Monday, September 10, 2012

South Boulder Peak - A hike I won't forget

Sometimes there are hikes that are nothing more than just that, hikes. Then there are hikes that stick in your mind and go down as ones that you won't forget. South Boulder Peak is one of them.

The day after hiking Hanging Lake and the Maroon Bells, my friend Chad and I met up once again and headed towards Boulder, Colorado, to hike South Boulder Peak. I've never really been a fan of Boulder, for no reason in particular, but headed there with an open mind. It was a quick car ride and offered nothing more to see than roads and foothills with the occasional cyclist pedaling along next to our vehicle.

We arrived at the South Mesa trail head around 11:00am. A late start but as the saying goes, "better late than never". Finding a parking spot was challenging but not impossible. There were numerous other vehicles and people there to hike the same as well as other nearby trails.

While entering the trail head we noticed a posted sign informing hikers that the top of South Boulder Peak had been closed off due to a fire earlier on in the season. After reading numerous online reviews about South Boulder Peak and the views that it offered we were to eager to check it out and made the decision to go as far as we could before having to turn back. We had high hopes that the sign no longer applied and might just have been forgotten about. Willing to test our luck we continued on.

I have to admit that the first section of the trail left me a little dissapointed. With the city in our view and the lack of trees it seemed as though it was going to be nothing but a simple hike near the city. I remained optimistic and pressed on.

After progressing through the open trail we came to a section that was surrounded by trees and plenty of green shrubbery. It was a pleasant sight to see and eased my disappointment.

 A short time later we finally entered into the mountain portion of the hike. Immediately I knew that we were in for a good hike. The trees offered a great amount of shade from the sun and the trail was covered in rocks both large a small requiring the use of hands in a few sections. I love the challenge of climbing through rocks, however, there is always the fear of one small slip leading to a painful ankle sprain or worse, a broken ankle. I've always preferred hiking shoes over boots thus leaving little to no ankle support, yikes!

The amount of rocks made it difficult at times to distinguish where the trail continued. But, this was yet another challenge that I was up for. We navigated our way through a makeshift trail and made our way up the mountain and reached the beginning section of the burn scar area. It was at this moment that the hike would forever stick in my mind and go down as one that I wouldn't forget. It was a sad sight to see. I can't even begin to imagine what the waldo canyon fire aftermath looks like. This moment was an eye opener for me and made me realize how much I appreciate the forest. I was glad to see it as it made me realize how much we take advantage of the beauty that surrounds us, especially in Colorado.

 As we continued up the mountain the burn area became more prominent. The ground was getting soft and was covered in black soot. I was happy to see that despite that massive effect it had on all of the trees there were signs of vegetation growing back, slowly but surely.

After pausing to soak up the moment we finally reached the summit of South Boulder Peak. And, as the reviews had stated, that view was quite spectacular. With a great view of the city to the east and a view of the mountains to the west, it was worth it!

View from the summit

Happy that we made the decision to hike to the top and covered up to our knees in soot, we took several photos, ate a snack and then made our way back down the mountain.

South Boulder Peak was both a challenging and rewarding hike. I left that day with a greater appreciation towards mother nature and the beauty that it beholds. I'd love to return when it reopens and experience it at its full glory.

Here's to you South Boulder Peak, cheers!!!

No 14er but an excellent hike! Part 2 of 2

After hiking Hanging Lake we headed towards Aspen, Colorado.

"Some place warm, a place where the beer flows like wine, where beautiful women instinctively flock like the sound of Capistrano. I'm talking about a little place called ASSSSSPEN!"

Ok, sorry, I had to get that out of my system......

It was a long drive, about an hour or so, from Hanging Lake, Glenwood Springs, Colorado, to The Maroon Bells, Aspen, Colorado.  As we approached the forest entrance we were informed that we would have to turn around, head back towards the town, and catch a shuttle back up as the park didn't allow personal vehicles to enter between the hours of 9am-5pm.

Reluctant to catch the shuttle and with time to spare we made our way to the nearby ghost town of Independence, Colorado.

  In case you can't read it....

"Founded July 4, 1979 when gold was discovered, Independence was the first community in the Roaring Fork Valley. A thriving mining camp, stagecoach and layover stop for all travel across Hunter's Pass, it became a ghost town in the late 1800's when trains came into Aspen and the gold played out.

In 1980, the Aspen Historical Society, in cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service, began reservation efforts to retain Independence for future generations."
                                                     - Aspen Historical Society

We spent some time meandering about the area snapping photos of the deserted buildings and surrounding mountains. Although there wasn't much to see it was still quite a sight to see nonetheless. The history behind the town of Independence itself makes it worth visiting if you're in the area.

 It was about 4:30pm when we left Independence and headed back towards the forest entrance to the Maroon Bells. Along the way we made a quick pit stop to fill up on gas, grab some drinks and use the restroom. We arrived at the forest entrance just after 5:00pm, proceeded in and parked in a parking lot located adjacent to the trail head of the Maroon Bells lake.

We followed the path towards the lake and were immediately surrounded by massive mountains on all sides of us. The mountains offered some spectacular views of high peaks and vibrant colors of green and yellow.

Continuing on our way we reached the lake and was met with the view of the Maroon Bells just off in the distance. It was an amazing sight to see! It was difficult to capture some good photos as the sun had just set behind the the Maroon Bells as we had arrived.

We continued on our way through the trail and eventually entered into an area covered by numerous trees. We stopped to take some photos as the aspen trees offered some great colors worth photographing.

Because the sun was starting to set and we failed to bring headlamps with us we turned back and headed towards the lake. While reaching the lake we had the pleasure of setting our sights on three moose, two female and one male. We took a few moments to observe and take some photos.

It was quite peaceful watching the moose go about their business. And, what more perfect setting could you ask for!? It was a great ending to an excellent trip. The Maroon Bells are a spectacular sight to see! I can't wait to return and see them capped in snow. Another hike that I recommend for anyone.

No 14er but an excellent hike! Part 1 of 2

Hanging Lake has always been a hike that I have heard much about but have never experienced myself. I've seen numerous photos and have always been fascinated by it. I originally had planned on hiking Mt. Bierstadt on September 9, 2012, but couldn't pass up the opportunity to hike Hanging Lake when asked to by my good friends Chad and Kevin. It was another perfect day for a hike. The sun was shinning and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. We arrived at the parking lot at around 10am, threw on our camelbaks, and began making our way towards the trail. From the parking lot it started with a brief hike on a paved sidewalk along a river eventually connecting to the main trail head.

Kevin, Jack & Chad

We continued on our way stopping to take a few photos here and there.The trail didn't offer too much in terms of scenery nothing more than your normal dirt, rocks and trees. The trees did offer a great amount of shade from the sun.

 A nice addition to the trail was a small stream of water that sat along side the trail.

After making our way up the trail we finally reached the stairs that would ultimately lead us to our final destination.

After making our way up the stairs we continued along a short wooden path towards Hanging Lake. Although the hike up didn't offer much in terms of scenery our final destination made every step of the way worth it. The view of the lake was amazing! When people ask me if this place is as beautiful as people make it out to be the answer is YES!!!!

Hanging Lake is a beautiful place and an excellent hike! I'd recommend it for anyone, friends, family, kids, etc...While at Hanging Lake, hikers have the option to continue hiking up towards Spouting Rock. This is also a great sight to see. It is a brief hike with an excellent view of a waterfall that shoots out of the rocks above.

This was a fantastic hike! I'm sad to say that after 27 years of living in Colorado it had taken me this long to get up there. It is a MUST hike for anyone.

After returning to our vehicle we were back on the road headed towards Aspen, Colorado, for our trip to The Maroon Bells (No 14er but an excellent hike! Part 2 of 2).