Friday, February 12, 2016

Paved Hiking Trails in Castle Rock

Downtown Plum Creek Trail
 Quite a few people ask about "paved" hiking trails in and around the town where I live because during the winter they will be cleared of snow and can keep you away from the mud. For runners and walkers, a paved trail can get you outdoors for a quick dash or stroll during the winter months, where the natural surface and gravel trails must be cleared naturally by the sun.  For the snowshoers and cross country skiers, the natural surface trails are great under snow.

Plum Creek Trail at Hangman's Gulch Trail
In Castle Rock, Colorado, the county uses small snowplows to clear most of the paved trails in the town.  Starting after the roads have been cleared, these crews work for days after a snowfall to plow the trails. If you live where it snows, you can check with your city parks department to see if they clear the trails locally.
In Castle Rock, they clear the following trails and neighborhoods after a snowfall:

  • The Plum Creek Trail and most interconnecting trails through downtown including Sellars Gulch Trail and the area around the Fairgrounds.
  • Most of the city neighborhoods including Meadows, Founders, Red Hawk, Crystal Valley,         Woodlands, Metzler Ranch, Castle Oaks and Maher Ranch.
  • The sidewalk that follows the north side of Plum Creek Parkway from Gilbert Street to Ridge   Road, connecting downtown with Founders.
  • The Cherry Creek Trail
The communities of Parker, The Pinery, Lone Tree, and Highlands Ranch all have their own paved trail systems too. Feel free to check them out HERE.
Many of these neighborhood trails have portions that are used as sidewalks along major thoroughfares, and several connect to public parks and schools. Most offer some space to run, jog walk or even bicycle during snowy weather once they are cleared.
A Castle Rock TRAIL MAP is available here. It is from 2004 and there are many updates since. Check it out to find a trail near you. Do a drive-by first as not all town and open space trails are paved.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Ready your gear for 2016!



For a few of us, readying our gear for backpacking usually waits until the night before leaving on our first trip of the new year. Waiting until the last minute is really no way to go. Stuff gets forgotten, cannot be repaired in time, or can't be found. The stores close before you can replace what is lost or worn out. My plan is to always work ahead and ready my gear now during the winter months, where there is plenty of time to do what is needed (if you live in the far south, do this during the heat of summer). While most of my gear is relatively new, I still need to check the following items:
First aid kit - check all medicine, discarding and replacing anything out of date, replace any missing tape, pads or band aids.
Water purifier - Toss and replace any out of date water treatment. Clean water bottles in the dishwasher.
Food kit - Fully wash & scrub utensils, spoon, stove. Update spices and snacks. Replace any old plastic bags and add new ones as needed.
Tools - Replace used matches, verify your Bic lighter still works. Update repair tapes. Make sure your sewing kit has a working needle. Verify waterproofing bags and cases are still...waterproof.
Pack-Tent-Quilt-Pad - Check closely for cuts, torn fabric or ripped seams, make any needed repairs. Reseal tent seams if needed. Count the tent stakes and poles, add new ones if needed. Verify the quilt loft is good and the sleeping pad still supports you OK.
Headlamp - Check and update batteries. Remember to carry fresh spares. Check your spare flashlight too.
Media - Update those batteries, software, and apps as needed. This includes replacing your 1988 National Park map with a current one before planning your next trip with it.
Clothing - Check and repair or replace anything you have outgrown or worn out. Do those hiking pants still fit? Don't forget to fix that hole in your head net to keep the mosquitoes out. Replace that faded, worn out, but cool-looking hat with one that actually shades your body.
Shoes - Make sure these still fit and have useful tread on them before heading out. If venturing into the mountains this spring, remember to check your micro spikes or snowshoes/poles. And don't forget those hiking sticks too!
I hope you get the idea and check everything you use before you throw it on your back and pack it out the door. I weigh anything new that I purchased since last year and update my gear list to be current.
I actually load everything after I check it and try on the pack to make sure it still adjusts OK. That way, when I reach the trailhead I am fully prepared for a fine trip.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

2016 National Park Fee Free Days


Celebrate the Centennial in 2016 of over 400 National Parks by visiting them.  You can visit for free on the following dates!
For your Free Entry into National Parks this year, note the following dates on your calendar:

April 16 through 24 - National Park Week

August 25 through 28 - National Park Birthday Weekend

September 24 - National Public Lands Day

November 11 - Veterans Day

Get outside and enjoy your National Parks!


Friday, January 15, 2016

A New Camera


Over the holidays I purchased a Fuji FinePix XP80 digital camera.  It is in a class of "action" cameras that appeals to me. First, it is waterproof to 50 feet, shockproof from 5.8 feet, freeze-proof to 14 degrees Fahrenheit and dust-proof. I feel that I need all these "proofs" for a backpacking/outdoor-use camera that I don't have to also carry other gear to protect. My plan is to wear it around my neck, carry it in my shirt pocket or in a pack strap bag where I can get to it quickly. If it rains, no problem!
Second, with other mostly small and automatic cameras, I have missed SO many photos of wildlife and action because the camera takes too long to power up, move the lens into place, focus and take the picture. By then the animals or moments were gone. Not so with this camera, as it is ready to shoot in about 1 second.
In addition to stills, it also shoots HD movies tagged as .MOV files. The microphone is built-in with no input jacks, so I will use an audio recorder to capture close-mic sound and a tripod or other camera mount to keep the videos smooth. It came packaged in a bundle with a neoprene case, a floating strap, a hand strap and a 16GB SDHC data card. It has a bright yellow body. XP80's are also available in blue, black and purple.
The Fuji XP80 takes 16.4 Megapixel photos using a 1/2.3 inch CMOS sensor, has a 5X Optical zoom, includes a built-in flash and uses a 2.7" LCD screen on the back for viewing. The auto-focus function also has a tracking feature, there is an optical image stabilization and the ISO goes up to 6400. The aperture runs from F3.9 to F8 with TTL metering. Shutter speeds are from 4 seconds to 1/2000 of a second. Internal memory is 96 MB plus whatever size memory card you are using.  It has a ton of in-camera filters and multiple automatic camera modes which I am still running through.  It does high speed continuous shooting and programmable time lapse photography (for those tracking cloud shots). Extra Apps can handle remote camera controls and the camera has built-in Wi-Fi for transferring images.


The 5X optical zoom lens helps with composing the majority of the shots I plan to shoot. It is equivalent to a 28mm to 140mm zoom on a 35mm camera, which covers the wide angle to medium telephoto range. With wildlife, the shots of animals won't always be close-up, but the landscapes and portraits will be very nice.
The camera fits nicely in your hand and is very lightweight at 6.3 ounces on my scale including battery and memory card. It charges quickly through the USB connector and will recharge with my portable solar/battery supply when on the trail. My current iPhone 5 takes 8 megapixel photos and has no optical zoom. Though I will still use the iPhone as a camera occasionally, my plan is to add larger memory cards and perhaps more batteries to the Fuji XP80, so I can shoot for longer durations.
In my use it will mostly stay in the AUTO mode for quick-shoot photos. Landscape mode takes great outdoor landscape photos, the Snow exposure seems to work fine on snowy shots and the Macro setting boosts colors a little bit on close-ups. The Sunset and Portrait modes look nice too. For those times when I need to manually adjust the exposure, I can switch to Program AE mode and trim the amount of light coming into the camera using buttons on the back of the body. For its small size, the XP80 offers me a lot of features to get good photos.


As for battery life, the paperwork says it will shoot about 210 photos in AUTO mode on one battery charge. That would easily cover a weekend or two backpacking trip for me. I haven't taken that many photos yet, and have fussed much with the settings, have shot short videos and have still not run the battery down from its first charge. Time will tell. I checked and found 2 batteries and a charger online for about $20.
I personally don't use effects much, as I prefer to get a good photo first. The XP80 comes with several effects, including a nice tool to stitch together panorama photos from several shots taken across an arc. The sketch effect can be dramatic as well as the toy, miniature and forced-color effects. The Fish Eye effect mimics the ultra-wide angle view effect of an 18mm lens.
There is an HDMI output for the TV set as well as a micro USB for charging and transferring photos, both of which are concealed inside the waterproof housing that holds the battery and memory card. It is sealed with a simple locking mechanism, where a button has to be held down to twist the knob to open it.
My photography background is in 35mm and 2 1/4 inch film. I had a small darkroom rig and have processed and printed my own b&w film since I was in the Boy Scouts. I eventually ended up with professional camera bodies and had a wide range of pro fixed and zoom lenses after college. I shot for college newspapers, created slide shows and volunteered with amateur astronomers to get star pictures. I also have 16mm film motion picture experience and have worked as a professional video photographer for many years.


Nowadays, my vision isn't good enough to squint through the lens without wearing my glasses. I have learned to use the on-camera viewfinder screens like the old fashioned ground glass screens on my 2 1/4 inch cameras to compose my shots. Though I prefer to "twiddle" with manual controls, an automatic camera is best for me now to bring home good photos.
Hopefully, this Fuji FinePix XP80 camera will provide me with the tools to get better quality photographic results for this blog and other projects while not weighing me down with extra waterproofing and shock protection cases. You will soon see photos here taken with it.
For the record, I purchased this camera with my own funds and have not received anything from anyone to review it.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Feathered Warmth

32 Degree Down Vest
My 32 Degrees brand Down Vest has been an excellent purchase from Costco for around $20. While not a name brand, it wears well and keeps me warm, either by itself over a long sleeve tee shirt and when used under a raincoat/windbreaker. Being 650 fill down, it is very soft and comfortable with a slick nylon shell. For the price, it is hard to be beat.
It has zippered pockets, covers my neck with a stand-up collar, has a mini-bungee waist band with cord lock, zips up and has inside pockets behind the outside pockets. And it is very light, weighing only 7.5 ounces on my scale and comes with a ditty bag to store it in (included in weight).
My cell phone fits perfectly inside the zippered hand warmer pocket and I still have room to warm up my hand against my body with the down over the outside.
I have been wearing this vest, both inside and out since October and I am very pleased with how it fits and wears. It is very comfortable. On a recent snowy hike, I wore it with long underwear, a nylon fishing shirt and cargo pants and was quite warm.
I have owned down vests before, giving my last one to my mother years ago to keep her warm during the Kentucky winters. After the new Down Tek waterproof treated down vests pass some time of getting dunked, I'll try one of them. In the meantime, I'm warm and comfortable with my inexpensive down vest.

Friday, January 1, 2016

Once Upon A Chariot Book Review


The book Once Upon A Chariot is about Norma Jean Belloff who established the USAWomen's Record for Cross Country Bicycling in 1948. Written by her daughter, Iris Paris, and published in 2008, the book chronicles Norma's 2 self-supported cross country bicycle routes in the post war era.
There is no lycra here; just a Pendleton jacket, Keds tennis shoes, jeans and flannel shirts. No helmet, no gloves, no ultralight composite frames, no clipless pedals, just a 19 year old woman travelling alone a couple years after World War II had ended, on a fat tire single speed bicycle weighing 65 pounds with gear.
Norma's route east was just along local roads through the south to avoid winter weather. This was years before heavy national traffic, Interstate highways and the multiple 4-lane roads of our time were built.

Norma Jean Belloff on the return trip
The gear was simple; sleeping bag, green canvas tarp, change of clothes and a towel, toothbrush, tool bag, flashlight, canteen, and her new bible. The bicycle was named Chariot 1. It was lost in the Colorado River (you will have to read the book). Chariots II & III carried her the rest of the trip and she returned home in San Diego riding her fourth bicycle, a black Schwinn racing bike with canvas rear panniers, fenders and a flashlight that she set the cross country record on.
Norma's trip was the definition of "unsupported". She stopped along the way, staying with strangers and worked for her food, lodging or cash.  Except for accepting some cash mailed from home, she paid her own way across America.
Norma also fought some mental demons along the way, her own fears came to light many times and the interesting parts of the story is how she dealt with them and her relationships with her parents and family. She did trust her instinct and got herself out of trouble. Reading her bible daily offered help, created new questions, and guided her in a good direction.
Norma's first goal was to bicycle to her grandmothers home in Baltimore, MD. She made it by Christmas 1947 and enjoyed her stay there. She continued bicycling on to New York and finally to her birthplace near New London, CT, before touring Washington DC.

1947-1948 bicycle route
The return trip had her leaving New York and following state highways to reach Route 66, then following that back to LA/San Diego. She averaged 70 miles per day while wearing a white oilcloth sign across her back that said "New York to San Diego", spent a week recuperating from leg cramps in Arizona and still set a record. Starting on June 23rd, she made it home in 53 days.

Winning third place at Women's National Bicycle Races
Norma finally met President Truman in California, placed third in her only race at the Women's National Bicycle Races in Wisconsin, attended College, married and raised a family.
The author really didn't know about her mom's accomplishments until 1989, when she received 5 trunks from her deceased Grandmother, which contained her mom's trophy and documents about the 1947-48 bicycle trip. Using her mom's journals, maps and notes, she recreated the route and wrote the story.
I found another story written by the author entitled "What ever happened to Norma Jean Belloff?" I included the link for your understanding of the whole story.

Friday, December 25, 2015

My Saturday hike with Walk2Connect

Walk2Connect at the Spruce Mountain Trailhead
Jonathan reads from his red book with Kanoa, Polly wears a Santa hat
I hiked last Saturday morning with the Colorado group Walk2Connect. Led by Jonathon Stalls, the Spruce Mountain Trail hike was very enjoyable.  Just over a dozen walkers and one fine dog named Kanoa made up the trip.
Jonathon has walked across America with Kanoa while generating support for Kiva.org, and hiked the Camino De Santiago in Spain with his dad. He also has spoken at a TEDx event in Colorado and started Walk2Connect as a "Colorado-based social enterprise group to create whole health outcomes through innovative walking programs focused on connection to others, to place, and to self." He is an outgoing Walking Movement Leader and a really nice guy. Kanoa is a great dog too!
Walk2Connect is all about inclusiveness and communication. Their goal is to get you outside and talking with them while also allowing you some space and time for reflection. I like the mix.
Also on the hike was Polly Letofsky who became the first woman to walk around the world in 1999, walking over 14,000 miles in 5 years. Polly also raised money on the trip for Breast Cancer. She wrote an award-winning book "3MPH" (on my library list), and an audio book. A documentary video was made about the fundraising side of her trip. Polly's walk started by just walking out the door of her home in Vail, CO.
Ben Clagett this year (2015) walked across America and created Walk for 60 to encourage people to walk for sixty minutes daily, modelling what his mom (who was in the group today) already did every day. Ben just finished his trip last month.

Photo break of the surrounding open space
Spruce Mountain Trail, just south of Larkspur was covered in snow, with depths anywhere from clear wind-swept earth to mid-thigh deep cold white.  Mostly the hiking was uneven and slippery. A couple hikers donned cleats over their boots like YakTrax or Katoola Micro Spikes which helped much with traction. Hiking poles helped a lot. Most of the rest of us just slipped along wearing anything on our feet from snow boots to tennis shoes.
We broke into bunches along the trail, talking about trips, asking questions of Ben, Polly and Jonathon and meeting other hikers in the group as we walked. Ben stopped for short breaks often and provided us with snacks and quiet time to enjoy the rocks and views of the surrounding Douglas County Open Space along the trail.
At one break, Jonathon read a post from Paul Salopek, a National Geographic journalist walking around the world on a 7 year journey, following the ascent of mankind in his Out of Eden Blog. The post was very well written and it made me think for a moment as if I were a discoverer. The link to the story is HERE if you are interested. I noticed nodding heads, listened to deep questions and saw thoughtful looks around the group. Ahh, my peeps, people who enjoy hiking AND intellectual writing : )

Beautiful weather with views north along the front range
The climb was fairly easy, the skies clear with the temperatures near the mid-50's.  It did get a little windy at Windy Point on the mountain top loop where Jonathon took photos of us, but was warm enough to begin melting snow on the return trip. I must say the weather was perfect for hiking!
All three Leaders were very interesting to talk with and like to share about the details of their respective trips. I, on the other hand, am shy in groups and do not typically engage with others I do not know. I usually just nod or say hi to another hiker I pass along the trail, so this is what has been missing for me. Communication with other people who enjoy the outdoors as I do; who also understand that solitude is a welcome caller, and who smile to the sound of the wind in the trees; who easily talk about places they have been, people they met, experiences they cherish.
Of course I had to leave the group before they went to lunch together and go in to work, and could not continue the communication we had all started. But I will return and hike more with Walk2Connect. They are running as many as 15 to 45 walks each week in Colorado, depending on the season. Check out their event calendar HERE to find a local walk for you.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Walking with 1000s of Miles tomorrow


I plan to walk with a group called 1000s of Miles and Life @3MPH tomorrow, Saturday December 19th from 9am to 3pm. We will meet at the Spruce Mountain Trailhead south of Larkspur and hike the trail together.  There is a $20 charge for this event.
This will be my first hike with this continental and global crossing group so I am excited.
There is some snow on the trail so plan accordingly.  Check out the Facebook post for a map and more information.
If you live in Colorado and have not yet planned to walk with this group, check out the groups Facebook site and join us for some fun!  You can sign up at the link above.  If you are a Life@3MPH member, there is a reduced charge.
See you on the trail.

Friday, December 11, 2015

A new cup and a half


I needed a new drinking cup for my daypack so I don't have to constantly move my one cup from my cooking gear in my backpack to my daypack and back every trip. 
While browsing at REI, I found the GSI Infinity Clear Polypropylene Stacking Cup. Available in both green and blue, the clear cup holds 14.2 fluid ounces, has one and a half cup measurements/mil liters molded on the side in a food grade polypropylene. BPA-Free and weighing 1.8 ounces this cup is lightweight, stackable, non-leaching and is 100% recyclable. The cup's handle is shaped like a hook, with an opening to mimic a steel/wire cup of old. Being polypro, it won't burn your lips when the tea is hot. The cup is also a bit flexible, so it will travel well jammed into a backpack. GSI makes a lot of really good gear for camping, and this cup, priced at $2.95, is another great low priced backpacking and camping item.
I like the light weight and comfortable feel. The handle keeps you from being burned with hot contents. Mine is green. If you have a camping partner, the two colors will help keep them "owned" during trips.
Disclaimer: I purchased this item at the Denver REI using my own money.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Candle Lanterns Now and Then

ECO Micro Candle Lantern outdoors
I have been using candle lanterns for many years as my outdoor light or lantern when backpacking. My first candle lantern was a simple one, without springs or fancy mechanisms. Just a glass jar with a bail to hang it in my tent or on a branch, with a metal bottom that screwed on and a small candle inside with an open top. I used this lantern for years during college when backpacking around Kentucky, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. It warmed up the picnic table, the tent or the log I was sitting on. Not really bright enough to read by (though I did anyway), it did light the way for late cooking and when I didn't have a fire, it gave me something flickering to stare at until bedtime.
In the 1980's when I started upgrading my backpacking gear, I purchased a modern spring assisted candle lantern, one that was guaranteed to burn all the wax away. I used it to read Tolkien and science fiction paperbacks inside my tent. I kept the lantern inside a fleece pouch for safety and used it quite a lot. It was still in use in the early 2000's when I camped out with my son in the Boy Scout Troop. 

Collapsed to fit inside my pack
My most recent candle lantern is simpler and much lighter. It is a UCO Micro Candle Lantern which uses one tea light candle. Blue, it won't blend in with the leaves on the trees or on the ground (so it shouldn't get lost) and it is much smaller and lighter than the other ones I have owned. 
It gives me around 4 hours burn time per candle which is enough for a couple weekend trips (about 8 hours of light from both tea light candles), has a bail with a chain and hook for hanging, and has a glass chimney that stores inside the base. A feature I like is that it carries a spare tea light candle in the base.  It weighs only 4.2 ounces on my scale (3.9 ounces on the package) including the 2 tea light candles. I have not used it yet in the south so I have little experience with it reducing humidity in the tent. You could use citronella candles to keep the bugs away, clear plastic base candles for more light, or even beeswax tea lights for longer, gentle light. If dripping wax is too much for you, try a battery powered flickering plastic LED candle you can buy at Target. With candle tea lights it can warm up the tent just a little with an output of 450 BTU. 

All 3 peices
I have not tried to boil water over a candle like others online have. I say try it if you need to, but you are on your own.
The 15 lumens of light shines downward, (1 candle = 12.5 lumens or LUX) reflected from the top cap/vent, so hang it above your working/eating/reading area. Nowadays, I like to read about tomorrows trail and look at maps and maybe even write some notes about today's hike, who I met, etc.
It seems the best use for this candle lantern is in places where campfires are prohibited, as it gives you flickering "camper TV" to stare at until bedtime.
Much more earthy to use around the camp site than an LED headlamp (which I still carry), it is one of those few inexpensive camping gear purchases, costing under $14. At 4.2 ounces it is light and small enough to easily fit inside my ultralight backpack in the top pocket. The collapsed aluminum case covers the glass chimney, so it will be protected.
To use, twist the plastic bottom to the left.  This will allow you to separate the lantern to light the tea light candle. The tea light sits on a small aluminum stand above the plastic base. To get to the spare candle, hold the plastic base at the top and twist the bottom to the left to separate those bases. 

Weighs 4.2 ounces on my scale, 3.9 ounces is listed on the package
My trick is to pull apart the aluminum frame to extend the globe first before lighting the candle. The three supports will lock in place. To put the base back on the aluminum frame, twist it to the right. Remember to do this carefully without spilling any wax on your gear. Hang the bail on a branch or clip it inside your tent. 
To blow out the candle, blow in from the top while holding your hand behind the top to direct your breath inside the globe. Never leave the candle burning near children or pets and blow it out before leaving your tent. You can get burned by touching the glass chimney or the aluminum frame, so beware!

Hook and bail
The height opened is 3.5 inches, width is 2.25 inches, collapsed height is 2.5 inches. There are 2 accessories available; a top reflector and a Cocoon protective case. The top reflector may help prevent some temporary blindness when the candle lantern is placed on a table or log. I don't carry the cocoon since the glass is enclosed inside the aluminum frame. The UCO website has lots of other interesting items you should check out.
For durability, I give it only a barely passing grade. The aluminum frame can be bent, the glass chimney can be broken. You must be careful when using this. I am very gentle with all my gear. If it breaks and cannot be fixed, I will replace it at a later time. Yes, my older candle lantern was much better built and weighed 9-10 ounces, about what my whole cooking kit weighs now. It was bigger and made with thicker aluminum, plus the candle would last around 9 hours. For a similar burn time I have reduced the overall weight by over 5 ounces, and saved 2 inches of backpack pocket space.
Disclosure: I bought the UCO Micro Candle Lantern at REI using my own funds.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Snowshoeing to my car

Snowshoes, pole and 2 feet of snow
Snowshoeing through a parking lot may not sound like a lot of fun, but when the snow is too deep to walk in, walking on top of it is a much better idea.
It snowed fairly heavy in Castle Rock on Monday night, and the next morning left us with a Winter Wonderland of 2 foot deep snow, drifted in some areas over 4 feet deep. My snowshoes have not been used since we left Colorado over 10 years ago, so I was happy to put them on and stomp around a little.
This was the first major Colorado snow for this winter, burying the prairie all the way to Kansas and further east. Denver did not get as much snow as the storm mostly went south along the Palmer Divide, between Castle Rock and Colorado Springs.
I found I had not forgotten how to walk in snowshoes, even though I had lived in Florida for a decade since my last snowshoe trip. They went on pretty quickly, and came back off easily.
For the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday I will not write a blog, as we have company and family time planned. I do hope to celebrate the holiday the way I feel all holidays should be enjoyed; outdoors. Maybe even in snow! And by the way, thanks REI for allowing your staff and shoppers a day to enjoy themselves outside.
I highly recommend you try snowshoes if you have not yet. If you missed it, read my snowshoe blog HERE. Even hiking short trails and walks in parks is peaceful and quiet, and you never know when you may need them.

Friday, November 13, 2015

New Shoe Test

Meadow and Red Rock
So I planned to hike a steep trail to test my new shoes. The trail I picked was Carpenter Peak Trail at Roxborough State Park, south of Denver. The trail is rated as strenuous and is quite steep, with sand and rock, along with some tall steps. It is also very peaceful, quite beautiful and not very busy. While my available time would not allow me to reach Carpenter Peak, I did hike half of the trail before turning around to make my time commitments.  A trail map is HERE.

Hiking through meadows

Hiking through scrub
Lots of scrub
The red rocks are always nearby
The trail starts out across from the Visitor's Center and starts very easy and level for the first half mile. Here it twists along the red rocks that Roxborough is famous for. Going in and out of tree cover along with the waist-high meadow grass makes for a varied view. The trail surface is mostly sandy here, a red, course sand from the red rocks.

View of the valley
Continuing to climb
Looking southeast
Climbing the railroad tie steps
Once you cross the dirt road, you begin to climb a steep section of trail with many railroad cross ties holding back the earth. Some of these steps are tall, requiring you to have firm footing before taking the next step. The trail then meanders up through an area with pine and scrub tree cover, zig-zagging quite a bit as it passes a bench on a point. The trail continues to climb and cut back across itself, the view of the valley below opening up as I gain elevation. Eventually, I make the last zag to the right and hike into a dark pine forest with very old trees. I pass the trail junction to Elk Valley and continue on towards Carpenter Peak. Then I continue through the scrub and more trees, still climbing until I reach an open area on a knoll, where there is a bench. Carpenter Peak is above me to the left. All of Denver is to my front right and it looks pretty small from up here.

Red rocks seen from above
And more red rocks from above
The Denver Tech Center is seen through red rocks
My turn around point, Denver is off to the right and very far away
I stop and drink some water, check the time and turn around to return to the car. The descent takes a little less time than the ascent did and I stop every now and then to enjoy the view. It must be bluebird day as I saw several along the trail. One even ran down a bit of the trail towards me, then abruptly turned to the right and promptly disappeared into the scrub. I paused to listen to a woodpecker unseen above me pounding into a tree. The wind whistled through the trees, making me smile.

From just below the knoll
Red rocks with Denver beyond
As for my new shoes, I had not even noticed them, which is good news! They stuck to the rocks and sand without slipping at all, even when my feet were at a steep angle where they should have slipped. I never had to re-tie or adjust them. Nothing was rubbed raw, and my toes didn't jam into the front of the shoe on the downhill either. They just did their job. And that is what I like, shoes that don't hurt anywhere, stick to the ground and still feel comfortable. With my won't-fit-anything feet, that is awesome!

Sign at entrance
Trail Map
Roxborough is a great park that focuses on hiking. They have wonderful programs for the children and families.  To get there, take US 85, Santa Fe, south of Denver, pass over C-470 and continue to Titan Road, where you turn right. Follow Titan Road as it climbs with open views in all directions. Titan Road bends south and changes its name to Rampart Range Road. Pass through the development and turn left at the Roxborough Park sign before entering the Arrowhead community and golf course. Follow this narrow road as it jogs to the right and turns to gravel. You come to the park entrance sign and a kiosk here. Pay the $7 fee to the Iron Ranger and continue to the last parking lot on the right. The Visitor Center is just ahead with Trailheads across from it.