Bill and Juanita, owners of Allenspark Lodge B&B, are living their dream...

running a successful business and riding as often as possible.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

More Gulches ... a.k.a. Trails

I know I've been more than a bit of a blog slug lately, but we have spent many hours scouring our trails, so we have gotten a good deal of riding in.  I'm ashamed to say that although the riding has been wonderful, I still have been too depressed at the condition of our trails to want to write.  Bill and I have always believed we had some of the most beautiful trails in the U.S.  We still do ... but it's going to take some time to get them back in shape for novice riders.

"Compass" manages the Livery across the street and this is a real concern for her business, since probably a good 50% of her riders have never been on a horse before, so you want lots of good, safe trails.  If anyone wants a conditioning challenge for your horse - other than altitude - now is the time to come!!!  See?  It's all about attitude!  We love a challenge - so let's go for an adventure.
Meet Compass and her horse, Eli.  They, plus Beel and Ranger and Jesse and I will be your tour guides today.
Let's be realistic here.  We live in the high country ... and snow has come somewhat early this year.  This is what is left from a snowfall over a week ago, but north slopes sometimes don't get uncovered again until the following Spring.  This just adds to our challenge, so make sure your horse has seen snow before and isn't afraid to step in it.
Compass requested the willow trail today, so we have to head downhill to Rock Creek and the willows.  Meet Ingrid, her dog.  Ingrid will be an important measurement tool later in the ride.
It's a bit of a struggle getting through the willows with all your clothes still in place.  The flood waters seem to have tangled them even more than their norm.  Hope all your horses can be handled with one hand, because you really, really need the other as self-defense!
The shale ledge has gotten a bit narrower!  Thank goodness all these horses are barefoot; it keeps slippage to a minimum.
All I can say is "ummm".  Once there was trail here, so go for it Ranger.  Pick your way through.
This is the agility test - and yes, I let my horse pick and choose her own footing.  Jesse chose to stay on rock and go up-and-over.  Eli  went the lower way and sank ankle deep in silt.  I have a great trust in my steed; she has plowed through some tough stuff for me - and even more on today's trip.  Once we cross over this bit of shale, we will cross a lower spot and then head to the top of the cliff.

Ranger and Bill have made it, thanks to some scrambling.  Trail condition?  Gone.  However, the trail down the other side looks totally unaffected.  I'm sure any of you who have helped repair trails after storms have seen these anomalies before.  So we cross Rock Creek, which is swollen considerably more than during any Spring runoff, and try to locate the beaver ponds.
The ponds seem to be gone; all we can see from our vantage point is free running water; lots of it!
On closer inspection, we can see the broken dams; no sign of the beavers.  We hope they survived.
Riding next to the creek, we find GOOD trail, where we would expect it to be washed out.
However, that didn't last long.  We crest the hill and ... what trail?  It is now a deepening gulch, leading to a real wash-out.
The power of water is pretty amazing.  This was once a tiny, tiny stream; barely 18 inches across.  Yes, inches!  Now it is that many feet, plus some.
Bill and Ranger went 4-wheeling down the hillside and discovered ... a kayak/canoe (hard to say which)!
It doesn't took too sea-worthy.  It's kind of jumbled in among all those downed willows.
Nope!  Definitely not usable.  Anyone want a yard decoration?  Getting it out of here could be a chore.
Well, this ended this portion of our journey.  We back-tracked back over the hill, back along Rock Creek, crossed a precarious spot that didn't use to look like this.
There is a way across between those trees; the old trail is beside me, quite deep.  We will have to step down into it and then into a deep spot in the creek to cross.
Once upon a time, there was a small foot bridge for humans to cross on. It is piled up with the willows now.  Hikers, you have to get your feet wet; maybe knees, too, now that this little creek is nearly as big as the St. Vrain River.  After crossing the creek, we turn right and head down the trail to the grotto and waterfall.  Most of this trail is in remarkably good condition and we ooh and aaah over the size and speed of the water we are riding next to.
What's this?  I think we have just found the beavers' new location!  A new home in the making, but we're not sure it's such a good place for a dam.
Very shortly after that, we discover we have gone as far as we can go.  The trail was just none existent from that point on, so no grotto, no waterfall today.  We all commented on how appreciative we were to be on horses that would spin on a foot to get turned around, because there was zero maneuvering space!  Three foot dropoff on our right; rock and bramble on our left.  We considered re-crossing the creek here and working our way along the other side, but decided it could be too dangerous as the rocks are not settled into their new location.  It they shifted under us, we or one of our horses could end up with a broken leg.  That would not be a fun ending on such a beautiful day.  Again, we back-track.
Time to head back uphill, on a different trail.  This doesn't look good, but since we are each mounted on 'mountain goats', we go for it.
Nope.  Time to hill climb; there is no space next to the trail to get through safely.  The bull-dozer I am on takes the lead and heads straight up the hill to our right.  We try to stay within sight of the trail.
We stayed pretty clear of areas like this that had just 'fallen in on itself'.  In some places we had no choice but to navigate close.  Bill and Ranger were small enough to squeeze between the trees; Jesse decided to cross over but the bank fell in on us and we ended up in the bottom of that mess.  True to form, she calmly climbed out the uphill side, but when we got to the top of the hill, Compass pointed out that we had a broken breast collar.  Jesse pops more D-rings with her shoulders.  This time, the D-ring actually pulled through the leather, so I have to figure out how to fix that.  I climbed off and removed it completely, hoping we wouldn't have more need of it on the rest of the ride.  Again, I can't say enough about good, broke trail horses that will let you climb off and on from the 'wrong' side, on a steep slope, and handle all their tack.
Once I get settled in the saddle, we head off another shoot of the trail to the right, and find Ingrid standing next to a portion of that trail, taller than she is.
Compass was trying to convince her to get in the trail to show how deep it was.  Smart dog said, "no".
We topped out and found most of those trails like this; about a six inch stripe down the middle that was anywhere from six inches deep, to 18 inches deep.

The rest of the way, we put the cameras away and concentrated on just enjoying the ride, and the beautiful day.  We had focused enough on destruction and just needed the fresh air.  Compass even had some jumping practice, over a log, that Eli didn't think was high enough to 'jump'.  He kept cantering over it like it didn't exist and we all had a good laugh!  We will find a way to get the trails in good condition next year.  Mother Nature always seems to help heal these things; so be it.  Hope you enjoyed our adventure; come along any time.
Bionic Cowgirl


  1. My favorite trails are gone! I'm kind of in shock. Those were the same trails Estee and I took on our last ride and now they're gone :(

    1. I'll probably be tying a shovel to Ranger's rear for rides from now on. Sad, but yet another challenge.


  2. Wow! The rain was very devestating. Crazy stuff.

  3. It's sad losing spaces you once knew well. I lost my summer home to a flood. It makes sense that the water would follow the trails created by horses and hikers. We see evidence of it around here during monsoon season.

  4. That just makes me sad sad sad. And grateful that you guys were not hurt when this was happening.

    And definitely... that your horses are trustworthy. Especially with Beel's interesting mounting technique :)

    1. THIS time, I made sure I was in a saddle.



  5. Even with all the devastation, it's still beautiful. Thanks for sharing your adventure with us. Miss you, Terry.

  6. Those are some rugged trails...

  7. Wow! Looks like the washouts and landslides here in our rainy northwest. Makes you and your horse stay awake. I end up riding a lot of roads because I like to Zone out.


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