Friday, July 3, 2015

Spruce Mountain - Eagle Pass Trail

Columbine - Colorado's State Flower
My early Father's Day hike was on the Eagle Pass Trail at the Spruce Mountain Open Space area south of Larkspur in Douglas County.  The weather was humid for Colorado, with the views washed out by the moisture in the air.  It actually looked like I was hiking in the Smokey Mountains today, not the Rocky Mountains!
I walked for 5.4 miles round trip mostly through the meadow and some forest area.  The start was at the Spruce Mountain trailhead and I walked along the trail without climbing Spruce Mountain by continuing straight instead of turning left.  My goal today was to reach what I was told was a pioneer grave at the end of the trail.  My previous trip to Spruce Mountain is HERE.

Looking back east at the beginning of the trail across to Greenland
The Eagle Pass Trail sign, with the Eagle Mountain Conservation Easement in the background
Closeup of a weathered fence post, note the red flowers in the grass to the right
The trail passes mostly through meadow but also goes in and out of trees along the base of Spruce Mountain.  The pass is the high space between Spruce Mountain and Eagle Mountain.  Though not quite like a "pass" in the mountains at high elevation, it was still the saddle between the two high points along the prairie against the Front Range of the Rockies.

Wildflowers to the left side of the trail near the top of the pass
The view north of Eagle Mountain
The summer wildflowers were out everywhere alongside the trail.  I even saw Columbine, Colorado's state flower growing in the shade of the scrub oaks.  I have only seen this flower growing in the wild twice in the years I lived in Colorado, so it was a little exciting for me.

More wildflowers
And more wildflowers
The "red" in the prairie grass
I continued along the trail enjoying the flowers, the view and the easterly breeze.  The sky was hazy, not a normal condition in Colorado, and the mountain views were washed out.  I only passed a couple hikers and mountain bikers and we all exchanged smiles with quick greetings and continued along. After almost an hour I reached the service road that connects to the trail around the top of Spruce Mountain.

In and out of the trees just past the top of the pass
Downhill into the trees
The view north across the prairie and surrounding farms
Sometimes the grass alongside the trail was almost up to my waist
A sign with the word "Steep" on it in Colorado means a vertical wall
Highway 105 or Perry Park Road, a favorite bicycling route of mine through the park-like valley
When I reached the service road, I turned to the right and followed it downhill a few yards to the next turn off to the right.  I followed that across a field and downhill to cross the dam of a pond, then switched back uphill to a ridge top.  From here I could see Highway 105 and hear the cars.  There were two picnic tables and some benches with a sign pointing the way to a pioneer grave site.  I followed the trail downhill to the overgrown site.  It has been fenced, but the weeds were too high to note any stones or markings.  I did not disturb the grave, but respectfully stayed outside the fenced area.  Maybe a trip to the Douglas County Library's history center will shed some light on who is buried here and when that happened.  A deer watched me from behind some trees.  It was very quiet here. I sat at a picnic table and drank some water, then headed back uphill on my return trip.

Ridge top picnic area
Temporary sign, poor iphone focus
Fenced Pioneer Grave site, an thoughtful Eagle Scout project
Watched by a deer
Turnaround point for the day
The return hike was as peaceful as the way in was.  The open space to the north provided quiet and once past the service road, I could hear no traffic until I was approaching the trailhead.  A hawk flew above and warblers flitted among the scrub oaks and pines.  I only met a couple mountain bikers once past the old service road and a couple hikers near the trailhead.  The sky had darkened a little but there was no rain or thunder along the trail.

That is the Eagle Pass at the break between the trees as seen while descending the ridge
Another temporary sign where the Eagle Pass trail leaves the Service Road
At the meadow shortcut trail on the way back
Meadow shortcut trail view
Finding Spruce Mountain Open Space trailhead is quite easy.  Go south from Denver on I-25 and exit at #173 Larkspur.  Please watch your speed driving through town as they are serious about you driving 25 MPH.  Travel south 6 miles on Spruce Mountain Road.  The trailhead is one mile on the right past Noe Road.  Pets are welcome but must be on a leash.  The trail is open from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset.  No camping is allowed.

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