Sunday, July 02, 2006

East Elk Creek: great hike, nasty bike ride

We brought the mountain bikes to New Castle and Amy and I wanted some nice singletrack to ride while grandma watched Andrew, so we picked up a copy of “your guide Western Garfield County outdoor activities”. We found a trail that sounded perfect, was listed as a biking trail, and just a few miles from the condo: East Elk creek. We rode about 50 yards before we hit an impassible section, and walked the bikes another 50 yards. This scenario repeated itself for almost a mile, as we lugged the bikes past fallen trees, seriously steep sections covered with loose rock, and ridiculously steep, exposed talus fields that plunged into the roaring creek below. The trail was completely eroded away in sections and just plain nasty in others. We finally ditched the bikes behind a tree and hiked from that point on – in our biking shoes. Our suffering was well rewarded, though, with one of the most beautiful canyons I’ve ever seen. East Elk creek cascades down the canyon in a series of waterfalls, and the canyon walls rise up steeply about a thousand feet. It’s the same geology, and almost as impressive as nearby Glenwood canyon, but it has a strong advantage – it doesn’t have 4 lanes of interstate highway ripping it in half. In some sections, the creek carves out narrow gorges with sheer cliffs over a hundred feet tall on either side. A fire scorched the valley 4 or 5 years ago, but the skeletal trees bestow a stark beauty on the landscape. Besides all the scenery, the trail is lined with raspberry bushes with plenty of ripe berries easy to pick.

We’ll have to go back to do a longer hike here. Andrew is back in town with Grandma, and we promised to be back for lunch.

This afternoon after a big buffet lunch, we loaded Andrew into the bike trailer and rode up the paved trail in Glenwood canyon for a 28-mile round trip next to the highway. It was good exercise, but an entirely different, and somewhat disappointing experience after the secluded scenery of East Elk this morning.

Rain on the crystal river yesterday sent tons of dirt into the Roaring Fork, and ultimately the Colorado river. My dad had a half-day guide trip scheduled for the morning, but the cloudy water cancelled it. The river is clearing up quickly, so as long as we don’t get any more downpours, we’re on track for some fly fishing tomorrow.

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