Saturday, September 18, 2010

What "not" to do in preventing a cougar attack; Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Fall colors on the Burro trail
I did this hike last Friday, and as I was typing it up and about to publish, something happened and Blogger ate my post.  I finally had time today to re-write it. 
Today I woke up early and once the sun hit the Colorado blue sky I decided that I needed to go hiking.  Quickly, I chose Golden Gate Canyon State Park because it was fairly close and I could gain enough elevation to see some of the fall colors.  I packed my bag and got the dogs into the car and took off out the door. 
When I reached the trail there was a big sign warning about mountain lions in the area (not uncommon in Colorado) but this just fueled my recent fear about mountain lions.  Maybe because I caught part of a TV show about a cougar attack, or because on a recent hike, I had unusual paranoia that a mountain lion was stalking me; complete with hair on the back of my neck standing up.  Then, yesterday another writer posted an article about how to protect yourself from a mountain lion attack.  After reading the article I became even more anxious because I often hike alone and with dogs which are two items on the "what not to do" list.  
Since I don't plan to stop hiking alone with my dogs I need to buy some bear spray; I also am going to be more aware about the dogs being off leash and I will probably not let Belle off when I am alone.  She does run up and down the trail, which could attract a cougar and bring it right back to me, but Rock stays next to me the entire hike and I am not as worried about her for that reason.  At least with the bear spray  I will have some protection against the big cat.  Fortunately, attacks are rare, but I often wonder when the hair on the back of my neck stands up and I quickly look behind me to find nothing there; if I am feeling a million year old human instinct because something is watching me or just complete paranoia?
The Quarry, take foot trail to rt, climb to top
Getting there: Golden Gate Canyon State Park is northwest of Golden Colorado. To reach the State Park from Golden Colorado take Highway 93 west into the canyon and drive 13 miles until you reach the park. If you are coming from another area; click here to input your address for personal directions. 
Specs:  Most of the trailheads and picnic areas in the park have a pit toilet.  The trails are well marked with signs at all trailheads and at many trail intersections; there are no printable maps at the trailhead, you have to go to the Visitors Center to get a printed map.  Here is a link to all maps on their website.   I started this hike from the Nott Creek Parking lot; I hiked to the Quarry and then continued on the Mountain Lion trail (yes, mountain lion is the name of the trail), connected with the Burro trail, then followed the service road back to my car.  The mileage was approximately 3.5-4 miles, which took me about 2.5 hours to complete; but I did walk slowly and took lots of photos along the way. 

The Journey:  When I arrived at the Nott Creek parking lot and saw the "mountain lion activity in this area" sign; I thought to myself, "great, another hike looking over your shoulder the entire time."  But as I started hiking, the fear quickly melted away under the bright and beautiful Colorado sun.  The trees were just about 1/3 changed in the park as I snapped photos of every golden aspen that I came across.  I decided to hike out to the Quarry, from the trail mountain lion trail intersection it's  .6 one way to reach it. 
Golden meadows on the burro trail
 Along the way, I passed another solo hiker who was visiting the area from Florida.  We chatted as we hiked to the Quarry; which I thought was a little anti-climatic after reaching it.  The Quarry is fairly small and there are no spectacular views from it, but we hiked up the hill and stood on top of it by following a foot path, and this gave us better views and made the Quarry a little more interesting.  From the Quarry there is a foot path (un-signed) that takes the hiker to the top of the mountain and I decided to hike up this path and the Florida hiker continued on his way.  I continued up to the top of this mountain, but stopped before reaching the peak when I was greeted with great views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. 
After eating my apple and checking out the views, I started back down the trail to continue the loop.  Once I reached the trail intersection from the Quarry, I continued right or west on the Mountain Lion trail, past the back-country campsites to the next trail intersection at the Burro Trail.  The back-country campsites 17-19 were located along the creek which was low flowing at this time of the season with views of the surrounding mountains above you.  There is also a back country shelter available as well. 
Service road back to parking lot lined in Aspen trees.
Once the trail intersected the Burro trail, it continued up a hill and eventually to the golden meadows.  Again, I caught up with the Florida hiker and we continued walking together until I reached the service road where we parted ways again and I walked back to the car.  The short hike was perfect to get me out of the house and in good spirits so I could tackle the chores and work at home. 
It's a great time of year to get out and see the fall colors, I am sure this weekend will be even better at Golden Gate Canyon.  If you have hiked or camped in the area, please leave a comment; I'd love to hear what you have to say and "follow' my blog for more hiking posts this fall.

No comments:

Post a Comment