanted to take the train from Durango to Silverton in the morning and to return on the bus in the afternoon for a different view and a shorter ride.  This option wasn’t available, so I picked the reverse and hoped for clear skies in the afternoon.

I found the narrated bus ride to be uneventful.  I suppose if one hasn’t spent much time in the mountains, the drive would be nice, but frankly, I saw most of these views on foot multiple times over the last month.  In addition, the bus driver short changed of us Colorado Trail hikers 10 miles and then said thru-hikers took 2.5 months to hike it rather than 1.5 months at most.  Then, after he literally pointed out every gulch and mountain, he drove right by the trail without saying a word!  OK, I am being hard on him as he was very knowledgeable.  I suppose I was still relishing in my glory of completing it!

Anyway, upon arrival in Silverton, I climbed up to Christ of the Mines Shrine which overlooked the town, stopped for lunch at Thee Pitts Again which was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and strolled along the main street as well as through the red-light district one street over.  The town is pepper with old buildings including the old jail and a variety of shops, including a nice antique store.  It doesn’t take more than a few hours to explore the whole town which is all I had before I boarded the train just as a rain and hail storm hit.

I paid extra for the Knight Sky car which had a glass roof and open-air sides.  As we started, I was getting rained on, though I had rain gear.  Less prepared passengers were given ponchos, umbrellas and blankets.  Fortunately, the storm didn’t last long and by the time the train left the station, the menacing cloud had left.  I’m not certain the Knight Sky car is worth the extra money, as I hardly ever sat in the plush seat for the three-hour ride.  I mostly stood outside the car on the platform or talked with the leader of a Kiwi group that was driving Mustangs around the Western United States for 33 days!  The car wasn’t crowded which was nice.  I’m unsure if the other cars were crowded.  All cars have windows that open, and it is best to get one toward the end to keep from breathing the ash from the steam engine.  Protective eye-wear is a good choice too.

I loved the train ride.  Despite having hiked through parts of this area, and even having crossed the tracks on the Colorado Trail and having followed the Animas River, this train ride offered spectacular views of the river, old mines and more.  Also, some of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid was filmed on the tracks.  I think it would have been a little better to ride the train from Durango to Silverton rather than the way I went.  Not for the scenery, but for the stories the train attendants tell.  The Kiwi group rode the train both ways, so the attendant, who was great, limited his stories on the return.  As far as scenery, the train criss-crosses the river many times, so either side has good seats, but for the high section of the tracks, it is best to be on the left going from Silverton to Durango.  I’m really glad I rode the train, and I suspect the bus was a better choice just because the train ride would be long for both directions.

Upon arrival into Durango, I deboarded the train and head to Himalayan Kitchen, a great Nepalese Restaurant.  The food was delicious.  Still looking to catch up on sleep, I headed back to the hotel early and awoke with renewed energy to explore Durango for another day.

I started out with Durango Diner as I loved dine food.  Bacon, eggs, and hashbrowns…who can go wrong with that?  Afterwards, I checked out the free museum at the train station.  The museum includes far more than just trains..old cars, WWII gear, stuffed bears and more.

Next, I stopped at Bread where I picked up a sandwich to take with me on the trail that follows the Animas River through the town.  I walked part of the trail and sat on the riverside as I watched many enjoy water sports like tubing and kayaking.

Happy hour included a beer a Ska Brewing just next to Ken and Sue’s, a fantastic restaurant that I shared a meal with some of my fellow CT hikers.  All of our meals were outstanding!  It was a great way to end our hiking.  ETB



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The Colorado Trail: Segments 26-28…The END!!!

September 2, 2017

We started our hike around 3pm today, a little later than normal, but most of the group had to drive from Denver to Durango and then up Bolam Pass Road to the start of Segment 26.  Bolam Pass Road required a high clearance vehicle and those of us who sat on the right-hand side of the SUV “leaned left” as the drop off on the right was a little disconcerting those who fear ledges.

Segment 26 begins at just over 11,000 feet and climbs to just under 12,000 feet over the first seven miles.  As such, aside from a few inclines, we followed a rolling terrain above treeline.  With summer ending and fall beginning, we enjoyed both unseasonably nice wildflowers due to the monsoons over the last month as well as the patchy yellow foliage that peppered the mountainside.

The afternoon sunlight illuminated the red and gray banded cliffside and magnified the yellow wildflowers which provided magnificent views!  After reaching Blackhawk Pass, we dropped down below treeline to the Straight Creek headwaters.  This was the last reliable water source for 22 miles, so we filled our camelbacks and extra water bladders and carried at least an extra eight pounds of water to a dry campsite.

With dusk upon us, our group of seven with five tents, split up in order to find the first available campsites that would not have been large enough to accommodate all of us.  Camie, Paul, Danelle, and I took the first site, while Jim, Nandi, and Diana hiked another quarter mile as darkness fell.  We used our headlamps to set up camp, cook, and hang our bear bags before we turned in for some shut eye.

We made a plan to meet around 8am, thus those of us who took the first site were the early risers as we needed to hike a little (and we weren’t sure how far) to find the other half of our group.  We began our morning descending through the conifer forest before we began our ascent up toward Corral Draw Trail about 2.9 miles into Segment 27.  Here we admired the yellow grass and plants as we trekked through the lovely alpine meadow and soon settled for lunch in the shade of a patch of trees.

For the next several miles, we followed an undulating terrain in and out of the forest, until we finally found a reasonable campsite next to a mosquito infested, boggy area with a seep providing the only trickle of water we had seen in the last fourteen miles. Many hikers desparately seeked water over the evening here.  We settled in as a light rain encouraged us to find the cover of our tents for about twenty minutes.  I expected the mosquitoes to keep me hidden in my tent for most the evening, but Paul, despite suffering from altitude sickness and not keeping any food down, still managed to find energy to build a fire.  The smoke from the wet wood kept the blood sucking insects away, so we could enjoy a few hours chilling out and eating a dried food dinner.

With the fire out, bedtime came early as we retreated to our tents.  We planned another 8am start, and I believe we got on the trail a few minutes early.  Today, our morning began with a steep climb up to an overlook.  A sign pointed us to the right for a scenic view.  Little did we know we’d be hiking a quarter mile to the view of the same mountain ranges we saw the entire previous day!  Oh well, it gave Paul, who is generally a fast hiker a little more time to make it up the incline as he struggled with naseua and fever.  I was getting somewhat concerned about him, but not knowing him well and having two nurses in the group, I deferred any health decisions to them.

Probably between mile 15 and 16 of the segment (about our third mile for the morning), we came across our Northbound hikers, Mike and Ross.  They saw a bear cub!  They said it came running out onto the trail, saw them, and then ran off.  I’m glad they weren’t between the cub and the mama!!  I wish I had those pictures though.

After a few more climbs and descents through fields of wildflowers we ran into a bow hunter who was scouting elk.  He said he saw a big bear down in a bowl about a mile away.  I held out hope I’d see it as I led the group through multiple talus fields until we reached the high point of Indian Trail Ridge around 12,300 feet.  From here, we followed a steep descent on the side of the mountain to Taylor Lake.

From above, the view of the cerulean blue lake was splendid!  Upon arrival, we filtered water from a small waterfall with red sediment before we sat lakeside to enjoy lunch.  I was amazed by the change in water color of the lake through the light reflection.  Close to the surface, the water color looked more like the sediment.

From the lake, we descended three more miles down the steep trail through slick scree.  The towering rocks on our left with the red hue looked more like Arizona to me than Colorado.  Eventually, we made it to Champion Venture Mine Road, a few miles into Segment 28, where we camped for the night.  Again, the group split up.  Camie, Paul, Nandi, Jim, and Diana all set up on the side of the road.  Danelle and I walked just slightly down the trail where we squeezed two tents together beneath some spruce trees.

While the campsite wasn’t the greatest, we’d hoped that the elevation, 1,000 feet lower than where we had camped the last few nights, would help out Paul.  Thankfully, it did.  Dinner stayed in his stomach, and he was on the road to recovery as the next 1.5 days dropped significantly in altitude.

Once again, we set out on the trail around 8am.  We descended through the forest, admired a waterfall, criss-crossed the creek, and enjoyed the aspen grove and wildflowers before we stopped for our next and final water fill up at mile 7.1 from Junction Creek.  Discouragingly, we had to load another eight pounds on our back just before a four-mile climb.  Encouragingly, there was a light at the end of the tunnel.  We only had fourteen miles to go before finishing the trail!

I had a difficult time containing my excitement and ultimately my adrenaline as I “zoomed” up the hill.  Zoom is relative, but I came to find out, Paul had nicknamed me “Speedy”.  I’m far from speedy when hiking, but yesterday and today, I was cruising and leading the pack.  I don’t know if I had just gotten used to chasing Margaret (who is the fastest hiker I’ve ever met) over the last month, or if I really just wanted to be finished.  Regardless, I felt so good, that I may still consider short backpacking trips which were out of the question of few weeks ago!

I felt torn.  A part of me just wanted to knock out the rest of the trail as nineteen miles in total for the day, mostly downhill was feasible, while the other part of me wanted to have a nice easy day in the morning, so I could enjoy our finish without being exhausted.  Jim, helped make that decision easier.  We had a plan on camping for the night, and he really wanted to stick with the plan.  Given he had orchestrated this whole Northbound/Southbound hiking arrangement with car shuttling and car exchanges, I felt like we should honor his wishes.  As such, we found one of the last available campsites before then end of the trail, about five miles from the end.

While the campsite offered a nice view, we shared it with lots of dried cow patties.  None-the-less, we spent our last night on the trail around a small campfire and saved much of the water we lugged for over nine miles to put it out!

We tried to sleep in for our final day on the trail as we doubted Carvers would be serving us our free beer for completing the trail at 10am.  Of course, we were ready to go around 8am anyway.  Once again, I took off at a quick pace again.  I just couldn’t wait to accomplish my goal.  Along our descent, the forest turned to scrub oak.  We stopped to enjoy Gudy’s Rest, a bench with a view honoring the founder of the trail, Gudy.  Soon, with about a quarter mile to go, we stopped for a photo by a boulder piled with several cairns before I ushered Jim to the front and told him to lead the way to finish.

Upon completion, we lifted our packs over our head and held up an awesome banner that Paul had made for all of us.  I thought this was such a kind gesture.  We relished the moment for some time while taking photos by the sign before we finally headed to Carvers.  We got there a little early for lunch, but they were able to serve a few appetizers before we ordered our meal.  Around 11am, we figured it was five o’clock somewhere, so were ordered our beer, the Colorado Trail Nut Brown Ale.  It went down like water along with my steak sandwich!

I felt very happy to enjoy this moment with six fellow Southbound hikers and our two Northbound hikers who finished the previous day and drove from Bolam Pass to Durango to celebrate with us.  I only wish Danelle hadn’t succumbed to altitude sickness two weeks prior, so she could have submitted for her completion certificate as well.  I know she will knock out that pesky segment 23 as well as 24 and 25 in no time!  After lunch at Carvers, we all enjoyed showers and some deserved relaxation time.  ETB


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