I’m embarrassed to admit that while I successfully conned Kyle into hiking with me not once, but TWICE, this past weekend, we did not successfully complete either hike. So both will stay on my list to finish another day, and I’ll attempt to convince myself that it isn’t a big deal. (I’m kind of worked up about it. Why can’t I finish hikes this year!?)
Before we get into those hikes, I should tell you what I was doing last weekend. Friday night I drove down to Castle Rock and met the transport from Amarillo bringing my pregnant foster dog, Bailey. She was gigantically pregnant but apparently no one had told her, as she enjoyed jumping in and out of the car and climbing all around. Sunday morning she gave birth to six perfect babies, so I spent much of the day cleaning up and getting them set up in their new pen. THEN she shows me how smart she is by escaping every single pen combination I could come up with to contain her and her poos. (Now she’s locked in a crate which she can’t escape as long as I triple clip the doors.) So I essentially spent the entire week figuring this out and cleaning up poo. (I know I signed up for this, but come on!)
Anyways, after all that nonsense I had the weekend off, as did Kyle, so I forced him to wake up semi-early and hike with me both Saturday and Sunday. Since skipping hiking the weekend before and having a busy week, I was ready for a weekend full of fun outdoors!
Attempt of Colorado Mines Peak (12,493′) | Arapaho National Forest
Empire, CO | 02/02/19 | 2.02 miles | 469′ gain
I’d recently given Kyle a set of microspikes as an early Valentine’s Day gift and he was itching to try them out. We narrowed my hike list down to a few hikes that may have snow & ice to test them out on and ultimately Kyle picked Colorado Mines Peak. I was more than okay with this decision as I knew this peak was above treeline and it had been far too long since I’d been that high.
We woke up later than anticipated and battled ski traffic on I-70 for what felt like a century, but finally reached the Berthoud Pass parking area. I was a little worried that the lot would be full since we didn’t arrive until 10:25, but there were plenty of spots and we quickly hit the trail.
In this case, the trail is technically a service road that switchbacks all the way to the top of Colorado Mines Peak, where the Colorado School of Mines has a weather station. This deters many people, and would normally deter me too, but this is a great winter hike of a 12er, and is relatively easy at only 4 miles and 1300′ of gain. With the snow, it wasn’t too obvious that you were walking on a road, and the surrounding views are so overpowering that the weather station is easy to ignore.
We had both spikes and snowshoes with us and ended up needing neither. There was a compacted trench that was easy to follow, and we’d only post-hole if we stepped out of this trench.
About a mile up the road, I noticed a bit of blood in the snow. I stopped to check and see if was coming from one of the dogs and little Toby’s paw pad was cut open from the snow and ice. We were only halfway, and I wasn’t about to jeopardize his comfort for a successful summit so we quickly turned around and headed back to the car so he could get off his poor foot.
I was only able to get above treeline for one sweet moment, but the views and fresh air were enough to rejuvenate my soul.
Attempt of Mallory Cave | Boulder Open Space & Mountain Parks
Boulder, CO | 02/03/19 | 3.43 miles | 1,027′ gain
On Sunday, I wanted to head to Boulder to run a few Boulder-specific errands and I convinced Kyle that he should come with me and we could go on a quick hike as well. Mallory Cave is the last hike on my list in Chautauqua Park, and I’d been dying to go see it. The trail leading up to the cave is only open during the winter months, to protect the bats during their summer reproductive activities. However, this can prove difficult for many as the final stretch to the cave consists of a steep scramble up a rock face. As you can imagine, winter conditions can cause this scramble to be impassible to all but skilled winter climbers, or possibly a few brave and lucky souls.
Mallory Cave has been gated off from human access due to white-nosed syndrome, a fungal disease affecting bats across the country. The disease is believed to be spread by humans, so it makes sense why we would no longer be allowed to go in the cave. However, you can still go up to the gate and look into the cave (at least when the trail isn’t closed for bat reproduction.)
Every website and review that I read on this trail was that the trail is well marked and easy to follow. We found this to not be the case and our difficulties began starting from the parking area. The NCAR trailhead is at the NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research) building, and Google Maps showed the trailhead as starting at the south end of the parking lot. We did find trails in this area, but they weren’t marked and we spent a few minutes figuring out which trail we actually needed. We rounded the building and passed a construction site. Finally we seemed to be on the main NCAR trail! Shortly after, we passed through an interpretive area and made our way down to the main junction. Most intersections were labeled well but there are some climber’s trails and social trails in the area that aren’t labeled, so it can be easy to get confused.
At the main junction, I believe with the Mesa Trail, there is a sign for the Mallory Cave Trail, so we knew we were on the right track. We struggled up a few steep, slippery areas and were glad that we had our spikes with us for the way down. After many tight switchbacks, and a bit more confusion, (I swear we were having such a hard time with route-finding today) we found ourselves at the final scramble to Mallory Cave. It didn’t look very promising. While not terribly steep, much was covered in snow and ice. We didn’t think it’d be too hard getting up, but getting down would be another story. We watched a few people struggle to ascend and decided not to risk it. Kyle found a way around this that he thought would go, but it only led us to a climber’s trail, with no access to Mallory Cave. We decided to give up and come back another time. The trail is open until April 1st, so I’m hoping the snow and ice will clear up sometime by then!