What’s not to like when you live in Colorado and can hike in the mountains and look for hidden geocaches?
Renee and I moved to Colorado from Wisconsin six years ago and every day appreciate the beauty and freshness of living in the mountains. While we may miss Lake Michigan and its beauty, the wildness so close to us is a treasure. I drove a half hour into the Poudre Canyon from our home in Fort Collins to the Greyrock trail head in the Roosevelt National Forest. As soon as I exit our forest green Corolla I have access to the wild. I cross a pedestrian bridge over the Cache La Poudre River and listen to the raging current of the wild water rushing below. The thick wood planking of the deck absorbs my bounce as I cross over to the start of the trail.
My mission today is to be the first to find a geocache hidden a few miles away west of the summit of Greyrock Mountain. My twenty pound pack contains the essentials I need to be safe as a hiker including lots of water and navigation instruments. My route today will be the slightly steeper but more direct route to the Upper Fork on the Summit Trail. From there I must travel west along the Meadows Trail down to the Meadows before I bushwhack a half mile north across the Meadow to the cache called Mushroom Rock. The morning sky is deep blue and the 61°F temperature makes it ideal for a climb up the trail. Wild flowers dot the trail in bright clusters to punctuate the otherwise green bushes close to the rocky dirt path. The high timbered walls of the canyon loom overhead in dark hues of live green conifers and fire blackened trunks from a devastating wild fire a few years ago. I appreciate the shaded walkway as I hustle myself in quick steps in a continuous upward direction.
The insects buzz from blossom to blossom taking advantage of the abundance of the beebalm flowers taking their turn in the succession of blooming plants. As I gain altitude the sun floods the open areas and warms up everything. Run off waters from higher elevations stream across the trail making muddy boots a certainty. As I round a bend in the pathway a mule deer doe freezes in place with alert eyes watching my every move. A few more steps and she decides to scamper across the stream to the sheltered bank of willow bushes. The switchbacks allow me to gain elevation without requiring a super steep climb.
Greyrock at Upper Fork
After nearly two hours of hiking I reach the upper limits of the rocky surroundings. The summit of Greyrock looms before me. My mission is not to summit the rock but to hike downhill to the west to access the Meadow and then toward the hidden geocache. I sit at a bench and eat a snack while I listen and watch the birds swoop from tree to tree and munch on their own snacks of tasty morsels. My hiking style changes a bit as I must hike in a downward motion using muscles in a different way. I follow the Meadow Trail till I reach the grasses hundreds of feet below the Upper Fork. Next I exit the trail and begin my bushwhacking through the waist high grasses and over wet soft soil. A couple of hundred yards north I exit the tall grasses and the terrain turns into a dry grass area with many small cacti with extremely sharp needles. Yellow and orange blanket flowers dot the ground just before I enter an area of trees as the ground rises again above the grassy meadow. As the trees increase in number and density I spot the “mushroom rock” dubbed that by Tiny Tuttle (the geocache owner) who placed the container. My Garmin GPS device brings me close to the rock and the hint given by the cache owner provided me with text to locate exactly where to seek the container wrapped in camouflaged duct tape. I sign the paper log sheet with our caching name, Pixel Magic, and return the container in the exact same spot so it can be found by the next cacher. Hooray. Pixel Magic is the first to find this cache.
Meadows below Greyrock
I retrace my steps to return to the trail and start my route back to the trail head on a slightly longer route known as the Meadows Trail. The hike continues up and down in elevation along a generally drier route.
As I emerge from the relative darkness in the trees to the sun drenched open trail I chance upon a bull snake warming itself draped across my pathway. I check to identify the snake and capture a photo (from a distance). I walk around the snake and it moves off the trail into the adjacent shrubbery.
Butterflies on Beebalm (Who knew?)
The suns seems to have activated the butterflies. I spend a few minutes enjoying their whimsical flight. My journey continues from the higher elevations to the lower areas. As I do so the pathway once again crosses small streams that allow the greenery to grow with lush deep greenery. Along with the bushes and flowers a bumper crop of poison ivy encroaches the pathway. I’m glad I’m wearing long pants.
A flash of red catches my eye. I’ve grown accustomed to the purples and yellows and this plant stands out as different. Currants are starting to grow and ripen along with black raspberries.
My hike eventually takes me over a route of 7.6 miles with an elevation gain of about 2,000 feet. It is a good work out for me. Geocaching presents the opportunity to hike with a purpose and enjoy the beautiful flora and fauna of wild Colorado.