Texan Hiking in Colorado

So I said in my first post that I had a story about going hiking… (at some point I’ll actually get to that story, I promise)… but I’ll give some background first.

THE BEGINNING

Growing up, I was NEVER an outdoorsy girl.  My mom’s idea of camping was staying in a Holiday Inn rather than a Hilton.  I am a mama’s girl, so I grew up with the same amount of desire to get out in the woods.  May also be that I am a mosquito MAGNET and going out into bug territory just made me an even easier target.  However, my now husband is quite the outdoorsy guy and I knew it wouldn’t be too long before he tried getting me into the outdoors (ick).

Even in the dead of winter, it's still pretty.

I was living in Oklahoma City the first time he tried getting me out.  It had just snowed a few days before so it was cool and we were hoping there would still be a little bit of snow to play in. (Remember, we’re from Texas so snow is still exotic and fun)  We headed out to Arcadia Lake with our bloodhound.  I didn’t really know what to expect, but figured since it was cold there wouldn’t be any bugs, I wouldn’t get all hot and sweaty and Oklahoma is pretty flat, so I could only imagine it would be like a walk in the park.  I was wrong.  We hiked a little over 6 miles (out-and-back) in and out of creek beds and after about mile 3, I whined the rest of the way.  Since this was my first outing, I had no idea how to dress.  My ears were freezing and I fell several times due to inadequate shoes (my regular Nike running shoes).  However, I fell in love with the scenery and knew that this would not be a one-time thing.  I love taking pictures and it’s just SO easy to take beautiful pictures in the woods!

After this first experience as a hiker, I found myself not complaining so much when it was suggested and, at some point, actually found myself enjoying it!  From then, we continued to do more and more hiking.  We even went to Big Bend National Park on our honeymoon.  My husband has officially turned me into an all-out hiker. (I haven’t lost any of my girliness though, I still have 3 pairs of hiking boots, one of which are pink 🙂 )  My dad is still amazed; he never saw it coming.  Our bloodhound has his own pack and some hiking boots (he’s a big baby and hates when things get stuck in his paws) and as soon as our miniature dachshund is full grown, he’ll get some boots, too.  It’s a great family outing for us to get out and enjoy nature and each other’s company.  If you’ve never gone hiking, I highly recommend it.  Our kids will definitely grow up enjoying and (more importantly) respecting the beauty of nature.

View from the top

When we came up to Colorado in March to look for apartments, we were dying to get out into the mountains and do some hiking.  We went to the REI flagship store in Denver (which is HUGE!!) and found a Best Hikes in Colorado book.  We knew we wanted to play in the snow, but didn’t know how the altitude would affect us, so we chose Squaw Mountain Fire Lookout, a short hike.  It was a total of about 4 miles out and and back to the top of a mountain that had an old fire lookout station still on it.  The views were said to be amazing, and it was said to be a relatively easy hike.  Little did we know how the VERY different elements from hiking in Texas would effect us.  We don’t know if it was the altitude, hiking in the snow or the elevation change (over 2000 ft), but that was the slowest 2 miles up that we have EVER hiked!  ABSOLUTELY worth it though.  When we got to the top, the views were breathtaking.  This being my first time in Colorado and my husband’s first in years, it is amazing to experience such natural beauty.  However, our first lesson: it may feel like spring in the city, but on top of an 11,500 mountain, it’s definitely winter!  Unfortunately, it was so cold and the wind was blowing so hard, we couldn’t spend much time on top of the fire lookout but man, you really can’t beat a view like that from a 2 mile hike.  We could even see downtown Denver from the top of the mountain, even though we were over 35 miles away!

Like I said, I love taking (lots) pictures while we hike (drives my husband nuts because I slow him down), but I’ll share some (lots) of those pictures at the end of this post.

HIKING STORY/LESSON LEARNED (I told you I would get here eventually)

A couple weeks after my husband and I moved to Colorado, we just had to get out into the mountains.  We searched through our Colorado hiking book and finally found a relatively short hike with not much of an elevation gain (lesson learned from our March trip).  We pack up, deciding not to take the dogs because we don’t know how snowy the trail will be, and head out to drive the 2.5 hours it takes to get there (didn’t realize this until we put it into the GPS, but we were already set on this hike so we decided to go anyway).  We finally get all the way out there (after a 20+ degree drop in temperature) only to find that the only road which leads to the trail head is closed due to snow.  Snow… in June.

LESSON LEARNED:  Just because it’s in the 80s & 90s in Denver, doesn’t mean there isn’t still snow blocking the roads in the mountains.

Luckily we both have smartphones (and actually had service) so we found that Aspen was only 1.5 hours away and you got there by way of Independence Pass, which had just recently opened.  Since we’d already driven this far and weren’t going to be able to do our hike, we figured, why not?  GREAT choice!  The beauty of the mountains continues to amaze me.  Independence Pass is part of the Continental Divide and a place where tourists can stop on this small mountain road and literally be on top of the world.   The elevation of Independence Pass is 12,095 ft, but we’d probably add around 4 or 5 for the snow pack (or so we thought pack).  Being the idiots from Texas who love seeing snow, we ran right out into it, not thinking that it might not be completely packed in, and we might fall through.  Luckily, the furthest I fell in was about 2.5-3 feet.  Still, not exactly my idea of fun, having to climb my way out of the snow in ~45 degree weather when I’m not really dressed for that cold.  However, the views were AMAZING.  Unfortunately, I was so frustrated from our trek through the snow (instead of taking the nicely worn path where the snow had melted from everyone else walking on it), I didn’t take any pictures. 😦  This only means we’ll have to go back!  Anywho, we finally got to Aspen, which, of course, is gorgeous.  Ate at the only place we could afford (McDonalds), walked around a bit, then headed back to Denver.

Hopefully next time I have a hiking story, it’ll actually involve hiking.

HIKING PICTURES

Turner Falls in Southern Oklahoma- Hiking Expedition #2- still no proper hiking boots, fell multiple times again 😦

My first camping expedition (still not to sure about camping) on Lake Somerville in February 2010

Nifty looking field of trees on a hike we took around Lake Somerville

Beautiful still water and blue sky.... ah I love Texas!

Dusk on Lake Somerville

Watching the rain come in at Sheldon Lake State Park

This is our bloodhound, Gunn, with his pack. Sometimes we make him carry his own water.

These butterflies LOVED my pink shirt, they followed us around for a while (Stephen F. Austin State Park)

Yep, that's an alligator sticking his head out of the water. Brazos Bend State Park is known for having alligators, which I was so excited to see. We finally found some and would have literally walked right into about 4 of them had one of them not splashed while getting in the water! We were looking in the water for them, not on the banks.

Can't remember the name of this park but it is part of the Lone Star Hiking Trail and was more east of Houston, so slightly different scenery for us.

Lots of spiderwebs in the trees on this trail.

Gunn in his hiking boots 🙂

Our caterpillar friend we found on a hike at Little Lake Creek Wilderness

Gorgeous tree-lined trail at Little Lake Creek Wilderness

Can't remember for the life of me where this is, but a gorgeous dusk through the trees

Pedernales Falls rocks and VERY algae-y pond

Pedernales Falls- there are warning signs all over that the entire area can flood in literally minutes if it is raining somewhere upstream, luckily we didn't have to worry about that, it was just misty, but not raining anywhere near us

Didn't expect to see this gathering of plant life on the top of Enchanted Rock (a very, VERY large granite rock)

There were some HUGE rocks just perched on the side of Enchanted Rock, which means they were somehow moved/fell there.. eek!

Looking out from a cave at Enchanted Rock, instead of taking the easy way back down the front of the rock, Jeff decided it would be 'fun' to climb down the backside.. some rock climbing, interesting maneuvering and falling occurred on the way down.

Heading up to (almost) the top of Pikes Peak. Unfortunately it was really windy (120mph at the top the rangers said) and we could only get up about 12,000 feet. Still beautiful though!

Garden of the Gods- lots of red rock formations- quite beautiful!

Balancing Rock at Garden of the Gods

On our first hike at Big Bend National Park for our honeymoon.

One of three large canyons in Big Bend National Park. The canyon walls are over 1500 ft tall!

Closed Canyon in Big Bend Ranch State Park, one of only 3 trails you can get to without doing some MAJOR off-roading on some crazy washboard roads!

What we read about the trail said that the canyon only gets direct sunlight for a few hours a day.. guess when we decided to go?!

The sun finally started going behind one of the canyon walls! Thank goodness since it was about 105 that day!

The Rio Grande running through Big Bend Ranch State Park... who knew Texas had mountains?! 😉

Watching the sunset over Terlingua with a tiny little rain storm coming in. They hadn't had rain in over 9 months and they got just a little while we were there.

The last day of our honeymoon before we had to head back to reality we were able to do a short hike because it was a little bit cooler (aka under 100). We even got to see a bear! (From afar!)

Arkansas River is running wildly with all the snowpack melting!

Beautiful scenery!

Sun setting over the Twin Lakes

3 thoughts on “Texan Hiking in Colorado

  1. Pingback: Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My! « theblondelawyer

  2. You know, I, like you, am NOT an outdoorsy type of gal – but your pictures *almost* make me want to give it a whirl. I grew up in Colorado – but still never got into it. Ha. How sad is that? Since you’re up there – you should definitely do the Hanging Lake hike (very pretty – and relatively easy) – and make sure to hit up Rocky Mountain National Park. My husband and I loved taking HWY 40 up to Grand Lake, eating lunch (and chocolate covered bananas!) and then going home through the National Park and Estes Park. It’d be a great weekend. 😉

    • Just realized I never replied to this!! Oops!

      My husband and I actually just did that drive last month, pretty much right before the weather started to get too bad up there and oh my gosh it is GORGEOUS!!!! We want to do it again at night during the summer and do some star-gazing or kind of make it an all day trip so I can take even more pictures.

      I’ll definitely have to look up that hike, thanks for the suggestion!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s