Beautiful Hike to Upper Cataract Lake

October 16, 2016

Surprise Trailhead
Fees: None
Elevation: 8,605-10,744 feet (below treeline)
Distance: 10.9 miles
Hours: Any…Careful for hunting season

I had such a great weekend! On Saturday, I went up to Schussbaumer, a ski chalet in Breckenridge, for a work party. There was hardly any work to do, so I just got to enjoy a relaxing day in the mountains and got to catch up with my friend Cat. I love that its just a short roadtrip for me to enjoy the Rocky Mountains…no flying across the USA.

I stayed the night at the chalet, and met up with Cat the next morning. We started out with a great breakfast at Clint’s. We were good and got eggs, but the muffins and cinnamon rolls sure looked delicious!! It was probably better to load up on protein since we planned on a 10.9 mile hike to Upper Cataract Lake.

Uniquely, just a month ago, a few of my fellow hikers and I aimed to hike Lower Cataract Lake, but accidentally ended up on the Upper Cataract trail (Surprise Trailhead), but we were limited on time and weren’t able to get to any of the lakes on the route. The last time I hiked the trail, we stopped at the trail intersection at mile 2.7 for a 5.4 mile jaunt as we admired the colorful aspens. This time, we climbed up the steep trail peppered with aspen leaves as they had already fallen. Then we entered the conifer forest laden with fallen trees.

The sun was out and the sky was clear on this 65 degree day. We worked up a sweat as we tackled the sharp grade. At the trail intersection, we turned right and continued climbing, though the terrain began to level out. As we were walking along, it was about time for a bathroom break. We scanned to our left and were surprised to see a lake concealed by thick timber! The name of the lake was appropriate…Surprise Lake.

We didn’t expect to reach it so soon, nor did the landscape seem to suggest we’d stumble across a lake here. Lily covered, it was quite different than the alpine lakes we generally strive to reach. We stopped for a short while, but the sweat on our backs coupled with the cool breeze encouraged us to continue.

It wasn’t long before my stomach started to grumble. Of course, we wanted to reach a lake but we stopped for a snack. We originally thought Surprise Lake was just a random pond, so we thought we would be at another body of water within the hour. Not so. We kept going and going while crossing a few streams. We even descended over the ridge toward a talus field.

On this side of the ridge, the wind was relentless. We gave into the elements and stopped for our hat, gloves, and puffy jacket. We also decided on a snack because we weren’t certain when we’d see the lake. Then Cat pointed to the right as she looked through the trees below and questioned, “Wait, is that a lake?”

Sure enough, it was! We threw our packs on and headed down the trail as we admired Eagles Nest Peak lightly dusted in snow. Soon we turned the corner and enjoyed a remarkable view of Cat Lake. At the time, we thought this was Upper Cataract Lake, but when we reached another trail junction, the sign suggested otherwise.

We were pretty cold at this time and weren’t willing to hike much farther, so we figured we’d actually read the description of the trail that we had on our phones! We warmed up a bit at the trail junction as we stood in the sun with some protection from the wind. This new warmth coupled with the good news that Upper Cataract Lake was only a tenth of a mile up the trail rejuvenated our spirits.

First we found a small pond and then a large lake tucked beneath the towering mountains. As much as we would have liked to sit by the lake for lunch, the wind was brutal! We climbed over a small, rocky ridge to find shelter and enjoyed a lovely view while we soaked in the sun. It’s amazing how cold 65 can feel with 40 mile per hour winds!

On our way back, we opted not to explore Cat Lake though the shore sure looked beautiful. We climbed back up the trail past the talus field and soon descended to the other side where we began shedding layers and enjoyed a pleasant walk back to the parking lot. It was a great day and gorgeous hike. We were pleasantly surprised by all the lakes! I’d highly recommend this trail especially during the fall color change. ETB

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Family, Friends, Food, the Fair, and Football in Dallas!

October 7-9, 2016

Wow! What a fun long weekend in Dallas. Dallas is known for its restaurants and I must say we participated in an eat-a-thon! We got in late Thursday night. Love Field was a zoo. Bart and my mom were nice enough to pick us up from the airport.

The eating started first thing Friday morning. I met my step-mom, brother and sister-in-law at Angela’s, a diner style restaurant very close to my old house. They make the best basic breakfast…eggs, bacon, hashbrowns, and toast. And the price is right!

My friend Suman was able to join me for lunch. We met my old work colleagues downtown as I had a craving for Chef Wang’s. This chinese food place is so good it’s only open from 11-2, Monday-Friday. There is nothing fancy about it. There is line for ordering and a line for pick up. I recommend the spicy green bean chicken which isn’t on the menu. It was really fun to see my colleagues too. It had been a while! I’m excited a few of them may come to Denver in December.

As if I hadn’t eaten enough already, I couldn’t skip dinner. Suman, my mom and Bart, Debby and Norb, and I enjoyed a nice dinner at Lark on the Park. The cauliflower soup was rich and delicious and the mussels were spicy and tender. We really enjoyed the food and atmosphere. Giant chalk boards lined the walls and different artists drew their creation on them. Each chalk art was listed on the back of the menu. What a cool idea.

We capped off the night with drinks at Savor Gastropub which provides a lovely view of Klyde Warren Park. It was my first time to finally go to Klyde Warren Park. Built in the last five years after I moved from Dallas, it covers Woodall Rogers Freeway. I couldn’t figure out how it was going to work. It seemed like it would be loud and it wouldn’t attract many people. I was wrong. The park is beautiful and the restaurants are great! I loved seeing it and we had such a nice night.


Suman and I got a break from food on Saturday morning…a much needed relief since we were headed to the State Fair of Texas. We scheduled attending the fair on the same day the Texas OU game was playing. We weren’t sure what to expect because it can be a mad house with 92,000 college fans attending the game. We opted to take the Dart Light Rail from the Market Center Location to the Martin Luther King stop. This was a good choice as there was plenty of parking at market center and we only had to walk three blocks or so to the main entrance.

Suman bought our fair tickets online. Not only did we save some money, we skipped the long lines and walked right in! She bought the food coupons online as well which we had to pick up at a hospitality building. This was a bit more challenging, but no matter where we purchased food coupons, there was a line.

We arrived at the fair just after 11 which was perfect timing as that was the scheduled kick off time for the game. I have to say, this might be the best time ever to attend the fair as everyone was inside the Cotton Bowl while we were walking around trying out fair food and looking at the exhibits. I don’t believe we tried anything healthy at the fair. Our snacks included Fletcher’s Corn Dogs (has to be Fletcher’s), a fried Twinkie – YUM, a fried Reeses, and a fried Snickers! I’m not sure the four hours we spent walking around counter acted all those calories, but who is counting. I mean we were at the largest State Fair in North America.

fried Twinkie

fried Twinkie

The exhibits were nice. I was particularly amazed by the cow made of 1,000 pounds of butter that sold for $130,000! Of course, we had to stop to take a picture with Big Tex, the iconic cowboy. We visited the livestock show and the Clydesdales, and opted to stay for the pig races at 3pm. It was hilarious to watch them race to the finish for an Oreo as their ears flopped! It was even worth maneuvering through the mass crowd that let out of the football game, though I don’t think I’d do that again.

I began to wonder if we had made a mistake staying at the fair this long as we walked back toward the entrance weaving our way through now ridiculous lines at Fletcher’s. Eventually we made it to the Martin Luther King station to find a long line waiting on the light rail, but to our surprise we got on the train and got the last two seats! It turned out to be a glorious afternoon of weather too, so we couldn’t have had better luck enjoying the State Fair of Texas.

So to add more unhealthy food to our diet, we met my old soccer team at Blue Goose in Addison for some TexMex! You can’t go wrong with chips, salsa, and margaritas. And reminiscing over the dumb things we did in our twenties had my sides aching I was laughing so hard. What fun!

Well, we awoke to more food. The morning called for us to catch up with my SCUBA buddies at the Oasis on Greenville Ave. I had never been here, and I was pleasantly surprised by breakfast. Another diner style type, as I prefer bacon, eggs, and hashbrowns at a reasonable price over a fru-fru omelette. My breakfast was cooked to perfection. The consensus was the french toast and the pancakes were also quite tasty. It was fun to catch up with my friends. I need to get them to go on another SCUBA trip, but it seems they’ve traded in the tropics for ice cold Sweden this winter. I expect they will see the Northern Lights!

Our final outing for the three day weekend was the Cowboys-Bengals game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. I think it has been almost two years since I made it to a game. Of course the billion dollar stadium is known for how nice it is with its collection of art and impressive facilities, but I’m more interested in football. The Cowboys played a great game. What a way to cap off the weekend! ETB

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Exciting Travel Opportunities!

Since I write a travel blog, I thought I’d share an awesome opportunity I came across recently.

I just joined a travel club. I’ve never really been into clubs or interested in any business that requires a monthly fee, but my mind changed when I saw this opportunity.

This club is the largest private travel company in the world and has won several awards. Its model is similar to Costco or Sam’s. It purchases travel in bulk and passes along the savings to its members. I just saved $300 on my airfare to Jordan compared to the lowest price offered on Kayak and nearly $1,000 compared to the same itinerary on Kayak!

There are three choices of membership levels…silver, gold, and platinum. I’ve listed a bullet point description of the options below.

In summary:

The basic membership ($100 down, $25/month) includes:
1. the dreamtrips
2. booking engine for your own travel which includes Southwest Airlines
3. rate shrinker (rebooks you if their software finds a lower price at a later date and passes savings to you)
4. flight accident insurance

Gold ($200 down, $50/month) includes (most popular):
The basic membership plus:
1. Concierge that will help you with anything, not just travel. Need new tires? Call them.
2. Net rates which removes all travel agent fees
3. If net rates are not available, you get commissions back in form of points
4. Online Shopping mall where you get 3-6% back on your purchases. Christmas is coming!! Virtually every major retailer is on the site

Platinum ($300 down, $100/month) includes (I will likely upgrade to this one):
The above plus:
1. Early booking access to trips
2. Upgraded dreamtrip experiences
3. Platinum only dreamtrips
4. Teledoc: video conference with doctor if sick
5. Roadside Assistance
6. Emergency Evacuation Services
7. Id Resolution if lost or stolen (at home or abroad)
8. Apply more points to trips

Aside from the awesome benefits that the club provides, what I love about the club membership is two-fold.
1. Any money you put into the club is given back to you in the form of points which can be applied to trips, so the monthly fees become a form of a vacation savings plan as you are paying yourself.
2. If you sign up four people, your monthly fees are waived, but this isn’t required. You can simply enjoy the cost savings of the membership.

Their are even more opportunities on the business side, but I won’t get into that right now. I’ll just share a few links for anyone interested in traveling all over the world at affordable prices while staying in 4 and 5 star resorts!

This link shows dreamtrips and the booking engine for your own travel. It doesn’t provide pricing unless you are a member. If you don’t see a trip you like, wait a week…they add 50 trips every Thursday!

This short video describes the club and all the points you get to make your trips even cheaper (like shopping at the online mall and eating out at participating restaurants).

The short video is someone else on our team explaining the club.

Comment on this page or message me if you want more information. ETB

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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The Colorado Trail: Segments 18-20

September 2-5, 2016

Day 1: Segment 18 Mile 0-12.4

I think we may have backpacked the easiest segment of the Colorado Trail yet (segment 18). We finished over 12 miles in about five hours and with the exception of one steep climb, it was mostly a stroll with many stops for pictures, snacks and adjustments.

Our trip began Thursday night with a road trip from Denver to Saguache where got a hotel room with three double beds for $120…not bad. The room was peppered with signs. My favorite was, “Hold toilet handle down until all material passes through. Then lift handle up. Thank you.”

We left our hotel around 7am the next morning and arrived at the parking area for Segment 18 around 7:30. While confidence markers were posted on the gate at the beginning of the trail, it would have been easy to pass by if we didn’t know where we were going.

The path led us through a meadow and across a narrow creek with drinkable water in the first half mile. At this point, the trail turned left from the road and followed another creek that also appeared drinkable. It didn’t seem too disturbed by the cows that we had heard about.

The trail gradually climbed to 10,000 feet as it followed a logging road through the evergreen forest. The recent wet weather influenced significant mushroom growth. There were all kinds of varieties spread over the damp ground.

The only steep part of the segment was around mile four and we certainly worked up a sweat as we huffed and puffed up the path on this humid day. The forecast called for rain by 1:00pm and the looming clouds overhead seemed to promise it.

After mile four, we headed downhill, eventually left the forest, and joined a dirt road with a view of the valley. While it isn’t the most exciting to follow a road, it was a nice change of scenery for a half mile before we turned left on a far less traveled road. It was more like side by side footpaths that passed through sage covered fields dotted with a few wildflowers.

Soon we reached Los Creek which was very murky and smelly, and it wasn’t long after that we spotted our first cow. While the Colorado Trail book suggests this creek as a water source, I’d consider two forms of filtering and treatment if it is even considered drinkable.

We passed through several gates along the way and near one of the last one’s of the day around mile 11.9 was supposed to be Apple’s Camp. Apple comes out every year for a few weeks to man his jungle gym camp covered in tarps so through hikers can get water since the creeks are somewhat contaminated with cow feces in the area. I suppose he had already packed up for the summer, but we were planning on meeting our trail angel, Bernard, in the morning near Apple’s camp for a refill on water. As such, we saw a cluster of trees in the meadow a little further down the road and set up camp.

We could have hiked much further if it weren’t for the water situation, but instead we got our camp set up before 2pm. I don’t think we knew what to do with ourselves. We were excited to see the sun finally poke through the clouds and enjoyed it for a bit before we decided on naps. The naps were somewhat fruitless with the sun going in and out of the clouds and wind stopping and starting. It went from cold to hot and back. It felt like menopause.

Looking to the north, we spotted clear sky, however, the surrounding area featured ominous, black clouds which encouraged us to cook an early dinner. This was a good choice as the sprinkles began falling as soon as we finished. Fortunately, the sprinkles stopped in time for an amazing sunset and then soon returned encouraging us to take cover in our tents.

Day 2: Segment 18 Mile 12.4 – Segment 19 Mile 10.9

We awoke to a beautiful sunrise. It actually almost looked like a sunset it was so red. I wish we could say that was the only time we woke up, but between cars passing by, thunder rolling overhead, cows mooing, coyotes howling, and rain pitterpatting on our tents, it was a restless night.

Our trail angel, Bernard, arrived at camp around 7:45am after driving by us once. We got our camelbacks filled up and chatted for a bit while we let our tents dry out. We got on the trail or should I say road around 8:30am and we followed the road for quite some time. It took us through sage fields, across Monchego Creek which looked a little stagnant from a glance, and then up an incline until we reached Segment 19.


On Segment 19, we continued through the sage field, passed a fenced in spring that didn’t appear to be a spring, and then began a steady climb through an aspen grove. At mile 5.4, we reached a saddle for a breezy view before began descending toward Cochetopa Creek. Just into the beginning of the descent, it began to sprinkle. By the time we pulled on our raincoats, we were trekking in a drizzle.

Lucky for us, the rain didn’t last too long. Upon turning the corner toward a stock pond away from the gunfire behind us, a break in the clouds motivated us to settle on a lunch spot. We sat on top of a hill looking down on the creek just before reaching mile 7. We were already two-thirds completed with our daily mileage at 11:30am.

Lunch didn’t last long as drops of rain fell again, though once again it was short lived. We followed the creek through a flat valley flanked on its west side by aspen. I imagine the color change in this area will be spectacular in a few weeks. Soon we reached the creek crossing with no bridge. We walked far enough upstream to get to an island without having to soak our feet. Then we scouted an area where the water was about shin deep with only a light current.

We all took a different approach to crossing. Danelle sported clogs, I went barefoot, and Diana wore her trail shoes without socks or insoles. The crossing was easier than we thought it would be and our feet enjoyed the short ice bath. Though I can’t imagine fording the creek after the spring run off. It would be way too strong and deep for me! I’m glad we had the luxury of segment hiking in September.

From the creek, we climbed a few hundred feet to an awesome view of the valley below. The sprinkles fell once more and stopped. It would have been nice if the weather could have made up its mind. Around mile 10.9, we made our final creek crossing of the day and set up camp on the other side in the La Garita Wilderness. Fortunately, the nearby cows didn’t want to hang out next to our tents and moved into the woods.

Just as we began setting up camp it rained again. This time a little harder. We took cover until it passed. For a brief period, the sun visited. We set our clothes out to dry while we fetched water. We got to basque in the sun for about 30 more minutes before the whole area clouded in. Rain looked likely. We climbed in our tents just as a symphony of thunder clapped around the valley. The storm raged for the next 1.5 hours. My bladder and belly were ready for it to let up!

Finally we got to cook our dinner, but we ended up back in our tents rather quickly as once the sun dropped behind the mountains, the evening air was cold. Warm in our sleeping bags, we heard two guys and a girl going north bound on the trail. I hollered at Diana, “Are those your friends?” In order to segment hike without shuttling cars, a northbound group and southbound group swap cars before beginning the hike and then exchange keys on the trail in order to end the hike with their car. Diana had planned this with Mike, and sure enough it was Mike and two fellow hikers that were about to pass us. That would have turned key swapping into a mess.

Danelle quickly called out to them, “Want to camp with us?” It took them a minute to realize they knew some of us, and then they were very thankful to be able to set up camp as they were hiking at dusk. Mike and Ross erected their tents and cooked their food while April asked Diana if she could share a tent because she forgot hers! Yikes…not a good thing to forget. But we got our keys exchanged and turned in for the night.

Day 3: Segment 19 Mile 10.9 – Segment 20 Mile 7.6

Just as we prepared to get up this morning, it rained. UGH! So we slept in a bit and tried to let our gear dry out over breakfast, but it was a lost cause. We parted ways with the northbound group and gradually climbed a few miles to the end of segment 19. It took forever…We stopped to strip off layers, then to add them again, then for bathroom breaks. I don’t think we could make it a mile without stopping for something. The outhouse at the end of the trail may have been the cleanest bathroom I’ve been in. This was a small treat!

Continuing along the trail on segment 20 which followed the mountainside above a valley of willows with a creek snaking through, we still found ourselves stopping. Of course we needed a mid-morning snack and then a storm blew in out of no where, so we scrambled for our jackets. Of all the rain we encountered over the last few days, we got the most soaked in this 20 minute down pour. We stood under cover of the trees as the thunder clapped and the rain and icy pellets blew horizontally. Fortunately, it was coming from only one dark cloud that blew over quickly.

While the cloud left, the wind stayed. We must have a faced a 30 mph headwind for the rest of the day which for our sakes was short in mileage…maybe nine miles in total. Sadly this nine miles took as long as the 12 miles we hiked the two previous days. We just weren’t feeling it. Even after our stop for lunch by a beaver pond, we really never gained any energy. We continued plodding as we dodged the mud all over the trail. We hopped from side to side in fall foliage while trying to keep our shoes dry. We were excited to spot a couple of deer and finally collapsed at camp after we crossed the stream.

Our camp was in the open valley on a bit of a slope. I can’t say it was the greatest, but it had room for three tents (and then a fourth one once Michaela joined us). Michaela had finished the first 17 segments of the trail over the last summer and wanted to finish the rest this summer. She was hiking with her dad and sister, and we had been playing leap frog with them. Her sister got a lot of blisters so they left the trail to join later, but Michaela continued on.

She quietly sat on the outskirts of camp while we took cover from the wind and bitched to each other from tent to tent. Once the wind finally died down, we cheerfully chatted and Michaela joined us for dinner. At her 20 something age, she didn’t have quite as many aches and pains as us 40 somethings so we teased that now that we stopped whining she thought we might be fun to talk too!

With the sun going down, we thought we’d get a break from the wind, but no such luck. The gusts were over 50 mph. I think sometimes they probably reached the 70 mph range, but I couldn’t say that for sure. All I know, is that I wasn’t sure my tent was going to stay staked down all night and in the morning, my tent poles actually collapsed in on me. I had to push them back out. I have to say this may have been the worst campsite we have ever picked.

Day 4: Segment 20 Mile 7.6 – Segment 20 (the end)

We had planned on getting an early start, but a sleepless night and gusting wind called for another slow morning. I honestly didn’t feel that safe climbing up to the saddle near 13,000 feet just below San Luis peak with wind that strong. I got blown off the trail about a year ago with just a daypack on in less windy conditions, so I wasn’t too enthusiastic about trying this while carrying all my gear.

As the morning went on, the gusts were less frequent so we mostly only faced with the constant 30-40mph breeze. This seemed more reasonable. The climb wasn’t as steep as I expected and with the willows everywhere we found some protection from the weather, but at times I wondered if we were even on the trail as the willows had grown together, and we just pushed through.

The saddle offered lovely views of the valley and San Luis peak. It was quite ashame to see whole forest of evergreens killed by the pine beetle. It would have been much prettier had even one tree been alive. It was complete devastation. While the forest below was a disappointment, the marmots and pikas that made their homes in the boulders near the trail were fun to watch as they scampered from hole to hole.

The last few miles of Segment 20 was downhill, but still all against the wind. We were quite happy to see the trail junction where we turned toward the car and had to hike at least another mile. While we had some awesome girl time and lots of fun, I have to say we were happy to get off the trail. We all talked about how we likely couldn’t be through hikers. We were excited for regular food and a good bed. We even pondered why we subject ourselves to these conditions at all: bad weather, aching back, but it’s the beauty of the mountains that some people will never see and adventure that makes all the hiking worthwhile. The drive into Creede was great as we got to pass several old mines and we enjoyed good (non-dehydrated) food at Kips before heading home.

After this weekend, I have completed segments 1-13 and 18-20 which puts me over half way. I have now hiked or backpacked 272.3 miles of the 484.6 total miles. Diana and Danelle have even completed more. We all hope to be finished by next summer. ETB

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Lovely Fancy Pass Loop

August 28, 2016

Well, I have to say, hikes to alpine lakes in Colorado are just spectacular. This was my third hike in the last ten days to an alpine lake and each one has been awesome. Today David and I decided to tackle the Fancy Pass and Missouri Pass Loop. We left the house at 6:30am to make the 2.5 hour drive to the trailhead. It was a bit disconcerting when we ran into sprinkles before we even reached Bakersville. We hoped that once we made it over Vail Pass the weather would change to the forecast…cloudy, with a high of 67.

At first it seemed like the drive was a bit long and wished we stayed the night or weekend in or around Vail. But the beauty of this hike more than made up for the five hours of driving. In fact, the beauty started soon after we exited Highway 24. Neither of us had driven through Minturn which was a cute little town. And the 8.5 mile drive on Homestake Road #703, a dirt road that passed through meadows and several camping areas was lovely.

Eventually we reached Fancy Creek Trailhead. Several cars lined the road. We expected the trail to be busy, but we actually enjoyed a quiet beginning as we followed the path though the conifer forest. We gained about 500 feet in elevation the first mile and probably 800 feet the second mile as we climbed the switchbacks. The dirt path turned to a flat rocky terrain as the creek cascaded through a narrow gorge.

Soon we made it to Fancy Lake, though we were traveling at a somewhat slow pace. What a picturesque lake tucked beneath the granite crags. Utani, the dog we are caring for, David and I stopped for a quick snack by the placid water before it began sprinkling. The cool weather encouraged us to continue on to keep warm. Upon reaching the trail junction we turned left up the rocky pass. We gained 1,200 feet over the next mile while marmots and pikas chirped and scampered around their nearby homes. The rain picked up and by the time we reached 12,400 feet it turned to sleet.

Despite the wet weather and low clouds, the view of Cross Creek Valley dotted in wildflowers and lakes on the other side of Fancy Pass was incredible. We maneuvered down the wet rocks and followed the path nearest the closest lake, Treasure Vault and admired Blodgett Lake in the distance. Here, the trail turned up Missouri Lakes pass, far less steep than Fancy Pass. Remnants of mining equipment peppered the surrounding peaks.

The view from Missouri Pass didn’t disappoint. We passed by a small patch of snow before we headed down to the largest of the lakes surrounded by patches of trees where we snacked again as the rain and sleet stopped momentarily. We sat there until the thunder boomed. This was our sign to mosey.

We passed by several more lakes of all sizes. The Missouri Lakes basin was quite a treat. And it didn’t stop there. The path crossed the creek down the mountain. We stopped several times to admire the tumbling cascades. The rain started again toward the end of our hike, but amazingly for walking through the rain or sleet for probably 3-4 miles of the 8.1 mile hike, we weren’t that wet.

On our way home, we detoured to Red Cliff and stopped for dinner. It was surprisingly good. Then, we decided to take the ten mile drive over Shrine Pass back to I-70. The dirt road was watered down and the surrounding peaks were enveloped in fog. I suspect we may take a weekend trip out this way again sometime. There was so much to explore in this alluring part of the state. ETB

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Fantastic Forest Lakes!

August 25, 2016

Wow…we are two for two for picking good hikes on Thursdays recently. Last week, Mohawk Lakes was amazing, and this week Forest Lakes was a pleasure!

Diana, Tanya, and I made it to the trailhead of Forest Lakes shortly have 9:30am. For some reason it seemed like forever to get to the East Portal of Moffat Tunnel. We went through a short construction zone, drove behind a hay truck, and finally reached the long dirt road at Rollinsville which led to our destination.

It was slightly nippy in the parking lot, so we added a few layers before we started up the trail. The path took us through an aspen grove, past an old house, and across a creek at during the first minutes of our hike. In about a mile, we reached a junction where we could turn right to go to Forest Lakes or go straight to Crater Lakes.

After shedding a layer and indulging in a few wild raspberries, we took the right turn up the mountain. We gradually gained altitude as we criss-crossed log bridges over beautiful waterfalls. A few purple and yellows wildflowers dotted the green, lush forest. The mushrooms were profuse. We worked up a sweat as we continued climbing through the evergreens draped in moss on this humid day. We were surprised to reach the lower Forest Lake so quickly. I suppose we hiked 30 minute miles which is normal, but last week we took so many detours it took forever to reach the lake. This time, 1.5 hours later, we were enjoying the reflections of the mountain peaks in the placid waters, as a nearby fisherman cast his line in search of a hungry trout.

From the lower lake, we hiked another 0.75 miles to the upper lake. We were admiring the contrast of the green forest, blue sky, and gray boulders when we suddenly noticed the upper lake. It was so big, it was kind of funny we didn’t even see it at first, but now we know why they are called Forest Lakes. The lakes were really tucked in beneath the pines and camouflaged by the greenery.

After stopping for a few pictures, we climbed up on an awesome boulder with a lovely view of the lake for lunch. The only downside to our lunch spot was having to watch the only other hikers at the lake fly a drone over their friend who was fishing. I don’t know if they were trying to spot fish or to just capture the action, but the constant buzz was a bit disappointing. We had just discussed how tranquil it was on this hike. It was far less crowded than Mohawk Lakes…in fact we had most of the trail to ourselves.

Fortunately, they only made a few passes with the drone, but in the short time we snacked, the clouds rolled in and socked down. While it was amazing to watch the surrounding peaks disappear in minutes, we also knew we shouldn’t admire the change of weather for long. We were already chilled from the sweat on our backs, the overcast skies, and cool 50 degree temperatures. I found myself in a puffy jacked, wool hat and gloves as I finished up lunch!

Soon, a sprinkle started, which turned into a steady drizzle. The tree cover didn’t seem to keep us clear of the rain, but we stayed dry enough with our raingear. It’s funny because the only other times Tanya and I have ever hiked in this area, it was cold and damp too. We wondered if this location attracted more moisture. Despite the early rain, we enjoyed another great hike. ETB

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Mohawk Lakes is a Must See!

August 18, 2016

Mohawk Lakes
Fees: Free
Elevation: 10,390-12,073
Distance: 6.7 miles roundtrip

The trail to Mohawk Lakes is a must see! We had the best hike today. We started out on Spruce Creek Trail which I can’t say is too pretty. In fact, I felt slightly disappointed. Many trees had fallen to the beetle kill, thus the forest wasn’t the best. But after about 1.5 to 2 miles, things changed in a hurry. We reached another parking area which I recommend driving to if your car allows and starting the hike at this point. That way most of the ugly part of the trail can be skipped.

We checked out the diversion mechanism at the creek before we crossed it just after leaving the parking area. Over the 3.35 miles to reach Upper Mohawk Lake at 12,073 feet, we had to gain just under 1,700 feet from the trailhead mostly over a gradual incline. We quickly reached the junction for Wheeler Trail, where we stopped to look for a moose in the pond. While we didn’t find any wildlife, we certainly enjoyed the magnificent reflection on the still water.

From the pond we carried on until we detoured to Mayflower Lake, another lovely stop. We were only just beginning with these side trips. In this area there were remnants of old cabins which we explored. After returning to the trail intersection, we faced our first steep climb. It wasn’t too bad and at the top we were rewarded with an awesome view of Lower Continental Falls and another cabin relatively in tact with a roof and make shift stove.

From here, we started another steep climb near the waterfall. There were two ways up the mountain at this point, straight up via an old mining cable or along some switchbacks. We opted for the cable route because it was so unique and not very hard. I highly recommend this way. It was so much fun to pull ourselves up the cable to the cog.

From the cog, we gradually ascended out of the forest and followed the switchbacks just above treeline to Lower Mohawk Lake. This lake was truly gorgeous. It had to be the shallowest alpine lake I have ever seen. Rocks popped through the water’s surface and the water was so clear we could see the rocky bottom. The surrounding landscape with another cabin and greenery as opposed to just rocks at most alpine lakes was breathtaking as well. Unfortunately, the sky appeared ominous, so we only stopped briefly to admire the lower lake before heading to the upper lake where black clouds loomed overhead. The storms were coming early today…it was only 11:00.

We sort of wondered if we wasted too much time exploring all the side trails and cabins given it took us at least two hours to go 3.3 miles and now we found ourselves racing over the final 0.4 miles to the upper lake in a light sprinkle. The upper lake, despite being lined by rocky peaks, was hardly protected from the wind, so our stop here was short at best. We decided it would be better to enjoy our snack at the lower lake which we thought was more picturesque and protected from the wind. We rested on the rocky shore until larger raindrops began falling which encouraged a quick departure.

For the next mile or so, zipped up in our rain jackets, we carefully maneuvered over the slick rocks at a quick pace. We wanted to get to tree cover for relief from the steady drizzle. While many storms blow over in twenty minutes in Colorado, this one seemed like it would last. Fortunately, we ended our hike during a dry pocket. While it took us three hours to ascend, it only took us one to make it back to the car! Before heading all the way back to Denver, we treated ourselves to a decadent cookie at Mary’s Mountain Cookies in Breckenridge.

It was such a fun hike and what made our outing even better was heading up to Breckenridge the night before and staying at the Schussbaumer Ski Club. We got to enjoy a nice dinner and relax for the evening before our hike in the morning which made it feel like a mini vacation! The only thing I would have changed about the day, is I would have driven up the rocky road to skip the first part of the trail to add additional mileage after Upper Mohawk Lake, as I read the are several other lakes beyond. With the rain threatening, we had to skip exploring them. I might have to repeat this hike though to give myself more time to enjoy it…this would be a rarity for me as there are so many trails in Colorado to hike. ETB

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Genesee Park: Great Place to Hike Near Denver

August 13, 2016

So Belinda and I set out to hike at Genesee Park off I-70. The 2,300 acre park was Denver’s first mountain park (1912) and is just a short jaunt along the highway west of the city. For the limited amount of time we had on Saturday, it was a perfect spot to explore. I had planned on connecting the Chavez Trail and Beaver Creek Trail to make a 3-4 mile loop. Unfortunately, I didn’t bring the map with me and just typing Genesee Park into Google Maps didn’t get us to the correct location.

Upon exiting the highway, the sign pointed us to the left or the south side of I-70. I turned to Belinda and said, “That’s funny. I always thought the park was on the north side of the highway.” We later found out the trail we were searching for was on the other side of the highway, so we will have to try that out another time.

On the south side of the highway, however, we followed Genesee Mountain road that gradually wound around the mountain to a parking lot, picnic tables, bathrooms, and shelter. Several trails left from this area, none of which showed on the map we found online. In addition, we didn’t find a sign nearby with any description of the trails. It’s no wonder there was hardly so soul there on a Saturday morning, despite a lovely forest so close to downtown Denver.

We started at the Genesee Mountain Trailhead and then others split off from it. We had a choice to climb up to Genesee Peak or to keep following the Genesee Mountain Trail. We stuck with the Genesee Mountain Trail because it seemed like it was going to be flatter, and we were just out for a nice stroll with her dog Deacon in the beautiful weather.

Soon we reached the American Bison Trail. This time we followed it. We left the forest and ended up on a dirt road before we eventually reached a fenced area with the bison. I’ve seen them from a distance on I-70 in the past, but it was nice to get a good look up close. This park was home to the first buffalo and elk herds reestablished in 1914.

From the secured area, we turned up hill onto Genesee Mountain Trail again, and wandered through the woods once more. We ended up walking for about three hours, but if I had to guess we were slower than our usual 30 minute mile pace. We probably meandered five miles before returning to Denver.

I was pleasantly surprised by this area, because it was one of the few parks near the city that really made me feel like I was in the mountains. We hardly ever saw a view of buildings. It was all evergreens and pine needles. I vowed to come home and do more research on these trails. I still haven’t found a map for them. I’d like to know the distances because if I ever want to go for a short hike near Denver, I think I’d pick here! ETB

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