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15 December 2013

Bikes and Hikes in Colorado (Jeff's story)

My friend Jeff Buchman (we go way back - to being aspiring kayak bums at BayCreek 10+ years ago!) describes a short weekend in November when I visited Colorado, where he lives. 

[Nena's comments in italics.]

Saturday, November 16th:
Nena arrived in Denver around 10:00 and we immediately headed up to Fort Collins with two bikes on the car for brunch and brewery tours. We decided to have brunch at Snooze, a local chain that specializes in creative and delicious breakfast and lunch foods. Since there was a 20 minute wait and Nena was hungry from her flight we wandered down to the food co-op and got some wasabi peas as an appetizer [I'm going through a meaaan wasabi kick lately]. On the way back to Snooze we also decided that stopping at the candy store would be a good way to balance out the spice of the peas. Once seated we did order actual food with Nena opting for the Late Harvest Benny (Wilted Swiss chard, fennel and leeks served atop goat cheese and herb polenta cakes with poached Niman Ranch eggs, cream cheese hollandaise and toasted pine nut crumb) and I went for the traditional corned beef hash. Breakfast over, we went to Brian and Emily’s house where we met their chickens and fed them from our hands, with mixed results. [It stabbed me!!]

We headed out on the bikes to visit a few of the dozen or so breweries scattered across Fort Collins. The first stop is the best know: New Belgium Brewery. While we were not able to take the tour (reservations have to be made well in advance), we enjoyed the tasting room and tried a wide variety of beers. The two most interesting ones we sampled were the coconut curry beer that tastes more strongly of Indian food than I ever expected and the sour beer, which I actually like but have been told is an acquired taste [grossss]. When we went back to the bikes to head over to the Odell Brewery we discovered that Nena’s bike fell victim to a goat’s head thorn which has flattened at least eight of my bike tires since moving here [bikes always seem to break the first time I ride them... hmm...]. Brian returned home to fetch the car while Nena, Emily, and I walked our bikes the short distance to Odell’s. We sipped beers on the patio until it started to get too chilly. We crammed two bikes and 4 people into Brian's Subaru Forester and headed home for some amazing home-cooked vegetable enchiladas a la Brian and Emily.

Brian, Emily, Nena, and Jeff posing for a cheesy tourist photo :)
Sunday, November 17th:
It was a brisk yet sunny fall day in Boulder when Nena, Brian, Emily, Katrina the dog, and I decided to go climb a mountain and see some snow because we are in Colorado and that’s what you do. The first hike we tackled was Green Mountain West Ridge Trail starting at Flagstaff Road. We weren’t sure we would be able to do this hike since Flagstaff Road was seriously damaged in the massive September floods, but luckily it had opened up the day before. While the hike is relatively short (2.5 miles, round trip), it has a considerable amount of vertical gain and a starting elevation of about 7,000 feet higher than Nena’s typical 0-30 feet above sea level [subtly telling my I'm out of shape.]. The hike starts on a fairly narrow section of trail, meandering along a ridge through pine forests dusted in snow (the ski resorts 1.5 hours west got 17” of snow that day). The climb begins with the trail pitching up sharply for 375 feet in about ¼ of a mile with some small scrambles and roughhewn stairs along the way. The top of Green Mountain was breezy, but protection from the rocks allowed us to sit and admire the view of Colorado’s Front Range [Colorado is so pretty!]. Being an out and back trail, the return to the car was eerily similar but much more down than up. Back at the car, we enjoyed avocado and drunken cheese sandwiches before heading on to the second hike of the day.

Only a few miles down the road, in the Walker Ranch Open Space overlooking Eldorado Canyon, our second hike featured more wind and less climbing. We decided to keep this hike a bit shorter, at 1.7 miles, as the loop trail is 10 miles and the snow/mud mixture made hiking into the creek bed a bit slippery. Katrina, the suburban dog, faced the frequent mountain bikers with curiosity and fear. We were able to see a train slowing climbing Eldorado Canyon to the continental divide about 30 miles to the west. With sunset approaching, and a persistent wind, we decided it was time to head back to Boulder. [Brrrrrr]

Total Distance Hiked: 4.2 miles

- Jeff Buchman

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