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October 4-7, 2013

A long overdue post about my last trip to Estabrook!  I originally had a girls weekend planned before we closed the cabin up for the winter, but one lady had to cancel, so I added a few others and we made it three girls and a boy and had a blast!!

While I had hoped to head up to the cabin Wednesday afternoon, some obligations at home kept me in town until Friday morning just in time for the weather to roll in.  I headed up the mountains in a light snow that dusted the slopes.  While it fell on my windshield as I pulled up the front porch, the meadow was clear of any precipitation, and the sun started poking through the clouds.  I was expecting to get to the cabin, to bundle up in some blankets and to sit by the fire, but if the sun was coming out and the snow was going to essentially miss the valley then perhaps a walk was in store once Cat joined me around lunchtime!

The cabin is very good at insulating the freezing cold air from the mountain nights.  When the sun comes out, it is generally warmer outside.  Once Cat and her dog Hannah arrived, we took a stroll to Eagle Rock. We followed the logging road beneath the pines, across the Craig Creek, and up the mountain through a grove of aspens to a view of the houses, barn, and ice house in the meadow below.

After our walk we just relaxed by the fire and prepped dinner for when Chas and Ellen arrived.  While I can’t say dinner was the best we’ve ever had Estabrook, we broke out Settlers of Catan and started a series of games…who has some wheat for some sheep?  We also rearranged the living room furniture!  The table worked much better three feet from the fire place…WARMTH!

We had a long hike planned for the morning, so our night wasn’t too late, and it turned out, our morning wasn’t too early as it was VERY frosty!  Gloves, hats, and jackets were definitely in the mix for our hike along Three Mile Creek Trail.  The trail can be found on Park County Road 62 or Guanella Pass Road.  I have wanted to do this hike for some time as I have passed by it many times on my way to other hikes.  The full hike is 13 miles roundtrip.  We took such a long time exploring and posing for pictures, we only did about six miles roundtrip, but we had so much fun doing it.

The trail follows a stream through a narrow canyon beneath evergreens.  The creeks splashed on the multiple bridge crossing leaving icicles hanging below.  They had yet to melt, so instead of being the long pointy type, the ended round balls!  The trail on the north side of the creek was clear of any snow, however, the trail on the south side of the creek gained a little snowpack and ice with the elevation.  At times, we had to find a few tree branches to grab hold.

In addition, to the amazing ice creations, we the fall colors were in peak season!  The aspen groves had turned from green to golden and occasionally we found a chocolate brown.  I had been waiting all summer for some fall hikes and then the floods, my sprained ankle, and Petey going to doggy heaven kind of put a damper on things.  I was so happy to finally see these magnificent colors, and I am so glad we weren’t too late…the colors peaked two weeks later than last year!  I will come back to this trail, and complete the full 13 miles next summer!

The fun didn’t stop with hiking.  We had an awesome lamb dinner.  We had to break out the famous margarita recipe, and of course we played some Settlers of Catan and some cards!  Again, our night wasn’t too late because we had mountain biking planned for the morning.

Our morning was somehow slower than the previous, eventhough it was glorious.  Due to time limits, we opted for hike to the Bear’s Cave and the hanging bridge in the rocks instead of the bike ride for the morning.  We took a slow, leisurely pace up the creek watching the squirrels scamper around hoarding their food for the winter.  As I always say, this is my favorite hike at Estabrook, and I have to do it every time I come.  It is so peaceful to me.

Cat and I waved good bye to Chas and Ellen and then we went on a mountain bike ride in the Buffalo Creek Wilderness Area.  Cat is an accomplished mountain bike rider who races.  I am a novice who has ridden a mountain bike about five times, and only once in the mountains…today!  Needless to say, it was a challenge.  Out of shape from taking a month off from exercise with my ankle injury, attempting to ride a bike at 7,000-8,000 feet was not a very good choice.  Sadly, I managed to do better going uphill than downhill except when I unclipped to rest…then I would just fall over out of sheer exhaustion!  Bleeding and bruised…I finished. J  We found out we missed an exciting Cowboy/Broncos game.  Both being from Texas, we had considered driving into Bailey to catch a half, but frankly we had expected the Broncos to destroy the Boys.  Instead, Cat got to watch the mountain kill me…it was entertaining!

I said farewell to Cat and closed up much of the cabin, putting the bedspreads, hoses, unplugging the lights and such.  I saved the rest for tomorrow because I wanted to go on one last hike before I let the winter takeover.

My hike on Monday is one I have had my eye for a while as well.  It was to Gibson Lake.  The trail is 14.3 miles past Bailey on Park County Road 60, so I knew I probably wouldn’t make it up for any kind of winter hike…it’s just a little too far out of the way.  Not to mention, the last mile of the 6.5 mile dirt road is four wheel drive and it is ROUGH!  There were some big, pointy rocks and this one reason why I had not been to this trail previously, as my trail book had warned about the road.  In the past year, I had driven with some friends on 4WD roads, so I had a bit more confidence until I was driving it…then I said a few prayers.  My Outback’s clearance was a bit low…stay on the high side I kept thinking…and please don’t get a flat because there is no one around to help me!  STUPID?!?

God was looking out for me.  I made it to the trailhead unscathed which soothed me a little, but it made me think about the last time I had hiked by myself.  It had been almost exactly a year!  I can’t believe it has been that long…I used to always hike alone.  I’m glad to have some hiking companions now.  I felt a little spooked today!  As I started off, I realized I left my hiking poles in the car, so I picked up a hiking stick, mostly for stability and in a rare case I needed it for protection.

The hike was a steady climb that gained 1,500 feet in elevation.  I followed a creek beneath the pines most the way.  Given the higher elevation, beginning at 10,316 feet, most of the path was covered in snow, so I followed hiker’s footsteps from the previous day most of the way.  As the trail broke out of the treeline, the path crisscrossed the small ice covered creek.  My stick came in handy to test the weak, melting ice.  I was thankful to be wearing my hiking boots as opposed to my trail shoes or my feet would have been wet!  I sunk in the snow and ice a few times.  I trounced through the tundra and sagebrush, past remnants of mines and eventually made it to the small lake that sits below Whale Peak.  The last few hundred yards to lake is not marked by any trail in particular, thus I made sure to take a visual to make it back to the trail.  The edges of the lake were ice covered.  The sky was crystal clear.  The weather was gorgeous until I sat down for lunch…then the wind started blowing.  I didn’t stick around long…it was cold!

I noticed a piece of metal rail that looked like it went to a train near the lake.  A ribbon like waterfall was up toward my left near the left over mining rock.  I couldn’t help myself.  I had to go explore.  I found the path, followed it down toward the mining area, and then hiked up the slope.  Near one of the piles of rubble, I found leftover workings of the mine.  Some sort of crank?  It was so cool!  Had I been with others, I may have explored a bit more, but I didn’t really want to lose the trail…I had yet to see anyone all day except a few campers I passed on my drive up, so I headed back down to the car.

Very close to the trailhead, I ran into a father/daughter team beginning the hike.  There first question to me, “Is that your Outback?”  They were impressed I made it up the road!  Like I said, there were a few prayers.  They asked me if I went up to the second lake.  Dang it…there was a second one?!?  I guess it was above the ribbon like falls.  It was supposedly smaller than the first, and the first wasn’t that impressive, so I don’t suppose I missed too much, but I guess I can always come back too!  But I think if I come back, I will have a hiking buddy.  I felt a little bit out in the wilderness on this one…maybe it was because I hiked five 14ers this year and those hikes are crowded.  I don’t know.  Regardless, I got another hike in, which I love!  ETB

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