Friday, May 20, 2016

Running Water on Hidden Mesa Open Space Trail

On a warm Spring day recently I walked the Hidden Mesa Open Space Trail near Castle Rock. This is one of my favorite local trails.  It connects to the Cherry Creek bicycle trail to the east and is usually peaceful with few walkers, runners, bicyclists and horseback riders on a weekday.

The freshly washed trees
Rock Split beside the trail
I was wearing a T-shirt, it was that warm.  The temperature bounces up and down in the Colorado Spring, it was snowing just a few days ago. The breeze was light and cool, bird song was everywhere and water was pooled in places I had never seen before. It took some dancing around to keep my feet dry. Flowers were begiining to sprout and bloom.

And then I heard a sound I had never heard here before. The sound of running water!
On the east side along the trail, there are a few drainages, and in one, water was flowing over a cliff, creating a small waterfall. It was a small flow but was music to my ears!!!  From all my years hiking and backpacking back east I had forgotten how much I miss the sound of running water along a trail. How soothing it is. How well it blends with birdsong and the wind.

I know the next time I visit Hidden Mesa all the water will have run off the mesa or evaporated into the air. I do know I will never forget the feeling of hearing running water in a dry place.

Friday, May 13, 2016

New Hikes

From Windy Point On Spruce Mountain, Looking South.
With Spring (mostly) in the air, it is time to find some good walks within an hours drive of Castle Rock, so I can get out and build up some trail-ready cardio and get some badly needed vitamin D. I used here to provide the links and routes.
On each hike I carry water and food, my ultralight day pack, wear a wide brimmed hat and carry a walking pole. I also cover up with long sleeves and wear sun screen. The 10 Essentials are always with me.
The Mount Herman Trail is a 2.2 mile out & back trail, rated moderate that includes some beautiful wildflowers and a healthy climb. The trail is lightly used. You can reach Monument Rock from here. The Trailhead is located along Mt. Herman road, about 5 miles west of Monument, CO which is off exit #161 on I-25.  Drive west through town on 2nd Street, turning left onto Mitchell Road, then right onto Mount Herman Road. Mount Herman Trailhead is on your left at Nursery Road. For a cool almost-all-day mountain drive, head West on Mount Herman Road in your 4-wheel drive vehicle to Rampart Range Road, then turn right and follow back North to Highway 67, turn right to Sedalia.
Dawson Butte Ranch Open Space Trail is a 4.9 mile well-signed loop trail that runs through flowers, meadow and forest. It is situated east of Highway 105 and has some traffic noise from Tomah Road and surrounding properties. Dogs must be on a leash. This is a good loop trail to repeat for 10 or 15 miles if you are in trail-training mode. The elevation gain is moderate. Wear your backpack and bring lots of water. Getting there is easy, take exit #181 from I-25 onto Plum Creek Parkway and follow the west frontage road south beside I-25 to Tomah Road. Turn east and follow to the top of the ridge, Dawson Butte Trailhead is on your right.
Spruce Mountain Open Space Trail is one of my favorites. The circular 5.9 mile trail leads you through meadows and over Eagle Mountain Pass in a loop to the west side of Spruce Mountain, then turn left and climb up a steep jeep road to the top of the mountain. Turn right onto the top loop trail and follow around to the trail back down the mountain. Along the way you pass Windy Point, some picnic tables, cool overlooks, then follow the trail back down to your car. This is another good looping trail. Exit I-25 south at #173 for Larkspur. Watch your speed here. Follow Spruce Mountain Road south through town and climb back up to the meadows. Once you pass Noe Road, look for the Spruce Mountain Trailhead on your right.
Lincoln Mountain Open Space Loop is a 4.2 climb to the top of a mesa and back to your car in southern Douglas County. The walk is moderate and it follows through flowered meadows. Last Spring the wildflowers here were awesome! Exit I-25 at #163 and turn left. Drive east to highway 83. Turn left and head north. Turn left onto East Jones Road, follow across Cherry Creek and turn right into the trailhead.
Castlewood Canyon State Park Inner Canyon Loop Trail is a 6 mile moderate trail.  Busy most weekends, this trail is almost empty during weekdays. Dogs must be leashed. Enter the park from highway 86, just west of Franktown, CO. Park at the North Castlewood Canyon Road parking lot inside the park, the second, third or fourth parking area on the left. Follow the access trail east to Cherry Creek, then follow the loop to your right. Climb beside the remains of the historic dam, loop the lake above the dam and return along the climb up to the Rim Rock Trail, dropping back down to cross the creek to return to your start. Watch for rattlesnakes here! Exit I-25 at Castle Rock #184, go left onto highway 86 and follow to the ridge top, where you turn left at a light to continue East along highway 86. Drop down the mesa and look for the right turn just prior to Cherry Creek onto North Castlewood Canyon Road. Follow to the entrance, pay the fee to the ranger and park. The park is open from 8 AM to 7 PM and costs $7 for the daily pass.
I will see you on the trails!

Friday, May 6, 2016

Road Trip - Ludlow Massacre Site

My Road Trip continues from Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site to the Ludlow Massacre Monument.
On April 20th, 1914, Ludlow, Colorado was the site of the Great Coalfield War. With the coal miners on strike for better conditions and the United Mine Workers not yet able to organize them, the coal companies had begun taking pot shots at the miners and families living in their tent cities in an attempt to get them back to work. No one knows who fired the first shots that led to the Ludlow Massacre, but machine gun and rifle fire forced women and children to take refuge below ground where they had dug a pit beneath their tents. Fires broke out in the tent city. By early the next morning, the colony that was once covered with hundreds of tents was now charred rubble. The bodies of two women and 11 children were found huddled beneath one of the burned tents, victims of asphyxiation. In addition, nine other men on both sides and two youngsters were found dead.  The death toll continued for days after in other camps, until Federal Troops moved in to restore order. The strike ended without resolution in December of the same year.
Being a coal miner was a hard, short life. Mostly they lived in squalor, the miners here were paid in company script, not cash. That made them spend the script in high-priced company stores, forced to pay the high rent for company housing.
In 1918, the stone monument was built on the site by the UMW, the town was deserted in the 1950's and the Ludlow site was added to the National Historic Register in 1986. Today, you can walk down a flight of steps into the pit below ground, where I assume, the 13 bodies were found. There is the nice UMW monument here and today, which happens to be the 102nd Anniversary of the Massacre, someone had left flowers on the monument in remembrance. Read the signage outside the fence for more facts about the area.
Otherwise the site is fenced with picnic tables under a roof, there is an old coal car, and a large, empty parking lot. The tent city once covered about 40 acres of the emptiness here. Most of the remains of the community of 1,000 people are now gone.
You can find the town of Ludlow along I-25, 15 miles north of Trinidad at exit 27.
My Road Trip had began today from Trinidad. After a quick visit to the Trinidad Visitor Center temporary office near the Bloom Mansion, it was just a 20 minute drive to Ludlow.  Then I was back on I-25 driving south to Trinidad to begin the Highway of Legends, a loop around the Spanish Peaks on highway 12 and US 160 to Walsenburg, and back north on I-25 to Castle Rock. You can read about the Highway of Legends HERE. I don't typically go visiting massacre sites, but this trip seemed to speak to me, especially in these modern times where life is mostly good. It is a good time to look back and be thankful for what we do have, and to remember those who were often violently taken from us for something we cannot even comprehend today.