#60HikesDenverChallenge – Denver: Washington Park

wash-park

(For 2017, I have a goal of getting through all 60 trails in the book “60 Hikes Within 60 Miles Denver Edition.” You’ll see these posts all year-long. You can find a lot of info on each of the trails in the book, but I’ll highlight some things each time in addition to including my experience and opinion on the trail. The number below is associated with how they are labeled in the book if you have it.)

Trail #18 – Denver: Washington Park
Completed: 1/25/17 | Mode: Running!
Location: Denver – Virginia Ave. & Downing St.
Distance: 2 miles (I ran extra and got in 3.25)
Difficulty:  Easy, peasy
Surface: Hard packed dirt on the outer trail and a mix of concrete, asphalt, and dirt inside around the lakes and fields
Exposure: Lots of shade from GIANT old trees!

20170125_133816

My Experience: 
It’s well known to people who know me that I hate driving. I hate driving in Denver even more. So when I needed to run an errand for work in Denver, I decided to kill two birds with one stone. The only trail in the book that is in Denver proper is Washington Park. Now, I’ve run here before, a handful of years back on a first date with a guy I met while trying out online dating. I remember making two full loops around the park (about 5 miles total) and thinking it was a lovely run. Coming back to this park, I can’t help but reflect on the terrible online dates I had back then, but also on how in-shape I was, being able to easily bust out 5 miles on a whim. The three plus miles I did this past week was pretty exhausting, but I digress.

Wash Park (what the locals call it) is a little bit of nature amidst the busy city. While you can still hear and smell the cars, there are giant old trees around every corner reminding you just how old Denver is. The trail encircles a few ponds, large fields, and tennis quarts. This is a super popular place for summer activities. Think volleyball, running (duh),  kite flying, paddle boats, and more! A lot of races happen here as well.

20170125_134642

Pros
-Flat
-Lots of surfaces to choose from (hard packed dirt and concrete/asphalt)
-Can get a lot of miles in here depending on how many loops you want to do

Cons
-Can hear/smell/see cars
-Can get crowded especially on the weekends and in the summer
-Traffic around and to/from here can be a nightmare
-Limited amounts of “good” parking

20170125_133109

Tips
-If you’re driving into the city, I’d visit during the week when there will be plenty of parking. Side street parking gets tricky.
-Depending on how many miles you’re trying to get, you can do the outermost loop (like I did) and then add some miles by going around the little ponds to create variation.

Overall
Although I’m still unsure as to whom this book would be intended for, I’m going on the assumption that people who live in Denver would buy this book to experience trails close to home (within 60 miles). I’m not sure this place needed to be included, not would I call it a “hike.” Sure, it’s a great city escape and lovely place to run for the locals, but I wouldn’t come back, driving 30 minutes, just to run here.

20170125_135444


Check it out (affiliate link):

Check out some of the other popular cities:
Seattle:

Washington D.C.

San Francisco

AND LOTS MORE! 

Exploring Mt. Rainier National Park

20160426_160305(Did you know it’s the Centennial Celebration of the National Parks? It is! The National Parks Service is officially celebrating their 100th birthday on August 25th. I absolutely love and respect the National Park Service and plan on doing a whole bunch of National Park posts this month. Check out my last posts about Rocky MountainArches, Joshua Tree, and Death Valley. Next up is this one, Mt. Rainier National Park….)

Back in April, Ben, myself and a friend of ours, took a journey to Washington. It was a trip to combine many different things: a half marathon for me, my Grandpa’s Memorial service, family time, vacation and some Mt. Rainier fun.

Photo Credit: My aunt Bambi that lives out in Washington.

Photo Credit: My Aunt Bambi that lives out in Washington.

Ben and his friend Matt had plans to climb Mt. Rainier. I had no desire (yet) to do this climb, let alone the route they chose, but went with them to the National Park. I was their communication to family and friends via the internet while they climbed. While their climb is their story to tell, this left me with a lot of free time to explore Mt. Rainier National Park, or at least the parts of it that were open in late April.

Ben and Matt started toward the summit from the Paradise parking lot. This is on the South side of the big mountain. During the winter months, a majority of the roads and entrances to Mt. Rainier are closed due to snow. Winter in this area can extend into June, we were told. We were visiting right as lot of the snow was melting, but that still only left one entrance open to get to paradise, through the town of Ashford.

Ben and Matt starting their climb.

Ben and Matt starting their climb.

After waving good-bye as they started their journey, I doddled, trying to figure out what to do and see. I don’t mind doing stuff by myself, but having company on adventures is always more fun, in my opinion. Not letting being alone stop me, I studied the map for some trails I could explore. Not a lot was open but I had driven past a couple of signs for waterfalls, and thought, “I should start there!”

Leaving Paradise, as I drove down the road, I first came across Narada Falls. At first, when you look over the edge of the parking lot you can see the fast-moving river and the side of a massively wide waterfall. There’s a trail you can take to the view-point down below. I started and was thwarted by a massive wall of snow, waist-high that came right up to the guard rail. I was super bummed as another lone-hiker came. I watched him hop right up on top of the snow and defeat this obstacle (why didn’t I think of that). So, I followed!

The trail-blocked with snow

The trail-blocked with snow

 

After getting over the snow, I realized that was the only part of the trail that was difficult. The rest was snowed on and a little slippery, but was manageable. The other traveler was in town on business and decided to journey into the park for a quick trip. We helped each other take pictures, then went about our ways.

20160425_115855

Next up was Christine Falls. Just a quick drive further down the road and I was there. I hopped out of the car and took in the beautiful view. There was a trail that takes you up about the falls, but I was going to save that for the next day.

When traveling by yourself, you take a lot of selfies!

When traveling by yourself, you take a lot of selfies!

After getting some rest, trying local restaurants (dinner the night before and breakfast), then talking to the rangers, day two brought some more exploring.

I drove back into the park (stopping at every view-point along the way) and did the short, flat historical hike called the “Trail of Shadows”. I learned all about the town of Longmire (a health destination in the late 1800’s for people to cure all that ails them by soaking in the once hot springs and using medicine from the native plants nearby).

View from the trail, through the trees you can see Mt. Rainier.

View from the trail, through the trees you can see Mt. Rainier.

Then I drove my way up the road again to hike the trail behind Christine Falls with the destination Comet Falls in mind. The ranger did warn me that he didn’t think the trail was passable, but I decided to try it anyway, because I’m like that.

I made it about 1.5, maybe 2 miles at the most, before the trail was blocked by a steep snow slid (see picture). With better shoes and an ice ax or walking pole, I probably would have attempted it. But looking at the bottom of the slope and my trails shoes, I opted to skip it; envisioning myself sledding on my butt to the icy river some 100 ft down. No thank you!

What I would have had to hike over to get to Comet Falls.

What I would have had to hike over to get to Comet Falls. Would you do it?

The rest of my day was spent at Paradise, staring at the slope, looking for my boyfriend to return, terrified, not knowing they were staying one more night on the mountain due to weather. That’s a whole different story filled with worry, a lot of tears and looking for a hotel at 11pm.

Top of Christine Falls

Top of Christine Falls

Getting there:

  • Looks like the only way to enter during winter is from the south/west side of the park where we did, through Asford; the snow leaving all other road impassable.
  • There are THREE total entrances during the summer. We only got to see this part of the park.
  • Mt. Rainier Website

20160426_131354

Tips:

  • Best time to visit: Summer – Temperatures are great, roads are open and trails are passable. (Unless you’re a mountaineer, then consult mountaineering books to find out when the best time is to visit.)
  • Skiers and Snowboards: this is a magical place! You can hike up and ski down; I wish I had brought my board!

We can’t wait to go back!

Oh, by the way; the boys made it to the summit, safe and sound (and back down again)!

20160427_120334

Climbing in Joshua Tree National Park

20160107_120549

(Did you know it’s the Centennial Celebration of the National Parks? It is! The National Parks Service is officially celebrating their 100th birthday on August 25th. I absolutely love and respect the National Park Service and plan on doing a whole bunch of National Park posts this month. Check out my last posts about Rocky Mountain and Arches. Next up is this one, Joshua Tree National Park….)

Back in January, way at the beginning of the year, my boyfriend and I got the chance to take a two-week vacation and go on a road trip. We chose California, with the main goal to climb Mt. Whitney (because it’s my name, duh). While we did not summit Mt. Whitney (and a whole different story), we got to venture and explore some other places on our way to and from home.

Attempting Mt. Whitney

Attempting Mt. Whitney

On our way back towards Golden, CO we stopped for a few nights to camp and climb in Joshua Tree National Park. All climbers LOVE it here, supposedly. I wrote a little bit about it when I first returned home from that trip here.

Joshua Tree was a really cool place to visit. The scenery, plants and animals is so different from anything I had ever seen. I loved it and wanted to take a million pictures.

20160107_164148_HDR

We visited in January which meant it wasn’t that hot in the desert. In fact, it was a bit chilly which made it really hard for me to climb. (If you are a climber and are reading this, please keep in mind I am sorta new to climbing and a bit of a pansy. I don’t like cold hands).

We had a couple of days to get in some climbing but was thwarted with the cold weather, rain, and difficulty of climbing. I cried a lot of tears as we kept reaching different challenges (including a super stressful down climb).

20160107_144927

Climbing in Joshua Tree is old school. All the routes are way more difficult than they are rated in the guide books, the rock is rough and feels like sand paper, there are not a lot of rappel loops to get off the rock (meaning you have down climb the back sides of routes) and there’s mostly crack climbing, which is not fun for a beginner. Picture wedging your toes and hands between two giant rocks and using those appendages to pull yourself up. Yes, it hurts.

20160108_132324

We camped at the south end of the park which meant that we got to drive through the beautiful sights every time we went to a climbing area. Joshua tree is characterized for the giant rocks (sometimes looking like a giant kid piled them up) and for the actual Joshua Tree plants that grow there.  All of these characteristics offer great photographic opportunities (and me wishing I had a better camera).

Some of my favorite things:

-The Cholla Cactus Garden: these cool, super pointy cacti that grew only in one section of the basin in the park.

Cholla cactus

Cholla cactus

-Skull Rock: Literally as it sounds; a rock that is in the shape of a skull.

20160107_110952

-Indian Cove: a ton of climbing!

This is the main views of Indian Cove.

This is the main views of Indian Cove.

Getting there:

  • Enter the park from the south side off of I-10 or the north side off of HW 62
  • Park Website

Tips:

  • A smaller National Park but with a lot of things to see. If you are just a sight-seer, you could totally make a great one day trip out this place.
  • Climbers: you could spend a week (or more) climbing all that Joshua Tree has to offer!
  • Tape your hands, if you’re going to climb. 😉 (A little bit of an inside joke between my boyfriend and I. We’ll see if he catches it).

20160107_145606

Hiking to Delicate Arch in Arches National Park

20160730_123509

(Did you know it’s the Centennial Celebration of the National Parks? It is! The National Parks Service is officially celebrating their 100th birthday on August 25th. I absolutely love and respect the National Park Service and plan on doing a whole bunch of National Park posts this month. Check out my last post about Rocky Mountain and next up is this one, Arches National Park….)

A couple of weekends ago, my boyfriend and I got the chance to make a quick visit to Moab, Utah. I had never been before, and Ben had a guiding opportunity for the area so when a friend cancelled plans with me back in town, I jumped at the opportunity to go with!

Sunrise near Fischer's Towers

Sunrise near Fischer’s Towers

We drove out on a Friday night, camped in my new Jeep Renegade and were up before the sun the next morning. While Ben met with his client, I got my running clothes on, loaded up with water (it is after all the desert) and laced up my trail shoes.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0213.

Shot with my Go Pro Hero 4

We were all super lucky that it was an unusual day in the desert and even thought is was 90 degrees at 8am, it didn’t feel like that with the overcast skies. I got a great run/hike in around Fisher’s towers in Castle Vally outside of Moab.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR0220.

Once Ben was done working, we had a lot of time to spare before we had to head back to Golden, so we decided to check out Arches National Park, another place I had never been. I have always seen pictures of the Delicate Arch and always have wanted to see it in person.

Ben was tired

Ben was tired

We entered the park via the main entrance. There’s only one other way to get into the park, which is the way we exited, but it’s through the north most part of the park via a dirt county road and it not well-marked. At all.

After passing the other amazing vistas and landmarks of Arches (Tower of Babel, Courthouse Towers) and taking the best picture of Balance Rock, we made our way to the trailhead for Delicate Arch.

Help preserve the national parks by holding up Balanced Rack.

Help preserve the national parks by holding up Balanced Rack.

Thinking we were still having great luck with the weather, we left our car with only two 16.9 oz bottles of water even when the signs recommended two liters per person. Sure enough, the sun finally came out in full blaze and we were hiking in 110 degree heat.

We didn’t turn back because in our heads, we thought we were pretty fit people and didn’t need more water than we had. We kept going, after all it is only a three mile hike, round trip! Little did we  know (ok maybe Ben did, but I didn’t) that we would be hiking 50% of the time on rock, feeling like we were in a  microwave.

20160730_143102

We went through our water before we even reached the arch. Ben even gave me 90% of his water. Needless to say, we probably we suffering from heat exhaustion.

20160730_143407

Worth it? Totally. The arch was incredible! (Please note, I don’t recommend heat exhaustion at all. Learn from me and trust the signs; bring 2 liters of water during the hot summer months.) With polite people waiting in a line, I got my desired picture under that arch.

If you look closely, I'm under the arch! Bucket list: check!

If you look closely, I’m under the arch! Bucket list item: check!

We started our way down, making friends with a family from Texas and back to our air-conditioned car.

We really wanted to do the seven hour mile to see Private Arch, Landscape arch and more, but we just didn’t have enough time. All that means is we get to go back – maybe during a less-hot time.

20160730_142000

As I mentioned before, we decided to leave through the other entrance, a long, un marked dirt road. There is one more view this way, Tower Arch, that not many make it to. You can either park and hike three miles round trip or take a 4WD road. Having just bought my new jeep, I really wanted to try the 4WD trail….

4WD Fail

4WD Fail

Let’s just say, I need more 4WD practice… Ben and I had a good laugh as I stalled my car many times and got stuck in the deep sand. Maybe next time!

Getting there:

  • You can to Arches National Park via Highway 191 or 128 through Utah off I-70.
  • Highly suggest entering from the main entrance on the south side of the park.
  • Park Website

Tips:

  • Seriously, bring LOTS of water. It is after all a desert.
  • Although not a big National Park, the trails are pretty strenuous and take a lot of time. Plan for at least one FULL day or a couple of days in the park to get the best of Arches.
  • We camped (in the Jeep) out side of the park, in BLM land for $15 a night.
  • Enjoy Moab! There’s a lot of things to do in and out of the park! We noticed signs for zip lines, rafting, 4WD trips, and more!

20160730_155718