Staunton State Park Exploration

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Pikes Peak Through Trees

I recently drove up to the new Staunton State Park just past Conifer, Colorado. It’s an easy, fairly short drive from Denver, very close to where I used to live in Pine Junction, Colorado. As you can see from this Staunton State Park trail map there are a bunch of routes to chose from whether you prefer to hike, bike or horseback ride. The day started a little brisk with fog and mist in the mountain river valleys, but turned out quite warm considering it is November in Colorado.

Having never been in the park I chose to keep it simple and take the main Staunton Ranch trail through the heart of the park. I would then take a little balloon loop hiking a short way up the Marmot Passage trail close to the top of a ridge to the west, then head back along and down the ridge on Scout Line trail until it rejoined the Staunton Ranch trail I came in on. Continue reading Staunton State Park Exploration

Midland Hill

Almost a month ago (Oct. 26th) I drove up to Buena Vista, CO and took a VERY long hike. I took an approx. 3.5 mile loop trail up on Midland Hill (or Sleeping Indian as the locals call it) to visit the grave of my old dog Buddy. Apparently a bunch of deer wanted to visit my old canine friend too, as they came along while I sat enjoying the view.

Later, about 3/4 of the way through my hike, I decided to take a branch trail that goes WAY up to the highest point on the hill. The result was that my total hike ended being more like 7 miles or so, with about 1500 ft elevation gain. Let me tell you, all of that elevation gain happens over a very short distance, making for one steep hike. I was pretty exhausted as things finally leveled out on the top of the ridge and had to stop for a long rest and a snack before the short hike to the peak. Took the following photos from there.

CLICK PHOTOS TO SEE LARGE VERSIONS ON MY FLICKR ACCOUNT

On Top of Midland Hill
Buena Vista from Midland Hill
Midland Hill View Panorama
BV, Dead Trees & Mountains

 

Kroenke Lake Hike – 6/20/12

Having driven up to Buena Vista, CO the day previously, my Dad and I got a relatively early start for our planned 8 mile hike to Kroenke Lake. The trail and destination were so gorgeous — just calling out to be explored and photographed — that we ended up doing around 9.1 miles.

Total distance: 9.1 mi, Total time: 6:30:43, Moving time: 4:18:57, Avg moving speed: 2.1 mi/h, Max speed: 5.1 mi/h, Avg moving pace: 28.4 min/mi, Max elev: 11565 ft, Min elev: 9882 ft, Elev gain: 2484 ft.
View Kroenke Lake Hike 6/20/2012 in a larger map

My Step-Mom, Leigh, set us up with a quick breakfast and packed us a protein-rich lunch while we got ready to leave. By the time we had driven up the dirt roads to the trail head it was only 8:10am or so. There were a lot of cars in the lot and the wind was gusting pretty good which had me a little worried as I had not packed a jacket or long pants. I never needed them though, as the weather the whole time was just about perfect. A family of hikers pulled up as we were leaving and passed us relatively early on the trail, and then we had things to ourselves pretty much the whole time.

The whole hike had a pretty steady elevation gain, but the first half or so was pretty mild, and the trail very easy. There were a lot of trees down in places though, which made things a little more challenging to get around, under, or over them. In one place a whole patch of forest with HUGE trees had been snapped like twigs by what was obviously a pretty intense micro-burst in the not too distant past. There were also a number of stream crossings. The first two had nice, permanent bridges, but later on there were a number of crossings that required balancing on logs or hop-scotching on rocks.

Needless to say I took a bunch of photos. I used my cell phone’s camera on the way up. Once we reached the vicinity of Kroenke Lake I broke out the SLR and started taking a lot more photos, including a few 360 photo shoots that I later digitally stitched into panoramic photos. We saw a few patches of snow near the lake, but as Dad mentioned, normally around this time of year we probably would not have been able to do the hike at all.

For high-res versions of these photos see this gallery on Picasa

The last half of the hike up was tougher, with steeper slopes, rockier trails and more tree and steam crossings. As we were arriving in the vicinity of the lake the trees became less and the views of the surrounding peaks really opened up. We saw the group that passed us at the beginning of the trail going down. Besides an apparently unoccupied tent, we had the lake all to ourselves. After taking a bunch of photos we found a big log in the meadow surrounding the lake and ate our lunch of peanut butter and bacon sandwiches… YUM! I had never had this protein/energy packed lunch. Obviously not the healthiest repast, but perfect fuel for a strenuous hike like this.

Click the panorama thumbnails below to zoom, then scroll right to see the whole panoramic view.

Kroenke Lake Approach Panorama
Kroenke Lake Panorama
Kroenke Lake Meadow Panorama

We took a brief break after eating to explore and take some more photos. It would have been nice to stay longer, but as tired as we were we knew we had a long, thankfully mostly downhill trek, back to our vehicle. Once again we saw other people only once on the way back just past the half-way point where a fork in the trail heads up to Harvard Peak. This encounter was a little surprising, as we were trotting along pretty quickly, when we turned a corner to see a large, apparently unattended German-Shepard like dog wearing his own packs in a saddle-bag-like arrangement. He checked us out and carried on his way, hardly breaking his stride. His human backpacking companions followed shortly later.

Photos of me on hike courtesy of Dad

Needless to say we were pretty beat when we got back to the car. While tiring, the hike was well worth it and it was a trip I won’t soon forget. Hopefully my Dad and I can take another serious hike this season. We discussed possibly returning to the start of this trail, and taking the branch that heads up to Bear Lake in a cirque above timberline surrounded by the 14,000 ft peaks of Mt. Harvard and Mt. Columbia on one side and the Continental Divide on the other. That hike however is a 10.5 mile hike without any exploring added on, so we need to keep training.