Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Waterton Canyon

                                                      Waterton Canyon

I took some time out from religion and sociology to hike out to Strontia Dam in Waterton Canyon. It was a full adventure. The bus that I took down to the train was struck by a car and was down for about a half hour and I talked to a man with a very interesting life story and the driver of the Lyft cab I took from the train in Mineral to the Colorado trail trailhead was no  less interesting.

                                                 Waterton Canyon from Englewood Station

                                                            Denver light rail

In the canyon, I spotted some moose tracks but luckily didn't run up on who made them. A little ways down, I met a couple of young birdwatchers who were trying to get a good photograph of a canyon wren. We shared stories.

The canyon was sunny, which was a good thing considering the blast of cold headwind I fought all the way up the canyon (funny, I fought the same wind back down.)

                                                                The Canyon

                                                           Ice flows on the canyon wall

                                                The South Platte River in Waterton Canyon

Most of the water supplied to Denver comes from this canyon. It's where both the South Platte River and the Highline Canal runs out of the Rockies. One of their projects is the conservation of the Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep. I ran into a small herd on the way up the canyon.

                                                      (Relatively) little bighorn

It's a 6.3 mile hike but, despite the headwind, I made it to the dam in good time. Strontia Springs Dam and Reservoir were completed in 1983 for flood control and water supply to Denver. The elevation there is 6,002 feet (which makes it only a little more than 100 feet higher than Morrison, my usual destination on Bear Creek). The dam itself is 234 feet tall and I was surprised to find that it is only 30 feet thick at the base. 7863 acre-feet of water is held back by an arch of concrete only 30 feet thick!

                                                            Strontia Springs Dam
                                                     Waterton Canyon below the dam

Three other hikers arrived while I was at the dam and we passed each other several times on the way back. We were stopped at a narrow part of the canyon where there was only room for the road and a weir dam, and there was a sizable herd of bighorns taking up the road. That had evidently found the road taste and were preoccupied with licking it. I assumed that there was a tasty mineral residue there - I didn't try it. Two of the rams were built like linebackers and we didn't want to interrupt them. They can be dangerous animals if angered.

We watched and I took some pictures...

Then we hugged the canyon walls and skirted the sheep and I finished the hike.

Although I had planned to eat out, I decided that I was too tired to enjoy it and let the Lyft driver carry me all the way home. He was new to Denver and moved from my ancestral home in Georgia so we had a lot to talk about.

All in all, a great (but windy) hike.

Are there any great trails in your area? If you're in the United States, I would bet that there are. My experience is that people who are willing to take the time and trouble to see out of the way places are friendly and interesting people, and, of course, there are things to see and learn on trails that you will miss entirely in cars, and even on bicycles.

No comments: