Enchanted Mesa/McClintock trails–2.0 mile loop
Saturday, September 7, 2013, on a Wild Bird Center walk.
Getting there: From Broadway, go west on Baseline. Turn left on 13th, which takes you behind the Chatauqua auditorium, where parking is available. The trailhead is next to the picnic shelter.
After a short walk down a dirt road, cross the bridge over Bluebell Creek. The trail quickly divides; Enchanted Mesa goes straight on, while the McClintock goes off to the right; they later meet to form a loop. We went straight, gradually climbing, with stunning views of the Flatirons, and then entering a lovely, open ponderosa forest. The trail steadily climbs, with junctions to Kohler Mesa and Mesa Trails, and then levels as it begins its loop. In its descent, it meets the McClintock trail, which is narrower and steeper, following the course of the creek. Notable bear country due to the abundance of berries and fruits. Lovely shaded walk which was pleasant on a hot day.
Conundrum Creek Trail: 8/14/13
A beautiful trail on a beautiful day. We started at 9, when it was 45 degrees with a clear blue sky, but were in t-shirts by the end of our hike, with white puffy clouds moving in. The trail climbs slowly into a lovely valley, carved by Conundrum Creek through spruce and aspens. It ends after 8.5 miles at hot springs; we turned around, however, at the first creek crossing bridge at the 2-1/2 mile mark. Definitely worth a return, especially if timed to the aspens’ turning.
Getting there: Head West on 82 from downtown Aspen. At the traffic circle, take Castle Creek Road. After a couple of miles, go right on Conundrum Road; it quickly turns to a dirt road and ends at the trailhead parking lot.
Linkins Lake Trail: 8/15/13
If you are young, fit, or a highlander, this is an short, easy trail. I am none of those, and so I found this steep trail an exhilarating challenge. It’s only .6 miles from the trailhead to the lake, with a 500+ foot elevation gain (from 11,500-12,015) (hiking poles were a great help, particularly coming down). Most of the trail is above the timberline, and offers stunning views of Independence Pass and the surrounding peaks, as well as the creeks tumbling down from the heights. The lake itself is a glacial tarn surrounding by scrub and talus. Sunny and 55 degrees, the weather was perfect for this climb.
Getting there: From Aspen, go east on 82 up Independence Pass. The trailhead is .2 miles past the 59-mile marker, with small parking lots on both sides of the road.
Shrine Pass: August 2013
Rainy and 45 degrees. Starting at 10,000, this trail slowly climbs through meadows filled with wildflowers, providing stunning vistas of the mountains to the west and north. We turned back after 75 minutes just as the trail entered spruce woods, for a total of two hours. We’ll definitely be back.
How to get there: Take exit 190 from I-70, between Vail and Copper. Head south on Shrine Pass Road. The parking area for the trail head is on the left after about 2 miles. After the hike we continued on the dirt road, through meadows and forests, which eventually leads to Redcliff, and then north to Minturn.
Ridge Trail: August 2013, from top of gondola
We took Gondola 1 from Vail Village, and then hiked across Fireweed Trail to Adventure Ridge–very pleasant woodland walk that had a slight upward grade, with occasional meadow traverses as we crossed ski trails. We then hiked up Ridge Route, again through lovely woods, with larger meadow expanses offering lovely views of mountains across the valley. As the skies darkened, we headed back to Eagle Bahn Gondola, but by then the thunderstorm had moved in, the lift was closed, and we had to wait for 1.5 hours to descend.
To get there: from the condo, drive toward the pass. After the traffic light at the Bonfill Stanton Foundation, turn left on the dirt road, which loops back to parallel the highway. At the fork, go left. Before the second little bridge, there is a small parking lot at the trailhead.
The Trail: A slow but steady ascent all the way, the trail meanders along Jim Creek, which you can hear but only occasionally see. The trail is primarily wooded, with views now and then of the mountain slopes across the stream—pretty in the Fall with swaths of aspens. There are seeps alongside, so it must be fairly mucky in the Spring. We haven’t made it to the top yet; having hiked an hour this time, we were ready to turn back.
To get there: From the condo, drive to Fraser. Turn left at the light; turn right after going under the bridge; at the end, turn left. After the campground, turn left. Pass Creekside trailhead (which we snow-shoed with Nan and Peter last winter); Flume trailhead is on the left shortly thereafter.
The Trail: 2.2 miles to the junction with Chainsaw. Totally flat, the trail goes mainly through a forest devastated by pine bark beetle, with many felled pines—not lovely. There are two open meadows, with an abundance of wildflowers, and a short, lovely patch of aspen. At one juncture, the view opens over a beaver pond filled with grasses, with Mt. B in the distance.
Five weeks out from my hip-replacement surgery, I walked my neighborhood route (1.3 miles) twice, once not using my cane, and once totally without my cane. Bluebirds flocked in the far field on my morning walk as meadowlarks sang, but all was quiet the second time through. I’m longing to tackle the mountains again.