The Long’s Peak Trail in RMNP is notorious. Why? During the summer it is like a busy street in New York City with hikers going along like a wagon train, some to the hitching post point, some up to the Boulder Field, the Key Hole and on up to the top of Long’s Peak, and some to Chasm Lake. As of last week, there is still too much snow and ice to be able to summit without risking your life, which you do when the trail is clear anyway!
But our goal was Chasm Lake, and even on that trail there is still a major snow field to cross, one slip and you wouldn’t stop until you hit somewhere on the shore of Peacock Pool far below. This is a well-traveled route, but it is also a long and hardy trail. One of the most difficult decisions to make is going on, down to Chasm Lake from the hitching post when you know you will have to climb back up before you head back down to the trail head.
It is, of course, well worth it! The day was warm and sunny, the wildflowers were blooming in abundance, and there were climbers on one of the sheer rock faces that surround much of the lake. One beggar marmot really wanted me to share my sandwich-people just don’t get the idea that you shouldn’t feed the wildlife.
Crossing back over that snow field was far worse than when we crossed it going down to the lake. It was slick and I was unwilling to move too fast for fear that I would lose my footing and be waving goodbye to Elaine as I careened down the cliff. The trail head sign was a welcome sight after a long and glorious 81/2 mile hike!
I wait with anticipation every year to see how many choke cherries make it through the spring and early summer to ripen to that almost black shade of purple that indicates they are ready to be harvested and begin the process into the jelly jars! We had a bumper crop this year with, so far, 60 pints of jelly and more to come.
I’ve seen the prices of homemade specialty jellies in stores, and I can attest that they are worth every penny. It takes hours in the hot sun, the unpleasant buzz and bite of flies on your skin, the branches making a grab at your face and hair, to pick enough of the tiny berries to make a batch of jelly or syrup.
Once you’ve picked them, washed them, boiled them and strained off the juice, then it’s time to prepare your jars, get the canner boiling, and make the jelly. The juice get mixed with a bit of lemon juice, pectin, raw sugar and just a nip of butter to control the foam and then boiled to the jelly stage. Now, measure the piping hot liquid into the jars, wipe the rims and add the lids and bands and pop into the boiling canning pot. Submerge them and process them for the time the recipe requires, pull them out, listen to them pop and seal and leave them overnight. Check in the morning to be sure the lids sealed, label the top and then stand back to marvel at this preservation of toast, pancake and muffin topping to enjoy all year! I love the deep rosy-purple color of chokecherry jelly.
Later this summer will be crab apples, pears, apples, wild plums and some rhubarb jam.
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Our hike last week took us back into JeffCo open space as we ventured down the Castle Trail, along the Meadow Trail and back on the Tower Trail. After two pretty intense hiking weeks, this was a break onto a less difficult trail with lots of views! We’ll be conquering Chasm Lake later this week.
This set of trails wanders through the land that was “settled” by John Brisbane Walker. He had thousands of acres near Morrison, Colorado that are now preserved in open space. He built a huge mansion for his family, but when his wife died and then lightning struck and burned down the home, they moved on. The sign by the ruins of the home state that not only did Mr. Walker conserve land, he also introduced irrigated alfalfa as a crop and at one time owned Cosmopolitan Magazine.
Alex and Trevor joined our hike this day, as well as Sampson the happy lab. It was a great day to be out and about in the woods and the bonus was that we had ourselves some ice-cream at McGills World of Ice Cream in Lakewood. If you haven’t been there, you should go right now.
Hiking to mountain lakes is such a pleasure. While the trail may be steep or snow-covered in spots, fatigue seems to slide off when the lake comes into view. We don’t always hike to spots like this, but the trail is always a challenge and the view is always worth it.
This trail in Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the more well-traveled routes as it is a fairly short distance to hike up to Calypso Cascades, and even on to Ouzel Falls. There is just something about watching water roaring down that draws people to experience it. But we were going beyond the falls and on up to Ouzel Lake this time, just over 10,000 feet. The trail literally comes around a bend just after crossing the bridge below the falls. I’d never been beyond that spot in the trail, even as many times as I’ve hiked to those falls.
The rock wall around the bend rises up sharply on one side, while defending into the valley on the other. Shaded by pines, we ascended the path with Mt. Copland towering to the South. Ouzel Creek rushes along one side of the trail below us and eventually we end up alongside it as we hike the last half-mile or so to the lake. We hit much more snow on this hike, even as the tumultuous creek told us that snow was melting at a high rate!
I was happy to have my PB & J after I settled on a rock with Elaine and her friend, Karen. Although this is supposed to be one of the most popular fly-fishing lakes in the park, catch/release, we didn’t see anyone fishing. By the time we were heading back down the trail, we met up with tons of people hiking up to the cascades and the falls. No Meadow Mountain Cafe for us today, but what a glorious hike!
Last week we hiked to Finch Lake up in the Wild Basin entrance to RMNP. Heading up the trail at 7 a.m., it was cool and beautiful. The first part of the trail goes up through tall pines and around a corner into a lovely aspen-filled meadow. Elaine and I both agree, though, that some giant must have designed the rock steps that take you up the majority of the altitude. No normal human has that kind of natural step!
Once you conquer those, there are some amazing views of Longs and Meeker and the surrounding peaks. Although this is a tough trail at points, we always find enough breath to talk quietly as we hike along, bouncing ideas off each other and sharing our lives. And when you come down the last bit of the five-mile trail, the lake is awesome. No one else was there and the lake was still, the sky so blue, and the wildflowers plenty.
We hiked through snow, which is unusual for this late in June. The water was high, and the little streams were still flowing down the trail at points. On our way back down the trail, we began to run into other
Meadow Mountain Cafe
hikers and counted ourselves blessed to have had the lake all to ourselves.
Ten miles later, we lunched at our old favorite, Meadow Mountain Cafe! Chocolate malts all around. A wonderful day.
Today is the first day of summer, and it is going to be a hot one! I struggle with heat, anything over 85 if there is no breeze or shade. I don’t like to be hot and I don’t like the sudden swarm of mosquitos that follows me wherever I go outside, clinging to my arms and the legs of my jeans. So, I got thinking that maybe I need to spend some time spreading a little optimism.
Winston Churchill said, “…an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Optimism is supposed to help ward off disease and help people cope in difficult times. Part of spreading optimism is being grateful. Grateful people are full of optimism! Some other ways to spread optimism:
smile at that driver who cut you off, smile in the face of your negative relative or neighbor, make that favorite meal for the ones you love, go dancing, take the time to stop and listen, turn the TV off, picture the “finish line” for whatever it is that you are trying to get done and the distance won’t seem so far, put on your favorite song and grab the nearest whisk to sing it into, give someone a genuine compliment-see past the surface to the person beneath, write your spouse, child, or friend a note and tuck it into a spot where they are sure to find it, pack a picnic lunch/supper and find a nice spot to enjoy it with someone, start a game of poker with some friends, bake an extra batch of cookies, bread, or muffins and share them with a neighbor or boss or friend. Fill the world with the things you want to see. I’ll try to remember that all those swarming mosquitos are a bat feast!
Pick some simple way to spread optimism and add it to your day for the next thirty days and see what happens. Keep it simple and doable. In the words of A.A. Milne:
“What day is it?”
It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
My favorite day,” said Pooh.”
According to the United States Forest Service, it was at the end of the 20th century that hiking became recognized as a form of recreation. This makes sense because we were still a largely rural population before then, so most of us lived near forests and fields and that was just a part of our daily experience. Soon, walking and outing clubs became popular, in fact, the USFS says that the Rocky Mountain Club was founded in Denver in 1873! These clubs developed hiking trails for use and they promoted wilderness preservation (forest history.org). Scouting came out of this movement as adults recognized the positive effects that spending time in, and learning about, natural places had on youth.
There is no doubt in my mind that the cure for most things that I fret about is time spent running on my own, or hiking with friends. Elaine and I have completed two hikes so far in our season, and enjoyed sharing one of them with Alex and Rikki. Last week, we hiked the Raw Hide Trail in White Ranch Park, which is part of the vast array of trails in the Jeffco open spaces. The informative signs told us that the Ute and Arapahoe tribes used this land. A homestead was filed in 1865 and later sold to the Paul White family who ran a commercial Hereford cattle operation and raised crops to feed those cattle. Some of the horse powered farm equipment is on display. In 1969, Paul’s wife Anna Lee agreed to a part purchase-part gift agreement and the land come into the Jeffco open space system.
I was amazed at the tenacity of those first settlers in that difficult to access, but lush land as they worked hard to make their living and raise their families. The wildflowers were lovely, the sky was bright blue with some puffy white clouds and we had a wonderful hike. Hiking season is officially underway! Bonus: I arrived home to check the windmill just in time for this blessing.