Golden Gate Canyon State Park – Coyote Trail

Destination: Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Date: 11/24/2017

Time of Day: 11:00 am start

Distance/Elevation/Difficulty: 2.0 miles (one way)/+971/Most difficult

Time Elapsed: 120 minutes.

Comments: This is our first visit to Golden Gate Canyon State Park. We came in off of Gap Road, and it would have been better to come in at the visitors center for our inaugural visit. We found our way to Mountain Base road and stopped in Bootleg bottom (named for the  bootleggers that used to operate out of the area). We decided to try the Coyote Trail since we conveniently parked at the trail head.

The trail starts out deceptively simple. A smooth trail along side some mountain meadows lined with Aspen. Soon the trail heads into the woods and the difficulty increases to moderate – it is rockier but nothing to strenuous. Then the difficulty increases again, with a scramble up some rocks where care must be taken. Unfortunately, weather started to blow in and we were not prepared for hiking in freezing rain/snow. Or going back down a wet rock scramble while packing Alex. We opted to turn back for safety reasons and did not make it to Frazer meadow.

Would we return? Definitely. We really enjoyed our abbreviated hike. We look forward to coming back with an earlier start.

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Long Lake

Destination: Long Lake, Roosevelt National Forest

Date: 8/27/2017

Time of Day: 9:00 am start

Distance/Elevation/Difficulty: 4.3 miles (total)/~180 feet/Easy

Time Elapsed: 180 minutes.

Comments: This was a beautiful hike that was even more enjoyable since we were hiking with friends. Based on their advice, we arrived at 9 am in the Brainard Lake parking lot. The Long Lake lot was already full and the ranger said a 6 – 6:30 am arrival was needed to ensure a spot in the Long Lake lot! This is not happening with Alex. Starting at the Brainard Lake lot added 1.5 miles round trip to our 2.8 mile hike, so be prepared to for a longer walk. The Long Lake Loop is also known as the Jean Lunning Loop.

Alex did great and hiked approximately 3.5 miles (out to the trail, the trail, and was carried from the trail head to the parking lot). In general, the trail is smooth and wide. There are some wooden bridges above swampy sections, but they are very sturdy. Leashed dogs are welcome and all pups we encountered were very well behaved. Alex dipped his toes in the lake and confirmed it was cold. Despite the chilly, he had a great time wading in the lake.

Would we return? Definitely. The road up to the recreation area is good and there is a campground. We hope to bring Abby up soon for a long weekend so we can get an early start and go on longer day hikes. Another option we look forward to is taking a picnic to Brainard Lake – no hiking, just Alex splashing in the water.

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Rainbow Lakes, Attempt 2

Destination: Rainbow Lakes, Roosevelt National Forest

Date: 8/13/2017

Time of Day: 9:45 am start

Distance/Elevation/Difficulty: 2.6 miles (total)/~396 feet/Easy

Time Elapsed: 180 minutes.

Comments: This is the second time we hiked (or tried to hike this trail). Our first hike was almost two months ago, the first weekend that the trails and campground was open. It was a madhouse. This weekend was much quieter: we were able to get a parking spot in the trail head lot, campground was not full, and there were fewer people dispersed camping along the road to the trail head.

We were actually hiking at 9:45. Out of the house by 9:15 and the road was much improved compared to two months ago. It seems like gravel was brought in and a road grader touch the surface to help reduce the bone rattling drive. We would actually think about bringing Abby up the road (if poor Abby was in running condition).

As with our first trip, the trail is still poorly marked and the multitude of social trails just add to the challenge. Following the trail was easier this time with the snow fields melted away and down trees cleared. We clearly saw where we lost the trail on our first hike and where the trail went. It is no wonder we lost it, two months ago it was covered with snow. With the snow gone it was little more than a goat path through some rocks.

As the trail heads down to the second lake, there is an option to take the second switch back and go to the lake shore, or continue on straight towards the third and fourth lakes. The distance between lake 1 and 2 is very close, it is a longer hike from lake 2 to 3, and lakes 3 and 4 are adjacent. There is a fifth lake close to lake 4, but we did not pick out the trail to head that way.

While we were dipping our toes in the frigid water of lake 2, fellow hikers shared the report of a moose sighting in lake 4. Alex, who desperately wants to see a moose, led the way. Unfortunately, we arrived at the lake after Mr. Moose had gone home to take a nap. According to Alex, Mr. Moose is a fan of Thomas the Train and was going to watch Thomas after his nap.

Alex was in a hiking mood and hiked the entire trail out and back. A great little trooper. This took us 3 hours to do the full loop (and we foolishly though we walked close to 2.6 miles the first time. Ha!). Considering the size of rocks Alex had to clamber over and that we stopped to dip our toes in a frigid lake, 3 hours was a good pace.

Ah, college kids: About 1/10 of a mile shy of the trail head, we saw a group of college kids heading up to the lakes to fish. One kid carrying a half dozen poles, another kid with a bucket, a couple kids carrying food/camp chairs, and the two poor souls at the end lugging up a cooler. Filled with ice (and beers?)? These poor souls thought the lake (and only one lake) was much closer to the parking lot than the 3/4 of a mile they had in front of them.

Other observations: Mushroom hunters! We saw several people carrying buckets and looking for mushrooms. When asked, one person said that it wasn’t the most successful forage she has ever done.

Would we return? Definitely. It was so much easier the second time around without the snow on the ground. It would be nice to find the fifth lake and perhaps see the moose. One should note, that these are small ‘lakes’ (ponds really). So if expectations are along the size of the Great Lakes, disappointment will abound.

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Caribou Ranch and Aspen Alley

We actually extracted ourselves from the deck project and went hiking – Saturday and Sunday this week!

Destination: Caribou Ranch, Boulder County Open Space

Date: 7/21/2017

Time of Day: 10:30 am start

Distance/Elevation/Difficulty: 4.2 miles (DeLonde out and back + Bluebird loop)/~340 feet/Easy (DeLonde) & Moderate (Bluebird)

Time Elapsed: 120 minutes.

Comments: This is an enjoyable and easy hike with bucolic mountain pastures and stunning mountain vistas. The rain amplified the Ponderosa Pine aroma. It was easy to imagine cows and horses grazing in the mountain meadows. Just stunning.

The DeLonde trail is rather easy trail. Narrow in some spots, but not excessively rocky and minimal tree roots. It passes through stands of Ponderosa pines and Aspen. About half of the DeLonde trail is on the old Switzerland (ran from Boulder to Ward) narrow gauge railway line and was quite wide and smooth. A pretty easy hike to the DeLonde homestead.

Read more about the Caribou Ranch recording studio. In the ’70s and ’80s some of the most famous albums in rock history were recorded nearby.

The Bluebird Loop from the DeLonde homestead is initially narrow and rocky. After the mine spur turn off, the trail opens up (likely due to the return to the narrow gauge railway bed) and is very easy to walk on.

Our herd of turtles start cost us during the hike. We got caught in a late morning rainstorm. Alex was a trooper and did about 2.5 miles of the entire hike. But the rain pushed him over the edge. As Jess was piggy backing him out the last 1.5 miles, he sounded like a little gremlin growling.

Caribou Ranch Gallery

Destination:  Aspen Alley, West Magnolia Recreation area

Date: 7/22/2017

Time of Day: 10:30 am start

Distance/Elevation/Difficulty: 2.6 miles/462 feet/Easy

Time Elapsed: 60 minutes.

Comments: We last visited Aspen Alley over Mother’s Day. Since our last visit, the Aspens are in full leaf and the clear cut areas were full of wild flowers. This hike we found the right trail through Aspen Alley. We also remembered not to go down 926B, since it was a more difficult hike to get back to the car.

Aspen Alley hiking route.

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Rainbow Lakes

Destination: Rainbow Lakes, Roosevelt National Forest

Date: 6/17/2017

Time of Day: 9:15 am start (What you say? No herd of turtles? A yard sale was even attended prior to the hike)

Distance/Elevation/Difficulty: 2.6 miles (total)/~396 feet/Easy

Time Elapsed: 120 minutes.

Comments: This is the second time we attempted this trail. The first time was the weekend of June 10th, when we discovered the road was closed to the trail head when we got to the gate across the road. We didn’t want to add an 8 mile round trip to our hike, so we decided to come back another day. Lesson learned – check this website for road closures ahead of time.

While we got an early start, we didn’t reach the trail head until 10 am. The last 4 miles of road are rough and narrow. Lower clearance cars can make it, but care must be taken to avoid the worst holes.

The trail started out relatively smooth near the Rainbow Lakes Campground (can access trail from campground), but became progressively more rocky at points. Nothing that required climbing on rocks, but careful foot placement would be wise. Trail did not have any steep areas.

This is a heavily trafficked trail and many people bring their dogs. The lake are supposedly well stocked so there are plenty of fishing poles being carried a well. We also heard a report of a moose at the second lake that is on the trail.

While this is a popular and heavily trafficked trail, it is not well marked. After reaching the first lake, we followed the trail until we reached a small snow field in the woods. On one side of the snow was what looked to be a well trafficked trail, and skirting the edge of the trail and going over a ridge was what appeared to be a social trail. We chose the wider trail. We chose poorly. The social trail was the actual trail and the wider, apparently well traveled path led to a dead end of downed trees. There were several other instances on the trail that a careful evaluation had to be done to select the correct way.

Alex was in a hiking mood and hiked the entire trail out and back. A great little trooper. This also explains why it took us so long to do a 2.6 mile hike.

Would we return? Definitely. We hope that we are able to enjoy the entire trail on our third go around. We here the view at the end is rather nice.

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Denver Zoo

Destination: Denver Zoo, 2300 Steele Street, Denver, CO 80205

Date/Time: June 3, 9:45

Alex loves animals, so we decided to take him to the zoo for his birthday. This trip was a huge success. The Denver Zoo is very family friendly – you can bring your own food and drink (money saver!). Also, lots of families brought their own wagon for pulling the kids and food (we were not that smart, but next time). Unlike our standard herd of turtles approach, we were out of the house early and through the zoo gates at around quarter to ten. An earlier start is wise on beautiful, sunny weekend.

It was ungulate (hooved) animal week at the zoo. This meant that all the hooved animals were highlighted and there were some special activities going on. Like feeding the giraffes leaves! Alex absolutely loved this activity and said thank you to the giraffes when he was finished handing out leaves. Alex was also very excited to see the elephants.

In the North Shore area of the zoo, there is a great kid play area with a sand box and a ‘tidal pool’. Alex enjoyed the tidal pool immensely. It is amazing how wet he got splashing in water that was barely 2 inches deep in spots. We stopped for ice cream afterwards (Alex’s was free – part of the birthday bonus pack) and took off Alex’s pants to dry in the sun while we relaxed. Lots of sunshine and low humidity, his pants were almost dry in 20 minutes.

The zoo also has some great programs through out the day during feedings and show times. Check out the website. We found all the employees and volunteers to be very helpful and enthusiastic. There is also a carousel and train, but we are saving that fun for a future visit.

Peacocks, peahens, and geese roam freely on the zoo grounds. Be prepared to have a goose stare intently at you for food (don’t feed them) or witness a goose fight. The fuzzy goslings were adorable. Keeping Alex from chasing after the birds was challenging initially, but he quickly learned that walking near the birds was okay.

Fun fact: Giraffes have very long tongues (think foot plus) that they can wrap around objects they want to grip.

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Mud Lake

Destination: Mud Lake, Boulder County Open Space

Date: 5/21/2017

Time of Day: 10:30 am start. Herd of turtles again

Distance/Elevation/Difficulty: 1.9 miles (Tungsten and Kinnickinnick loops)/~300 feet/Easy

Time Elapsed: 90 minutes.

Trail map of Mud Lake

Comments: We could hike to Mud Lake from our house, but we didn’t want to add 1.2 miles through the spring snow to our hike. So we drove. We also remembered our YakTrax so walking on the packed snow was easier. The YakTrax worked well, but there were challenges with keeping them on our shoes. Snow would build up between the Trax and our shoes, dislodging the Trax. Alex did a great job in the snow and walked approximately a half mile before asking to be put in the Osprey.

During our hike, a couple of other hikers told us about a moose that was just off the trail. Unfortunately, the moose was gone by the time we arrived, as evidence in the tracks in the snow. Alex was disappointed but seemed to accept the explanation that ‘Mister Moose’ had to go home for lunch.

Part of the Tungsten loop borders Mud Lake Proper where we saw a beaver. Walking on, we saw a male and female duck pair (mallards, teals? They didn’t quack, but we are certain they were ducks of some sort) diving for food in the lake. Alex got a good giggle over the duck butts up in the air. Not a moose, but not a bad consolation prize.

Would we return? This is a great hike. Easy for the days where we don’t want to over exert our selves. Another advantage is the easy access from the house. Dave and Alex will be returning here for 9 weeks during the summer to participate in the Wild Bear Nature Center summer camp program.

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