Saturday, February 23, 2013

South Valley Park

I'd finally thawed out from my snowshoe expedition to Butler Gulch a couple of weeks earlier, and the fresh blanket of snow that fell Wednesday night had me itching to get out and do some more shooting. My initial plan was to head to Roxborough State Park and catch the sunrise from Carpenter Peak, but those hopes were dashed when I learned the park doesn't open until 8 a.m. Well, technically they were dashed by learning that there's a locked gate at the park entrance on Roxborough Drive at least half a mile from the trailhead. Without an actual obstacle like that "closed" loses a lot of its meaning. But I didn't really want to tack that extra distance onto what was already going to be a three-mile trek to the summit, and risk getting a ticket to boot.

Fortunately, there's an attractive Plan B even closer to my house -- South Valley Park.

Lockheed Martin building
I don't typically like buildings in my shots, but the Lockheed Martin building actually looked nice in the predawn light.  The subtle sparkle of its silvery exterior blended nicely with the snow.

Sunrise at South Valley Park
I originally intended to set up on the Lyon's Back Trail, but when I got there my "sunrise sense" just wasn't tingling.  So I hoofed it back south on the Coyote Song Trail while the clouds began to blush, finally stopping for this view to the southwest.

Rabbit tracks at South Valley Park
I don't know how rabbits survive the winter without getting eaten.  How hard would it really be for a predator to follow these tracks all the way to breakfast?

South Valley Park
Turn back to the northeast, adjust your polarizing filter and you can end up with a surprisingly warm shot on an otherwise chilly morning.

South Valley Park
The sun, clouds and some sandstone spires combined to create a slightly eerie feel.

Coyote Song Trail at South Valley Park
The amount of tracks weren't really surprising, given that the park is right in the middle of several residential areas.  They also showed that it wasn't just animals who ignored the "Stay on Signed Trails" signs.  Or that there are more illiterate people in Ken Caryl than one would guess.

Sandstone formation at South Valley Park
This seemed like the perfect amount of snow -- enough to add some visual interest, but not so much that it covered all the vegetation and made everything essentially featureless.

Sandstone formation at South Valley Park
I'm a big fan of backlit scenes, and the thin clouds cooperated to diffuse the sunlight enough to make this shot viable.

I spent about three hours in the park, passing maybe a dozen other people the entire time.  Probably covered about 3.5 miles with all my meandering and backtracking, so a decent workout to boot.

Directions to Trailhead: The south parking area is located at 12399 Deer Creek Canyon Road, Littleton. From South Platte Canyon Road (S. Wadsworth and C-470), take Deer Creek Canyon Road west for about three miles.  The small parking area is on the right.

Trail Difficulty: Easy.  The trails are well maintained and have very little elevation gain.  A couple of slightly steep stretches on the Coyote Song Trail are just long enough to get the heart pumping.  The Lyon's Back Trail goes up and over a hogback, and had some icy sections today.

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