Sunday, March 8, 2020

Hike #11: Foxes, and Turkeys, and Deer. Oh My! Heil Valley Ranch

Date: March 7th, 2020
Hike Distance: 10.0 Miles
Location: Boulder, Colorado. Heil Valley Ranch Park
Hike Start Time: 7:00 AM
Condition: Warm, Cloudy, NICE!
Total Miles: 51.78

Earworms of the Day
Black Dog-Led Zepplin
Proud Mary- CCR
Seasons of Love- Rent Soundtrack

I've been working hard at hiking every weekend, and my distances have been slowly ramping up, so I decided that I was going to find a longer distance one to tackle this weekend.  The weather said it was going to be almost 70 degrees out and I had nothing planned until the afternoon, so I started to research longer hikes around Boulder.

There are a ton of really good 3-5 mile hikes and I could probably have strung them together to make a longer hike, but I was really looking for a bigger out and back or loop to do in one go.  As I have a bunch of people joining me sometimes, it's good to have a bunch of smaller hikes ready to go.  Also, it allows those for occasions that I don't have as much time to hike.  So I looked for longer treks.  There were a lot of them, but considering how early in the season I'm getting out, most of them were closed because of mud conditions, or they had a bunch of ice and I haven't gotten around to getting any spikes yet.

I was planning on going hiking early Saturday like I usually did, and I found myself sitting on the couch cruising the alltrails app at like 12:30AM looking for a trail to do.  It's like the Netflix paradox.  The fact that you have so many things you can do, makes you waste a ton of time just deciding which trail to do.  I've spent more time looking for a movie to watch than the movie I ended choosing was long.  I finally decided on the Wapiti, Ponderosa, and Wild Turkey loop in Heil Valley Ranch park North of Boulder.  After going to the park website, I found that some of the smaller loops were closed for mud but not this trail that went further.

I begrudgingly got up in the morning after WAY less sleep that I should have given myself and packed up to go. I made sure to fill the water bladder all the way up, and I stopped at Dunkin' Donuts and got a couple bagels to carry in the pack.  If I was going a full 10 Miles I figured I might want more than just a granola bar to keep me going.

On a side note, I don't recommend going to Dunkin' for anything other than donuts. I've tried them for a breakfast sandwich in the past and the eggs were raw, the croissant was smashed and burned, and it was pretty nasty.  I figured they couldn't screw up a bagel, but they managed to burn that too.  Just get donuts and leave the other stuff to other restaurants.

It was a beautiful morning drive up to the park and I got into the lot.  I decided to park at the first spot I found.  The app listed the trail at 9.8 Miles total and I wanted to get an even ten miles, so I thought I'd be smartie and park the extra distance from the trailhead where the hike was measured from to get the actual 10 miles.

I was greeted by my first critter encounter of the day.  I originally thought someone had their dog with them, which was weird because dogs weren't allowed on these trails, but upon a closer look, there was a fox in a small ditch right by the parking lot.  He hopped across some rocks, looked over towards me and a lady who were admiring him, and then he trotted off.  This was before I even had strapped on my pack.  I took it a good omen and hit the trail

I learned a new term with this trail.  This is what is known as a "lasso" trail, It has a path that you take a distance out and then a loop, and then you take the same path back that you took to get out to the loop, making a lasso shape on the map.   The string of this lasso was called the Wapiti Trail.  It starts as a graded emergency access road and then branched off to the trail proper. These roads would criss-cross the trail periodically and I assume they were used at one time for mining and now they're used for fire access.  The area had evidence of recent fire and also of beetle-kill mitigation, but there was more than enough forest and cover to still be beautiful.

It's going to be a recurring theme, but I have to tell you; this is the most amazingly built trail I've seen so far and I'd be surprised if I see better on any excursion.  The area was obviously used to quarry really nice stones for buildings in the past, and the trail builders took advantage of this amazingly.  On many other trails there are mounds on the uphill sections to stop erosion and the flow of water or to divert it off the trail.  On this one they built the mounds out of stone and laid them like a cobblestone bridge.  There are sections of inlaid stones that look like the nicest flagstone patios, and on this uphill they've pretty much identified an indentations or impressions that would hold water and get muddy and completely covered them to stay stable, dry and smooth

I'm a terrible mountain biker and I would love to ride this trail, I can easily see why it's so popular with bikers, and I saw a lot of them on the trail as proof.

About halfway up the connecting trail, I came across a stacked stone building foundation with a dedicated bench next to it.  I didn't really need a rest for my muscles, but I did need to take off my fleece jacket.  It was getting warmer and it was time to shed a layer.  After I got changed and was about to move on, I decided I needed a quiet moment to just enjoy where I was, so I sat and just listened and reflected for a while. These are moments you need to seize, even when you're working hard and moving too.

I headed up, and made my second wildlife encounter in the form of a massive "rafter" of turkeys, and yes, I did go look up what a group of turkeys is called.  There were a ton of them.  All over the hillside, and they were chattering and gobbling.  There was a group of Male turkeys, and I'm pretty sure one of them was albino, and the females were all over the hillside.

They were right in the middle of the trail and a mountain biker on the way back down almost ran into one.  I used my hiking pole to cajole them off the trail and went on after taking way too many pictures.  I apologize ahead of time.  I went to text a picture to my wife because I knew my daughter would love waking up to the turkey pictures, and it was then that I noticed that the recorder on the alltrails app apparently automatically pauses if you stop for too long, but then also doesn't automatically start back up.  So I had a nice gap in my elevation and distance tracking that I was super peeved about.  I restarted it and headed out, getting to the bottom of the lasso loop.

This part of the trail was a little bit more uphill, but mostly a rolling loop around the top of a mesa.  The wind would kick up over the west side of the ridge with a cool breeze, and there were a lot more mud and slush patches, but nothing that required spikes or anything.

I got out to a scenic lookout and was at the five mile mark.  I was already almost at the longest hike I'd done, but it was exciting to know that I'd be getting ten miles no matter what at this point; it was literally just heading back to accomplish it, and there's not really any other choice but to do that.  I was also pretty amazed that I was feeling really good.  I took a moment at the overlook to check the trail map, and was pleasantly surprised to find that I had done almost all of the upward elevation gain without even realizing it.  Maybe this fat guy is starting to get the muscles for this.

The rest of the loop followed a really pretty trail around the outside and it got progressively muddier.  It wasn't that bad when I was there but judging by the number of bikes I encountered coming up the trail, that loop was going to be pretty soupy by the end of the day.

You'll notice a new addition to the header on the blog, and that's the addition of the earworm of the day.  I mentioned it on my first trail report, but no matter what you do, you get songs stuck in your head when you walk by yourself.  So I'm going to make note of ones from now on if I can remember them.  I think Proud Mary was the last thing on the radio in the car, we were listening to old records at work for the Led Zepplin, and I started thinking about how many steps I probably took (I forgot my fitbit today, d'oh!) so that's where the 525,600 minutes part comes in.

I started feeling my legs getting heavier and my toes catching more rocks on the ground around the 8 mile mark, so  luckily the rest of the trail was downhill back to the car.  I started getting hungry around that time, and thought about eating my bagel when I got back to the car, and then thought that was dumb, so I stopped at a nice bench in a meadow and ate breakfast while looking south at peaks I thought about ascending soon.

This was the SECOND time the app stopped on me during the hike and I didn't realize it until I was down trail a ways, so there's a second gap in the recording.  

I saw the turkeys again further down the hill, and almost back to the trailhead I spotted a deer.  This was the most wildlife I've seen to date and it was really cool.

When I got to the car I found my final annoyance with the tracking app.  Now, I haven't explored the settings in it, and I guess I'm the dumb one for just expecting it to work, but the tracker stopped automatically when It got to the trailhead for the hike I selected, so it robbed me of my .2 miles.  I know that might seem super trivial, but Dammit, I earned those extra .2 miles.

I drove home feeling super accomplished and a little light headed.  I think it was probably my blood sugar so I stopped and got a coke.  I think I'll carry a small bottle of Gatorade in my pack from now on to go along with the water.

I'm writing this the next day, and I'm not as sore as I thought I'd be.  The possibilities for trails have just opened up even more, so hopefully I'll have the next adventure picked by next weekend.  I'm definitely going to get some spikes also, so I don't have to wait for mother Nature to get where I want to be.

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