Saturday, February 1, 2020

Hike #4: Settler's Park, Winds of Change

Date: February 1st,  2020
Hike Distance: ~3.4 Miles
Location: Boulder, Colorado. Settler's Park/Anemone Hill
Start Time:7:10AM
Weather: Clear and windy
Total Miles: 15.2

The Chinook Wind

by James W. Whilt
There's a soft warm breeze upon the air,
'Tis moaning soft and low,
'Tis cold and chill upon the hill,
Yet it's melting all the snow.

What a great morning.  This might be my favorite hike so far.  It might be the combination of the location, the scenery, or the great lighting, but this is a great park super close to the city that feels like miles from everything.  

I got up early in the morning.  The sun is rising earlier and earlier, and I've really come to love seeing the world wake up and the light changing as I explore and journey.  With the days getting longer and the sunrise coming earlier in the morning, it puts me in a predicament I never thought I'd be in:


I find myself actually looking forward to the Daylight Savings time Shift.

I never thought I'd appreciate that.  I've always thought it was an annoying and outdated practice, but when you time your activities with the sunrise, an extra hour sure seems nice.

I got to the trailhead and a friend met me with her son.  This was the same companion that brought her grand-daughter in a carrier at Mt. Sanitas and was forced to turn back early.  She was there this morning with her grown son that wasn't as excited about seeing the sunrise as I was.  He's a pretty quiet guy, but the disdain for being dragged out this early was written all over his face.  I enjoy having company on my hikes so far, but I only have one requirement: You have to want to be there.  I don't care if you're slow, out of shape, or anything else as long as your attitude is good.  This is my special escape time of the week now, and I don't want anyone sullying it.  

His attitude wasn't infectious, so off we went.  We decided to work our way around the park counter clockwise to catch the view out over Boulder as the sun came up, and to see the signature red rocks arrangement at the top of the hogback.  It did not disappoint, and had a convenient and much appreciated bench to sit and enjoy the morning for a minute.

The wind was blustering pretty hard this morning and came in and out of intensity depending on our exposure and location in this little valley.  We'd get pushed around a little and the sounds coming up from below and over the ridges was really cool. These types of things never really bother me, but they can freak out other people.  We hiked back downhill a little to the parking lot that we had started our Sanitas hike from and then headed back on the west side of the park, looking at the back of the red rocks.  This trail was a well groomed service road and came to a turnoff for what was labeled as the Anemone Hill trail.  

My hiking friends decided that this was their terminus for their trip and headed back down to the lot, and I was left to the rest of the trip by myself.  I was really glad to have someone to start with and enjoy this amazing beginning to my day, but I'll be honest; the moments alone are the ones I enjoy the most.

Anemone Hill was an uphill trek to the top with a combination of rolling trails, Stone Steps and Roots to traverse. On the whole way up I only saw one couple that turned back halfway up, so I had the trail to myself.  It was for the most part on a protected side of the hill from the wind but would get a little gusty in some areas.  There wasn't anything dangerous to deal with, just appreciating the unpredictable weather of the Rockies.  

I got to the top of the trail and came across a post that had an arrow pointing back down where I had come from.  There was a trail heading west and another one continuing up a neighboring hill so I was a little confused. I took out my trail map and nothing else but where I had gone was marked.  The trail further up the hill looked well maintained and there was no signs saying not to go there, nor was it was marked private property.

I'm all about only hiking in approved areas.  If there is a wilderness reclamation area, or a section of trail that is being given a rest, or a fence, I'm not about to go there, but this looked like a really nice place that had been trekked by innumerable people before me.  So I decided a little exploring was in order.

As I walked, there were a bunch of smaller trails heading off in different directions, but I essentially just took the biggest ones, and that took me to the top of a much higher peak north of the end of the Anemone Hill precipice.  I stopped a couple times to rest and debated turning around, both from weariness and from wondering where I was going, but there was no way I could get lost.  I could see the summit and I wanted it.  There's a weird drive to get to the top of things. I'm really glad I did.

Even now that I get home, I can't find the name of the peak that I got to the top of.  It's got an elevation, and it's definitely an established route but no name for me to log in my mental database of "peaks" I've climbed.  

When I crested the flat summit area two things happened. First, I got slammed in the face by at least 60 MPH winds, and secondly, I got the first view in my hiking so far that showed me my future.  The sprawling vista I got to see as I came over the top, opened up to wave upon wave of ridges and and peaks in the area.  I could see Betasso preserve and beyond, and I had to literally take a moment and think about where in this landscape I'd find myself in the future.  Hiking had been a thing to do in the past when there was nothing else to do, and now I find myself thinking of the people I'll meet, the parts of the wilderness I'll get to experience, and the stories I'll get to tell.  

I spent a good amount of time up here.  I had to tuck my trekking poles into a crook in a tree log to stop them from blowing off the top.  I just stood there and let the wind blow around me and watched the pine trees straining against their onslaught.  They swayed and bent and provided a foreground to the boulder valley opening up in front of me.  It was up here that I encountered one of the only other people I saw on this trip.  A young lady came up the summit also.  She was one of those way too fit people that RUN these trails while I'm lucky to haul my fat ass up at any speed.  The difference  is that when I said my customary "Good Morning"  she didn't shirk away like I was a predator lying in wait.  I just stood there after our greeting and looked out over the city, and she asked my how I felt about the wind.  I told her I was quite enjoying it actually, and she was able to vocalize why I felt the way I did.  She said, "You can just stand in this and feel everything blow away from you"

She was totally right.  For that moment I let the wind take my stress, my anxiety, my feelings of inadequacy, and every thing else I let burrow into my psyche and it went with the wind.  Off into the sky, at a speed I couldn't help but catch up to.  It was freeing, and it was my first memorable encounter with a stranger on the trail. I headed down the hill via anther spur that I rightly had surmised would link up with a path I had seen down lower.

I felt like for the first time on this hike, I had got my trail legs for downhill travel.  Among my many maladies I count bad knees among them.  The trekking poles I've got help a lot, but moreso than that, I am starting to feel comfortable enough with my footing to go downhill with not as much caution.  The walk back downhill was gorgeous and the sun had come out from behind the clouds so it was getting lighter.  It was a nice cool down and I was right on time for my monthly Dungeons & Dragons group afterwards (I told you I was a big nerd)

I'll have to take next weekend off, because I'm taking a blacksmithing class, but perhaps I can find a small jaunt midweek to talk about.  I can't wait to see what I find next.