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.

Friday, November 6, 2015

New Hiking Shoes

Merrill Moab Ventilator in Walnut
My Montrail Mountain Masochist shoes have finally failed, after wearing them daily for over a year. They both lean to the outside and have lost support around the arch. I have not hiked in them since they failed, because they hurt my feet too much. They also failed very quickly over a couple weeks. 
I didn't buy another pair of Montrails because this is the second pair I have owned. My first pair wore out the same way in less than 3 months and I returned them to the company. Montrail kindly replaced them immediately and I have worn them almost daily for about 14 months. I'm sure the first pair was a manufacturing problem, but at over $100 per pair, I don't feel I can justify buying another set. Other, more serious hikers have also reported similar problems where the Montrail shoes wore out prematurely.
My new shoes are my old shoes: Merrill Moab Ventilators in a nice outdoor-friendly Walnut color.  I wore these shoes for 2 years in Florida and loved them until they wore out (I tend to do that to my shoes). I like the way the soles gripped the earth, logs, stones and moss without slipping. They were a little too short once my feet swelled up when hiking, so my new pair is one half a size larger. I tried them on a couple weeks ago to make sure they still fit and they do. I tried on Solomon's too, but prefer the Merrill's.
They will work great as casual walkers and as my main hiking shoes once the weather warms up and the snow is gone in spring. They too will wear out as all other shoes do, just maybe not until I have hiked in them over a year or so. I didn't get the waterproof shoes as those are too hot for me. 
I have also been busy lately moving into a new place, getting accustomed to my new job and spending time enjoying the Colorado outdoors with my wife. I plan on getting outside this winter as much as I can, whether bicycling, hiking, backpacking, snowshoeing or taking road trips. My new Merrill shoes will help with all this.