Posts Tagged ‘Walker Ranch Loop’

South Boulder Creek near the lower crossing on the Walker Ranch Loop Trail

It was near 90 degrees the last two days, but now it was a cool 60 outside my house.  Looking out to the Front Range from my living room windows, the Indian Peaks were already shrouded behind rain and the weather didn’t look promising.  What the hell?  I went anyway.

On a warm early March day I hiked just the first mile or so of the Walker Ranch Loop trail until the way was blocked by feet of snow just on the far side of South Boulder Creek.  Now, two months later, I went back to complete the 7.6 mile route.  This time there was a lot less snow, a few more people, and ironically, it was about 20 degrees cooler.

I stepped out of the car at the trailhead at Boulder County’s Walker Ranch Open Space into a cool breeze and looked up to the canopy of white-gray clouds draped over the landscape.  Would the rain hold out?  Doubtful.  I double-checked that I packed my blue raincoat and off I went.

The Walker Ranch Loop Trailhead starts at a high point.  If you take it counter-clockwise like I did, the first mile drops a few hundred feet down to South Boulder Creek.  In March the water in the creek was low and quiet, but it was much higher and noisier now during our early spring runoff.

The footbridge across South Boulder Creek in early March

The same footbridge in early May with a swollen S. Boulder Creek flowing underneath

Past the bridge, the trail immediately begins the first of two significant climbs on the route.  A few hundred feet higher and a mile and a half farther in, you reach the edge of the Gross Dam Road.  A few hundred feet beyond that, the trail emerges into an open area at the Eldorado Canyon State Park access to the loop (about a mile of the trail is in Eldorado Canyon State Park.  The rest is in the Walker Ranch Boulder County Open Space).

Still no rain, the cool weather made for pleasant hiking along a stretch of high open range.

Looking out over the green hills near the Eldorado Canyon access point.

Soon the trail begins the second descent back towards South Boulder Creek as it gradually curves towards the east.  At about 4 miles in the trail navigates a short but extremely steep section that takes the hiker down to the river.  Some very expertly constructed steps have been put in place here.

Looking down the stair steps just above the lower crossing point of South Boulder Creek

By now the silence of the upper trail has been replaced by the rush of South Boulder Creek.  At this lower crossing in high water, South Boulder Creek is a riot of white water and white noise echoeing throughout the canyon.

The churning waters of South Boulder Creek from the trail at the lower crossing point.

A very large and sturdy wooden footbridge crosses the rapids of the creek.  Here the second ascent begins.  Also here, the rain finally arrived in earnest.  It had been a pleasent sprinkle for the previous two miles.  But, it finally intensified to the point where I needed to break out the raincoat.

The route briefly follows a graded road here before branching off to the left at near the six-mile point and commencing on a fairly strenuous climb up to the ridge south of the trailhead.  Also near this point are some of the remains of the old Walker Ranch Homestead.

Walking through the rain I saw a sullen-looking solitary turkey waddle across the trail and disappear into the brush.

Before too long the ridge was reached and misty views of the surrounding foothills emerged from the wet darkness of the forest.

The nice ridge over the final mile or so.

I always prefer nice sunny days for hiking and backpacking.  But, I find a certain different kind of enjoyment hiking in the rain.  The moisture and restricted visibility tend to bring nature closer in to the senses.  The enhanced feeling of “being in the elements” increases a sense of wildness.

I strolled happily along on the final mile, over the gentle ups and downs of the ridge back to the trailhead.  As I approached the trailhead, a happy pair of mountain bluebirds skimmed just over the grass and wildflowers of the meadow.

By the time my hike ended the rain intensified and the air felt quite cool–cool enough to see my breath.  A couple miles up the road on the drive home, near the top of Flagstaff Hill, the rain turned to a thick snowfall.  My car told me it was 36 degrees outside.  It was almost 90 at my house the day before…

Springtime in Colorado, I guess.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

* The Walker Ranch is a 3,500 acre parcel of the extensive Boulder County Open Space System located in, near and around the city of Boulder, Colorado.  Access is just a few miles up the hill from Boulder. *


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