Catamount Trail

Never daunted in her quest to introduce people to hiking in the mountains, Young organized another adventure for CBS staff. As enticement, she offered to supply a picnic lunch at the mid-point. The hike followed the Catamount Trail from the small town of Green Mountain Falls to the North Catamount Reservoir. 

It just so happened that a flock of Band-tailed Pigeons has been hanging around in the woods by the trail head. I’ve seen Band-tails twice, but only in flight. I decided to head up early to see if I could find at least one that was perched. I arrived at 7:45, 45 minutes before the rest of my group was due to arrive. I drove to the trailhead and found a small group of birders. I pulled next to them and asked what they were seeing.

The leader leaned into my car and said, “Hi, I’m Chris, we’ve birded together before. Where was that?” I recognized him from my trip to Boulder in June to look for herons. I reminded him that we’d seen a Blue Grosbeak and he immediately said, “That nobody else saw.” He pointed out a fox to his group, told me the Band-tails were in the area, and informed me that I couldn’t park at the trailhead. I’d have to go back down into the town and park.

This added about a mile of uphill walking on a dirt road lined with dire warnings not to park along the road to hike.

I hadn’t gone far before a kindly gent who was driving down the road stopped and handed me a map to the trails in the area. A little while later, I passed a house with this sign next to the drive.

Another house offered “I saw Bigfoot” stickers for $3, but there were no stickers in the box. I’ve very glad we didn’t see Bigfoot, because it would have been depressing to see him and not have a sticker to show for it.

As I neared the trailhead, I cleverly flushed five or six Band-tailed Pigeons from a roadside wire. I got good looks at them as they headed off over the trees, but that wasn’t the look I was hoping for. I climbed a couple hundred yards up the trail where a small waterfall came down the hillside. 

The trail headed up over a ridge at the base of Pikes Peak. I stuck around by the bridge for about 45 minutes birding and waiting for the rest of my group. I saw Band-tailed Pigeons flying over the trees on several occasions.

When it got to be almost 9:00 with no sight of my coworkers, I headed back down to the trailhead. In a dead pine above one of the houses, I finally saw a Band-tail in a tree. The light wasn’t great, so I still haven’t gotten the look I want.

As I was looking at the bird, the rest of the group showed up. We climbed back up to the waterfall where Young arranged us for a photo. Standing (l. to r.): Andy Hust, John and Jacque Parker, Marilyn McGee, me (gazing majestically into the distance). Seated: Ron Hosie, Cynthia (my boss), Kate Hust, Jenny Hosie, Hazel and Sadie Hust. Young took the photo.

The plan was for Tim to meet us at the turn-around point on the trail with lunch. Sally and Megan rode along with him.

The trail was about seven miles out and back. The first couple miles were steeply uphill on a series of switchbacks. Marilyn (who frequently hikes with her husband) and I soon found ourselves out in front. We made it to the top with little trouble and just a few rest stops. After my debacle on Quandary Peak two weeks ago, I was happy to discover that this, not that, was the hike I’d trained for. I could have made it up without stopping but we wanted to make sure we weren’t too far in front of our group.

A shot from the top of the ridge with the town of Green Mountain Falls down below and Route 24 cutting through the bottom of the valley.

The highlight of this trail is supposed to be the Garden of Eden Meadow, a 200-yard long glade that runs along a rock formation. It is pretty, but no more so than a hundred other places I’ve seen in Colorado.

From there, the trail climbs gently along a stream through the canyon.

We came out on a dirt road. Earlier, we’d passed a hiker that told us to follow the road up until we came to a guardrail. So I chose the uphill route. The road climbed steeply for about half a mile. I happened to glance back and see a dam on the other side of the valley. I suddenly had the feeling we’d climbed the wrong ridge. Meanwhile, Marilyn was looking back where we’d come from and was NOT seeing anyone from our group climbing up. We were processing the possibility that we’d have to climb back down and then up the other side. Both of us were doing fine, so it wasn’t a terrible feeling, but still …

Just then, Tim drove by with Sally and Megan. He was surprised to find us there, far from where we ought to be. He pulled over, and we climbed in. We drove down the long road that we’d just hiked up, then headed up the other side where we should have climbed past our fellow hikers. As Tim pulled up next to Young, she took a photo and then looked very surprised when she saw Marilyn and me in the car.

In the end, it worked out well and added a story. We figured we’d hiked at least as far as everyone else when it was all said and done.

We helped Tim set up for the picnic and had everything pretty much ready when the other hikers arrived.

After we ate and took an obligatory look at the reservoir, we headed back down. Notice my majestic look into the distance. I’m still working on it.

The trek back down was also without drama. The last stretch was steep enough to make ankles and knees sore. 

As I was getting into my car, I heard my name. It was Chris, who had just gotten back with his birding group. He wanted to make sure I’d seen the pigeons, and we talked about what else we’d seen. I got home around 3:00, a little stiff but happy that I’d made it without crisis. It’s a pleasant and easy enough trail that I might do it again by myself sometime.

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