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June 1, 2017

Trail: Gill Trail but the parking area says Cheesman Canyon Trailhead
Distance: 7 miles roundtrip
Elevation:6,548-6,610′

I finally got the opportunity to hike with my friends which hasn’t happened since last fall! I planned on meeting Tanya and Sharon at Gill Trailhead just about 22 miles down highway 126 from Pine Junction. They were coming from Denver while I was coming from Bailey. When I saw the trailhead sign “Cheesman Canyon Trailhead”, I figured we wouldn’t be meeting on time at 9:15am. Without cell service, there was no way to contact them. In addtion, after studying the map at the trailhead, I learned there was another trail parking area up by the lake. I hoped they looked at the directions I sent them, but was afraid google maps might have directed them through Deckers which really would complicate matters.

I waited in the parking lot as fishermen suited up and prepared to hook some trout. Thirty minutes went by as I watched a car pass hear or there. Some with two ladies. Last I knew, Tanya was picking up Sharon, so I thought I was looking for a white Jeep, but I wasn’t positive. Usually, when I hike alone, I tell someone where I was going, and without cell coverage I couldn’t.

I thought about it for a while and decided with all the fishermen around I could find help if I needed and headed out at 10am after leaving a note for Tanya in my car. I still had Sheena, the German Shepherd, in my care, and we started off at a slow walk. I let her sniff the sides of the trail as I took pictures of the Platte River flowing through the canyon below. Occasionally, I inspected the few wild flowers that dotted the sides of the granite path.

Despite evergreens peppering the rolling walls of the canyon, there was virtually no shade and somewhat warm. As such, we took a few side trails down to the river so Sheena could cool off as we watched fishermen sling their line back and forth. According to the description of the hike, it was always best to stay high and to the right in order to stay on Gill Trail. This led me on an errant switchback once, but I could see the trail following the river in a southeasterly direction, so I retraced my steps.

After a few miles, Tanya and Sharon caught up. Google maps had sent them to the upper parking lot. Fortunately Tanya knew my car wasn’t in the lot and they drove around some more. Eventually they got directions from a store attendant in Deckers. Amazing the store attendant knew of Gill Trail, yet the two park Rangers in the “Cheesman Canyon Trailhead” parking lot had not heard of Gill Trail until they looked at the posted map!

So Sharon, Tanya and I hiked the last mile or so together until we reached a very steep and slick portion of the trail covered in scree and boulders. It required some scrambling if we weren’t careful, we could have easily slid all the way down to the river! With an injured ankle, Sharon passed. With camera and dog in tow, I passed too. Because of that, Tanya stuck with us. It is one of the first times I’ve turned around on a trail in the summer. The elevation range of 60 feet from low to high is misleading. We climbed up and down quite a bit on the easy part of the trail which was slick at times and never made it to the more difficult switchbacks.

Regardless, we enjoyed the hike and our nice lunch on an outcropping. We packed up as the black clouds rolled in and light sprinkles fell. On the way back, we saw a cool duck resting on a rock mid-river. We also ran across two rattlesnakes which surprised us. I didn’t think rattlesnakes made it above 8,000 feet. At least as kids, we were always told there weren’t any poisonous snakes at our family cabin near Bailey. So the jury is out…thoughts on pic below are welcome. Overall it was a lovely hike, and I’m so happy the summer is here for exploring. ETB

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