Saturday, July 4, 2020

Hike #19. Mesa Trail, Connecting the Dots

Date: June 28th 2020
Hike Distance: 7.2 Miles
Location: Boulder Colorado. Mesa Trail South to North
Hike Start Time: 7:00AM
Condition: Hot, Sunny
Total Miles: 107.4

I'm not a person that needs to check every tick off on a list by any means. When I started this hiking adventure, I got a map of the Boulder and Nederland area and have been using it, and as resources for hiking, but never really with the explicit goal of hiking every trail there is.  Especially little things like connectors and side loops if they didn't offer anything.  The exception so far has been the Mesa Trail.

From the very first hike I did on the Stranahan loop, to the Bluestem Loop, and South Boulder peak, I had slowly been encountering small sections of the Mesa trail that goes from El Dorado Canyon up to Chautauqua park.  Even my full Moon hike walked on part of it, but there were all these little gaps in between those hikes that were left undone.

I decided I'd connect all of my flatirons hikes together and do all of the Mesa Trail at once.  It would be cool to visit previous excursions while putting together it's own unique chapter too.  the distance wasn't too crazy, and the elevation gain seemed doable.  What I didn't anticipate was me feeling worse than I've ever felt on a trail before through the duration.

As I've mentioned before, I've never been the best sleeper.  I tend to stay up too late, or lay awake in bed way too long before dozing off and then get up too early in the morning.  I was up at night but not too late.  That wasn't what was my downfall on this particular day.

I did this hike on a Sunday morning, but on the previous Friday I picked up a stomach bug.  We deduced it was from making a batch of Mac and Cheese using some old Milk I had in the fridge at my business.  I took most of the day off work on Friday battling it.  By Sunday morning I thought I had gotten over it, but alas, that did not end up being the case.

I ate breakfast, and got to the trail at 7:00AM; a little later than I usually like to start hiking in Boulder but I was also trying to time my pickup appropriately.  I arranged to have my wife pick me up at the North terminus, so we could go visit my new niece at my Sister's house for a socially distanced picnic.  This way I didn't have to go both directions and do 14 miles on one of the hotter days in the summer so far, but also didn't make anyone go way out of their way to accommodate my hiking.

So I got to the south Mesa trailhead and it was full, so I parked at the Doudy Draw lot across the road.  This is also a smaller hike that I want to do also.  Maybe I lied about wanting to complete everything, because Doudy Draw will finish up basically all of the trails accessed through these two trailheads in the area.  Guess I'll have to find a new starting point for new adventures.

Things started out okay at first, but the whole first 2 miles basically had no shade, and because I started later, it was a lot hotter than I've been hiking in.  Couple that with the revenge pf my stomach bug, and that uphill climb to the base of the mountains was a nightmare.

I'll be honest, it was the first time I thought about turning around.  I got dizzy a couple times and had to sit down.  I had never felt this way so early in a hike before, when it dawned on me:  My stomach had felt good because I basically had not eaten anything all day Friday or Saturday besides some pretzels and ginger ale.  The lack of calories and pre-hydration was coming back to haunt me right away.

I texted my wife and gave her an update, but at that point I had gotten up the majority of the elevation gain and had just made it into the shaded part of the trail so I decided to continue on.

This hike is very nice.  It's a mixture of service roads, narrow paths through overgrown meadows and some rocky steps in the forest.  You kind of got everything that the Boulder area has to offer in terms of ecosystems.  I did see more people on this trail than I've seen on any other, but everyone was super respectful and majority wearing masks.  A couple of places were tricky to distance because there was some poison ivy on the sides of the trails. 

It was really fun seeing the markers denoting the trails that I came across and recalling my previous times on those legs.  Almost everything I had done on the bits of the Mesa trail previously had been on a North to South route, so although I had been on some small sections before they all looked new.  There were also a lot of areas that I had only previously hiked with snow on the ground early in the year, so to see those areas now, was completely different. 

As I got further north and away from the trailheads that I have been making my home base recently, I started crossing over trails that I know I'll be exploring another day.  Fern Canyon up to Nebel and Bear peaks, I know I'll go up next time I need an ass kicking, and the multitude of trails by NCAR and the Flatirons, will all be done some time, but I think I"m going to tackle those super busy areas either in the normal offseason, or at least until the global pandemic is under control.

My stomach settled down a little bit as I chugged my water and ate some more granola and other settling foods, but in general I didn't feel hot the entire time.  It actually clouded my memory and at times I was just a little on autopilot for the hike.  Sections would seem to take forever as my discomfort was in the forefront, and them other sections would seemingly pass in a blink as I zoned out a bit.

Nearing the northern end of the hike I started getting to the Area that starts by the Chautauqua ranger station.  There were measurably more people here but luckily the trail widens out to basically a graded road so I was still able to maintain safe distances. 

My ride was waiting for me at the end and I managed to muscle through a hike that I probably should've postponed.  I'm really bad about getting back to things too soon after being sick.  Basically, as soon as the worst is over I assume I'm good to go, and it bites me in the ass sometimes. 

Things are getting hotter which means I need to start even earlier and/or start going to the high country for hiking.  I'm setting my eyes on a number of really nice hikes near Lyons, Golden and Nederland to start.  I'm also going to try and do some smaller 2-4 mile hikes midweek to keep my cardio in better shape for the longer weekend treks.  I think that will help a lot.

Everyone enjoy your Independence day weekend.  I'm going to try and find something that won't be too terribly crazy with people, and I'll be sure and be back to share it with you.  As always, thanks for reading, and I'll see you on the trail.

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