Friday, January 30, 2015

Plum Creek Trail South

The Plum Creek Trail, walking north from the Plum Creek Parkway bridge
Castle Rock's East Plum Creek Trail continues south along Plum Creek from the Wolfensberger Road exit to end at Perry Street, just below Plum Creek Parkway.  I had previously walked two other sections of the trail (1 here) and (2 here) and completed this one the first day that the snow had melted enough to walk it without snow boots.  In all, the trail runs 6 miles from the north end of the Meadows to south of Plum Creek Parkway and connects to two other trail systems in town, the Hangman's Gulch Trail and Sellars Gulch Trail.

Fair Street connection
Nice, tree-lined area near the space provided for the Preble's Meadow Jumping Mouse
A bench to enjoy the solitude and watch the wildlife

I accessed the trail at the Plum Creek bridge.  Walking north, the first thing I noticed was how it got a little quieter once I was walking below the road bed.  Pools of frozen water told how cold it had been recently.  There was a little snow on the trail, but nothing that couldn't be managed with tennis shoes. I wore a windbreaker and a sweater for warmth.  It didn't reach into the 50's this day.  A cool 42 degrees was what my car thermometer reported as I started.  Needless to say, my water stayed cold. This walk was about a mile and a half one way.  A trail map can be found HERE.

Interpretive Materials explains the plight of the endangered mouse
I had known about the Preble's Meadow Jumping Mouse from when I lived here before.  In Douglas County, they have set aside special places for the species to thrive and have worked to protect the mouse and its habitat from development.  Discovered in 1899 by Edward A. Preble, in 1995 it was listed as endangered from creek erosion, non-stop commercial and residential construction, trail building, pollution and the highways.  What I learned here today was how CDOT (Colorado's Department Of Transportation) took up the problem and helped design and build the trail, and recondition the land and creek around the roads to better serve the mouse.  It looks like the rodent and river population may have improved since the work was completed.  Read HERE about the PMJM and the endangered species act.  The mouse still remains endangered due to development along the Colorado and Wyoming front range.  Further studies will show how we can continue to coexist with nature.

Castle Rock continues to impress me with their trail signage.  Turn left here
The trail continues under the I-25 bridge.  Note the rock structures added to the right to protect the town during floods
The trail passes the high bank on the west side of Plum Creek
Here it gets noisy, walking along the side of the Interstate highway
The shadow of the 5th street bridge keeps the snow from melting
The beaver have built a few dams along the creek.  A good thing!
Wall painting supporting Project Recycle, a group who gathers used bicycles and reconditions them for free
Wolfensberger Bridge and exit at Castle Rock.  My turn-around point for today.
Just north of here the trail turns away from the noise of the Interstate
I continued north along the trail which now is just below the level of the Interstate and is only 30 to 70 feet away.  To say it is loud is an understatement.  I know there is little they can do to lower the whoosh and roar of noise from the traffic and trucks on I-25.  I closed my mind to the noise and continued along.  The roar decreased a bit with more room and trees between us.  I know the trail and Interstate turn away from each other just north of Wolfensberger Road and the noise level just drops and becomes peaceful again.  If you are bicycling this area, the noise may not be as bothersome to you.  If you prefer hiking in nature, just know the sounds get better the farther you hike away from the Interstate.
As for the Preble's Meadow Jumping Mouse, the nocturnal animal won't be bothered by the noise along here during the reduced traffic at night.
The retaining wall near the Wolfensberger Road bridge is hand painted with signs about Project Recycle.  It is a group that collects used bicycles and reconditions them for free.  These bicycles are given locally and are shipped around the world.  I volunteer there occasionally as a bicycle mechanic.
To get to today's hike, from I-25, take exit #181 onto Plum Creek Parkway.  Turn left and cross Wilcox Street, then take the next left and park in the Safeway parking lot.  The trail entrance is just across Perry Street and to the left of the store.  Other trail heads with official parking are located at Meadows Parkway and Festival Park in Castle Rock.

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