27 February 2018

Celebrate Late

I got off work late on my birthday, and The Lizard had to be at work the next morning at 4. Valentine's evening wasn't much better, but we did get to eat lasagna that night, one of his favorite meals.

He gave me a pot of tulips and a pot of hyacinths, both of which will go into the garden after they are done. The deer eventually will eat the tulips, but I might get to enjoy them another year before they become dinner.

We had done our first hike in Roxborough State Park back in October, a last-minute and rushed mini hike, and were so impressed, we couldn't wait to explore more thoroughly. We knew there were red rocks jutting into the sky from our visits to nearby Arrowhead Golf Course, where we had shot a few weddings and a a few more senior portraits. We had no idea the ridge of red rocks extended so far, and we marveled at the red rock majesty that had been so close for so long, and yet we never ventured into the state park.

The Saturday after Valentine's Day, The Lizard had the day off, and we finally got our chance!

We decided to climb Carpenter Peak, well, because it's there. We hadn't even looked it up on a map to see how high we'd be climbing. It didn't matter. It would be a winter peak, my third ever, and my first since March 2005! It would be my first non-bike summit since 2009. Oh, my heavens! I cannot believe it's been that long since we've climbed a mountain!

The Colorado State Division of Parks purchased 500 acres of deceased developer Henry S. Persse's red-rock studded property in 1975, while I was still a teenager in New Mexico. Roxborough State Park, now more than 3,300 acres, is the only state park designated as a National Natural Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior. Carpenter Peak is the highest point within park boundaries at 7,166 feet, but it is not the high point of the mountain upon which it sits. The rocky outcropping, however, affords unparalleled views of Fountain Valley.

The park is open only during bright daylight hours, currently 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., even though sunrise and sunset photos there would be phenomenal, and no bikes or dogs are allowed. We headed up the trail at about 10 a.m. and encountered a wide range of conditions the entire 3.2 miles to the rocky sub-summit. Skies were entirely blue, and although we learned later in the day the Front Range had been pummeled with 50-mph winds, we must have been sheltered from the westerly airflow... not even a breeze.

The trail, however, provided a full spectrum of adventure.

There were sections of easy, dirt path.

There were slush puddles.

There were charming snow-packed forests.

And there was mud.


And more mud.

And just when you thought you were done with the mud, there would be another dastardly stretch of it.

I fell flat on my behind about a quarter of a mile into the hike, so I didn't worry about getting dirty the entire rest of the hike.

Yet for every mudhole we encountered, there was a magnificent view.

red rock heaven

One exceptionally cool viewpoint was of downtown Denver, where I work Monday through Friday.

When we reached the rocky outcrop atop Carpenter Peak, Lizard had to stand on the true high point.

Surprises along the way included a scrub jay...

... Oregon grapes not afraid of winter...

... and trailside benches with potent messages...

The contrast between nearby modern homes and century-old homesteads is dramatic.

On the way out, the sun hitting the red rock provided the most picturesque setting. We'd love to go back and cross-country ski after a big snowstorm, and we can't wait to go back when the trails aren't quite as muddy. We missed out on this place for more than a decade, but it won't be hiding from us anymore.


  1. Perfect Valentine's message indeed. That is quite the view from the top. Sure was a while since you last hoofed it. Why no dogs allowed though? That seems kinda weird. As long as the dogs can make it.

    1. Not sure, Pat, unless it’s due to wildlife, or perhaps doggie owners who don’t clean up after their pooches...

  2. What, no lava? ;)

    Wow and wow. Those red rocks! Those views!! What a treasure of a place!!! I'm putting it on my mental wish list for if we ever get out there again....


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