Monday, May 28, 2012

Alderfer Three Sisters Park and Open Space, Evergreen Colorado

Hiking with a baby is part of our lifestyle now, and I am constantly trying to find a good hike that I haven't blogged about or visited lately, which is not too difficult making it comfortable to carry Magnolia.  This weekend we visited Alderfer Three Sisters, a park that I have frequented many times, but oddly, had never blogged about.  This park has over 10 miles of trails, some in the pine forest and others with views of the surrounding foothills but the park is most popular for its rock formations.  The formations are named the Three Sisters and The Brother.  This weekend we hiked the Sisters Loop and then continued along the Ponderosa Trail back to the car.  In total we hiked 2.5 miles and it took us about 1.5 -2 hours of moderately slow hiking with a few stops along the way to nurse the baby, take photos and to let the dogs sniff around.  

Getting there/Specs:   The physical address for the park is 30229 Buffalo Park Road, Evergreen Colorado 80439.   Travel south of the town of Evergreen on Hwy 73 and then turn west onto Buffalo Park Road, continue down the road for about a mile and you will come across the first parking lot on the right side, there is a second larger lot about a half mile down the road.  There are bathrooms at both parking lots, along with picnic tables, a trail sign and maps.  Click here for the Jefferson County Open Space Park information, map and more history about the park. 
The Hike:  We decided to go for a hike at about 3:30 on Sunday afternoon, so with a baby and gathering all of our items, two dogs, water and getting dressed for the hike, it took us until 4:30 before we got out the door and beyond 5pm before we hit the trail.  The weather was much cooler in the mountains and even though we accounted for some of that coolness, it wasn't enough and both Josh and I were under-dressed for the hike.  Magnolia, of course, was well prepared with layers and a blanket!  

We started out at the first (smaller) parking lot and hiked the Sisters Trail Loop to Ponderosa Trail which was a total of about 2.5 miles.  The hike starts in the ponderosa pine forest and continues gradually uphill with moderate difficulty toward The Sisters rock formations.  There are great views of the foothills and eventually Evergreen Lake in the distance along the trail.  

     (Wild Chamomile)                                       (Western Wallflower)

In the spring and summer seasons I love to photograph all of the beautiful Colorado wildflowers along the trails.  It used to annoy my husband that I would constantly stop and snap photos, but after selling some of my prints, he doesn't complain so much anymore.   Recently I purchased a book, Wildflowers of Colorado Field Guide as suggested by one of my readers, and I'm hoping to get better at the local flora and fauna.  Now I can accurately name the plants along the trail, or at least most of them. 

Early on during the hike, Magnolia began to fuss and wasn't easily soothed, so we decided to stop on the rock formations so that I could nurse her and we could have good views in the meantime.  Josh snapped this photo of me and its pretty typical of any hike, on any day:  me nursing, views in the background, happy baby and a happy mama!    

Views from one of the rock formations of Evergreen High School and the foothills surrounding the area.  

                                                                 (Fendler Groundsel?) 

I never tire of seeing the pine forests of the Rocky Mountains along the trail.  The foothills haven't been very affected by the pine beetle like the larger mountains, so all of the forests look pristine and green here!   

                                     (One of the tree sisters rock formations)                                (Prickly Rose)
The trail continued to climb providing great views of the rock formations and foothills. 

                                                                (Lots of green!)                                                   (Miners Candle)
The Miners Candle flower above was my absolute favorite along this hike, and I only saw just a few of these plants along the sunny side of the mountain.  Along with the flowers, there were views of the surrounding mountainsides which had several amazing houses jutting out from the side of the mountain.

The trail continued up at a moderate incline until Evergreen Lake was visible and shortly after the trail continued over the mountainside and into the pine forest.  This side of the mountain was much windier and we hiked a lot more briskly.  We checked in with Magnolia who was much happier after her snack and tucked her in with a blanket, she was very content in the Snugli carrier that was gifted to us by friends.  Josh feels very comfortable carrying her in this, however it hurts my shoulders terribly and feels like they carry all of her weight.  It also doesn't have a sun shield, which is a necessity in Colorado.  I am debating if we should invest in one that I can carry comfortably, or just have Josh carry her on weekends, thus eliminating my hiking on any moderately difficult trails while carrying her in front with the Ergo. 

 Once over the mountain, the trail continues downhill through the pine forest until you reach the intersection at the Ponderosa Trail, then pass the Silver Fox Trail and continue on Ponderosa to take the moderate 2.5 mile loop, or follow the Ponderosa trail in the other direction to head back to the parking lot for a shorter route.  Be sure to look at the valley with views of the larger mountains and snow capped peaks in the distance.

We passed this tree and Josh was pretty sure the claw marks were made by a bear, the marks are pretty large and very claw like, so he could be right.   Magnolia thought that bears were funny and laughed!  

We continued along the trail which winds near the road and continues through the forest back to the parking lot.  A wooden bench along the trail is a great place to stop for a rest.  

We got pretty chilly near the end of the hike and were glad to be back to our car.  I was really glad to get out on a hike, even if it wasn't as adventurous as we are used to doing.  I didn't climb a peak or to a waterfall, cave or arch, but I showed my daughter some of why we love Colorado and gave her a new experience to learn from.  I am looking forward to doing many more with her as well!  
Please leave any comments or questions.  

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