We all have that one friend that can’t seem to get enough of the great outdoors–but it can be so hard to find Christmas presents for them! Continue reading
As I was looking around my Natural Resources class the other day I realized how you can tell a Warner College (our NR college) student apart from everyone else: Continue reading
Today, I was lucky enough to be able to visit one of Colorado’s many treasures (and best-known tourist attractions) called Garden of the Gods. Its known for its beautiful sandstone rock formations, and thus is a National Natural Landmark.
Today, I had the opportunity to hike Devil’s Backbone in Loveland (the next town over) with some of my APO brothers. Friendship is one of our three pillars, so getting to do some of my favorite activities with them makes it all the better.
Be that as one of my life goal’s is becoming as close to being a Colorado native as possible, I think today marks my next big step towards that aspiration. I’ve got Chacos, I wear my Patagonia fleece, and today I shredded the gnar for the first time ever. Coloradoan lifestyle here I come!
Today I did something I have never done before–snowshoeing. And if you’re in Colorado like me, you don’t always know exactly what to expect when it comes to the weather. So I’ve compiled a list of things that you should expect no matter the time or place you are going snowshoeing.
Since I moved to Colorado almost two years ago (has it already been that long?!), I’ve done a lot of hiking. Its one of my favorite feelings in the world–standing above everything else, taking in the fresh air, and knowing that you’ve just climbed a mountain. And I’ve learned a couple things along the way when it comes to taking better photos when you hike.
Although in the last month I have re-done a number of amazing hikes, I’ve already covered those in previous blog posts (Check out Horsetooth Falls and Arthurs Rock!). My latest (and now favorite) hike of them all is Grey Rock, located in Laporte, Colorado.
This hike was about a twenty minute drive from my apartment, but unfortunately, the trailhead I mapped out was not the correct one. It was 4:30 am when I left, and going into the mountains at that time means absolutely no light. The trailhead I was led to had closed gates, and since I didn’t want a trespassing ticket, I headed further into the mountains in search of phone service. There is literally no service at 90% of places throughout the mountains, but if I could get some I would be able to map out a route to a new trailhead.
Whether it be fate, or getting lost in the right direction, I found the actual trailhead for Grey Rock about 7 minutes further down the road, and an open (and free!) parking lot. It was great–and proved that I didn’t get up at four in the morning for nothing. No way did I want to turn back at that point, so you can imagine my excitement when I found the real trailhead.
I wish I could tell you what the first half of the hike looked like–but walking in the middle of the forest, with only flashlights on the path in front of you at five in the morning, kind of neglects you of that courtesy. But don’t worry!
By around 6:15, I could see light peaking up over the edges of the trees and hills that surrounded us. We began to turn our flashlights off as time went on, until we were completely in light around 6:45 am. Our goal was to reach the summit of Grey Rock around sunrise (6:50 am), but we weren’t to the top until about 7:15 am.
It will take you about an hour and a half to two hours to reach the summit–keep that in mind for sunrise or sunset hikes.
So, I have to say that the view was amazing, breathtaking, awesome. It didn’t take long for me to realize this was my favorite hike by far. Whether that be that I couldn’t see all the elevation gain I was doing in the dark, or the summit’s outlook, or the whole feel of the hike itself–it made it all absolutely worth it.
On the way down, I got to see what we actually had accomplished on the way up. The hike started on a rocky dirt path, intertwining between a stream, and a majority of the time was spent on this type of trail (about one hour). Then, the path becomes more elevated, leading you to a false summit, where you then can view the actual Grey Rock in its entirety.
Following the trail and eventual cairns, you are rock climbing to the very end. This last half mile is difficult and I suggest breaking often, as well as constantly checking that you are going in the right direction (as one wrong move might lead you off a cliff). The view is spectacular. I mean, I’ve been on top of plenty of mountains, but this one was my favorite.
I can’t wait to go back–and I hope to do that very soon!
Some tips: Bring plenty of water, bring sturdy hiking boots or shoes (that you wouldn’t mind getting dirty), bring your camera, and bring your friends!
As always, safe and happy hiking.
June 2, 2016
Having been to Starved Rock State Park already, Matthiessen State Park, just further down the same road, seemed like the next hiking day on the to-do-list.
Compared to Starved Rock, Matthiessen seems to have less elevation gain and loss as a whole, but also many more untamed trails. Starved Rock is pretty well-kept and popular, whereas Matthiessen is more of makeshift bridges made out of bridges and trucking through mud.
As a whole, Matthiessen was pretty dang cool. One thing I didn’t account for is how muddy the park was going to be, as well as the amount of water I would be walking in. I would suggest not wearing any favorite shoes or being willing to get them soaked in all the elements. If I had known earlier, Chaco’s would have been my choice.
For this adventure day, the sun was shining and it couldn’t have been any nicer weather. For the most part, the canopy of trees provides great shade and there are multiple waterfalls to keep cool.
The first fall we visited amazingly big. It was easy to climb up and behind, as the rocks weren’t too slippery, although the water was freezing. Getting to this waterfall was a challenge, with all of us ankle-deep in mud and barefoot. Not to mention, there are plenty of creatures on the way to wonder about and if they are now sticking to your feet as you trudge through the mud. It was totally worth every second.
From there, heading the opposite direction, a small river led us to an opening. We waded our way to the main river path and sand filled our shoes. The rest of the day consisted of us being in the company of each other, following random trails, and some great hiking. It’s easy to have fun when you get to spend the day frolicking through the woods with the people you love.
Matthiessen had some awesome secret spots to check out for sure, and I definitely wouldn’t mind going back. Although I like Starved Rock just a little bit better, Matthiessen is a very close second. And when it comes to Illinois, I couldn’t be more grateful that these two state parks are only an hour drive away.
Here’s to more hiking this summer.