Sunday, October 21, 2012

Royal Arch

After a fun outing with Taryn on Friday, it was time to get Zak out for some fresh air on Saturday.  Royal Arch in Boulder seemed like a good fit in terms of drive time, hike profile and proximity to tasty lunch fare.

The Chautauqua Trail doesn't mess around.  It lets you know right off the bat that it's going to be steep.  Zak quickly got winded, but not too winded to climb up this rock and then try to catch his breath.

Eventually we fell into a rhythm and actually made good time.  High spirits didn't improve Zak's skills in smiling for the camera, but at least he was enjoying himself.

The arch itself is pretty striking, rising up abruptly from the Flatirons.  It was apparently formed by water, wind and "mechanical erosion," which I assume means getting hit by large rocks.

Two chipmunks attempted to extract a toll from those passing under the arch, with limited success.

The weather conditions were terrific -- a light wind and temperatures in the low 60s.  The lighting conditions, however, were difficult yet again -- persistent clouds overhead with blue skies only to the northwest.

It had been a while since I'd done a hike that ended with a scenic vista of any sort.  The payoff for these sorts of trips always justifies the effort.

We arrived early enough to avoid much foot traffic on the way up, but the floodgates clearly opened shortly after we started.  This was my second time doing one of the Mountain Parks Trails, and like before it was clear that they're extremely popular.  Perhaps coming on a weekday next time would be best.

Still, with a little patience there was a break in the flow of hikers that actually gave the illusion of solitude.

Fall definitely has the most interesting textures of any season, from clouds to leaves to rocks.

Even with the overcast skies, the views to the east were pretty impressive.

Really easy to see why this is such a popular park: great scenery, great hikes, convenient access.  We even saw three separate families getting their portraits taken.

About 3.5 miles and 1,400 feet of elevation gain, which took us three and a half hours in all thanks mainly to a long break at the arch and a lot of congestion on the trail on the way back.  It was great to get a nice climb in after several relatively flat hikes, and even better to spend so much time with Zak!

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