Green Mountain sits just beyond the Flatirons from southwest Boulder and across Gregory Canyon from Flagstaff Mountain, which I had climbed a few days earlier. This was “Black Friday” and while I was pleased that so many folks chose to #optoutside, it made parking at the Gregory Canyon Trailhead challenging. There is only space for 8 or 10 cars at the trailhead, but one can park along the south side of Gregory Canyon Road all the way down to Baseline Road. I parked all the way down near Baseline Road.
Two trails depart from the parking area so, naturally, I chose the wrong one first. The right trail was the Gregory Canyon Trail. I was on the Amphitheater Trail. In my defense, the wrong trail was located immediately behind the “Welcome to Gregory Canyon” kiosk. I headed off, upward, confident that I knew what I was doing. I did not. I added almost a half a mile and 160 feet of elevation to my hike before recognizing my mistake. But, I was there to hike so …
Once I located the Gregory Canyon Trail, I climbed steadily up the canyon for approximately nearly two miles to the Green Mountain Lodge and the junction with the Ranger Trail. The sun was out, the trail was dry, and the occasional views back down the canyon to Boulder were nothing short of extraordinary.
The Green Mountain Lodge, a small stone structure nestled among the pines, was roughly halfway to the summit. The elevation gain was evenly spaced over the climb, leaving a couple of miles and about 1,200 feet of elevation remaining. The Ranger Trail climbed gently for a few hundred yards before morphing into a relentless stair-climb to the summit with no railings and steps that ranged from 6 to 24 inches in height. I stopped a few times. I was not the only one. For most of the trek up Ranger Trail, I was keeping up with a couple of twenty-something women. They’d rest, I’d pass them and vice versa. Eventually I gave them some good-natured ribbing about their pace and my age. I never saw them again so I must have shamed them into a quicker pace. Either that, or they just wanted to avoid the possibility of having me speak to them again.
Once I gained the summit, the views were wondrous. Although by this time, I had grown quite familiar with the eastern panoramic views of Boulder, Denver, and the Great Plains, this was the highest I had been and the view was commensurate. Equally stunning were the vistas to the west; I was able to see more of the Rockies than I had on any previous hikes. With peaks like Mt. Evans (14,265 ft) and Pike’s Peak (14,115 ft) I had hardly challenged the Front Range but I was higher than most of the mountains in the immediate vicinity, and that alone resulted in a singular view.
On the downside, the area at the top was crowded. There were the usual seemingly parentless children running, screaming, and complaining. More annoyingly, several of them parked themselves in the choicest spots only to squint at their mobile phones while surrounded by images too magnificent to be suitably represented on a 3.5 inch screen. Their parents, clearly delighted to be momentarily free from harassment, seemed oblivious to the barely retrained frustration of numerous adults who wished to spend some time at the peak. I commiserated, but was was outwardly patient, and was eventually able to scale a large set of boulders at the summit. A brass plaque identified distant peaks, and I enjoyed the unadulterated 360º view, snapping a few pictures before accepting an offer from a fellow hiker to take my picture if I would return the favor. I did, then clambered down from the crest and consulted my map.
Rather than return the way I came, I set off down the E.M. Greenman Trail. This trail was equally rugged and in shade. As such it was covered in ice. The icy section was only several hundred yards, and I had seen numerous people come up that trail to the summit, none of them wearing spikes. I tried to hazard the icy section in only my Oboz. This was a bad idea. Thirty seconds later, after slipping and plunging my already cold hands into eight inches of snow, I slipped on the traction gear.
A short time later I continued onto the Saddle Rock Trail. I had heard that there was a ladder somewhere on Saddle Rock and I’m always up for an interesting trail feature. The ladder can be made to look quite precarious when photographed from above. In reality it is a 14-rung crutch to help navigate a section that would have just required some light scrambling. It still added interest to the descent. After negotiating the ladder the trail became less rugged and I moved more quickly. Before long I had arrived back at the trailhead. It bears mentioning that the almost eight miles listed for this hike include hiking to and from the car, my mistaken sojourn up Amphitheater Trail and a half an hour of pacing around at the peak. A mistake-free hike from the trailhead is roughly 7 miles. The 2,100 feet of elevation all comes in the first 3.5-mile push to the summit.
After the hike it was off to downtown Boulder to meet some friends (and fellow hikers) for some much needed refreshment. Melinda would join me to hike Eldorado Canyon the next day. She and her husband John had suggested their local favorite, The Rayback Collective. Rayback has seating both in and out of doors, and an open warehouse feel. There are hightop tables in one area and couches and cushiony chairs in another. With thirty beers on tap, and several food trucks just outside it was the perfect place to recharge after a tough climb. You can check their website to see if your favorite truck is there on a given evening. And if you like your food just a little bit salacious, go when Suburban Wiener is serving, and enjoy your “Hot Neighbor”. You heard me right. ♦
Date: November 25, 2016
Location: Boulder, CO
Trailhead: 39.997485, -105.292814
Distance: 7.87 miles
Elevation Gain: 2,333 feet