One of the trails near us is Twin Sisters. The trailhead has been moved to a location across from Lily Lake, just south of Estes Park. We had not had a chance to try this trail, but on a day we could, surprisingly, take a longer ride we found ourselves parked at the trail parking. You have to ride ½ mile up the dirt road to get to the actual trailhead, then you step onto an exceptionally well groomed trail, almost like you would find in a park. This was no small challenge to form this trail on a very rocky and steep mountain. We were amazed that within the first ½ hour of travel we had traversed several sets of steps. Our goal in doing this ride was to condition our horses for a longer, tough, cross-country ride the following week. I had chosen to ride Washoe, as his feet seem to take rocky paths better, and Jesse was already in pretty good shape. I didn’t want to chance soring her feet for the trip. All three of our horses would be needed for the ride, as we were furnishing a horse for our guide.
The switchbacks kept getting tighter, the steps steeper and no space on the sides to step off for a break. It was obvious that no horses had been on this trail this year – or maybe even last year. Once we got to a higher elevation, we had some great views: all of Lily Lake, then the backside of Wind River Ranch and Aspen Lodge, with Long’s Peak looking down on them, finally the Long’s Peak Inn across the highway. Washoe said someone else was on the trail and pretty soon a couple of lady hikers came around the bend. (One of them thought we were a bear coming up the trail.) After chatting with them and figuring we had another hour of climb time to reach the top, we made the decision to just go a short way further, find one of the aspen groves they spoke of, have lunch so the horses could rest, and head down. Ranger had already said he was about done with the stair-thing – plus what you come up, you have to go down!
Great idea, but we never found any aspen groves, just a cool rock outcropping that Washoe said was just fine for lunch. We tied up the horses sort of off the trail and sat on a big rock for our picnic. On the way down, Washoe stopped to listen intently again (he’s learning to be a good lead horse). At the next clearing we could look down on the back of Aspen Lodge, where some sort of session was going on in the corral. We could almost hear the talking plain enough to make out what was being said. That’s how our clear, mountain air works! We continued down the trail – all those steps, again – and got back to the trailer just as the afternoon rain started. Talk about timing. Ranger could hardly wait to get into the trailer. I think he wasn’t taking any chances on having to go back up those steps. Got back to the Lodge just ahead of the rain and laughed heartily at the horses taking their celebratory roll in the corral.