Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Green Mountain Summit, 6,800ft - And a pack of coyotes

Bright Blue Colorado Sky; photo on etsy
On Friday, I really needed to get outside and hike; I had been cooped up in the house all week working on a new line of hats and hiking belts for my website, but what I really needed was to get outside and try them out.  
It was a balmy day in January, but very windy, so I decided that I'd stay close to home and head over to Green Mountain.  North Green Mountain is visible from my front deck, and I can see numerous trails on the north side of the mountain, but I haven't driven through the neighborhoods to locate those trails on the mountainside before.  I decided Friday was the day, and I drove south across 6th Ave, and up into the neighborhoods on the North side of Green Mountain in search of the access to the Open Space
After driving around for just a short time, my trail finding skills proved successful, I found the neighborhood access which connects with all of the trails visible on the north side of the mountain; stepped out of the car into the wind and decided that I'd hike to the top today! 

Getting there:  Typically, I give good written directions here, but this trail is deep in the middle of a neighborhood, with curves, dead ends, and can be confusing easily.  Here is a google map of the intersection where the access is located; click and input your personal address for directions.  It will work much better this way.   As always, I have added a map at the bottom of the post. 
Views looking north; table mountain, boulder flatirons.
Specs:  There are no restroom facilities at the neighborhood access, no trail maps either.   Green Mountain elevation is 6,800 ft.  Dogs can be off leash easily when the trail isn't crowded, such as during the week. 
The Hike:  It didn't take me too long to find the trail, and I started hiking with the two dogs at 11am.  I decided I'd hike to the top of the mountain by the most direct route that I could see, a steep incline up the trail to the left from the main trail; then I'd hike down the other side of the valley on the right.  I didn't know if this would really work out, but it looked like the trails could connect on the top, so I gave it a shot. 
Immediately, I was glad that I decided to bring a hat, neck warmer and wished I brought mittens, the wind was much stronger here than at my house and the 55 degrees felt much more like 30 degrees.  I tucked my head down into my neck warmer and started up the mountain as fast as I could to warm up.  After hiking for a few minutes, I started to get warm, and the views of Denver to the east were coming into view.  Green Mountain provides 360 degree views of the front range, city, and mountains; if you are looking for a hike with views, this is it!  The snow was deeper here and it took longer than I expected, but the views along the way were worth the slow hiking. 
Rock's ears blowing in the wind on the ridge, city views
Once I hit the ridge I was more exposed to the wind and stopped for a few minutes to snap some photos of the city and the dogs before continuing to hike toward the top.  Eventually I came to a buckle, and the trail went downhill for a little while before evening out, then climbing to the top.   There were two large rocks that looked split in the middle for the trail to run in between them; they looked out of place on top of the bare mountain ridge.  Finally, the trail connected with another trail on the top; and I chose to hike west, away from the tower and toward the mountains.  The main trail is a wide two track trail instead of a foot path, and I saw a couple of other hikers with their dogs on the top.  I hiked west until the base of the summit, which I have been to the top of several times before; but then I noticed the trail to the north that went back down on the opposite side of the valley I started on.  I decided to take this trail down and make a loop out of my hike; I looked at my phone and it wasn't even noon yet.  It had only taken me 45 minutes to reach the top; but I was pretty hungry grabbed the pear out of my pack and decided to start down.  The trail hadn't been hiked very much in the snow, so it was very slippery, but the trail was obvious and I continued to slide down the mountainside.  Eventually the trail curves around back east, then north again; in the spring and summer, the valley would follow a creek with small waterfalls, but since it's winter, the creek was frozen. 
Views looking to the West from near top Mt. Evans on left
It was at this point, I began to think that this would be a good place to see some deer or other animals, they probably live in the thicket by the creek.  Then shortly after that thought, my dogs started to act a little weird, and I took my headphones off to listen for animals.  I didn't hear anything, so I kept my eyes peeled and came over a little ridge and saw a pack of coyotes!  We were about 500 yards from them and I reached for my camera and the leash for Belle and Rock.  After I got the dogs leashed, the small pack of 3 (that I could see) noticed us, and two of them scattered; one went up over the ridge that I climbed on the way up, and I didn't see where the second one went; the third coyote wasn't as fearful of us, and just kept walking down the middle of the trail.  I was able to snap a few shots before she walked out of site down a hill.  For the rest of the hike I kept my eyes peeled for more coyotes, and made it back to the car 15 minutes later.  The trail looped back around to the original trail, as I had hoped, and even though the route down was a little longer and snow covered, it was cool to see wildlife and the snow covered trail was very pretty. 
I made it to the car after 1pm, making the hike just over 2 hours, and probably just 3 miles along the snow covered trails.  Here are some more photos of the hike; and a google map below to input your personal address for directions to the trailhead.   

I'd love to hear about some other mountains to summit near the front range, if you have any suggestions, please leave a comment! 

Start the hike at this intersection. 

Sunshine sunny day! 

Super warm Ear Flap Hat and Neckwarmer on my site

City of Denver views

Hiking up the steepest section of the trail

Looking South down the Front Range from the top

Coyote walking down the trail; the house is a lot farther away than it looks. The coyote is about 400 yards away.

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