Elk Range Trail

The Elk Range Trail is a short (3.3 mile) trail in the Centennial Cone county park near Golden Colorado. Getting there is a scenic drive from the city, whether you use the twisty route 6 or the interstate 70, then cut north. Be warned, on weekends mountain biking and hiking pick alternate days (hikers on odd days, bikers on even ones). 9-oct-2016

We were doing a flying visit and so only had time to do an out and back walk, but the loop with the Travois trail would be even better.

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Lookout Mountain is in the distance in this picture from the other car park.

Lookout Mountain, Golden Colorado.

While making a flying visit out west for various personal reasons, I had a chance to drive up to the top of Lookout Mountain near Golden Colorado. I had to be a tad careful on the road up the mountain as it is a popular (and dashed strenuous) bicycle ride. Wild Bill Hickock and his wife’s graves are at the top, but I didn’t feel like paying the $5 admission to the museum.

The views are fantastic.

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This shows Golden, the Coors plant, and the Table Mesas. If you look carefully, you can see traces of the K-T boundary in the South Mesa (right hand one). They’re about as far down from the bottom of the cliff as the top is up.  It’s a line in the vegetation where the discontinuity traps water or lets the roots grow deeper.

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dsc_0063 Wild Bill’s grave.
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More views.

We did a bit of pub-crawling – which means something else when you’re walking this far from town to try the Cannonball Creek brewery.
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The view from the Brewery back into Golden

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A town scene. Historic means something else in the American west. Coming from the east where buildings are a touch older and knowing the UK pretty well – where things are truly old – I found this disorientating.

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A wild sunflower.

 

(and by the way – a liter engined car is perfectly fine in the mountains – don’t let the rental people upsell you.)

So, I passed.

I alluded to taking a MSF Basic Rider’s Course in my last post. I passed! It means a trip down to the DSCC (Georgia’s DMV) to get my licence endorsed.

Whoopee!

It means another quandary. What kind of bike?

In the good old days, say 1990, I’d get a small 125cc bike to learn on. The trouble is, they don’t sell them in the US any longer.  The smallest (real) bikes are 250cc. (Honda makes one that is a 125cc, but it’s tiny.)

There’s another problem. Motorcycle technology has advanced, but not all bikes share in the advances.

  1. ABS (antilock brakes). These are much safer and more effective than standard brakes. Most small bikes don’t have them. Those that do are “sport bikes.”
  2. Choke vs. Fuel injection. You can still buy a new motorcycle with a manual choke and good old fashioned carburetor.
  3. Wire Wheels vs. Solid Wheels. Wire wheels look neat, exactly what a motorcycle “should” have. They need to be tuned or “trued.” Not an inexpensive process.

The small “standard” bikes, like the Kawasaki Tu250x or Honda Rebel, are what I imagined riding. None of them have ABS.

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The sport bikes, like the Ninja 300 ABS or Honda CBR300 ABS, look like racing bikes (they aren’t). They use modern technology.

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Decisions.

Addendum: The issue has been studied and the evidence is indisputable, even in multiple nations. A sport bike it is.

Oldbury-on-Severn.

The recent kerfuffle about a nuclear power station brought this trip, from 2013, to mind. It’s just south of it. The area marked as “Settlement” in the ordnance survey map is an ancient town. (Likely pre-Saxon and pre-Roman) This small village, not far from Bristol, has a long history, even by English standards.

It’s a nice walk, there’s a pub in the village (which we didn’t sample, unfortunately). 2013 was hot, much hotter and drier than 2016, so there weren’t as many nice pictures to take. Brown grass on a earthwork, even an ancient earthwork, is brown grass. Simply not photogenic.

DSC_0881 The shade by Saint Arilda’s Church was a welcome relief from the hot sun. The church, itself, is on a hill just to the south of the village. It’s something of a conundrum why there isn’t a castle ruin, because it’s an obvious place to put a defensive structure. The church community, in typical English fashion, was having a sale of used books, CD’s and nicknacks. It sat on the side of the road, and was on the honour system. I picked up a CD of bagpipe music to play in the car when the bairns misbehave.
DSC_0890 The view from the church toward the nuclear power plant.

 

 

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The Severn bridge is in the distance.

Mount Snowdon.

The image above shows the view on a good day.

What if it’s not a good day?

Rather one like this:

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Where the temperature is approaching 4-5C (30 40F), it’s windy and wet.

If you’re prepared, these are excellent conditions for a walk. If you’re not … well, let’s just say “may the force be with you.” You’ll need it.

What do I mean by being prepared? Here’s my gear list.

  • Rain gear
  • Winter coat
  • Thin hiking sweater (Marks and Sparks has an excellent one – wool and silk.)
  • Wind shirt.
  • Dry bag in pack containing Fleece, change of clothes. I use a trash-compacter bag as a pack liner.
  • Food and water.
  • The rest of the “10 Essentials.” Map, compass, headlamp, first aid kit, and cell-phone.

This looks like an enormous amount to carry. Especially if you add in my camera and GPS. It isn’t. I’ve chosen light-weight gear. The single heaviest think I carried was water (@ 1 kilogram/liter). The total weight was about 3-4 kilograms.

Route Selection

There are five major routes up the mountain. They range from long (following the train) to short and steep (Watkin and Pig trails). We’ve used the Ranger Trail and Rhyd ddu paths. The Ranger Trail is probably the easiest with children. The Pig trail is the shortest climb, but it’s decidedly steep and the parking lot at the base is always a zoo. An informal survey of the people in the restaurant at the top suggested that most either come up the Pig trail or take the train.

14-july-16 Our route this year was up and down the Rhyd ddu path. My wife and I did this path when we were just married. I think we actually made better time as old-codgers. (Walking poles help, a lot.)

6-july.13 This map shows a trip we made a few years ago. We thought hard about coming back this way, as the Ranger Trail is a lot easier to follow in the dense fog. The path across the bottom, through the abandoned slate quarry, is swampy even in a dry summer. Therefore, rather than face the mire, we decided to take it slowly on the way down.

IMGP3955 The slate quarry, close up.

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The trail starts with a well-maintained track of large stones embedded in the soft peaty ground. It’s land covered with sheep. We chose shearing day for our stroll; the local farmer had gathered his flock and we started to the noise of distraught ovines.
DSC_0944 The trail rises faster than you think. I thought we’d been walking on the flat when we stopped here.DSC_0949 About 1/3-1/2 the way up, the fog descended. It usually burns off by mid-day. I started out looking forward to purchasing a pint at the top. A few minutes later, a cup of tea seemed a much better idea. IMGP4223 Leaving us with this view from the top.

A Fun Walk on the Gower (or Gwr).

A 13.5 mile, 22 km walk through one of the most beautiful beaches/wild spots in the UK. It combines beaches with hills and heather in a unique walk. This is a fairly strenuous walk, at least when the temperatures reach 28 (90ish). There’s a decent amount of climbing, but no truly long epic climbs (the total climb, about 2400 feet or 740 metres, is most of the way up Snowdon).

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The Gower is about a 2 hour drive from Bristol and an hour from Cardiff. We started about 9 in the morning to miss the rush-hour traffic, stopped at a bakery on the way, and ate our lunch (Pasty’s and bread-pudding) at the National trust car park (3.50 for all day, Oxwich bay is 2.00). The picture above shows the view from near the top. The tide was out so we climbed down and around the Great Tor. The day was exceedingly clear, so sunscreen would have been a good idea. Hindsight is 20/20. The UV in the UK can be surprisingly strong, even stronger than in the American South.

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After that we climbed up onto the Gower path which follows the spine of the peninsula. There’s some free parking where the path crosses the main road.

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This shows our progress. We’re parked at the top of the cliffs in the centre left. The dim blue line at the horizon is Devon.

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We ran into the first of three Duke of Edinborough crews on this hill. They (the program) seriously need to look at lighter weight pack gear. One of the girl’s packs was forty pounds or so for a short trip. Hers was on the light side. I gave them some Philmont advice (It’s not a race and “Hydrate or die!”) for hiking in the heat.  My brother-in-law’s dogs found their own way to deal with the heat.

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Then we climbed down to Oxwich. We refilled our water bottles at a tap in the campsite – which they may not approve of, but what they don’t know won’t hurt them. (It’s a lovely site, but does not take pets). We also stopped at the store for a choc-ice, which was well-received.

IMGP4230 The tide was now in, which the dogs enjoyed. It also meant we had a digression on the way back. Unless we wanted to swim. (We considered it.)IMGP4231

 

 

This is an example of a large blue jellyfish that was washed up on shore. There were at least three other species in the water. Most of them don’t sting.

 

 

IMGP4241Three cliffs bay with the tide in.

IMGP4239 Pennard Castle. It’s in the middle of a golf course, so visit with caution (and keep an ear out for ‘fore’).IMGP4242

This last picture shows one of the sandy climbs. Climbing a sandy bluff is much harder work than climbing a stoney path.

A Yank’s Guide to the UK part 3, Footpaths.

You may have noticed that I like to walk. Maybe it’s all those trailmaps I’ve posted. (A big thank you to this site for their help with tracks.)

Anyway one of the joys of the UK is the public footpaths or rights of way. They’re designated with red dashed lines on the 1:50000 landranger series and green dashed, dotted and other lines on the 1:25000 explorer series from the ordnance survey. The symbols are a little different from the USGS maps, but close enough that if you can read one, you can read the other. Like the US maps they have a blue background grid that is a kilometer grid based on a zero point. (Canada does something similar, and shares the datum with the USA, but they sometimes use an older one that’s about 300 meters off. Be warned.) The British use their own national grid that is similar to the US one, but based on their own origin. You’ll see numbers like SN339486 which refers to a specific location. You can interpolate the numbers from the map, enter them into your gps and find a specific neolithic stone circle on a heath in Exmoor. (it was literally a circle of small stones.)

In England, the footpaths generally go where the map says they are. There are exceptions, but if you navigate stile to stile, you’ll be OK. DSC_0975 The picture shows a style on a typically beautiful summer day. Or perhaps one good enough to be typical. Many of the styles are gates, and the rule is to leave the gate the way you found it.

Many of the footpaths follow historic tracks or roads. Often these are sunken lanesIMGP4135 where the effort of expanding them for even a single track ‘metalled’ (paved) road would exceed the effort needed to just build a new road nearby. These paths can be ancient. The ridgeway that runs from near Reading to south of Bath dates to the time of the pyramids. It’s sort of exciting to walk on a road that was old and in use when Julius Caesar was a boy.

The public footpaths can go through people’s back gardens – including quite famous people’s back gardens. (There’s a rock star near Dorchester (near Oxford), whose back garden is crossed by one.)

 

IMGP2631The footpaths often cross fields with livestock. Cows are a real hazard. They are not the calm sweet animals from cartoons and milk advertisements. Big and sometimes ornery, especially the beef cattle which are not handled by people on a routine basis, they need to be treated with respect. Every now and then someone who doesn’t treat them with respect gets trampled. Sheep are extremely common, but other than decorating the trail in their own unique manner, not much of a bother. There are also a fair number of horses, especially in wilder areas.

Wales, however, is another story. 10-july-13 While there are plenty of footpaths and they are marked on the maps, they are often not there in reality. This map from 2013 shows our path … digressing from the footpath. What started as a gentle walk to a pub in a nearby town, became an almost epic journey as we worked our way around closed footpaths. We took the bus home.

Trail conditions range from smooth and dry, to bogs, and on to mud pits. The paths can be wide and easy walking or narrow and filled with nettles. Fortunately, outside of Kew Gardens, there’s no poison ivy.

Water sources are few, and you will need to be prepared. I’ll put it up in another post, but my wife and I did Snowdon last week. We were prepared, and needed to be. It wasn’t a bad climb, but the temperature changed from a balmy 20C at the base to about 5C at the top, in dense fog, dripping wet. Hypothermia was a real risk. Especially as you’d be damp from sweating on the climb. So we carried rain gear, winter coats, dry change of clothes, my backcountry first aid kit (which contains a space blanket for a bivy), water, and extra food. We needed the warm clothes by the time we arrived at the top. The point of this is that you have to do your research and be prepared for what you may encounter.