Thursday, June 15: Coyote Ridge Trail

Distance: 4.2 miles

Elevation Gain: 600 ft.

Trail: Natural/Dirt

Land Status: Public/Managed by the city of Fort Collins

Difficulty: Moderate due to incline

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My favorite part of this hike happened on my hike back down, when a mountain biker passed me while belting out a song at the top of his lungs in what I think was Spanish, in a jolly sing-songy way. So random.

My new commute to work is long, but I am so lucky that there are so many open spaces and trails between home and work. Today on the way home from work I decided to stop at Coyote Ridge to do a short hike. I used to frequent this trail when I was in undergrad as it was a favorite running route, but I certainly did not feel up to running it this time (we’ll say it’s because I haven’t yet adjusted to the altitude here…). However, it served as a beautiful place for an evening hike. I saw so much wildlife, including mule deer and many bunnies, along with a really beautiful, small, bright blue bird. I forgot how challenging the trail could be on the way out, as it is uphill with some pretty loose/rocky trail sections. At the top there is such a beautiful overlook of Fort Collins in one direction and more open space in the other direction with more connecting trails.

Monday, June 5: Gem Lake to Twin Owls & Sprague Lake, RMNP

On Monday we woke up, headed to the complimentary breakfast, ate some goodies, and then headed out for another hike. Although actually, our first stop was the Country Supermarket along Moraine Ave. where we picked up made to order sandwiches for our picnic lunch planned for the afternoon. After that, we determined that the trailhead for Gem Lake was not actually in the park, so we turned back around and headed through the town of Estes to the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead. There we started our upwards climb to Gem Lake, with dark and rumbly clouds in the distance. The rain held off, and we were able to fully enjoy this hike up to the beautiful Gem Lake. There were some pretty neat overlooks of the town of Estes along the way, but the lake was a true treat. We sat next to the lake for a bit, fending off chipmunks that were way too brave around humans (please don’t feed wildlife!!). We hiked back down (which was also a bit challenging due to the oddly spaced steps), and decided to make a loop along the Twin Owls trail back to the Lumpy Ridge Trailhead. In all, the hike was a little over 4 miles.

After our hike, we headed back through Estes and into the park for a picnic lunch at Sprague Lake. We ate our tasty sandwiches then took a short stroll around the lake, taking in the mountains one last time before we headed out of Estes.

On the way down the canyon I pulled over at a pull-off to let a speedy driver pass, and David snapped this pretty picture of a fly fisher in the Big Thompson River. Overall, it was a great couple of days in Estes Park and RMNP with some really beautiful hikes and time well spent outdoors.

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Sunday, June 4: Cub Lake Trailhead to Fern Lake Trail, RMNP

We decided to take a couple days on this trip to spend in Estes Park/RMNP so we could do a couple of hikes and relax in the town at night. We arrived Sunday and decided to try a new hike for the both of us. Originally, we were looking at a hike on the west side of the park, Cascade Falls, but it took about an hour and a half to get their from the Beaver Meadows entrance, so we opted for a bit of a closer trail. We chose Cub Lake, and loved it! In total it was a little under 7 miles of hiking. We started out on a trail that led us through a field with a beautiful view of the snowcapped mountains, along with a herd of elk grazing in the field. We paused for a few minutes to watch the elk as they grazed, it was really neat. We continued on to a beautiful hike that led to Cub Lake, which was an awesome spot to stop and snack. While snacking, an we saw an elk “hiking” on the trail as well. After our break, we opted to elongate the hike and to do the Fern Lake loop, which turned out to be a great choice. We were definitely pretty pooped at the end of the hike, but there were so many beautiful views and different scenery along this hike. I would highly recommend it! There are certainly some up hill sections, but the elevation gain is under 1000 ft and it’s not considered a “summit” hike, so there are more flat sections and downhill than there is uphill.

 

After the hike, I told David about how cool the Alpine Visitor Center was, and the stairs up to the overlook there. So, we decided to drive up there. Forgetting how much I hate heights, I started the drive, but about twenty minutes in I panicked and pulled over so David could drive. When we got to the center, I realized that I had forgotten about how much snow is still there (duh, they JUST reopened the road a couple of days ago), so the stairs up were closed and all of the cool overlook sections were also roped off. We got there just in time to pick up a few snacks at the visitor center before it closed, and then we drove back down, stopping at some of the overlooks to take in the views.

We stayed the night at an inn in Estes Park, Maxwell Inn, which is located right off of the main road. I also highly recommend this inn. They have cute, clean rooms, and great people working there (with tasty dinner recommendations). We went to Wapiti Colorado Pub and ate burgers (elk & veggie) and drank some tasty Colorado beer, then walked along the river back to the inn after some ice cream. We watched the Cavs lose game two of the finals, and fell asleep, tired from the hike.

 

Tuesday, May 30: Horsetooth Rock Hike to the Budweiser Clydesdales, Snowbank Brewery, and Black Bottle Brewery

Distance: 5.4 miles

Trail Surface: Natural/dirt

Time: About 3 hours

Land: County natural space, pass required

Elevation Gain: 1,761 feet

We made it to Colorado via the trusty Ford Focus! We decided that our first hike should be the classic hike up to Horsetooth Rock in Fort Collins. David, myself, and my dad headed out in the morning for the climb up. The weather was perfect, with some warm sunshine but complimented with a nice cool breeze and plenty of shade on the trail up. I definitely felt the change in altitude compared to the hikes in Cleveland, but it was a great hike. David convinced me that it was worth the extra climb up to stand on top of the rock at the end of the hike, so I braved it and went all the way up. The views were spectacular, as usual, and we were able to see snowy mountains, Horsetooth Reservoir, and the city of Fort Collins in the distance.

 

After resting up, we headed out (not on foot this time) to see the Clydesdales and explore some local breweries! The horses were beautiful, and I wanted badly to bring one home. It must have been nap time because they were all a bit sleepy. After that, we headed to a couple of breweries for some fun and some tasty beer.

Thursday, May 25: Nature Center at Shaker Lakes to Upper Shaker Lake, Shaker Heights

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A photo of the boardwalk in the evening, from August 2013

This is hands down my favorite place within five miles of our apartment. Since I moved to Cleveland I have frequented these trails for running, evening walks, and a place to go and think while enjoying nature. David and I have spotted herons many times, seen turtles napping on logs, along with a few deer sightings. This area was almost ruined in the 1960s when a proposed highway was going to be built, and I am forever grateful that local residents organized and fought the highway. Today I went out for a short, a little under two mile walk in the rain. I saw two herons competing for space on the lake and enjoyed the peaceful sound of the rain falling as I walked along the trails.

Thursday, May 18: Hemlock to Deer Lick Cave Loop Trail, Brecksville Reservation

This was my first time hiking at the Brecksville Reservation. There seemed to be a variety of trails in terms of difficulty level, trail surface, and scenery. I did a big loop of the park, passing the lovely Chippewa Creek Gorge overlook and the nature center. I was supposed to pass the Deer Lick Cave, but I got turned around and did the loop incorrectly, and was never quite able to find the cave. I did however take what I now assume to be an old trail that kind of fades away, with really old markers that probably weren’t supposed to be up anymore, down a hill which turned into a scramble to find a way down through the weeds (poison ivy?!) and a small creek. It turned out fine, and was quite the adventure. Overall the hike was a little over 4 miles, and I would definitely come back again!

Sunday, May 14: Whitetail to Lake to Beechnut Trails, Beartown Lakes Reservation

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the amazing mamas out there! We decided to finish up the hikes listed in the book in Geauga Park District by doing the last hike today, at Beartown Lakes Reservation near Chagrin Falls. It was a beautiful, short hike through the woods and around a lake. There was a lot of active wildlife, including lunging birds, a snake, and a heron napping by the lake. After the hike, we headed to downtown Chagrin Falls for lunch at our favorite spot there, Flipside, and of course, dessert at Jeni’s ice cream. We sat next to the river and relaxed while watching the geese do their funny water dive moves and balancing above the waterfall.