Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Warm Welcome to December and Some Pleasant Time on the Trails

The first weekend of December brought warm weather and great conditions for late season trail use!

On Saturday morning I decided to take the kids to Pineridge Natural Area to hike around Dixon Reservoir.  When we arrived at 9 am the trails were very busy with casual hikers, trail runners, mountain bikers, and quite a few other families, like mine, that got out for a family romp on the local trails.  It was great to see so many people out on such a great morning.  This trip was a special one for me because it was our daughter's first try at hiking by herself.  Granted, we didn't do a whole lot of "hiking" but she was very adamant about walking down a steep bit of trail from the parking lot to the reservoir.  As it turns out, the trail we were on was also great for the butt-scooch method of descending, I swear she thought it was a slide!  After we made it down that small bit of trail we stopped to throw rocks into the water - a favorite past-time of mine as well. I was able to garner enough support from the troops to walk along the water's edge and I took the opportunity to teach our son about some of the plants and talk about the animals we saw.  It's really quite amazing how quickly kids can pick up on things, the rest of the morning our son kept pointing out grasses!  After finding some mud, an area filled with spiders, and watching prairie dogs we made our way to a bench and watched some ducks swimming and diving.  It was really a fantastic morning on the trails at Pineridge and everyone that we encountered was very friendly and responded kindly to our kids as they said hello to everyone we passed.

Late on Sunday morning I took advantage of the nice weather again.  This time, however, I decided to take a casual mountain bike ride.  I didn't get much sleep the night before because I have been trying to finish Trailcology's federal 1023 form to receive 501(c)3 status, so this was a perfect reason to take it easy, enjoy the trails, and talk to some friendly people.

Starting off in Pineridge, I calmly and quietly rolled along the Timber trail (one of my favorite town trails) and absorbed the morning and the setting around me.  I enjoyed stopping to look upslope for any wildlife that may be hanging around and to observe the changes in the vegetation from the South end of the trail to the North.  The current management plan for the Natural Areas program has a focus on conservation, which I think is fantastic.  However, everytime I look upslope from the Timber trail I see opportunity.  Opportunity for future trail use that allows trail users to spread out more, reduce some of the wear and tear on the Timber trail, and allow flora- and fauna-minded people easy access to a beautiful bit of land.  I understand that wildlife use that section of land and it is an important corridor for many wildlife species but I have also noticed that the wildlife don't seem to be bothered by the human use in that area.  One particular example of this was when many trail users saw an Elk down by Dixon Reservoir several years ago.

The Elk saw all of us standing around taking pictures and he just continued on with his business like nothing was going on.  You may also be interested to know that this picture was taken in August and there is quite a bit of lush green vegetation!  I've gotten off subject a bit, let me bring this back around.  I can envision a way to potentially satisfy the growing needs of trail users as well as the needs of wildlife in that tract of land.  Down the road I hope to have another incredibly amicable conversation with the great people in charge of our Natural Areas program to see if my idea would be feasible.

I finally made my way through Pineridge and I was on to Maxwell Natural Area.  There are always a wide variety of people on Maxwell's trails and today was no different.  I stopped for many hikers and runners, talking to the families as I let them by or quickly saying hello to the focused runners.  Normally I enjoy the challenge of riding up the "A-trail" segment of the Foothills Trail and I push quite hard.  Today however, I just enjoyed my ride and casually rolled my way up the trail, stopping to take note of wear and tear that has made certain sections seem rockier than they were earlier in the summer.

Continuing on the Foothills Trail I rode down the newly re-routed "shoreline" segment and eventually down across the final north dam to reconnect with the Foothills Trail at the top of the road climb.  This section of the Foothills Trail, between the high point after the dam and where it intersects with trails in Reservoir Ridge Natural Area, is one of my favorite sections.  There is very rarely anyone up there, it's beautiful, there is often deer browsing around, and the trail is pretty fun.  On this particular day I decided to hop off the bike and hike around a bit in a Ponderosa pine stand.  I sat on a rock for a little while, overlooking the North-West end of Fort Collins and soaked it up.  What a fantastic resource we have in our town, our trails are exactly what the doctor ordered.

After I adjourned from my brief, but peaceful, respite I connected with the new re-route in Reservoir Ridge. I really enjoy the new re-route, I love how it goes high on the ridge and allows you to look out over the land.  For the most part, I think the trail is very well built.  There are a few pieces here and there that I believe will start to wash out because of a rock on the backslope side of the trail and nothing along the critical edge to keep the edge from collapsing as mountain bikers avoid riding over the rock.  These are simple enough to fix though and can be taken care of with some pretty light rock work.

After I looped around at the North side of Reservoir Ridge, I came back down the re-route and I ran into another mountain biker who I spent some time talking with.  As it turns out, his name was Aaron and he had spent the summer working with Fort Collins Natural Areas and he had spent a good bit of time helping to build the new re-route.  We talked for quite a while about the trail and a wide variety of other things.  He was a really nice guy and I'm glad I had the chance to talk with him.  You never know who you're going to meet on the trail!

I continued my casual ride back home and concluded a great weekend of trail use.  Our daughter's first hike, teaching the kids about plants and animals, a great bike ride full of fantastic interactions, and an opportunity to experience the trails at a slower pace on my bike made my weekend pretty fantastic.  It's always nice to talk to people and hear their opinions about happenings on the trail and I take that information and use it to help me direct my plans with Trailcology.  I hope that one of these days I will get to meet everyone on one of Trailcology's projects and get to know you all on a first-name basis.  Imagine how fun it will be to run into everyone on the trails then!

See you on the trail!


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