Almagre – 12,367 and Microwave Tower 12,349

My directions said this was a 6.5 mile round trip, with 1000
feet in elevation gain and some route finding.
Wrong.  Wrong.  Wrong!!!

You see, the problem with hiking routes that aren’t hiked
often is you often times need to rely on just one person’s post about the area
because no one else has given any information.
Because this was supposed to be a relatively short hike I woke up at
5am, ran 5 miles on the treadmill, did an hour of yoga, and was on my way.

I looked at how much gas I had:  just less than half a tank, and since I was
only going about 30 miles I figured this would be plenty.  To get there I needed to take Old Stage Road
for 19.6 miles, which took a lot longer than I’d anticipated:  This is a 2wd dirt road normally, turned 4wd
in the winter, but there were a lot of turns and I never went more than 15mph
because it was iced over.

I watched my gas gauge quickly and steadily drop and started
to get concerned I’d get stuck out there, 20 miles off a dirt road, out of
gas.  I mentally gave myself a point on the
gas gauge of no return and kept driving towards the trailhead.  If worse came to worse I’d hike an extra 5
miles of so to take this hike… it wasn’t that long anyway.  I turned right onto forest road 376 and went
for another 3.2 miles to the trailhead at the junction of a locked gate/dead
end and Forest Road 379 (which is part of the ring the peak trail and also the
part that still needs to be worked on, depending on which way you turn).

I was the only car there as I grabbed my gear and headed
east up the 379 at 9am.

This part of the trail was quite steep, and since it’d
snowed recently quite slippery.  I didn’t
put on my microspikes, but I did use my trekking pole quite a bit.

I was told to hike to a small meadow and turn left.  So I did and the trail went nowhere.  I was supposed to be heading towards a
saddle, but the trees were too tall for me to see the saddle.  Just for reference, DO NOT TURN LEFT HERE:

I backtracked and looked at my map and the area around
me.  I was near the microwave tower, and
I could find where I was on my map.  I
could tell by looking at my map the road I went on continued all the way to the
summit of the microwave tower and continued on to Almagre.  This was not how I wanted to summit, but I
wasn’t ready to give up yet, so I continued on the road.  Eventually I came to a rather large meadow.

I realized this must have been the meadow they meant in my
directions, and headed west, looking for that saddle.  At the very northwest part of the trail I
noticed another trail, and took that a short distance to a hold in the fence

Now I was getting somewhere!
This vaguely went along with my directions, and I was following my map,
so I continued up the saddle.  This was
no walk in the park!  The picture below
doesn’t do that scree justice!  It was
steep and slippery and much larger in real life (steeper too)

I made it to the top of the saddle and looked for that trail
that was supposed to be so obvious:  It
wasn’t there.  I’m blaming the snow, but
no worries, as that didn’t stop me.  I
could see the microwave tower, as well as the route to get there, and decided
to just head towards that so I could get in some route-finding.

I headed east, and for some reason this easy hike became
difficult.  I haven’t been above treeline
in a month and a half, and my body seems to have forgotten how to breathe!  Yes, it was a steep slope and physically
challenging, but this was difficult!  I
was sweating up a storm in 30 degree weather.
My calves and shins were screaming.
I kept going.

About here it became difficult to breathe. I hadn’t tied my
hair back so it was a bit unruly, but I figured I’d fix it at the summit.  I just got mad at myself for being tired so
quickly and continued onwards.  Woohoo!  I could finally see the microwave tower

This gave me hope, and pretty soon I summited to a much
larger microwave tower than anticipated!

The views were absolutely amazing!  I dropped my bag and took a few pictures

I wanted to take a summit photo to prove I’d made it, and
reached into my bag to get my hairbrush and hat.  Unfortunately, both were left on the front
seat of my truck.   Drat!  Oh well, summit hair don’t care!  I was just lucky it wasn’t windy today…

I got my gear back together and looked at the route before

I took a look at my topo map and realized I had two
options:  I could hike the ridge to
Almagre or the trail down to the Stratton Reservoir, and then back up
Almagre.  It looked like there was snow
either way, but experience has told me rocks mean ice, so I decided to take the
road.  My immediate views of Colorado Springs
were amazing!

I’m not sure this was in the end the best choice, as it was
covered in snow.  It was kind of cool
seeing all the animal tracks though!

I rounded a corner and could see both Pikes Peak and Almagre
and thought it was the most amazing view ever!

I kept going and could see the rest of the route before
me:  Stratton Reservoir (or what’s left
of it) on the left, and the road to the right.

I made it to the reservoir and saw this… I’m not sure what
it is, but it’s obviously not put there as a shelter from lightning…

I crossed the reservoir and headed north

This is where the snow completely covered the trail, but
only enough to get inside my hiking boots.
I was continuously hiking through about 6 inches of snow, but it was up
to 3 feet in areas.

The trail rounded the mountains, and pretty soon I could see
Almagre in front of me. The trail up to the summit covered in snow…

The summit was worth slogging through all that snow!  I had a grand view of Pikes Peak, and an
answer to ‘what it was and how to get to that patch of green land I can see
from A-frame’. I’ve been wondering that for years, and today I had my answer!  It was Almagre!  Awesome!
Now I need to spend the night at A-frame again so I can appreciate it
once more with new knowledge.

I took some pictures to prove I’d summited (once again, summit
hair, don’t care) and headed back down.

Here’s a video of the summit view:

I could have taken the ridge back to the microwave tower and
back down, or any number of routes, but I didn’t feel like summiting again, and
I wanted to see where the road led. Maps are all well and good, but nothing is
as good as visually seeing the trail, as well as the mountains before me.  I’d hiked most of them in the past month, and
wanted to see them from this angle.  So
when I made it back to the reservoir  As
I was hiking here I saw someone hiking up the trail, towards the Microwave
tower.  I’m not sure which route he’d
taken because I never saw his footprints. I’m assuming he climbed over from the
west side of the reservoir.

I headed east along a trail that quickly took me to a locked
gate (easily avoided).

From here on out the rest of the trail was lined with 6
inches of snow.

I need new hiking boots (mine have holes) so this was
particularly miserable for 2 reasons:
Sand and rocks getting inside my shoes and snow keeping them wet.  At this point I wished I’d brought
gaiters.  Microspikes wouldn’t have
helped, floatation would have been nice, but gaiters would have solved a lot of

The trail back down was slow because of the snow:  I kept slipping.

I followed the 379A and had some off roaders in modified
jeeps pass me.  I eventually caught up to
them when they were on a break.  One guy
asked me “You hiking the ring?” and to save time I told him “Yes!  It’s a beautiful day for it!” and continued
on.  Hey, I WAS on the Ring the Peak trail,
so I wasn’t lying (I just didn’t want to stop for conversation).

It seemed like it took forever to take this route!  It felt like it took twice as long, and it should
have been faster as I was hiking downhill.
However, I eventually made it to the High Park area, and found a trail
that I’m assuming goes to point 12,225’.
I’m going to need to come back and try that one!  But not today, because it was probably
getting late…  I made it back to the meadow
that has the turnoff for Microwave Tower and noted with a picture the correct
trail to take

Now I was back on the loop, and hiked the mile and a half
back down to mu truck.  When I got there
my truck had made a friend!  This must be
the truck from the guy I saw at the reservoir.

In any event, here’s the route I took:

I made it back to my truck at 2:30pm.  I’m guessing I hiked about 10-12 miles in 5.5
hours. I did the elevation gain when I got back, and it was 3000’ in elevation
gain with all the ups and downs and double summits.

Oh, and my truck made it out just fine (and all the way
home) without needing to stop for gas.

Pulpit Rock 6,622’

The weather wasn’t all that great for hiking today, so I
took Emily and Thomas somewhere close:
Pulpit Rock.  We’ve lived here for
over 10 years and never been to what I’d consider a local landmark.  It’s the rock formation you can see from I25
near UCCS that lots of visitors mistake for Castle Rock.  There are a bunch of trails to hike this
area, but it was cold and the kids aren’t intense hikers, so we took the easy

The trailhead is right off the freeway.  Take Exit 148 and head west, then turn left
on Pulpit Peak.  You will immediately see
the dirt parking lot to the right.

The hike is only about half a mile, and there isn’t one
established trail, but dozens of social trails.
Basically you just aim for the top and keep climbing, although I will tell
you it’s easier to climb from the back.

The scenery along the way is beautiful!

There isn’t any exposure until you get to the very top, and
then only if you choose for there to be.

Of course, we played around for a bit.  

We probably spent a good half hour on the ‘summit’ before
heading back down.

There’s a lot of really cool history to this area,
specifically geologic history, fossils, dinosaur footprints, etc.  Here’s a link to more information:

This would be a great hike to take out of town-ers on, or for
a quick stretch of legs after Thanksgiving!

Eagles Peak (9,328)

Eagles Peak is a trail accessed through the Air Force Academy.  It’s a 3.6 mile up and back trial that has an elevation gain of 2100 feet in 1.3 miles.  As I was driving in I got to take a detour through the USAFA housing development (they’re working on the roads) and  I saw a turkey this time in the same place I saw one last time.  He gobbled at me as I took this picture.

The trail begins at the visitors center.  I parked my truck in the lot, crossed the street, and followed the service road past some power lines to the trailhead.  I want to note the beginning of the service road stated “authorized vehicles only” and when I got to the trailhead there were two unauthorized vehicles parked.  Well, I’m assuming the Accord and Subaru weren’t authorized.  Oh well, I got an extra half mile out of my hike and they didn’t, and it let me know there were at least 2 other groups of hikers on the trial.  I passed them both coming down as I was going up relatively early in the trial.  One was a man in his 50s, the other looked like a cadet with her two dogs.

Here’s a picture of the trail.  It looks deceptively short and easy, but look at that elevation gain!

Oh, and the trail also looks easy to follow in this map.  What it doesn’t show is how it follows a waterfall for most of the way, so when you’re looking at the trail thinking “There’s NO WAY the trial goes up that waterfall, it must follow this worn path to the left”, you’d be wrong.  I was.  Right where the ‘17’ is on this trial I ended up hiking up that ridge, only to notice my mistake once I got to the top and it was a dead end at a rock face.  I had to retrace my steps and hike up the waterfall I didn’t think was a trail…

This hike is a steady uphill/up rock climb all the way to the top, except for a small meadow just before the final climb.

And what a climb it is!  Like most trails in the area, it’s not well marked and hard to follow, but at least someone spray painted these blue dots that indicate what general direction you should follow.

As always, the view from the to was amazing!  I love looking west towards Pikes Peak.

I was actually able to find the summit marker this time, which is an anomaly.  Most summits don’t have them in the area at this elevation.

The hike back down was uneventful, if a bit slippery.  Granite is really slippery when wet (remember the waterfall) and also when it’s crumbled up into pebbles.  It is trickier hiking down in many areas than hiking up because it’s easier to slip and fall.  Gravity isn’t on your side. 

In any event, I made it down safely, hopped into my truck, and floored it to work, as I had several texts asking me for help (my team is in Brussels this week and I’ve been working odd hours while they’re overseas).

Blodgett Peak (9,423) via USAFA

This was a challenging hike, but I made this hike a lot more
difficult than it needed to be, but not really on purpose.  You see, I’d originally planned to hike
Eagles Peak this morning, but after talking with a friend at the gym decided to
try Blodgett Peak instead.  I’m trying to
do as many USAFA hikes as possible before Thomas graduates, leaves ROTC, and I
no longer get a base pass.  My friend has
hiked the ‘normal’ route and said it had only taken him about an hour.  I’d already calculated this route for later
this week, so I just quickly changed my plans.

I was interested in this hike because while studying the
Pikes Peak Atlas I noticed there was a walking trail through the USAFA to the
peak, and because there was supposed to be wreckage from a WWII plane on the
trail.  The aircraft was a C-49J
twin-engine transport, en route from Pueblo to Denver on 23rd Feb. 1943 in
overcast weather. It crashed at 1205 MT, instantly killing the pilot and

This trail isn’t a popular one.  In fact, it isn’t even listed as a trail on
the USAFA map (but the peak is)

However, my Pikes Peak Atlas shows there’s a walking trail
to the wreckage site.  

So as soon as I was done with my 10 miles at the gym I
hopped in my truck and set out to find the trailhead.  There wasn’t any parking there (no room) and
I didn’t want to just park on the side of a USAFA road and leave my truck so I
did my best to fit where I could at the bottom of the dirt road hill and
crossed my fingers I was hidden enough not to get towed.  It was a trailhead after all (if not a
popular one).

The trail is labeled as ‘713’, and very well marked so it’s
easy to follow.  First you cross a gate

And then you come to a creek crossing.  I startled a few ducks upon my arrival.

While you aren’t supposed to cross when water is present I
was able to find a few boards placed just for this purpose.

The beginning of the hike was gradual and went through a
grassy meadow.  I could pick out Blodgett
Peak and indeed the crash site from the beginning of the trail. But I wondered
how many people would even notice if they didn’t know what to look for?

I passed a scary/lonely looking Tesla Plant (owned by CS
Utilities) and continued the trail behind building.  Here the trial was very well marked and
followed a paved road for about 1/8 of a mile.

I’m pretty good at following topo maps, so I was sure I’d be
able to navigate this trail easily.  So
far everything was working just as planned.

While the trail was well marked with ‘713’ signs before the
Tesla Plant.  Once I passed the Tesla Plant
the land stopped being owned by the USAFA and began being US forest service
land.  This is also where the great signage
stopped. I wouldn’t see one more sign indicating which trail/road I was on for
the rest of the hike, and this was a serious safety hazard.

I was about halfway into the hike, just expecting to make it
to a forest service road when the trail stopped abruptly.  I was confused and looked around for a bit to
try and find the trail.  I went back and
forth, and realized there had been a rock slide, and the trail had been taken
out.  No big deal, except I wasn’t
exactly sure how much of the trial had been taken out, since I couldn’t see a
corresponding trial anywhere ahead.

I’d been following the service road for a little bit of
time, and I knew I was supposed to be on it eventually, so I made my way down
the 75 feet or so on the slope towards the road (it was going to be ‘fun’
getting back up).

OK, so I was ON the service road, but I wasn’t sure where I
was on it.  I looked back to my map and
decided to hike east to the end to see if I could find a trail.  I followed it to the end and I couldn’t.  So I hiked back west, pretty sure in my assumption
I’d eventually see either the walking trail to the left of the original 713
trail intersecting with the trail I was on.
Either way I’d eventually know where I was.

Except that didn’t happen.

I hiked and hiked and hiked, and eventually came to the
Northfield Storage Tank, which wasn’t on either of my maps.  I was fairly sure I was on the right road,
but there were no signs indicating which road I was on or where I was on that
road. I looked at my map several times, but it just wasn’t there anywhere on
the trail.  

I thought about spending some time admiring the storage
area, but wanted to get on with my hike, so I continued.  

The road alternated between a gravel trail and being
seriously poorly paved.  I wondered how
vehicles made it on this path:  It’s one
direction was up, and I continued to climb.
I never did see where the trail intersected the road, or a path to the
left that would take me up Blodgett Peak.
Eventually I realized just by looking around I was way too far east, but
I knew I’d been diligent about looking for the correct trail.  I was sure I hadn’t missed it.  So I decided to just ‘give up’ looking for
the USAFA trail to Blodgett Peak and just try again some other time from the
way I was supposed to use.  

However, never one to give up a good chance to get some
exercise, I continued the path for about 2 miles, then hiked back down the way
I’d came.  This was quite a workout for
my calves!    It was a beautiful day and I’d enjoyed the
hike even though I hadn’t found what I was looking for.  It was getting hot, so I decided to take a
walk around the storage tank just to get some shade for a bit before heading

That’s when I saw it.
A cairn.  “Oh! Are you serious?” I
said to myself.

Yep, serious.  This
was obviously the trail I’d been looking for.

I was a bit upset none of this was listed on my detailed
map, but decided at this point is wasn’t very important.  I did some mental calculations.  I’d been hiking for 2.5 hours (probably 5-6
miles or so, as it was directly uphill) and I’d already done 10 miles that
morning at the gym before hitting the trail.
I hadn’t had any breakfast (or coffee).
I had plenty of water, but only a package of fruit snacks and a ‘fun
size’ Twix in my pack (besides my survival stuff, of course).  By looking at my map I had another mile or
two to the summit, and it was ALL UPHILL.

But this was what I’d hiked for, so I decided to go for it
and reserved the right to turn back at any time if I felt the need.

The hike was indeed straight up, and besides the rock arrow
I’d seen at the beginning of the trail, there was no trail to follow.  Or, if there was, this is what the trail
looked like (yes, I was supposed to proceed, where this usually means ‘wrong

This was probably why it wasn’t on the USAFA map.  You really had to know where you were
going.  I kept my eyes on the peak and
just headed towards it.   You can see a lot of visible damage from the Waldo
Canyon Fire in these pictures.

I was so excited when I came upon the plane wreck!  Not because of the wreck itself (which was
tragic), but because it meant I was exactly where I needed to be on the
trail.  There was no trail down to the
wreckage, so I hiked down about 25 feet from the top to get there.  

Nothing about the site looked stable (once again, probably
why it wasn’t listed on the USAFA map) so I didn’t stay long.  The plane was in at least 4 large pieces.  Due to the drastic angle of the slope I
couldn’t get any good pictures. 

There was a sign of dedication and an American Flag.

I didn’t know if I should be smiling or not, but here’s a
selfie anyway for proof of life.

I didn’t stay long at the crash site (it didn’t feel
safe).  I continued onward and saw a lot
of strawberry and raspberry plants.
Those raspberry stems were a bugger!
They kept breaking off and getting into my shoes.  I’d have to stop to get the stickers
out.  Hmph!

About halfway up this ridge I began to see Pikes Peak over
the burn scar and got really excited for the summit.  

The last ¼ of a mile or so was exhausting.  I’m not sure if it was because I’d just
driven in from a lower elevation in New Mexico last night, because I hadn’t hit
the gym for 3 days prior and just climbed thousands of stair cases instead (my
calves were screaming at this point), because there was no trail and I had to
climb over boulders, or because I was hungry, but it was very difficult.   I
considered it good training for future 14er hikes.

It was tough but I made it!
I sat on a rock, enjoyed my fun sized Twix (which seriously helped btw)
and looked around.  Check out some summit

OK, you may think the hard part was over, but it was really
just beginning.  If I thought no trail
and climbing up was difficult, imagine climbing down without a trail, on
terrain it was difficult to find my footing climbing up.  I was sliding down scree and small chunks of
gravel the entire time.  At one point I
slipped a bit and broke the lens of my camera (no worries though, it was just
the lens cover, and it’s why I have one and plenty of extras back at home).  

Just after taking the above picture I stopped to look around
and freaked out.  While I was extremely careful
while scrambling back down the rocks at the top of the peak to watch where I
was going and to make sure I was heading towards the right ridge, as I looked
around now I began to second guess myself.  There were now several ridges, none of which
looked familiar, but of course I was heading down and not up.  I took a minute to really study where I was
and concluded I needed to head further west.
This ended up being a great idea.
I was beyond ecstatic to see this burnt tree with two pine cones
together, as I remembered it from the hike up.

Then I saw this ladybug and a few butterflies and all was

I’d thought I’d paid quite a bit of attention while hiking,
but this proved you really need to top every few minutes or so and just look
around.  It helps for the way back
down.  Also, the wind rushing through the
trees sounds remarkably like a loud stream/waterfall, and when you know there’s
water below you it can be deceiving.  I
had to make sure I was on the correct path a few times, but in the end I made
it out (with a few minor scratches… I had to get by a few difficult trees).

I made it back to the storage tank safely and was pleased
with my success.  Not only had I made it
to see the plane wreckage, I’d successfully summited difficult rocky terrain and
made it back down a difficult ‘trail’ using only my intuition and a poorly
defined topo map. This was progress!

Just before the meadow I saw a bunch of exposed wires
jutting out of the hillside.  Hmmm.

I saw a few more wildflowers on the hike down, made it to my
truck (woohoo! Still there!), and looked at the time.  It was almost 12:30pm! My 2 hour hike had
turned into a 5 hour hike, and I didn’t mind in the least.  Now to head home and enjoy some lunch!

Oh, here’s the view from the top: 

Mt Cutler (7,200), Mt Cutler Overlook (7,050), Mt Muscoco (8,020)

To be honest, none of these summits is really a big
deal.  I mean, I live at about 7000 feet
(traveled down in elevation to get to this trailhead) but I’m sure they sound pretty neat to my out
of Colorado friends.  So why am I posting
the elevations?  Basically I’ve done this
because it’s noted on the map and I just want to keep good records.  I’m not trying to impress anyone.  Although Mt Muscoco was a pretty good
training hike.  It started to kick my
butt by the end…

Once again this morning, after hitting the gym I drove down
to Cheyenne Park. I made it to the trailhead at 7:20am and took a quick picture
of the trail.   This hike didn’t look all that difficult,
but most people I know who hike and live in Colorado Springs have done Mt
Cutler several times.  It’s kind of a “thing”.  However, no one I’ve talked to has ever done
Mt Muscoco.  

There was one other car in the parking lot, an old Subaru
hatchback.  Cool.  The vehicle told me it was probably someone
who liked to hike and probably wanted to be left alone.  I can work with that.

This entire hike is uphill.
Mt Cutler has an elevation gain of 415 feet in a mile, which wasn’t much
of a challenge.  After turning the first
ridge I heard a waterfall.  I assumed it
was Helen Hunt Falls, which is a bit further up the same road I’d drove in on.  But as I looked closer I noticed it was much
bigger and had different structures at its base.  I
quickly realized it was Seven Falls, not Helen Hunt Falls.  So cool!
I was getting a free look at the falls!

Around the next bend I saw the Will Rogers Shrine of the Sun
above the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo.  Here is
where the path got tricky.  The trail
branched off into several smaller trails, but they all seemed to head in the
same direction.  I noticed this problem
on my hike yesterday too, and can only figure it’s due to people hiking in the
winter snow and kind of making their own trail.  This happened several other times today, but luckily all trails ended up catching up with the original trail. 

Mt Cutler wasn’t very impressive.  It only took me about 15 minutes to hike
there, so I decided to take a quick hike to the Mt Cutler Overlook.  That ended up being totally worth it!  The views from here were 360 degrees of all the
Pikes Peak Region.

I spent quite a bit of time just enjoying the view.  As I was getting ready to leave I heard the
chimes from the Will Rogers Shrine.  So
cool and unexpected!  

Now it was time to tackle Mt Muscoco.  I actually went down quite a bit in elevation
as I was hiking to the turnoff, so I took my traditional “hiker selfie” that really only works with morning light.

The rest
of the hike was uphill, and while it wasn’t as steep as the incline, I’d
compare it to the first 2 miles of the Barr Trail.  It also had some pretty cool stairs, but they
were all paced at about 1 and a half steps, making them useless (so it looks
like everyone just hiked on the trail beside them).

Here’s a picture of the summit.  

The last ¼ mile was just like a 14er:  Really close but a bugger to get there!  This part of the hike was indeed a bit
challenging, but mainly because it just went straight up.  It was at this point I saw three girls in
their 20s hiking above me.  I quickly
passed them, and learned they were the owners of the Subaru below.  This part of the hike had a bunch of trail
markers, which were needed and appreciated.

The view from Mt Muscoco was the best one of the day
(probably because it was highest in elevation). 

 As I stood there I saw airplanes flying into the Air Force Academy for
the graduation.  Two days in a row!  Awesome!

The trail didn’t end at the summit, but kept going for about
another third of a mile.  I hiked it to
the end, turned around, and hiked back down.
Down was a bit challenging as it had been steep hiking up.  It was definitely not a running trail.

About halfway down I met a man who’d just returned from
Poland (he was stationed at Ft Carson).
He was having a difficult time adjusting to the altitude but preparing
for Pikes Peak.  I wished him luck and
told him to pace himself.  He looked like
he’d already been sitting there for a while…

We had a late frost, so most of the trees and bushes had
dead new growth on them, but some were just beginning to emerge.  

I also saw a few asters along the trail.

All in all, it was a really nice hike, and a little
challenging.  In fact, the sign at the
trailhead says “advanced” for the Mt Muscoco trail, which I’d agree with.  I was back to my car by 9am after hiking
about 4 miles in just over an hour and a half, elevation gain (estimated because it was multiple trails up and down) was just over 1300 feet .

Oh, and I saw a couple on the trail who looked like they
hated each other, hiking about 20 feet apart.
I see this a lot on trails and it makes me wonder why they hike together
if they don’t like each other?  Either
that or the difficulty of the trail does funny things to our facial features as
we hike…

Stanley Canyon

Please don’t mind the hot mess that is my hair in these photos:  I came straight from my shower at the gym and forgot my hairbrush on the hike. 

I’ve been trying to do this hike for a while now, but the
directions I’ve been finding on the web have been wrong (imagine that).  The two sites with directions state the
trailhead is 3.9 miles from the initial checkpoint.  So I’ve done that several times, even driing
as much as a mile in either direction, and I’ve been unsuccessful in finding
the trailhead.  But after purchasing the
Pikes Peak Atlas earlier this week, and talking with a friend at the Humane Society
who’s done the hike, today I was able to successfully find the trailhead!

OK, so it’s not 3.9 miles from the checkpoint as indicated,
but more like 5.5.  In any event, if you
take the USAFA southgate entrance and make a left on Stadium drive, the turnoff
will be before the next checkpoint.  In
fact, it will be about 20 feet before the next checkpoint, on your left.  Follow the dirt road and the trailhead will
be clearly marked.   My advice is to
bring with you a sturdy hiking pole, water, waterproof hiking boots, and a
sense of adventure.

I saw some wild turkeys on the drive up…

To be honest, there isn’t much information about this hike
online, so I’ll detail it here.  Please note these are “early season” conditions, and it had snowed/rained for the past 3 or 4 days, so I’m sure the water levels were higher than normal.

Yes, the trailhead is clearly marked, in multiple

It’s hard to get lost for the
first half mile or so, but after that it’s anyone’s game.   I saw
two other vehicles in the parking lot when I got there, so I surmised I’d end
up meeting two different hiking parties.  I also forgot my map in the car.  Well, I didn’t really forget it, as I remembered when I was about 10 yards from my truck, but I didn’t feel like going back to get it.  In any event, I’d taken a picture of the trail at the trailhead.  How difficult could this be?

I saw several scruffy looking rabbits along the trail. 

The trail goes straight up for about 90% of the hike.  

Here’s the indication you’ve left the USAFA

And as soon as you get to the top of this hill there’s a
great view, and this is where you’re leaving the easily marked area of the trail.  

Check out this really cool water collection pool in the side
of the mountain!  I’m sure it’s a
waterfall of it’s own earlier in the season.

The first ¾ of the hike is up through a lot of loose
granite, over creeks and yes, up waterfalls.

The trail actually goes up the waterfall.  For anyone who’s ever climbed up granite, you
know it’s very slippery when wet.  This
was indeed the case here.

The trail is difficult to find in places, but I reasoned
since I was hiking towards a reservoir, as long as I followed the water I’d
eventually find it, right?  That ended up
being a good assumption.  Also a friend
of mine told me she’d recently done this hike and kept thinking it couldn’t be
right to keep crossing the waterfalls, but that was indeed how it was done
(Thanks Paige for the advice!).   I was
lucky it was still early in the season and the leaves hadn’t emerged yet.  Otherwise it would have been really difficult
to see through the brush to find the eventual trail.  

The trail went back and forth over a steady stream of
water.  I was really glad I’d brought my
waterproof hiking shoes, and wondered how I was going to hike down these slopes
(up wasn’t easy, but I had footholds).

Where there were crossings over the stream they weren’t very
elaborate:  Just a couple of
strategically placed logs.  This is where
a hiking pole comes in handy!

Check out these baby aspens!
I love the intense green color of the trunks.

Most of the trail us rocky granite.  You can tell it’s covered in snow during the
wintertime, and I’m assuming well traveled.
Because of this there are multiple trails to the same destination, all
paralleling each other.  All are

As soon as I made it to the top of the waterfalls it was as
if I was in a different world!  The
temperature dropped 20 degrees and there was snow everywhere.  Water was dripping like rain from the trees
as the snow melted in the morning sun. This is where I saw my first group of
hikers.  They looked like cadets, and there
were 5 of them, so I figured they could indeed have been the owners of both
vehicles, but at least one.

And there were tons of animal tracks…

After about ¼ of a mile hiking through the cold I came upon
a clearing that still had snow, but it was much warmer and quickly melting.

The reservoir was beautiful!
As I approached I saw a fisherman, and surmised he was the owner of the
second vehicle.  We exchanged greetings
and I snapped a few pictures.

I could hear the sounds of gunfire (expected on base) and
the drumming of woodpeckers.  I saw
several fish jumping in the reservoir.  I
didn’t stay long as I actually had quite a bit of work to do today.  And I was getting cold.  My Raynauds was really kicking in (and
unexpectedly).  My finders were red and
beginning to turn white.  I knew I needed
to get to a lower elevation to arm up.

The way back down was indeed more challenging than up, as I
was hiking down slippery slopes with little footing.  When hiking up it’s much easier to find a
place to put your foot, but when going back down everything just slips.

And much of the trail was covered with small creeks of

Just as I made it to my truck I heard a very loud rumbling
and saw the Thunderbirds soar by!  So
cool!  This was totally unexpected and
awesome, so instead of taking the second hike I’d planned for today I stood
there at the trailhead for half an hour just watching them practice.  

I had a very unique view of their flight, as
everyone else in the Springs was watching them looking west, and because of the
hike I’d just completed I was watching from the east. I love living in Colorado

One of my favorite parts about this experience was seeing the cadets watch the flyover from on top of the buildings.