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

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

Denver Botanical Gardens Trail of Lights

One of my favorite holiday pastimes is to grab a mug of hot chocolate, drive around the neighborhoods and check out all the creative light displays.

As I was driving home on C470 last night, I saw a huge display of lights so of course I had to go check it out. It was one of the Denver Botanical Gardens Trail of Lights displays. This one was at Chatfield which brings you over 1 million twinkling lights that illuminate a winding path through the Colorado countryside.

The temp gauge in the car said it was 25 degrees outside. That’s going to be cold, but that’s why I have a jacket, gloves and a hat. With a light snow falling and the cold weather, it was the perfect setting to enjoy the display. It wasn’t crowded, but there was a steady stream of people strolling in to enjoy the scenery.

As I walked in, I was amazed at how all the trees were uniquely decorated.  There was a fire pit and hot chocolate stop to warm you up before you embarked on the trails. There are two trails; a long and short one. I took the long one so I could see all the lights.

There are displays all along the trail, even in spots you don’t expect, like the frozen creek. I particularly liked how the pedestrian bridges were decorated.  About midway through there is a warming hut. That was a welcome stop! Sometimes you when go inside to get warm and you still feel a bit of chill. Not in here, it was completely toasty!!

Continuing along, I had to admire their creativity and how they installed the lights up so high and in such nice designs. I know stringing lights around my home and fence is enough of an adventure.

It was a fun walk and I made my way around more than once to be sure I saw everything. There is also a small ice skating rink near the entrance which several kids enjoyed. When you go, dress warm and prepare for a nice stroll through some creative light displays.

There are two displays one at 10th and York Street and the other at Wadsworth and C470, which is where I went. The displays run nightly till Jan 1st  from 5:30pm – 9:30pm. For more information:

http://www.botanicgardens.org/events-exhibits/special-events/trail-of-lights

Grand Canyon serenity

I walked across the parking lot, past the hordes of friendly tourists and down the dusty trail. Each step took me further from the noise above. One switchback later, it was all gone! No more noise from civilization. All I heard was the crunch of the ground under my hiking boots. As I continued down the trail, the views became grander and grander. 

I stopped at one outcropping and all I could hear was the deafening silence. It was very odd, yet very welcome. Shortly after a gentle breeze blew through and large raven effortlessly glided over head.

This is the Grand Canyon that I love! The wide open spaces, the sound of silence. It’s a wonderful place to recharge the soul.  The trail I was walking on left from one of the parking lot overlooks so it was very convenient. Just make sure to carry water, even if you’re going for a short distance. It’s very easy going down, but coming up takes twice as long and twice the effort.

When you go the Grand Canyon, enjoy the beautiful visitor center and all the history, but make sure to visit the trails less traveled.  Take time to connect with the soul of the Grand Canyon and you’ll connect with yours too.

More photos here:

http://www.peakreflectionsphotography.com/gallery/23239319_tR4cz7#!i=1874016754&k=t3LLV8V

Video here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sNb4ry2n1pE&feature=plcp