Saturday, February 7, 2009

Hiking Centennial Cone – At Last!

Despite feeling sick as a dog both physically and mentally, I made the determination that today was the day that Zack and I would finally hike Centennial Cone. Today was the first opportunity that we had to hike in this Jefferson County Open Space since last November. During December and January it is closed for elk hunting. Once it re-opens on February 1st of each year only ½ of the area is open as the rest is closed as it is an elk calving ground. (Elk typically calve in the late winter and then work to take care of their fawns through the early summer. We arrived at the trail head after an hour trip from home. On the drive there we followed route 6 through Clear Creek Canyon. This is a winding, somewhat narrow road that is heavily traveled by cars and buses going to the gambling towns of Central City and Blackhawk. The parking lot at the trail head was totally empty when we arrived which meant that we would have the entire place to ourselves!

There are two main trails to follow in this open space – the Travois Trail which takes a more westernly path through the open space and the Elk Range Trail which takes a more northernly route. Due to elk calving season, the Elk Range Trail was closed, therefore we were going to hike the Travois Trail. The difficult issue however was that we could not find the trail head for the Travois Trail. We knew the general direction in which it lay but we could not find the starting point. We decided to bushwhack across open terrain in the general vicinity of the Travois Trail. We climbed a pretty steep bluff and were able to look down on the valley below where we could make out the trail for which we were looking. Unfortunately between us and the trail was a very steep downhill climb. It was tough but we managed to do it without tumbling the whole way down the hill. Once we finally hooked up with the trail, we enjoyed a great hike through both open meadow and broken pine forest. You can tell that this terrain would provide great refuge to heads of elk. On top of elk I am quite sure it would provide a wonderful home to mountain lions. Zack had read about the mountain lions on a sign near the parking lot and decided to “arm” himself with 3 or 4 large rocks that he carried in his pocket – how funny!!
After hiking for about 1.5 miles we came to an area of very large rocks and boulders that had fallen into a gulch. We decided that this would be our turnaround point as I was feeling pretty darn bad at that point. So of course we had to stop and have our normal snack and drink a bunch of water. The view was great and the silence was deep. There was not a man made sound to be heard at all. In some ways the silence in place like this is deafening. But it is wonderful. After hanging out for a little while we turned around and headed back up the trail. This time we were able to follow the trail the whole way back to the trail head. The reason we couldn’t find the trail head in the first place is that it cut off the Elk Range Trail right before the gate that closed the trail. We reach the parking lot and headed back home. Despite feeling bad, it was great to get out into nature. In fact I think the physical exertion made me feel a little bit better as I was less congested and cough less.

Later this winter we will head back to Centennial Cone to do a much larger hike. I plan for us to actual go off trail and hike to the top of Centennial Cone. It should be a great hike! Next week I will be on an adventure by myself as I need to travel to the UK for work. I will depart Denver on Monday around noon and travel to Greenock, Scotland. I will only be there for 3 days (Tuesday – Friday) so I doubt that I will get much of an opportunity to do anything. Nevertheless, I will report back on the blog on anything exciting that I do. I am hoping I at least get the opportunity to go out for one walk while I am there. Til later – peace to all!


Steve said...

There are some great walking trails above the town and a great base area to start from - one loop is I believe 11 miles and is know as the Greenock Cut. Enjoy!

Jerry Kromer said...

Steve - Thanks for the advice. Though this trip to Glasgow/Greenock is short and won't give me time to hike, I am going to be coming back here frequently in the coming 6 months. I will definitely plan to do this hike on a future trip. So thanks a ton!