Monday, November 23, 2009

Return to Hidden Mesa

It had been awhile since Zack and I did a weekend hike. So on Sunday morning we were up and about early so it was time to resume our hiking activity.
I decided that we would make a return journey to Hidden Mesa. This Douglas County Open Space is located off of highway 83 about 7 miles south of the town of Parker. The area encompassed by this open space is part of the Palmer Divide and true to it's name it is made up of a series of mesas rising up from the plains.
Zack and I first hiked this open space back in December of 2008. During that hike we had one of the most incredible wildlife experiences. As we rounded a bend in the trail we came across a large herd of elk in full run crossing the trail and running up one of the sides of the mesa. It was truly an astounding, beautiful sight of nature.
(For the post about our hike at Hidden Mesa in December of 2008 please see the following link...
(Typical rugged terrain that makes up the Hidden Mesa Open Space.)
We set out to reach the trail head around 8:20AM. We arrived at the trail head parking lot about 8:45 AM and found that there were a number of cars already there. As I surveyed the land, I knew we were in for a rough hike. Not because of the terrain, but because of the condition of the trails. We last received snow the previous weekend and the trails though not snow covered were still coated in mud. Given that we had arrived early enough in the day, the mud was still pretty much frozen solid. But I knew once the sun really set to work, we would be slogging through fields of mud!
The hike starts with a 1/2 mile traverse of a field until you reach a steel and concrete bridge that crosses Cherry Creek. Once across the bridge you immediate hook up with the concrete Cherry Creek bike path. (This is a 50 mile plus bike path that run from Castlewood Canyon State Park, through Cherry Creek State Park and into downtown Denver.) To reach the mesa for which the open space is named, you must walk another 1/2 north on the bike trail before finally arriving at the path that leads into the backcountry and the "Hidden Mesa".
Thoughout most of the hike to this point, Zack and I were continually being "warned" by the Prairie Dogs. They would sit on top their dens making a horrible racket as we approached. As soon as we got too close they would jump down their holes and make off into the safety of their underground warrens. Zack was loving the Prairie Dogs and would stop every 50 feet to look at the most recent one "warning" us.
(One of our friends - the Prairie Dogs! Note how easy it is for him/her to slip right down the burrow into the ground for safety.)
The trail leading into the gulch that winds it's way up to the top of the mesa was starting to warm up enough that Zack and I were slogging our way through a torturous mud pit. As we hiked and worked our way up the gulch we were slipping and sliding on the slick surface of the trails. Eventually we reach a picnic table set into a copse of scrub oak and we took the opportunity to rest and clear some of the mud off of our shoes.
After making our shoes a few pounds lighter we resumed the slog up the gulch. Eventually we came to the very steep section that lead to the very top of the mesa. Given the lack of sun in this particular section of the trail, we were trudging through dirty snow and ice. But at last we broke out on top of the mesa. The view from the top to east and north was fantastic and well worth the hike through the mud. The view to the south and east was very different as it appeared that the top of the mesa went on forever. Though we could see the height and bulk of Pikes Peak far off to the south.
We stopped and enjoyed the view for a while before starting our "slide" back down off the mesa and through the gulch. Unfortunately for us as we walk the situation on got muddier and muddier. It got much worse once Zack slid and fell on his butt. But this time he was practically a creature of mud!
(Zack slogging through the mud near the end of the hike)
We did finally make it out of the mud pit and get back to the concrete of the Cherry Creek Bike Path. As we walked the final leg of the trail back to the car we came across 2 women riding horses. They stopped and let us pet the horses which is always a very nice experience.
(Zack petting one of the horses we saw. This horse kept us amused by continually doing a brrrrrr... sound while we were petting him. I think he like us petting him.)
All-in-all our Sunday hike was a good hike even despite the mud. I am still clearning the mud off of our shoes and hiking gear, but I am sure I will have it clean for another hike by the weekend!
Thanks and peace to all! ~J.

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