31 August 2018

Trail Through Time

McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area

Click for map.

I keep thinking, "Oh, I should do that," as I pass by the exit for the Trail Through Time. It may just be that these lower level areas of Colorado don't hold so much pull for me, but I have actually turned off the interstate at this very exit to take a hike before. Maybe it just feels a little more "built up" than my usual. Today that is changing. Happily, it is not near the 104°F it was when I last hiked the area. Today I will stop by to see the bones.

trail from the parking is a gated road
A set of information signs to start off the trail. One illustrates the general area of the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area and one maps out the trail ahead.

The walk into the loop along the road that services the dinosaur bone quarry area is a bit uninspiring, it must be said. Interpretive signs start up quickly with background information about the Jurassic Period and such things that are relevant to the dinosaurs found in this area. Rather than the traditional numbers, they are hardy metal signs so aren't likely to be lost too soon nor are you dependent on a brochure happening to be available.

interpretive sign
One of those interpretive signs with the loop trail in the background.

big sign with a dig hole behind it
Nothing going on or even set up in the quarry area today.

Past bathrooms that are a little far from the parking lot for those in desperate need to notice, past a rather extensive sign (with shade roof) concerning the quarry, the trail turns and starts to get into the good stuff.

just a little of mesa tops
A little of the view of the McInnis Canyons on the south side of the interstate.

dinosaur pevis, says the sign next to a block with a darker, differently textured bit
Bones! Well, mineral deposits that have replaced the calcium and other materials of ancient bones.

I take the right hand, lower trail as it splits. This happens to be the bit that is ADA compliant, at least for a little way. The next few signs are about more mundane geology. Folks do seem to claim that dinosaurs are the gateway to "more serious" matters. Here, the signs stick to specifics about the layers the bones are found in and some of the more striking layers around those.

white and soft layer below some harder rocks
One striking layer is an ash deposit.

benches with a shade roof ahead
There are periodic benches with a shade roof. Some of the bench is even in the shade from the roof. It is not hot enough today to worry about them.

cluster of green bushes
A spattering of green off the trail doesn't elicit any comment on the geology changes that might be supporting it.

section corner
A section corner! My kind of nonsense.

The trail starts to climb up after dropping down into a dry creek bed. Here, there are some distinct options as to where it goes exactly. It looks like it has been rerouted but the old one never quite left. I pick one to the left and it seems to get me to more signs, so it must be right enough. Some of the signs are about dinosaurs that were excavated from a spot. This just means there is nothing remaining to see here to me.

layers and rocks
A bit more to see as I climb.

More bones! Vertebrae that have been left for the masses to see.

orange and green reptile
Now that is quite a colorful creature.

There are fewer notes across the top and one is devoted to pointing out the scenery. It does a pretty good job of pointing itself out except that some of the really interesting bits are so far away.

scattered volcanic rocks in ash
Up among the ash layer now, so there probably are not a lot of dinosaurs to point out. Hot ash is not good at preserving organic material.

long stretch of I-70 and points south
Looking across I-70 to Rabbit Valley.

Eventually, the trail wanders down again, but it doesn't finish before passing by one more collection of bones still here to be seen.

bit of trail and kiosk below
Looking down on the kiosk sign beside the quarry.

these bones are pointed out by metal markers
Metal markers corresponding to the sign help point out these bones.

As I get back to the corner, I head out to look at this quarry. Like most, it is a hole in the ground. It seems to be at the bottom of some current small wash so only the sides really show that someone has been increasing the hole. There is not much to see of it today. I head back. I had not expected actual bones to be pointed out, so a pretty cool little trail.

©2018 Valerie Norton
Posted 22 September 2018

30 August 2018

Loveland Pass to some westerly peaks

Arapaho National Forest

Click for map.

I may have claimed a few hours before that I would not get to go up any peaks in the Rockies, but there was an accident ahead blocking the tunnel on I-70 and the four lanes that feed the two lanes were turning into a parking lot. I decided to show that I could read and take the alternate route suggested. I wasn't sure I was in good company after watching someone take the sharp corner to exit via the entrance, but so it goes. Once at 10 feet short of 12k on the Continental Divide, it was too much to pass up the chance for an evening stroll. Parking is marked 7AM to 7PM, at least on some of the signs, but I suspect no one will bug me while it is still light. The peaks to the east look quite impressive. (They should. There are a couple 14k peaks over there.) The peaks to the west look a little closer at hand so better with only a couple hours to dark.

Loveland Pass with road
Loveland Pass got a little crowded with the other folks who could not pass up stopping, but the accident must have cleared up quickly as there were not many.

There are no signs regarding hiking in the area, but the first few peaks are well trod. Obviously it is a done thing. It does look slightly official right at the start, but I turn to follow the huge track along the ridges instead. I may not need to go anywhere to get a view, the treeline is below the start, but I am going up anyway. Up! And feeling like I might have gained 10k feet today, mostly in the last couple hours.

trail markings and distant road
Passing above what looks rather like an official trail. The distant road is US-6 which I just came up.

My turn just serves to add a little up and down to my trek as it rejoins the other trail on the far side of the first bump. Still, I can see a big track leading up a more distant, higher bump, so onward to the real up. Up! Up! Edging around some bump off to the left and climbing to a higher saddle first.

small flowering shrubs
Not too much vegetation up here, but some of it is flowering.

along the Continental Divide
There the trail goes up to the higher saddle.

ponds and trees scattered below a peak
It heads out up that peak ahead. Below it are some little ponds, if you look closely.

The saddle comes with new views down the Pacific side of the Continental Divide. It also comes with wind. What was quite comfortable for hiking is becoming a little chilly. It is still fine for climbing, even the gentle one ahead.

down to the trees
All of this drains to the Pacific. Ski runs look like a rouge tractor thundered through the garden to me.

trees mowed down for skiing and distant peaks
More of those mowed down trees in another ski area on the Pacific side plus some distant peaks. One of those should be Quandary, which I have hiked.

The trail sticks very close to the divide as it goes on. The wind, well, it is blustery and chill but not particularly bad. It can be of a level to knock one right off the edge, so today is quite nice.

pool below as well as the interstate
Now that pond on the Atlantic side is much easier to see. A segment of I-70 is also visible way down there.

trail on a ridge line of tundra
The track ahead looks easy enough as it follows the Continental Divide.

Loveland Pass and eastern peaks
Looking back at Loveland Pass to the other peaks that are available. The ones at the far right may include the 14k peaks.

rocky spot and more divide
Nearing the top without too much ado, looking back on what has passed.

The peak the track comes to is a little indistinct with a couple possible high points. Over the far side, another ski area becomes visible. Denver and the surrounding areas have a lot of places to play in the winter up here. They take advantage of the summer, too, and the traffic on either side of the weekend can get to be a bit much.

more ski area
Over the top, the top of a ski run is just visible in the basin below.

The wind may have picked up a little. It is definitely getting colder. I go for my windbreaker but soon think I might have wanted to go all the way for the puffy jacket. The windbreaker does not quite take on the stiff wind, but there are enough still areas that I do not cool off too much while walking back. There is still a little light, so I follow the thinner trail up the peak that the main trail skips. This one is actually higher as it overlooks another pair of ponds by the road far below.

rocky top of the higher, closer peak and down to ponds
Up on the second, higher peak. It drops off quickly to the ponds far below. The probable nearby 14k peaks are off to the left.

rows of peaks
Distant peaks set off by the lowering sun.

saddle with US-6 passing through
The way back to Loveland Pass. Best to wander to the left and reconnect with the trail up.

It is fun to be up on the peak. It is not so windy as some of the ridge line. The light is getting red and I am already overstaying my parking time, so I have to turn back. The trails to this peak thin and vanish away from anything that concentrates walkers, so I just make my own way, walking in a direction that makes a bit of sense.

Continental Divide
Thin colors developing in the sky as the sun gets very low. Looking back to the first peak, faintly visible against the rest of the mountains on the right.

The dips and rock collections make it so it may have been easier to follow the route back to the original high saddle. Even that trail thins and vanishes in places. I am back on the main trail without incident anyway. Here, the air is nearly still, but it is cool enough that I do finally pull on that real jacket as soon as I reach the car.

©2018 Valerie Norton
Posted 6 September 2018

29 August 2018

Woodpecker Trail

Coralville Lake

Click for map.

As I dropped down off the mountains and into Denver, there was just one brief look out over what I knew was there, an infinite seeming plane of grass known as the Great Plains. It was nice to finally find hills again in the west of Iowa. On the way back through, I took a turn for something tucked into those hills: a lake. This particular one is actually a dammed bit of the Iowa River. It has a few clusters of trails and I ended up at the Woodpecker system, a loop with a couple trails across that allow the short loop to become even smaller. A trail segment across a bridge connects it with the Squire Point system, of similar size, and both are shown on the map at the trailhead. The parking is sunny, but the trail plunges quickly into shady forest. The trees are some broad leaved oaks, cottonwoods, and somewhere there are a few walnuts. The thick green hulls and a few shells lie scattered on the ground.

starting off down the trail
Trail heading under shady trees. The sign with the map is off to the right.

The trail soon comes to a junction and there is another sign with a full map on it. They have defeated the problem of the "you are here" dot vanishing after too many fingers have stabbed at it by simply drilling a hole through the metal. I head right to drift around the outside of the largest loop.

trail splits
A map sign marks the trail as it splits.

mushroom tops textured in points
Some mushrooms along the way.

small white flowers in a big patch
A few flowers too.

Actually getting to see the lake seems to be difficult. There are some claims that the trail is an interpretive trail (and the brochure can be downloaded for this), but actually seeing any numbers along the way is also difficult. I do find a mysterious structure of sticks.

sticks making fencing
Two rows of upright sticks twisting along beside the trail. But what is it for?

another cluster of fungus sex organs
More mushrooms along the side.

The trail comes to a junction with a trail not on the map. It is clearly official, with a solid bridge across something small and dry. I follow it, but it starts to climb toward the campground as another trail wraps around the lake. This one looks rather unofficial, but it actually gets down to a place to see the water without much obstruction. In fact, it seems to drop down into area that can be flooded although it does not quite go to the water where it currently sits.

a little more water
The thin creek bed also offers a little more view of the lake than has been seen.

lake edge with a little trail
Unofficial trail along the edge of the lake.

The trail thins quickly, so I turn back and follow around the edge some more. It turns out there are official spots where the lake becomes more visible, too.

oak leaves against the sky
Looking up through the oak leaves.

Coralville Lake
Looking upstream, were this still river.

looks like a boat for many to be on
There are folks out on the lake, too.

There is a downed tree that makes a low bridge across the trail and has clipped the end of a bench. It is not quite the only minor difficulty on the trail as a few spots are muddy and slippery, but is the only sign of needed maintenance on a well developed trail that even has steps when it gets the least bit sloped.

thin mushrooms stacked on a tree trunk
The downed tree offers more mushrooms.

bench beside the lake
An intact bench to look out over the water from.

I wander out toward the second trail system, Squire Point, but decide against it. No real reason why not. The connection is made over a large bridge over another creek. This one is not quite dry, but the bridge still seems like a bit much at its level.

a little water in the grass
A larger creek with a little bit of water.

So I climb back up the hill. It is quite an easy climb back from the lake to the parking lot.

©2018 Valerie Norton
Posted 3 September 2018

05 August 2018

Winston Ridge and Peak

Angeles National Forest

San Gabriel Mountains National Monument

Click for map.

My last hike for the day of a Hundred Peaks Section listed peak is out to Winston ridge. I hiked Winston Peak already one afternoon, but had not realized that I was "supposed" to continue on to the ridge beyond. They are a logical pair. Now I go for the ridge and will probably stop by the peak on the way back. First around the side. The road is a single gentle slope down to the saddle where use trails start out to the high point of the ridge beyond the saddle. The Pacific Crest Trail winds and dips and climbs so that it is both longer and steeper. I have been on both and know this, but the thought of taking the road when the trail is available seems wrong. Besides, it should have a bit more shade in the warm day. So, with my water filled up again, I turn down the trail right of the road at the side of the turnout to wind along the trail.

tiny wilderness sign and trail through the trees
Angeles sometimes has these dinky little wilderness signs. They probably have longer lives as far as bears are concerned and are cheaper to replace if the bears take interest anyway, but I can't help but think of it as souvenir sized.

forested bump
Mount Akawie to the east is another very easy peak to check off the list.

One little canyon seems to hold a special green that makes me think there is water in it. Nothing shows on the surface, but the line of green holds for a while before vanishing right where the trail crosses. Then it climbs, at which point the trail is the only route (short of meandering cross country) to the saddle.

jogging crossing with shortcut
Some PCT crests mark the trail for the crossing.

on down the canyon sort of
Down the canyon to Mount Williamson and Throop Peak beyond.