Monday, November 24, 2008

Castlewood Canyon - From one end to another

Our major “adventures” for the weekend all took place on Saturday. Our original plan for Saturday was to hike Centennial Cone Open Space in Jefferson County. Unfortunately, timing was not with us on this one. Centennial Cone is very popular with both hikers and mountain bikers. To prevent trail conflict they have adopted a system in which on weekends, the trails are restricted to hikers on odd number days and mountain bikers to even number days. Given that Saturday was an even numbered days we couldn’t go hiking at Centennial Cone. So I chose to take us to Castlewood Canyon State Park. Castlewood Canyon is a deep canyon that has been carved by Cherry Creek. In the 1890’s a dam was built across the canyon to provide irrigation water to local farmers. The dam failed during a storm in the 1930’s and caused Denver to be extensively flooded. This flood was the impetus for the dam system and flood control network that manage the flow of water in Cherry Creek through Denver.

Zack and I arrived at the trail head in a fine mood around 9:40. I hoped for a warm hike and dressed accordingly – in shorts! I chose to be more cautious with Zack and dressed him in sweats. The hike down into the canyon itself is pretty quick. You lose a lot of elevation very quickly. Within 45 minutes we had reached the canyon bottom and were exploring the ruins of the dam. Zack found it amazing to look at construction of the dam and to observe how the massive rocks had been put in place. After a short snack at the dam we moved onto to the longest part of hike. We were on the western side of Cherry Creek and the trail led us through groves of aspens and pine trees. The canyon at places is very deep and the sides are very steep. The trail for the most part is perched above the steepest slopes. At various points throughout the canyon there are falls that tumble the water downward with a loud roaring sound. At other places you can see the remains of summertime floods that have washed debris high up the canyon wall.

After about 3.5 miles of serious hiking we reached the bridge at the far northern end of the canyon. We traversed the bridge and then began the painstaking processing of climbing back up to the rim of the eastern side of the canyon. There were countless switchbacks and the climb was tiring. Finally we made it to the top and we were rewarded with wonderful views up and down the entire canyon. By this time Zack was starting to get tired and it took some cajoling to keep him going. But he was determined to make it to the end as this hike would be a new “longest” Zack hike.

The hike along the eastern canyon rim was easy and fast. We kept up with a couple of gentlemen who were ahead of us. Zack of course marveled them with his amazing conversations! When you reach the dam again you go back down into the canyon and follow Cherry Creek for a while. We were going to take a different route out of the Canyon and back to the parking lot. The descent and climb back out of the canyon was very steep. Zack was very inspired though as we were closing in on his goal of a new “longest” hike. We made it back to the car and we had a little celebration as Zack had reached his goal of a new “longest” hike. His new record is 6.5 miles! Saturday evening provided us with an adventure of a different kind – the ESPN ZONE! We took the light rail into down town and met up with some friends at the ESPN Zone. The place was packed because of some big football game that was being broadcast. So we had a long wait for our table but we filled the time by playing lots of the games that they have. Then we had a great dinner and played some more games. I love being able to go to the ESPN Zone because we take the light rail and I can have more than one beer – I love that!!
On another note - I have added an e-mail update function to the blog. All you need to do to subscribe is to add your e-mail address in the box to the left and then hit the "Get E-mail Updates" button. You will get an e-mail confirming your subscription in your inbox. Just do what the instructions say and you will get a friendly e-mail everytime the blog is updated. We had a great weekend and we both enjoyed our adventures so much. We will have many adventures to report upon as we go to New York City this week. I will be sure to post lots of pictures and commentary on our trip. Til next time – Peace to all!

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