Friday, December 19, 2014

Gateway Mesa Open Space

The Trail Head with my shadow 
Sometimes you find a trail that is just right.  For a nice, mostly flat 2 mile hike along a mesa top in Castle Rock, I found the Gateway Mesa Trail.  We hiked Chucks Loop, a 1.8 mile trail which crosses the mesa to the bluffs overlooking Franktown and Cherry Creek.  This is that same Cherry Creek that flows north, where the town of Denver began at Cherry Creek's confluence with the Platte River.
The trail follows along a horse farm fence for half a mile before coming to the cap rock area near the bluffs.  Here the Mitchell Creek Canyon Trail intersects Chuck's Loop.  We hiked south along this trail another half mile and stopped to enjoy the view at an overlook.

The overlook, Franktown below
More overlook.  It all drops away from the cap rock
Cap Rock.  This looks just like you are on top of Castle Rock, except for the trees

Pikes Peak

We walked back north to rejoin Chuck's Loop Trail.  The plan is to tackle Mitchell Creek Canyon Trail on another day.  Back on the main loop, we followed the trail along the cap rock via cairns.
With more trees in this area, bird life was everywhere.  From smaller than a couple fingers to full size hunting hawks, there were so many different types of birds I needed an identification book to name them.

An old gnarly cedar
Hoodoos, old and gnarly cedar trees, and a few well-placed wooden benches, this trail was interesting.  Once we got as far back as the bluff area, all sounds of traffic had disappeared and with only the sound of the wind in the trees, it was very peaceful.

Trees, Clear Sky and the Colorado Sunshine
Benches provided by an Eagle Scout Project
A cute door knocker added to a tree
Juniper berries, more than I have ever seen.  That's why there are so many birds here
We sat on a bench and enjoyed the solitude as the trail rose out of the trees and into a meadow.  There were remains of a barb wire fence to the right, lots of different grasses and the distant mountains to ponder.  I really like this trail!

A long view of Longs Peak and the front range.
And Mount Evans

A close-up of the grass
And more back-lit scrub and grasses
The trail follows along, well-marked and easy.  When wet there could be some mud, but it is mostly natural surface and rock.  We encountered some traffic noise as we rounded the north side of the trail from highway 86 and headed back to the Trail Head.  

A bluebird house.  Many were built along the trail
That small dot in the sky is the rising moon
Parting shot at the end of a fine hike
The Trail Head is located on highway 86, as you travel east from Castle Rock to Franktown, and is the last turn off to the right before dropping down to Cherry Creek.  Since the trail is short, you can hike it in less than 2 hours and still take your time.

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