Thursday, June 25, 2015

Get Out There: Mount Herman

Not every experience is stellar, this is one of those not so stellar trails. This post might sound sanctimonious; I don’t mean for it to be, I just want to share my honest thoughts.

It is different here. For the most part, Dustin and I stayed in a Northern Colorado bubble for our first several years here. We ventured out of that bubble a few times, but when we did venture out, it was mostly west, and hardly ever south. I am not complaining about that; each of our trips has given us a lot of happy memories. Instead, I am pointing out the fact I was a little na├»ve about what I might find in other areas of the state. This area is a whole ‘nother animal.

Like anything, there are positives and negatives. Our views off our deck are incredible; we have gold medal streams in every direction; less than three miles from our place is two reservoirs full of brook trout; and, finally, Dustin can archery hunt close to home. Perhaps it is just the uncomfortable, newbie thing going on; maybe I just need to seek out places further off the beaten path, but my first few hikes and ventures into the Springs have me so ready to get back north of I-70.

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While Spruce Mountain was great, Mount Herman…not so much. Your worst thoughts about USFS land come to life here. The “No Shooting” signs rife with bullet holes serve as a perfect metaphor for this area off of Mount Herman road. Graffiti covered rocks, eroded switch back cuts, broken glass bottles, scattered trash, and torn down trail signs are some of things that overshadowed the beauty of nature that Drake and I sought that day. Positive note: we found a geocache, but left it for the next person since we haven’t taken up the hobby just yet. The hike itself is short with spectacular views at the top; it is also only a stone’s throw from town. Perhaps this is the reason for the “well worn” condition of the trail.

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I also have yet to become appreciative of the different vegetation, lack of water, and geologic features found here. While I know I am incredibly lucky to live where I do, I find myself missing the magic of the forests found in RMNP, Poudre Canyon, Rawah, Indian Peaks, and James Peak Wilderness. I find myself nostalgic for the smells and sights of those forests and my beloved glacier carved peaks. It could just boil down to the fact that I really miss the water! I am not accustomed to hiking a trail with ZERO water. The urge to return north of I-70 this weekend is strong, but I am committed to exploring and coming to appreciate our new area. Change is hard, but is also an adventure.

Bottom line on Mount Herman, if you can overlook all the trash and whatnot, head up for the views! The Springs sprawls out to the south, and the Palmer Divide sticks out like a finger to the northeast. The trail was hard to follow in several spots. In all of those spots, however, were cairns. Follow the cairns to the top! 

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-Stephanie

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Getting Out There: Spruce Mountain Open Space

Confession: This year has been less than stellar. My head feels as if it is in mixing bowl, banging repeatedly on the sides of with only the humming of a stand mixer motor in my ears. It has been chaos, and I have been surly. There never seemed to be enough hours in the day, something always needed my immediate attention, not a second to just breathe. Life is just messy and frustrating sometimes. I could sugar coat it, and turn this into just appreciating the little things, but there is no sugar coating; I have been a grumpy bird and life around our house has been a bummer. It has been evident I needed to take a moment to find clarity, but instead I just chose to be irritable. I guess you could say I don’t do change well. I need to improve on that.
We’ve been in the new place for a month, and we have yet to enjoy any of our new area save for a couple hour jaunt to the town’s reservoirs. Quite the change from the last big move; I went exploring RMNP the first few days after we arrived. This move was slower, and more stressful. Ah, the joys of being a family instead of just a couple…

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Last week I decided something has to give; Dustin and Drake don’t deserve my sour attitude, nor do I. Last year by this time, Drake and I had a lot of miles on the hiking boots. This year, we had less than five miles. Hmmm…I wonder if this contributed to the funk?! I believe it has, and was overjoyed to finally get out and do a little reconnecting.

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Spruce Mountain Open Space is about 3 miles from our front door. There are several trail options from the parking lot. Spruce Mountain is a mesa, meaning the top is wonderfully flat. This makes it a very easy hike with incredible views. The first 1.6 miles was a moderate climb through a series of switchbacks surrounded by Douglas Fir and Ponderosa Pine. Once we reached the top loop, the hike was relatively flat, with several opportunities to go out onto rock outcroppings and take in the sweeping views. Wildlflowers were all along the trail; I expect it to be really popping with color in a week or two.

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When we arrived, there were only two cars in the parking lot, but when we left the parking lot was nearly full. We saw about ten people on the trail. I’m guessing this is a pretty busy area on the weekends. The only drawback of the trail was dodging all the horse poop. There was a lot!

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On the way up, we went around the north side of the mountain. Familiar peaks seemed to be calling to me, “come home…come home”. I felt a little ache in my heart as I Drake and stopped at Pennock’s Point and gazed upon Long’s Peak. After having a little snack, we continued up to meet the loop trail. As we arrived at Windy Point, Pikes Peak and the Rampart Range seemed to say, “Welcome! Give us a chance”. I had to laugh at the irony: the past on the way up, the future on the way down.

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Until next time,
Stephanie