A Few Colorado Hikes

We’ve been really slacking with documenting our time in Colorado. I don’t know if it’s a result of all the traveling we’ve been doing, wedding planning, burn out, general ambivalence towards our time here, or a combination of all of the above. Let’s remedy that, shall we?

Table Mountain

Table Mountain, located in Golden, was one of our very first hikes in Colorado. We wanted something a little easier since we hadn’t acclimated to the altitude yet and this was a great option. There are a couple of trails that wind up to the “table”/mesa but we got a bit lost since they weren’t very well marked. This was extremely climber-friendly and we saw more than a few people scaling the sides of the cliffs.

When we finally scrambled to the top the views were amazing. You could see all of Golden Denver in the distance, and mountains galore to the west. It’s one of the closer hikes we’ve done and relatively easy; perfect for a quick day trip.

Golden Gate Canyon State Park

The park so nice, we went twice. Golden Gate Canyon State Park is an easy 45 minute drive west of Denver, slightly northwest of Golden. It’s a large park covered in trails and feels like an outdoorsman’s playground. Despite it’s close proximity to Denver and Golden, the trails we hiked were relatively untraveled.

WP_20160515_11_20_06_Pro

Our first trip here we hiked the Burro Trail up to Windy Peak for a total of 6-7 miles. All of the hiking here is uphill so even a moderate trail can feel quite strenuous. The top of the trail was still a bit snow-covered but not too bad that we couldn’t navigate. As we reached the top, a storm rolled in (not uncommon for Colorado afternoons), so we snapped a few quick pictures and quickly made our way back to the tree cover. We were welcomed by a crazy hail storm that left us soaking and Snickers more than a little worried. It passed quickly and we took the east loop back to the parking lot.

Matt and Snickers came back for another round while Beth was on vacation. They did the Beaver Trail to Slough Pond and really enjoyed it.

Staunton State Park

Staunton State Park is located southwest of Denver; the drive takes you through Red Rocks and winds into the foothills. This is Colorado’s newest state park – it opened in 2013. The terrain was quite a bit different than other trails we’ve experienced. We hiked the Mason Creek Trail (4.5 miles) to the Old Mill Trail (0.9 miles) and finished on the Staunton Ranch Trail (2.5 miles).

The trail climbs gradually, but enough to get your heart rate up since it’s at 8,000-9,000 ft elevation. It would be great for trail running if you’re acclimated to the altitude. It goes through meadows, rocky outcroppings, and forested areas giving a nice variety of scenery. At the intersection of Mason Creek and Old Mill there’s (as the name would suggest) an old mill; it’s falling down but it’s neat to see and is also a good spot to rest for a minute.

The Mason Creek Trail was not very crowded, even on a weekend, but the Staunton Ranch Trail had a lot of foot traffic; it’s the main trail running through the middle of the park. Overall, it wasn’t an overly strenuous hike but was very enjoyable. Any hike that wears out Snickers gets four paws up.

IMG_5839

Eldorado Canyon State Park

Beth and Snickers headed up here on a hot Sunday while Matt was enjoying his bachelor party in Canada. This is a large, busy park just south of Boulder. A word of advice: if you’re going here, go early! We went around 10:30 and were the last car they allowed into the park; you can still get in but you’ll have to park down the road and come in by foot.

IMG_6207

We did the Eldorado Canyon Trail, which is a 3.5 mile out and back trail for a total of 7 miles. The first mile was very crowded, but it thinned out pretty quickly and we didn’t pass a single person on the last mile out or back. Colorado trails are all pretty rocky and don’t offer much shade; the sun is hot so we made sure to drink lots of water and lather up with sunscreen (Beth not Snickers). The first 2 miles of the trail climb up to a peak overlooking the valley below. This is totally worth the hike and most people turn around here, but if you’ve got it in you, I highly recommend finishing the entire thing.

After you reach the summit, the trail winds down for the remaining 1.5 miles – we almost backed out since I knew that going down meant we also had to go back up. This is on the backside of the mountain and offers a little more shade. Once it gets to bottom, you can hear the waters of South Boulder Creek. Go about 1/8 mile to the left and you’ll come to a bridge over the rushing water and see the creek cutting through the mountains. This made the extra distance totally worth it. Snickers cooled off in a side stream before we did the 3.5 miles in reverse.

First 14er of 2016 – Grays Peak, East Side hike

We wanted to get out for a _real_ Colorado mountain hike before the wedding, and in our minds that means doing a 14er (a 14,000+ ft peak).  There are many options, few within close-ish proximity to Denver, but one of them is Grays Peak–on that note I wanted to give a shoutout to a great website, 14ers.com, that has more information than you can shake a stick at around hiking in Colorado mountains.  This trip is a 8 mile round-trip in which you can actually hit TWO 14ers, Grays and Torreys.  We planned on doing both, but by the time we hit Grays we were DONE.

Perhaps the best tip about hiking a 14er is Start early!  This means boots on the trail around 5am.  The main reason is to avoid summer lightning storms, which frequently occurs without warning in summer afternoons.  You don’t want to be stuck above the tree line during one of these.  Not to mention the sun can be brutally hot during the day.  Note that even at 5am you are going to be in the middle of pack of people–I believe there were literally a thousand people hiking by the time we finished at 10am.

We drove to the basecamp on Saturday night to sleep and make the early start.  There were so many campsites and vehicles by the time we got there, but the next day there were hundreds.  We did stop for dinner on our way to Grays at Georgetown, CO at a delicious Mexican restaurant that was started by who else but a Minnesotan.  Cute little town.

We slept in the Forester and it was not so much sleeping, but moving around uncomfortably all night waiting for 4:30am so we could start hiking.  We heard cars rolling in as early as 3:30am.  The start of the hike is through beautiful mountain meadows, with wildflowers and rolling streams, flanked on both sides by tall, granite peaks.  Absolutely picture-perfect Colorado mountain valley.

WP_20160710_06_29_25_Pro
Morning hike in the Valley to Grays Peak

Beth and Snickers were doing great on the way up, but I am pretty sensitive to the altitude; I was feeling pretty green- nauseous, light-headed, and oh so wore out.  It was GRUELING!  Check out our Grays Peak Garmin tracks–we did 2,880 ft of gain, most of it during the last half of the uphill portion of the hike.  There were plenty of people in the same boat as me, we passed quite a few, then quite a few others passed us.  It was like a highway out there.

https://connect.garmin.com/activity/embed/1251459528

The relief we felt when we hit the top was palpable.  The thing that kept me going was thinking of going down!  🙂  However, the vista at the top was fantastic.  See the pics below, but everyone seemed to be in the same place as us.  As warm as it was hiking in the sun, the top was cold and windy!

WP_20160710_08_34_15_Pro

We really made up time heading back down the mountain.  That’s not to say it was easy- it seemed so much longer going down.  Gotta say, the down is when trekking poles really earn their keep.  A few miles down my legs get wobbly and the rocks give more often beneath my feet.  By 10am we were back at the car, a 25 min drive 3 miles down the car-lined (yes a 3 mile line of cars!!) and we were back on I-70.  The Forester handled it well, but it’s worth noting that we saw some car with less clearance had hit a rock hard and was leaking SOMETHING all the way down–not sure if they even knew it since we didn’t see them on the side of the road.  We were back home before noon and eating pizza and breadsticks as a reward not more than 30 min later.  It was a well-deserved afternoon nap.

 

 

Monthly Food + Beer Pairing – June 2016

Beth and I have been doing a monthly monthly food and beer pairing for a year and a half now.  The pairing is suggested from an Etsy calendar that really has no authority on beer or food, but it is fun and delicious to try it out!

June 2016 is Saison + Picnic.  We choose to interpret this as a charcuterie plate with cheese pairing!  We are experienced in consuming this topic (can’t turn down a good meat and cheese plate!), and like to experiment with a variety of meat and cheese styles and flavors.  This one is composed of the following, in no particular order:

  • Crooked Stave, Vieille Artisanal Saison, Colorado
  • Trinity Brewing Company, Mr. Saison, Colorado
  • Olli Molisana Pepper+Garlic Salame
  • Creminelli Barolo Red Wine Salame
  • La Quercia NDuija Spicy Prosciutto Spread
  • Fontina Fontal, Italy
  • Taleggio, France
  • Cambozola Triple Cream Blue cheese, Germany
  • Apricot Preserves
WP_20160708_18_18_04_Pro
June 2016, Saison + Picnic

We are not experts at arranging these plates, but we followed a few ideas:

  1. Include a range and variety of cheese milk types, flavors and textures- we included the soft taleggio, resilient fontina, and sharp blue.  The taleggio was a bit earthy, the fontina a delicious mild cheddar flavor, and the blue very sharp and funky.
  2. Choose a variety of meats- we stuck with some classics salamis that were spicy (Olli) and tangy (Crminelli) and also wanted to try something different (Prosciutto spread).  Both the salamis were as expected, but the spread I would pass on- a strong cayenne flavor that overpowered it.
  3. Include a sweet jam or jelly with it- we chose the Apricot Preserves since we had used it in a Ham+Chevre sandwhich earlier in the week. 😉

Bottom’s up!