The bed felt so good this morning when I opened my eyes at 5am. I had decided the day before that I needed a good training day. Horsethief Park was my destination, and the weather was predicted to be great for a late winter morning hike. It didn’t disappoint.
So, I fought the urge to make it a lazy day, put down my typical pre-hike oatmeal breakfast, and headed west on CO highway 24. Turning south onto highway 67 in Divide will lead to the trailhead between Divide and Cripple Creek. It’s marked by an old tunnel next to the highway just under an hour drive from Colorado Springs.
There are a few destinations in the park: Horsethief Falls, Pancake Rocks, and the lesser traveled trail to the summit to Sentinel Point. Today I attempted to make it to Pancake Rocks, but the snow had covered up the trail toward the end, it was not obvious which way to go and I didn’t have a map loaded on my GPS. I could have wondered around the forest a bit because I knew the general direction. But I opted to just enjoy the view from where I was and head down to check out the condition of the falls.
The trail up to Pancake Rocks was deafening quiet. I stopped a couple times to enjoy the peace. The only thing registering in my ears was my breathing. No wind, no traffic, no other humans… I think standing there in the forest for those few brief moments may have been the most enjoyable part of my week.
The view from the top of the trail is very comforting. The valley toward Cripple Creek, rolling snow covered forests, and the Sangre De Christo range disrupting the horizon all fill the senses with a corrective and humbling perspective. It is especially worth taking in during the winter when the snowy distant peaks, although not the most prominent feature, are the most wondrous.
Two ladies accompanied by their Dalmatian-Irish Setter mix joined me at the top. We enjoyed the views while some Rocky Mountain Gray Jays gathered. These birds have a way of silently but persistently offering to eat whatever crumbs hikers leave behind from their trail snacks.
The falls, as I expected, were frozen over. From what I’ve read, for most of the year it’s really just a trickle over the granite rocks in the stream. Not far off the trail are several make-shift shelters. I'm assuming these may be frequented by backwoods campers.
The day was a little over 1600 feet in elevation gain and just over six and a half miles of trails. It was a good training day for my upcoming attempts at early spring 14er climbs.