Trails force us to step outside our comfort zones. By nature, they're unpredictable.
Variables include other trail users, wildlife, trail conditions and weather. For hikers, mountain bikers and equestrians who regularly use trails in Black Forest Regional Park or Black Forest Section 16, there are new variables - fire and flood. The intense heat of the Black Forest fire melted culverts and charred trees along trails. Then when it rained, without trees and wild grasses to slow the flow, trails were flooded and large stretches obliterated.
County parks staff currently is assessing the properties and creating a plan to repair the damage. The challenge will be finding the money. El Paso County's general fund contribution to parks amounts to about $1.50 per person per year. That doesn't leave many dollars for catastrophic events such as a wildfire.
There are plenty of reasons to repair the trails quickly. When surveyed, residents usually mention trails, parks and nature centers as some of their favorite county assets. Once the needs are identified, rest assured there will be plenty of opportunities to volunteer and help repair trails. Organizations such as Black Forest Trails Association and Friends of Fox Run will lead the charge and will be happy to have your help.
In the meantime, if those were some of your favorite trails, here are alternatives:
- Spruce Mountain Trail
As you're heading north out of Palmer Lake on Colorado Highway 105, go straight on Spruce Mountain Road instead of turning left to stay on 105. The parking lot for Spruce Mountain is on the left about 3 miles from town, just after you crest a curving hill.
Spruce Mountain offers a scenic and challenging course for hikers, joggers and bikers. Equestrians also frequent this park, which is well-maintained by Douglas County. The 5.2-mile loop includes a modest gain in elevation and great views of Pikes Peak and the Front Range.
You can opt for switchbacks up the northeast face of the mountain or take a gently sloping trail around to the west side and ascend a steep service road. This half-mile road will test the most regular Manitou Incline user.
Once on top, your excursion eases as Spruce is more mesa than mountain. You'll find some sturdy, well-placed picnic tables where you can take breaks and drink in the views. Your easy descent will cover about a mile and a half.
- Monument Preserve
This gem is a local favorite. You can park at the conventional trailhead at the corner of Mt. Herman and Nursery roads. Or you can continue west on Mt. Herman Road, where you'll find a small parking area on the right shortly after the pavement ends. From there, you can walk south and join several trails.
The trail immediately heading west goes to a small pond and past Monument Rock. Forest, rocky terrain, native grasses - these trails offer plenty of variety and are lovingly maintained by Friends of Monument Preserve.
- Fox Run Regional Park
Great for hiking, jogging, biking and equestrians, this park has plenty of challenging hills, good way-finding and even contains a couple of ponds full of large Koi (fishing/swimming are not allowed). The parking lots fill up on summer weekends, but with 4-plus miles of trails you easily can find peace, quiet and a good workout.
Davies is the executive director of the Trails and Open Space Coalition. Read her columns on the fourth Thursday of each month
in Out There.