Sunday, October 28, 2012

Mesa Trail & Green Mountain

Out of control dogs are a menace!!

When we first moved to Boulder almost 2 years ago we rented a cottage at Chautauqua. We were only there 7 weeks while we waited for our house to close, but our proximity to the Flatirons and the Mesa Trail provided partial compensation for our cramped living space. We were glad to leave, but only because we wanted our house and bigger living space - the area is beautiful.

I avoid Chautauqua from March through October. It gets so crowded in the warmer weather that it makes a trip unpleasant. Once the first snows arrive though, the ice and mud deter the casual walkers. I arrived early today and found the parking lot barely half full. I would be out of the busy area in a mile or so and once past the NCAR station it should be really deserted. My plan for today was to do most of the lower level running early while the ground was still frozen. I aimed to head south from Chautauqua, then climb Bear Canyon to the West Ridge of Green Mountain. I wasn't sure about the descent route, but there were a number of options and I decided to leave the decision til later.
Early morning sun on the Flatirons as we climbed Chautauqua Meadow

Leaving the trailhead it was cold, but not as cold as yesterday at Button Rock. Livvy and I struck a steady pace on the gradual uphill section and passed by a few walkers. We could see an elderly couple up ahead with two dogs off leash - I really don't know what part of "Keep your dogs leashed" people don't understand, but the signs are pretty obvious. Livvy is a little apprehensive because she has been startled by aggressive dogs before, and as we approached them she held back. As soon as the two dogs saw Livvy they ran for her. I managed to fend one off and kick the other on the throat to keep it at bay. I wasn't best pleased and remonstrated with the owners for failing to control their dogs. It seems they didn't bring a leash and thought their dogs would "be OK".  I'm about done with these people and wish the park service would effect more punitive measures.
Contouring above the NCAR before turning right up Bear Canyon - frozen mud

But Livvy wasn't too concerned. She was surprised more than scared and was trotting ahead in no time...and then we met two more dogs off leash and, although they were under control, their owner "got the treatment" for not having them leashed. I'll link this post to the Boulder Park Service and invite them to take more action. These dog owners annoy me because they ruin it for everyone.
In the lower reaches of Bear Canyon

It was such an enjoyable morning that thoughts of irresponsible dog owners quickly faded and the beauty of our surroundings took over. After a stiff little climb we turned east to the entrance to Bear Canyon and the more serious ascent began. I have never seen a bear in Bear Canyon - in fact I've never seen one on Bear Peak - and felt cheated again this morning as we climbed in apparent solitude. The canyon is a dark and cold place in winter. The sun barely penetrates the canyon floor because of the towering cliffs and steep canyon walls, but after about 5 miles and at 7000 feet the trees thin out and we were warmed by the sun. In fact it became very warm and I regretted overdressing.

There is a completely new trail ascending Green Mountain from the south - whatever map you might be looking at is definitely wrong - and as the Bear Mountain trail splits left there is an extremely runnable, gently rising trail all the way to the junction with the West Ridge trail. The park service has made an excellent job - they have controlled erosion and managed to avoid some nasty little climbs with unstable ground. The new trail adds about a half mile in distance, but this is barely noticeable and the trail contours through some lovely wooded hillsides with great views south towards Bear Mountain and South Boulder Peak.
On the new section of trail on Green Mountain

Junction with the Ranger Trail with views across north Boulder
We reached the summit in no time and spent a few minutes talking to a very pleasant lady who had a friendly black Lab. Livvy was allowed to share a water bowl and we took in the views across Boulder to the plains in the east. We are so lucky having such great countryside to explore.
On the summit of Green Mountain with Bear Peak in the distance to the south. Livvy was able to share the water bowl

Descending the tricky icy trail I decided to head west to the Flagstaff Road and then down Long Canyon. We made rapid going. Once we hit Flagstaff Road it was only a half mile to the junction with Long Canyon. From there we would pick up Gregory canyon and be back at the car.
View east across Boulder from the summit of Green Mountain

Annoyingly, we arrived at Long Canyon to find that dogs were prohibited from this section of trail. This is ridiculous. Here was a trail running parallel to a busyish road and I was going to have to take the road. And this is why I get so annoyed at irresponsible dog owners - if they would only keep their dogs on leash AT ALL TIMES there wouldn't be the need to ban them from some trails. This is an issue I will raise again with the park service, but after my encounter earlier this morning I feel my protestations will be futile.
Descending Gregory Canyon in warming conditions. The trailhead is on the far side of the obvious snow patch

Livvy and I descended the Flagstaff Road to Realization Point and then quickly ran down the Gregory Canyon trail. It was warming up considerably as we lost altitude and when the sun penetrated the clouds I wished for shorts and a tee shirt. Unfortunately, the warmth had melted the lower level ice and the Chautauqua Meadow trails were a mud bath. Approaching the car I found a patch of deeper snow and cleaned my shoes and Livvy's legs and paws before climbing back in the car.

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