Saturday, July 25, 2020

Hike #21: El Dorado Canyon State Park

Date: July 19th 2020
Hike Distance: 4.7 Miles
Location: El Dorado Canyon State Park, Rattlesnake Gulch Trail
Hike Start Time: 6:30AM
Condition: Sunny, Nice.
Total Miles: 118.1 Miles

If I told you that The trail I just hiked used to be driven by Model T Fords up to a hotel, you'd think I was crazy.  I might be crazy, but that's the absolute truth.  At the top of the trail there was a hotel called The Crags that was only around for a few years at the beginning of the 20th century.  People would either take the train (that still runs by today) or a water powered Funicular to get to the luxury resort.  

The other option was to take your car and drive up.  I know it's been over 100 years of plants and things growing on this trail, but it's hard to imagine people driving up "Crags Boulevard".  This was popular enough that the Denver Motor Club even had a garage at the hotel.  Even the road from where people would've got off the train down to the hotel is pretty amazing to think about them driving over.

This picture is provided courtesy of the Carnegie Library for Local History, Boulder.  Check out this article with more history and pictures here. I love this kind of history that I can find along the way.

Well, this is a hiking blog, not a local history blog so let's talk about the hike. The girls decided to go for an early morning hike with me, and I knew El Dorado State Park gets super busy on the weekends, so I prepared them for my usual crazy intentions of getting up for a sunrise hike.  I'd been to the park before I started my seeking of vertical movement, and just had a nice picnic along the creek, and watched the rock climbers on the sheer faces of the canyon.  It's one of my favorite places.

We arrived in the morning and made our way through the unusually high density of "SLOW" signs throughout the town of El Dorado.  It's a weird little town that's a combination of hovels, and new crazy renovated houses.  Looking at the majority of the places, you'd think it insane the prices that the properties go for.  Still at the entrance to the park is the original Springs Swimming pool.  Right now, they're digging it completely out and redoing the actual pool area.  Pretty good timing to do it this year, so hopefully they'll be ready for a non-covid summer next year.

We parked in a small parking area along the road about 2/3 of the way up the canyon road to the visitor center at the base of the Fowler trail.  This trail we encountered when hiking outside the park in the Doudy Draw Open space but didn't venture past the park boundaries.  This time, we started the trek from here and then diverted up the Rattlesnake Gulch trail.

The Fowler trail was easy and well graded and then when we got to the Rattlesnake cutoff it became rockier and more steep.  Although this wasn't a difficult hike, it did pretty much climb the entire time, so it definite;y felt like longer than it actually was.  We got up to a section with an Aqueduct tunnel and really nice long wooden bridge and continued up and up. 

and up, and up.  It wasn't a huge elevation, and it's the type of elevated hike I like, just angled and not too many steps.  I can go forward and up for a long distance but my old knees start yelling at me if the hike is composed of a ton of high steps.  And it's not even the up that's the problem.  yeah, it's tiring and work, but my body hates the return back down even more.

We go to the top of the trail, and I had originally heard the full loop had been closed because of a nesting raptor, so I  was pleasantly surprised to find that I' get to explore the entirety of this trail.

The ruins at the hotel site gave a glimpse of what was there previously, but it was hard to imagine exactly what it would've looked like.  Time and I'm sure the looting of tourists for the last hundred years had taken their toll on the remains.  There was a foundation for a fountain, some retaining walls, and the fireplace was still there.  We looked around and made sure to not disturb anything that was left and headed around the loop of the lasso we were on. 

This part was some more up, and got fairly steep at times, but was well maintained and easy to traverse.  We got to see the railroad tracks really well as an Amtrak passenger train rolled by. I'd love to take that train some day.  Train rides are so fun, and adding the awesomeness of the Rocky Mountains can only make the experience better. 

We went over and looked at the train tracks from outside the No Trespassing area, and waited around for a little bit hoping to see another train up close but after a while, decided we needed to get going. 

the rest of this loop now started our downhill journey and I guessed that this portion was the horse and buggy road that would take the guests to the hotel from the train stop.  It was reminiscent of a nicely maintained and graded trails. We took a small diversion track that took us on top of a rock outcropping that we could look over the back of a ridge and get great views of the continental divide and mountains in the distance.

the path down was super easy, and as we neared our car the park started filling up with people.  We donned our masks and headed back home  It was a great morning hike filled with history, trains, and amazing scenery.  I can't wait to explore the other trails in this canyon soon.  Don't worry though; you won't be reading any articles about me rock climbing those cliffs any time soon.  That's for a whole different breed of person.

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