North Table Mountain Park

I wanted to squeeze in one more hike for the day, but it was already 2pm so it had to be something close. As I sat in the parking lot looking at the mesa in front of me, I noticed a trail. That’s what I love about mountainous areas; you can usually see a road or trail from below and then find your way to it.

This one was really easy to find. It’s the North Table Mesa trail and it’s just North of Golden, Colorado on Highway 93. This isn’t your usual hiking trail that has a variety of terrain. The trail starts in the parking lot and is an ascent all the way.

It looks and feels steep while walking, but it was easily managed even with a covering of packed snow. I enjoyed the mountain bikers riding down for a bit and then turning off onto a trail that went into town.

I took a few breaks along the way and it was fun to turn around and see the view. Often when hiking, I’m so focused on what’s ahead, I forget the surrounding scenery. I don’t remember the exact distance, but it was less than a mile to the top so it doesn’t take long to walk up there.

DSC_0848sOnce at the top you can see the city of Denver to the East and Golden to the West. The top is fun because there are other trails to explore and the one above the rock climbing area is very scenic. The north side of the mountain had a herd of deer grazing and they were oblivious to all the people.

I followed the trails east for a bit and then headed back to the rock climbing area. Daylight was going fast so I didn’t want to go too far. I would love to go back early in the morning and explore the entire area. My guess is that it’d be an interesting place to watch the sunrise.

You’d see the silhouette of the city against the sunrise to the east and the mountains to the west would glow as the sun bathed them. That’s my guess anyway. I’ll put that on my ever growing list of things to do.

It was a fun short hike to end the day with ample opportunities to return and explore again.  For maps and current info:

http://jeffco.us/openspace/openspace_T56_R28.htm

Corn Maze fun…at night

It had been one of those cerebral days, aka: too much thinking. I called my friend and said it’s time to do something more fun with our mind, let’s do a corn maze…at night.

This will probably sound obvious, but just to keep everyone on the same page: a corn maze is a field of corn that the owners plow paths through in the form of a maze.  Just like a normal maze, the corn maze has dead ends, paths and often specific designs. If viewed from the air, it’d probably look similar to a crop circle.

I’ve wandered through ones in North Carolina and the corn was so tall you couldn’t see over it which makes it very challenging.  Here in the Florida winter, I wasn’t sure how high the corn would be, so I knew the night time option would be best. Plus, being outside and wandering around under the stars is just the ticket.

The corn maze covers seven acres and is located at D&D U Pick Family Farms in Palm City which is one of the largest UPick-em farms on the Treasure Coast of Florida.  We had to watch a video that described the different features of the corn maze including word games, educational games and the most important: a red gel holder that reveals the map on the flyer. The map is hidden with that funky ink (technical term, I know) that you can only see with a red light.

We had to bring our own flashlights so I brought  “man” flashlights; two Eveready tactical LED flashlights which have blue, red, white and infrared beams.  Did you catch I had a red light? You know what I’m about to say next…..I took the red light, shined it on the flyer and voila! The map of the maze was revealed!

The kids next to us thought it was the coolest thing ever, so we let them borrow one of my flashlights. They just loved playing with all the different LEDS and exposing the map. If you want to add some excitement to your adventure, just add a couple of kids. Especially when they’re not yours!!

The parents politely told us we didn’t have to stay with them, but they were fun to lead us around.  Nothing like child- like wonder to remind you to have fun.

It was a perfect night to be outside; cool and crystal clear with the sky dotted by stars and the familiar constellations.  It was fun to go where you think you should and then figure out where you really are. Oops! How’d we get over here?

At one point we crossed a bridge that had a view of the entire maze. It was pitch dark and you’d see little beams of light around from other people all over the maze.  With seven acres to explore, sometimes those lights were way out there.

We found our way out and said good bye to the kids and parents, but the adventure continued. As we walked back, there was another maze that we just had to do.

It was the fortune maze and the objective was to find the five different color stations. At each station, dip a different finger, from the same hand into a color. Once you had all five fingers colored, exit the maze and match the colors to see your fortune.

This maze was smaller in size and a little easier, but we still found a couple of dead ends. For me, the hardest part was matching my finger colors to the pictures on the board. Five fingers with five different color combinations was quite a selection to choose just one match.

One of the guides who had stopped to give us a ride made it easy; start with your thumb color and then work it backward.  My fortune was friendship comes easy to you. That works, I’ll take it.

We definitely enjoyed exploring the corn maze at night because of the mild challenge and being out under the stars. Next time you get a chance, check out a corn maze and enjoy a family fun way to enjoy the outdoors.

Here’s more info for D & D Family Farms:

http://www.danddfamilyfarms.com/maze.php

White Ranch Park

Ever had the feeling that you just wanted to be outside? Doesn’t matter where, just get outside. That’s the feeling I had! It was a sunny winter day and I just wanted to go hiking, like right now.  Sure, an hour or so in the car would yield me some spectacular views, but I wasn’t up for that much windshield time.

I found the perfect place about half an hour away; White Ranch park.  It is conveniently located on the outskirts of Golden Colorado and easily accessed via North Highway 93.  Take a left at the big brown sign, head west for a couple of miles on a two lane road. The road ends in a T intersection and the park is on your right.

At first glance, the trail doesn’t appear to be that secluded. There are a couple of large homes immediately visible from the trail head. I figured if it went past the homes and up into the mountains behind, it’d be a nice hike.

Initially, the trail follows a fence, crosses a road and then enters private property. Here the trail begins to become less civilized as it meanders through boulders and under trees. To the left, there were several beautiful horses hanging out in their fenced area. They were privately owned, but I enjoy seeing animals of all types.

Past that area, the trail exits private property and takes on the rustic aspect I was looking for. Covered in a few inches of snow, the trail was still easily hike able and I encountered many people enjoying the beautiful day.  It may sound snowy and cold but it wasn’t.  The sun was out and I was plenty warm in a pair of jeans, wool socks, hiking boots, two long sleeve winter shirts, a coat and gloves.

As I made my way up the trail, a hawk silently soared overhead. I can only imagine the view he was enjoying!   The trail continued to ascend up the mountain and the further I went the more serene and scenic it became.

At one point, I found a big rock near the trail and just sat there enjoying the warm sun. All I could here was silence. Occasionally I’d hear a fellow hiker wander by or the wind blow through the trees, but more often it was just the sound of silence. If you’ve ever heard that, it’s really an odd but comforting feeling.

I made my way up the trail for about an hour or so and then decided to turn around. I could’ve hiked all day, but I was getting hungry for more than just trail mix so I turned around and enjoyed a different view. That’s the fun thing about hiking in the mountains; the views are different each direction.

Next time you’re in the Golden, Colorado area, check out this easy hike. More info is here:

http://jeffco.us/openspace/openspace_T56_R57.htm