[DENVER] Friday was GORGEOUS on the Front Range, so I packed up the Big Blue Boots and headed to my favorite vista at the Chief Hosa exit on I-70 heading west. (Yeah, if you've seen it, you know what I mean.)
I was expecting an experience like the past two weeks' hikes over by Golden: basically, an escalator of people going up and down. So when I pulled off the dirt road into the parking lot, I was a little surprised to see just four other cars...and lots of snow. When I hiked Chimney Gulch last week, I was feeling hot, hot, hot in a tank top and shorts. I was dressed similarly on Friday, because it was even warmer than last week in Denver. But Genesee had had about 40 inches of snow (not 4, but 40) since last week, and it was still deep in some spots here. I was glad I had a cardigan and rain jacket.
As good fortune would have it, a gentleman named Robert (aka one of the most interesting men in the world) was preparing to embark on the Beaver Brook path at the same time. Robert was marking spots off the trail for the mountaineering class he teaches. Could I BE in better company? I think not.
Looking down on the trees from our perch along Beaver Brook Trail outside Genesee in Colorado. www.explorelocaluniverse.com
It turns out that Robert moved to Genesee in 2014 from Jasper, Indiana, not far from my hometown of Fort Wayne, Indiana. He was executive vice president of a multinational cabinet-making company there. He's also been a professional triathlete, participates in a wine group in Evergreen, has a degree in research science, has traveled all over the world, and skis and bikes most all year round. I'm fairly sure that at 69, he could kick my arse at most any outdoor endeavor.
We hiked the first third of the trail together, shimmying along a rock face at one point. Then he went right and I went left. Left, deep down into the forest, where it was cold and dark and I was alone. I kicked myself a few times for not bringing my day pack. I had no compass, no matches, no extra food, no printed map. Could I BE more ill-prepared? I think not. Lesson learned: Not every trail is flooded with families and dogs all marching in single-file line every step of the way.
Julianne, founder of www.explorelocaluniverse.com, smiling BEFORE I realized I would be fording a flooded mountain stream 18 times.
The snow was kind of a bonus, because some brave soul and his dog had gone ahead of me in recent days. Every now and then I could pick up a footstep. And when I saw a vast patch of snow without a track, I knew I had lost the trail. (There were no signs.)
Curses to Beaver Brook. Maybe at other times of year it's different. Maybe at other times of year when there's not a lot of melting snow, you don't cross the stream 18 TIMES. Yes, I counted. Actually, I lost count--instead, I took photos of each crossing and counted the pictures later. I thought maybe someone was playing a cruel joke when I encountered the first crossover--I had to actually clamber over a beaver dam. (Do beavers bite people?) Next I had to balance on slick rocks within the rushing water. The next few crossings were actually under water. The Big Blues are waterproof, but that doesn't help when you have to step in water deeper than they are tall.
A slick stone crossing over Beaver Brook. www.explorelocaluniverse.com.
My yoga teachers would be proud: I used all kinds of balance asanas (extended side angle, standing splits) to pick my way across small logs and slippery rocks, grabbing any branch that extended its arm anywhere near the muddy bank. You just wish you were there to watch the hilarity!
I even shed some blood fighting my way over a downed tree. www.explorelocaluniverse.com.
I was never so glad to begin a huge ascent as I was that late Friday at the end of the Chavez Trail, which connects to Beaver Brook for a 4-mile loop gaining 1,100 feet in elevation. Climbing meant I would soon leave the cursed brook behind. I could begin to hear the highway off in the distance, the trees were thinning and the weak sun and the mountains were to my back...the end was near. I hiked up the road to the winter parking (yay for added mileage) and got to Black Ruby just in time to see the sun set over my favorite vista.
I stopped at the Morrison Inn on the way home for tacos and a well-deserved world-famous margarita on the roof.
Then I promptly got online with REI and ordered some daypack essentials to make Robert proud--an emergency shelter blanket (one for the car, too); some fire paste; and some water purification tablets to go with the waterproof matches, the compass and the small utility knife that were sitting uselessly in my camping pack. Some jerky and protein bars and I'll be much better prepared for the next long, kinda scary solo day hike over the river 18 times and through the woods.