Boulder Mountain Park, Boulder, Colorado – September 7, 2014

Batya had registered for a three-day Advanced Wilderness Life Support course being offered in Boulder, so after flying into Denver on Friday, September 5, and spending the Sabbath there, we drove on Sunday morning to Colorado Chautauqua. While Batya was enjoying the course, I had the opportunity to explore the adjacent Boulder Mountain Park.

Sunday: The course began at 11:30 a.m. on the first day, so my hike began relatively late, at noon, and I planned for a short hike to the famous Flatirons, five sandstone formations on the east slope of Green Mountain. Plate tectonics had lifted and tilted the Flatirons into their current orientation.

I hiked southwest a half mile on the McClintock trail and the Flatirons came into view. The photo shows the first three, which are counted from north to south (right to left in this photo). I had noted from Chautauqua that the Third flatiron was defaced by paint–articles identify by name the students who defaced it decades ago, and that they received some minor punishment. A number of others have painted it over the decades, though attempts have been made to cover up the paint. However, at least from a particular angle and lighting, I was able to discern the paint very well. It is a shame that people would do such a thing.

First, Second and Third Flatirons, Boulder Mountain Park, Boulder, Colorado

First, Second, and Third Flatirons

I continued on the McClintock Trail for another half mile, passing an intersection with the Mesa Trail. The late summer/early autumn weather still featured plenty of greenery and flowers:

Willow aster (Symphotrichum lanceolatum)

Willow aster (Symphotrichum lanceolatum)

Maybe it was too late for roses, but the rose hips were lovely:

Rose hips

Rose hips

The McClintock trail came to an end at the Bluebell Baird trail. Ideally, I would have turned left to the Royal Arch trail, which crosses under a sandstone arch and then reaches the top of the Fourth and Fifth Flatirons. However, floods in September 2013 had caused much damage throughout parts of Colorado, including within Boulder Mountain Park. While work crews had reopened most of the trails, the Royal Arch trail remained closed. Therefore, I turned right onto the Bluebell/Baird trail, for access to the Second and Third flatirons.

A number of people were free-climbing the Second Flatiron. It appeared a relatively easy scramble, though the height and steep angle could make an unexpected fall into a deadly accident.

Free climbing the Second Flatiron, Boulder Mountain Park, Boulder, Colorado

Free climbing the Second Flatiron

Turning away from the free climbers, I followed a hiking trail that provides access to climbers (with ropes) to pursue the much taller and more difficult Third Flatiron. This photo shows some of the texture of the hike, living and dead trees and rock:

Boulder Mountain Park, Boulder, Colorado

Boulder Mountain Park

A seven-spotted ladybug (Coccinella septempunctata) rests on a lichen-covered rock:

Seven-spotted ladybug (Coccinella septempunctata)

Seven-spotted ladybug (Coccinella septempunctata)

I made it up to the east bench of the Third Flatiron, where I enjoyed a scenic view of the City of Boulder:

City of Boulder from the east bench of the Third Flatiron, Boulder Mountain Park, Boulder, Colorado

City of Boulder from the east bench of the Third Flatiron

A wider-angle view:

City of Boulder from the east bench of the Third Flatiron, Boulder Mountain Park, Boulder, Colorado

City of Boulder from the east bench of the Third Flatiron

As I ate my peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a colony of ravenous chipmunks quickly surrounded me:

Chipmunk, Boulder Mountain Park, Boulder, Colorado

Chipmunk

Chipmunk, Boulder Mountain Park, Boulder, Colorado

Chipmunk

The east bench was as far as the hiking trail went. Above that was bare rock, inviting only to climbers. A number of them were ascending with ropes, but the sun was behind them and I did not get a good shot. Instead, this horizontal shot shows a bit of the Third Flatiron, together with the surrounding countryside:

Third Flatiron, Boulder Mountain Park, Boulder, Colorado

Third Flatiron

I finished my lunch, other than a few crusts of bread and a baby carrot that accidentally fell to the ground and that were carried away by the furry-tailed vacuum cleaners. I then descended the climbing access route and continued another third of a mile to a hiking trail that runs for 0.7 miles up to the notch between the First and Second Flatirons.

Here, a dead tree and rock provide nice texture:

Boulder Mountain Park, Boulder, Colorado

Boulder Mountain Park

A view of the City of Boulder from the top of the First/Second Flatiron trail:

City of Boulder from the First/Second Flatiron Trail, Boulder Mountain Park, Boulder, Colorado

City of Boulder from the First/Second Flatiron Trail

The peak of the Second Flatiron:

Peak of Second Flatiron, Boulder Mountain Park, Boulder, Colorado

Peak of Second Flatiron

As I had hiked up the trail, a young man without any backpack passed me. When I reached the saddle between the First and Second Flatiron, he was seated and asked me if I had any water to spare. I tossed a water bottle to him, without thinking much of it other than he shouldn’t hike without water. The truth is that it was only around 80 degrees, and it was not a long hike, and others were hiking without supplies.

There were no blazes and no signs that I saw at the saddle, but I saw other hikers pass beyond the saddle and I followed them. I then realized that the trail continued about another 0.1 mile, toward the peak of the First Flatiron:

Peak of First Flatiron, Boulder Mountain Park, Boulder, Colorado

Peak of First Flatiron

As I headed back down the trail toward the saddle, I heard screaming, and upon reaching the saddle I saw that the young man was screaming, with a number of people surrounding him and looking concerned. He was in some sort of emotional distress, though I don’t know if it could have been caused by overheating or dehydration (which seems unlikely), due to overdose or underdose, or due to mental issues. It was nice that people were trying to help him, as in New York he would have been ignored by almost everyone.

I continued down the trail, finding another nice view of the City of Boulder:

City of Boulder from the First/Second Flatiron Trail, Boulder Mountain Park, Boulder, Colorado

City of Boulder from the First/Second Flatiron trail

The trail had crossed a talus slope, which made for a nice HDR image:

Talus slope, Boulder Mountain Park, Boulder, Colorado

Talus slope

I ran into a ranger and police officer here, heading up the trail in response to calls from some of the people trying to help the young man at the top. I told the police officer what little I knew–I felt sorry for the officer, as he said that he had already had his workout for the day, and didn’t need this additional exercise of having to climb 1400′ to the top of this short trail.

I later searched online for any record of the rescue, but did not find anything.

Back on more level ground, I again enjoyed seeing the flora. This sumac (maybe smooth sumac, rhus glabra) was showing a nice red/green combination.

Sumac, Boulder Mountain Park, Boulder, Colorado

Sumac

I followed the Bluebird Baird trail to the Baseline trail, which led me across a meadow. Here is a shot looking toward the west:

Mountains West of Boulder, from Boulder Mountain Park, Boulder, Colorado

Mountains west of Boulder

A last look across the meadow, back at Green Mountain and its Flatirons:

Green Mountain and Flatirons, Boulder Mountain Park, Boulder, Colorado

Green Mountain and Flatirons

This was probably only a 4.5-hike, but with a gain of 1500′ or more. I returned to Chautauqua just as Batya’s class was ending for the day, and we then drove to the Best Western Plus Boulder Inn where we would be staying, about 1-1/2 miles away.

Next: Monday I enjoy a second hike in Boulder Mountain Park.

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