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November 10, 2016

I took the nicest hike with Ellie today.  I take care of her Mondays-Thursdays, so she sort feels like mine.  She loves humans, but isn’t quite as fond of other dogs.  Ellie is a Plott Hound, a breed of which I have never heard.  She is an extremely well behaved dog.

Unfortunately, my friends couldn’t join me this week.  They were headed out of town, have friends in town, renovating their house, and training a new puppy.  But it was good, because it gave me a chance to play around with my DSLR.  I haven’t used my good camera for over six months, as I don’t want to slow people down on hikes, though I have recently been inspired to practice as a friend asked me if I would photograph their wedding in Montana!

I feel so flattered and nervous at the same time.  I’ve never shot a wedding, nor do I spend too much time with people as my subjects.  Nature is my bread and butter.  Anyway, I’m very excited about it.

On to the hike…today I decided to visit Devil’s Backbone Open Space.  It is located near Loveland, just south of Fort Collins.  We don’t generally travel north for hiking unless we head a little west as well toward Rocky Mountain National Park.  I definitely was not familiar with the area.  The forecast called for a windy day.  As such, Ellie and I waited until 9am to drive the hour north to give the air temperature a chance to warm up.

Upon arrival at the open space, I studied the posted map.  There were a variety of trails that connected to one another.  I opted for a combination of three loops, Wild Loop, Hunter Loop, and Laughing Horse Loop.  The total mileage added up to 4.9 miles.

We started out on the red, sandstone path on the interpretive Wild Loop Trail.  Generally I’m not that fond of interpretive trails because they feel commercialized, but this trail felt different.  The uneven, rocky path along with a simple numbered posts and brochures available at the trailhead were very well done by Larimer County Open Lands Program.

The Devil’s Backbone is composed of gray-brown to tan Dakota Sandstones of the Lytle Formation which is between 100-115 years old.  It is home to a variety of nesting birds, including red-tailed hawks, prairie falcons, swallows, a pair of ravens, and a great horned owl.  Apparently, it is rare to find a pair of nesting ravens in this area.  Today, I saw hawks soaring in the cool breeze over the rock formation.

In fact, the cool breeze was most welcome.  It turned out to be very warm for a November day beneath clear, blue skies.  I made several water stops for Ellie, who seemed to always have her tongue swinging in the wind as she trotted along with me.

The rocks that create the Devil’s Backbone sure look like they would be fun to climb, though climbing isn’t allowed.  I was happy to find that the trail did lead us quite close to the keyhole so we could get a better look at the formation and the views to the west that include Long’s Peak, a 14er.  I can’ only imagine how pretty the view would have been if there was a bit more snow in the mountains, but as a non-skier, I’m not complaining about the unseasonably warm weather.The keyhole was formed by erosion of coarse-grained rocks that were weaker than the rocks around the hole.

From the key hole and rock formation, we continued on to Hunter Loop and then to Laughing Horse Loop over rolling prairie peppered with dormant bushes, golden praire grass, and cacti that had finished blooming.  I bet during the right season, the flowers and color along the trail would be lovely.  Since we were quietly strolling along the trail, we were blessed to spot a few deer!

I really enjoyed going at my own pace and testing out different settings on my camera. It has been a while since I hiked alone.  I think I did a substantially good job of wearing out Ellie as well.  It was quite a peaceful day!  ETB

websites: http://larimer.org/parks/bbone.cfm

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