I know, I know. Who cares about a hike in the foothills above Boulder. Well…I do. While not an achievement of note, it is a beautiful way to spend half a day, when no other exercise is available.
Brian had a sore back (born of unusual circumstances) and could not carry a pack or even wear a climbing harness, so we decided to do another Boulder 3-Banger hike. It had been almost 6 years since we did our car-shuttle 4-Banger and even longer since our last round-trip 3-Banger. It felt like the right plan.
My Boulder Foothills History
- 06/96 – 1st ascent of Green Mountain
- 11/96 – 1st ascent of Bear Peak
- 05/98 – 1st ascent of S. Boulder Mountain (and Bear Peak; 1st 2-Banger)
- 12/98 – 1st 3-Banger (Green, Bear, S. Boulder)
- 11/05 – 1st 4-Banger (Green, Bear, S. Boulder, Flagstaff)
We agreed to start hiking at 6am, and I was only 5 minutes late (which was long enough to miss the bear romping through the park).
To spice things up a bit, we decided to head up the 1st Flatiron descent route and then cut over toward the Green Mountain summit. From there, we followed an old trail (along the way I got a cool photo of Brian silhouetted against the dawn sky) to reach the NE Ridge Trail that we followed to find the Greenman trail about 1/2 mile from the summit. By 7:45am, we reached the summit of Green Mountain. It wasn’t a fast time, but we stopped several times to explore.
Disappointingly, it was too early for a snack. After gazing longingly at my peanut butter pack, I joined Brian in climbing on rocks and admiring the views, both east and west. I also finished off my 2nd liter of water with the confidence of finding water in Bear Canyon along the way to Bear Peak.
We descended toward Bear Peak, taking the Green-Bear trail. Once we reached the creek that runs down Bear Canyon (oddly named, Bear Canyon Creek), we found a trickling brook just deep enough water to mostly fill our bottles while mostly avoiding visible biological matter.
Hiking back up the other side of the valley on Bear Peak’s West Ridge, we began the long trek toward the summit of Bear Peak. We both remembered that it was a long way….and it certainly looked to be a long way off (it was 1.8 miles).
As we approached the top of Bear Peak, we decided to go up the scrambling approach below the summit rather than hike along the ridge. Unfortunately, I could not quite find the right spot and took us off route a bit. It was still fun, perhaps it was better than the
regular path, but our path took me on a collision course with zillions of ladybugs.
As I scrambled up, I had to crawl beneath a small pine tree to reach a section of rock that I could climb. As I grabbed the tree, I heard a slight tinkling sound, like pine needles falling onto the ground. Once I crawled through the tree, I knew that the sound was not from pine needles. It was ladybugs falling out of the tree. And now 100′s of them were on me.
I was too busy scrambling up to deal with the bugs. Once I pulled up to the top, Brian (who had taken a more direct and faster path) said something like:
“Oh, Joe. You are covered in bugs….it’s like a horror movie!”
When I asked him to brush them off my back, he replied:
“Oh, that wouldn’t help. You need to take of the pack and the shirt.”
I look off the pack to find a solid layer of ladybugs covering nearly the entire pack. It took a few minutes to shake them off, during which time Brian reminded me that I needed to take off my shirt to remove the rest to avoid crushing several hundred additional bugs.
After disrobing and shaking the bugs loose from my shirt, I refused to put that cold, wet t-shirt back on for the remaining 50 feet of scrambling. I wanted the fresh shirt in the pack, but would wait until we reached the summit, which we reached at 9:30am.
Dang! It was still too early for a meal, but I could not longer resist. One peanut butter pack, one bar and one liter of water ceased to exist in rapid fashion.
South Boulder Mountain
We decided to continue to South Boulder Mountain, but refused to descend via Shadow Canyon. It would add just too many miles of boring hiking along the Mesa Trail. We decided to return to Bear Peak and then descend via Fern Canyon, between Bear and Green.
The hike to South Boulder Mountain went quickly (0.7 miles), which was a good thing (as Forrest would say) since the day’s temperature was climbing rapidly. As we stewed in our own juices, we reached the summit amid a forest of raspberry bushes.
I thoughtfully called my wife to check in while Brian passed time by gorging on the berries missed by the Bears (who were down in Chautauqua Park looking for yummy trash).
It was only 10:30am, so once again we could not eat lunch yet. So back down the trail we went. And, once again I regretted not having sufficient excuse for a peanut butter snack.
The hike back was mostly downhill, but it was a lot of downhill. The Fern Canyon trail is quite steep and a steady down, down, down for over 2,500′ feet. I’m sure my quad’s will be angry for a couple of days. I will not even speak of my knees.
But, finally, we stopped for lunch at 11:30am when we reached the intersection with the Slab trail. I ate my two remaining peanut butter packs and my 4th liter of water for the day. It was fantastic!
We reached Chautauqua Park an hour later, for a 6.5 hour, 10 mile, 4,000′ elevation gain round trip.
It was a nice hike (unfortunately, the news of the day was rather shocking).
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