Colorado: long hike near Estes Park

Saturday … it was time to get out of the house again. Hiking in Colorado is a MUST, obviously.

Kevin had told us that he found a little semi-private trail just in the middle of a residential area, kind of on the way to Estes Park. So we all 6 piled into his car after lunch to go for a hike!

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So I’m not exactly sure how Kevin stumbled across this trail. It is literally deep in a residential neighborhood, tiny little barely marked path off the side of the road across from someone’s house. He says the first time he hiked it, he ran into someone else who said that someone in the neighborhood basically built it, and it loops around.

That’s all we knew. Kevin hadn’t hiked the whole thing, but it looked like it went into a National Forest, so how bad could it be?

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Dogs went off leash almost immediately and LOVED it. Of course.

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At one point we crossed this stream. Someone had bolted boards to the actual boulders in the middle of the stream to make a path.

Kind of amazing.

Also very clear that this was not a government-sanctioned trail :) No way would the powers-that-be allow something like this!

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Up hill, around, across the water, up more hill …. to a look out.

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This pile of boulders and lookout is where Kevin stopped and turned around the last time that he hiked this trail.

We were possibly in the highest spot on the trail, with dark rain clouds moving in from the west. I believe Estes Park and the Rocky Mountains were to the right of us in the photo below.

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We took some time to rest and drink water and just enjoy the beautiful day…

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(and take photos of course)

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After a bit, it was back to hiking.We had gone slightly off the trail to get to the overlook, but we returned, slightly down the hill and kept going. Not far off where we joined the trail again it split off with a fork going toward another pile of boulders. We assumed it was another lookout and chose the other branch …

Which took us deeper into the forest ….

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( a short stop for snacks. Graham crackers turn out to be awesome hiking food )

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We came across this meadow (gorgeous) …. You could *barely* see the trail through all the knee-high plants.

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Eventually, near the bottom of the hill, the trail seemed to hit a road.

It looked like the trail actually just ended, with a small pathway to a dirt road – a ROAD, mind you. Not a trail.

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When Kevin did the hike before, the person he ran into had said that at one point you “lose the trail” for a little bit. So we assumed that’s what this was. We chose the direction on the road that would logically curve back toward where we started and where the car was parked. The very subtle curve we had been following the whole time.

The road was uphill though. And I was getting tired.

I won’t speak for the other 3 – but I was getting tired. We had been hiking about 2 hours by this time.

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And then we went around a little curve in the road and saw a gate blocking the road up ahead.

Um. What?

Walked all the way up to see this ….

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Yea. That says “Trail Ends. Turn Back. No Exceptions”

So that’s awesome.

What choice did we have? So, we turned around and went back the way we came. The whole time keeping our eyes peeled for where the trail may have continued off the road and we missed it.

While we were looking carefully for a trail we found ….. a kill site.

I can’t believe we didn’t take a photo.

We could see some (what we assumed to be) animal bones a little bit down the hill off the side of the road. Kind of a lot. Obviously more than 1 animal. Jokes begin about serial killers and body dumping.

So Andrew goes to investigate. The hill was pretty steep, but he hiked down in there, shouted up that he saw more bodies and walked a little bit farther. And, of course, the true crime conniseur that I am – my imagination started going wild.

Obviously the people who live up past that gate are just like the House of 1000 Corpses family, and they are going to come just appear out of nowhere since we found their body dumping site. And then we’ll never be seen again …

Finally, Andrew comes back up to the road and reports that he found 4 deer or elk legs. With the fur and muscle and hoofs all still on. Still creepy, but at least no human bodies ….

SO, on we go, hoping there are no murderous hicks behind us…. back down the road, back to where the trail (apparently) ended, back up the hill and back around and back through that same meadow and back and back and back that whole way …

…. good lord was I tired. My limbs were starting to tingle which I can only assume is from lack of oxygen and all that physical exertion at that high elevation.

I have far far fewer photos of this part of the trip because I was so tired and starting to feel ill.

Finally (finally) we came to the fork in the trail that we *thought* led to a lookout. Kevin quickly ran down to where the trail curved around those boulders and reported that it went PAST the boulders, not TO the boulders….. so we took that branch.

The whole time I’m just hoping that there’s not much farther because I am tired and out of shape. Ooops.

Around the boulders down the hill some more. Kevin and Sam stopped to take off their shoes and just hike in their socks. While we were standing, tying tennis shoes on to the backpack, the dogs ran on ahead …. and then ran back dripping wet.

They had found the stream again ….

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It was just gorgeous. Lots of smooth boulders to sit on, dip our feet into, dogs to play in.

We sat near the water for maybe 20 minutes or so…. and Andrew lost a sock.

It slipped into the water, went over one of the tiny waterfalls, and then never came back up!

Oh well….

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After leaving the stream it wasn’t that much farther – we crossed the stream and walked uphill where the trail forked several times.

We heard a dog barking nearby, followed one of the forks, and ended up practically in someone’s backyard. It must be pretty cool to live there right by a trail.

But, eventually, we found the main part of the trail and were able to follow it back to the car. 4 hours later. Andrew estimates 5 or 6 miles or so. Maybe the longest hike I’ve ever done. And in high elevation no less.

I was so so tired.

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Drove home and we all 4 took showers.

And then went out to dinner! Boulder’s best Mexican restaurant – Efrain’s II

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LONG day.

Glad I did it. But, MAN was I tired!

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