I took the dogs hiking in Georgia Pass today. The pass is about ninety minutes west of Denver on US 285. We have hiked the area before but it is close enough to home to be an easy drive, especially with good weather.
Our target today was a ridge opposite Mt. Guyot that I have been unable to ascend in the past — a sprained ankle and impending thunderstorm prevented climbing it in the past.
At the top of the ridge we were at about 12,400 feet elevation. Sadly the wildfires in the Pacific northwest were sending a large amount of smoke our direction which prevented the glorious views we would normally see.
I didn’t intend to hike more than five miles but once back at the truck my GPS app registered 7.6 miles. Surprisingly both dogs handled the distance well, at least until Sunday morning when Lucy was sore and unable to walk more than a couple blocks. She recovered by Monday, though.
Unfortunately on the drive back down the hill from the pass I hit a sharp rock on the gravel road and ended up with a flat tire. The flat was complicated by the fact that Discount Tire decided to over-torque the lug nuts to the point where I literally twisted my lug wrench ninety degrees. I was worried I would snap the top of it off and not have a means of tightening the lugs on the spare.
Needless to say on Monday morning I had a conversation with the guys at the tire shop about not torquing the lug so tightly. I also picked up a heavy-duty lug wrench at AutoZone… hopefully I won’t have to test it out any time soon.
We attempted to hike up near Eldora on Saturday morning where I thought that the forecast was not calling for rain. We hiked for about an hour through some light rain until the floodgates opened wide. Luckily there is a brewery in Nederland (seriously, in most places in Colorado there is likely to be at least one brewery nearby). I’ve always wanted to stop at Very Nice Brewing Company but rarely found myself in the area. With the rainy day we had the perfect opportunity to try out this extremely dog friendly spot. The taproom is certainly no-frills but is backed by very good beers. My favorite of the day was the Logical Fallacy, a black IPA that was served with a shot of espresso.
I also had a nice conversation about rugby with one of the patrons who noticed my Canada Sevens hat, and said hello to numerous pups.
The dogs and I went hiking in Guanella Pass again Sunday afternoon. This time we stopped at a new Brewery in Georgetown, Guanella Pass Brewing, first so Lucy did not have a chance to roll in crap like she did last weekend.
I overheard the owner telling some guests they had only been open two weeks. I was impressed with the beers and the facility at such an early stage.
The taproom itself is clean and modern with stainless steel counters. There are televisions if you must watch them but the window seats with great views of the street and mountains are a better pairing with the beer. Summers in Georgetown provide excellent people watching (well, they’re actually tourists… are they really people?).
The patio is currently uncovered (no umbrellas or shade) as they are assessing the “wind situation” in Georgetown. There is an Italian restaurant a couple doors down that delivers and I can attest the meatball sub was very good.
I look forward to many summer visits to this brewery.
This weekend’s hiking trip location was chosen to avoid the awful Sunday traffic on I-70. I picked a spot relatively close to the Denver metro area in the foothills just southwest of Sedalia. Devil’s Head is a rock formation on which is situated the last working fire lookout tower on the front range.
Since I had never visited this particular area I was surprised to find a navigation app routed me to the south of the trail head instead of the more direct route I expected. Ignoring this red flag I followed the suggested route through Perry Park which turned into some of the worst forest service roads I’ve ever seen. I was fortunate that it was daylight and not raining — otherwise I would not have attempted this road. Even in good conditions I was concerned about “high-siding” my truck in a few spots while driving in 4×4 mode.
Since it was Sunday I expected there to be quite a few people hiking this trail. While the parking area had many vehicles it was not completely full.
We started up the trail and I immediately noticed signs that indicated dogs were to be on-leash only. This contradicted several places online that said the trail was dog friendly. Since the girls are pretty good about obeying my voice commands we ignored the sign. I eventually put them on leash towards the top of the trail as we encountered a few families with their dogs, but by that point my dogs were tired and did not pull too much.
As we proceeded up the trail we did not meet very many people. We made pretty decent progress in the surprisingly cool August weather.
My dogs were running back and forth along the trail, occasionally chasing squirrels and chipmunks along the way. By the time we met the first group of people on the trail they were panting and happy.
The trail itself is not difficult. The forest service has kept the trail wide and well-kept to accommodate the large number of people who visit. There are many places where timber “steps” have been put in to assist hikers with the grade.
At the top of the trail there is a pleasant flat area with two large benches and some shady trees. There is also a cabin for the forest service lookout personnel.
The benches allow hikers to rest briefly before ascending the 143 steps to the fire tower. One might have to wait here to allow some of the visitors already on the tower to descend to comply with the rules.
The steps themselves look daunting at first but are solidly built. Using the handrails is extremely important at this altitude.
I told the dogs to head up the stairs ahead of me, partly to avoid them being directly underfoot. They went halfway up and decided to come back down again.
Once I convinced them to go up in front of me they ran to the top. There are several direction changes on the stairs before reaching the top with a small area for viewing the surrounding area. On a normal day the views must be amazing — on this day the smoke in the air from remote wild fires reduced the view to less than five miles. There were a few people waiting to come down in this area so the dogs had to stop for adoration and being petted. There is a narrow opening between some large boulders to traverse before reaching the actual tower.
When we climbed up to the observation deck around the tower the lookout ranger greeted the dogs and chatted briefly about the smoke and lack of viewing distance. On good days he said you could see nearly one hundred miles to the east. I will definitely return to this spot on a clear day.
The lookout ranger also gave me a “completion” card for making it to the top of the tower trail. I am now an official member of the Ancient and Honorable Order Of Squirrels. This is probably a big hit with the children who are forced to hike with their families.
We did not linger too long at the top so that other hikers could ascend. We headed back down the stairs where Lucy made more friends.
Fabi chased chipmunks for a while in the clearing at the bottom of the stairway before we headed back down. This shady area would be ideal for a picnic and there are even vault toilets up there.
By the time we made it most of the way back to the trailhead Lucy decided she needed to cool off in a small stream. Both dogs climbed into the water for a few minutes.
The drive home was dusty but uneventful. All three of us napped for a few hours.
The trail is listed as 3.8 miles total but I tracked 5.7 myself. There is about 1000 feet of elevation gain total.
With a forecast for temperatures in the mid nineties in the Denver area I drove my dogs up to Georgia Pass for a morning of hiking and much cooler temperatures. While we’ve visited Georgia Pass several times in the past I had never attempted to hike any of the side trails that fan out from the pass summit area. All of these trails are meant for high-clearance 4×4 vehicles so I parked at the summit and set off along the trail with a sign that indicated the Colorado Trail intersected it. There was also signage for something named Glacier Ridge.
The 4×4 trail started off in a tree-lined section which quickly thinned out as we approached timberline. I decided not to take the Colorado Trail as it appeared to head back down hill from the 4×4 trail. Instead we continued toward the bottom of Glacier Ridge.
In the past there was a 4×4 track straight up the ridge but the forrest service has “recently” closed that hillside due the damage that was done to the vegetation. They erected a pole fence and placed a restoration notice sign. From what I could tell it was preventing most people from crawling up.
The hillside to the top of the ridge looked too easy — but it wasn’t. It is deceptively steep and since you are well over 11,000 feet the going is pretty tough (at least for myself). The restoration project replaced the ruts in the hillside with a mat to encourage growth of native wild grasses and flowers while preventing erosion.
The further up the hill I went the rockier the terrain became. At one point I rolled my ankle slightly and rested for about ten minutes to see if there was going to be any swelling. When I stood again and took several tender steps I decided it would be a good idea to head back to the truck. There were also storm clouds gathering in the area and I did not feel comfortable above tree line.
The views from this hillside were incredible. After checking terrain maps of this area later I see that the ridge actually overlooks Jefferson Lake. I will definitely return to make it to the top of the ridge.
As we neared the pass summit area there was a herd of about thirty juvenile mountain goats grazing in the clearing. Lucy saw them and wanted to chase them but she obeyed my commands to stay near me… for a while. Eventually she took off running towards them, chasing them down the hillside before I could pull out my camera.
It had started raining on us as we hiked back to the truck and by now it was coming down at a decent rate. The mid fifties temps had dropped into the high forties so the rain was mixed with sleet. Between the ever-increasing rainfall and my swelling ankle I didn’t think it was a good time to look for the goats so we headed back home.
With a forecast of mid-90s on Sunday I took the dogs up to Boreas Pass. We set out fairly early and were up on the hill by 9 AM.
The road over Boreas Pass connects Como withe Breckenridge southwest of Denver. The Denver, South Park And Pacific narrow gauge railroad routed over this pass to facilitate access to gold rush prospectors. A scenic roadway runs over the pass now on the same route and is a popular summer drive for people in both the Denver and Breck/Vail areas.
There is actually a small section of the original tracks that have been preserved at Rocky Point.
By the time we arrived there were already many people at the visitor center at the pass. I decided not to park there and proceed further over the pass toward the Breck side. I found a pull -off and parked next to a forest trail.
The girls and I followed the trail downhill for about three miles before deciding to head back to the truck. We passed several open fields of wild flowers and a small stream which provided relief to Lucy and Fabi.
We managed to rack up almost six miles on the round trip before heading back down to the front range for the afternoon.