Every now and then you need to devote a weekend to your K9 companion and this was
the weekend Aspen took charge, literally. Saturday was off to the usual start, except that it began a little later than the typical 6AM wake up call. Normally at the crack of dawn Aspen will work her way up from the end of the bed towards our faces nudging us to get up. After a quick breakfast of turkey kibble for Aspen and a breakfast burrito, blueberry muffin and coffee for Stella & I, she was ready to go. Though Aspen is 12 years young she has always been referred to as a puppy with all that pent-up energy as if she were still 2 years old. Aspen was anxious to get to the trail head as she knows this trail well, she has traversed it’s worn path both in the summer and winter. The Colorado River Trail out of Grand Lake is an fairly easy trek as it winds through a pine forest that unfortunately has been decimated by the mountain pine beetle. The trail itself is prime habitat for moose as there are several ponds covered in lily pads and marsh areas providing an ample food source for these giant and magnificent animals. As we meander along, she instinctively picks up the pace, we are drawing nearer to the river and one of her favorite swimming holes. A slight detour due to logging in the area and the distant roar of the river growing louder we approached the only obstacle between Aspen and nirvana. Sadly though, the spring runoff would prevent Aspen from fully indulging that long awaited first swim of the year in the Colorado River. This day she only was be able to dip her toes into the cool mountain water. After spending a bit of time in and out of the water cooling down we began our trek back out. No worries Aspen summer technically has yet to begin, we’ll be back. Funny and somewhat ironically, there is a wooden bear about a half mile from the trail head that we always make a joke about, you know, “Bear!!!” However as we were just about to exit the trail we ran into an individual with a golden retriever as well. She was asking if we had seen the bear, in my mind I am thinking the carved wooden bear a bit up the trail. No, instead she was referring to black bear that crossed the road just prior to entering the trail head parking area. Hmm, note to self, next stop REI.
Sunday we headed a bit south to the Monarch Trail loop, this trail is quite possibly one of the best we have hiked since moving to Colorado and Aspen couldn’t wait to hit the trail. The trail itself is not difficult in any sense of the word but takes you into a place of tranquility relatively speaking. After hawking for a parking spot and securing Aspen to her leash we were off. The trail head provides access into the Indian Peaks Wilderness which can be reached by multiple routes. We typically head out on the eastern shore and today was no different expect for the fact that I nearly had to drag Aspen onto the trail as she was eager to jump into lake. Just a bit into the trail a mountain stream allowed Aspen to wet her whistle as she knows the Arapahoe Creek lie just ahead and an opportunity to finally get into the water and her domain. As we continued towards the creek thoughts of our snowshoeing adventure this past winter come to mind, was it the run in with the 50 head Elk herd being chased off the frozen lake or the fact that we were traversing across a potential avalanche zone that had presented itself with recent activity. None the less the 60 degree temperature and nearly cloudless blue sky reminded me we are heading into summer. Making the creek Aspen quickly made hast and headed directly into the water totally ignoring the other dog frolicking about as well. At this point we begin the first of three or four relatively easy climbs around the 4.5 mile loop. This climb bring us to a bridge crossing the Buchanan Creek and to Aspen’s dismay there is no swimming here as the water flow is at it’s peak due to the snow melt. Immediately after the bridge we carefully navigate around another small bridge, crossing this with Aspen would be a bit more challenging, though I am certain she would absolutely give it a go. The trail continues to loop back towards Arapahoe Creek through an old growth pine forest. It is here where you take a deep breath and smell the scent of pine all about you. We make our way back towards the Arapahoe Creek and another opportunity for Aspen to cool down, but to Aspen puzzlement appears a horse carrying a large pack. Confused and wanting nothing to do with the equine standing between her and the creek she carries on to the waters edge. Thoughts of the creek being cold from her prior swim she tepidly ventures out to cool off. The last leg of the hike takes us along the western shore and across two separate sets of waterfalls before crossing the dam that creates the lake and back to to the trail head. below the dam is where you’ll find several fly fishing opportunities to catch the elusive and native cut throat trout.
All in all it was another fantastic weekend. In addition to the hiking Aspen was able to live up to her retriever name and spend both Saturday and Sunday afternoon swimming in Shadow Mountain Lake retrieving her water ball. Additionally Stella and I were able to paddle about in the “Big Mango” aimlessly for an hour or so looking about at the breath taking views from the lakes edge.