for our first full day in Colorado Springs
Today our big adventure is a practice hike at Broadmoor’s Seven Falls at the eastern edge of the Pike National Forest in the South Cheyenne Canyon area.
The thought of a practice hike is a great idea. It helps work out some of the kinks from traveling, shakes out the gear a bit, and makes you ask yourself “do I have everything I need?” It also helps when hiking with as new group to figure out each others pace and styles, and helps you ask yourself again “do I have everything I need?” I tend to pack a bit minimally and am always wondering if I have the right gear for the hike.
The trail we picked to hike is a place called Seven Falls. It’s a relatively small privately owned park but the falls are spectacular. I learned later, the falls originally opened as an attraction in the early 1880’s. Most recently, when the property was severely damaged in a 2013 flood, it was purchased by a resort company and restored. They made a number of improvements and and reopened in 2015. One of the improvements was to move visitor parking off site and provide a free shuttle service which reduces on site traffic congestion. The shuttle which picked us up and carried us to the park entrance. The shuttle and park services seemed well run, the park and trails were clean and well maintained. On the day of our visit there were probable several hundred people there coming and going while we were there, yet generally it didn’t seem crowded. there are several things to see and do and a number of trails to explore. We picked the longest hiking route we could, up to Inspiration Point. I think we would have hiked more if it hadn’t been for the rain.
Once we ticketed in, the first part of our hike is an easy walk of just under a mile from the entrance to the base of falls at the head of the box canyon. As you follow South Cheyenne Creek to the falls there are several named rock outcroppings along the way, some as high as 1000 feet above the canyon floor. At the base of the falls there is and observation area around the collecting pool and a staircase to the top of the falls. The water fall cascades down several tiers, dropping 181 feet from the top. We climb the 244 steps in a set of open stair up to the top of the falls. This is the one time the place seemed a little crowded. The stairs are no wider than a normal stair maybe a couple feet wide (three feet tops) but open as in you can see the canyon and falls between the stair treads and between the handrails. It looks really cool, but can be a little “holy crap” about the time you realize it too late to quit. As you are ascending, gripping the hand rails, trying to not look down too much, focusing on the next step, there are people descending doing the same thing. and when passing each other, everyone wants to be in the center of the stairs. Fortunately we didn’t have the same problem later when we were descending, in the rain, and with the lightning.
Once at the top of the falls there are a number of trails heading off in different directions, we picked the trail to Inspiration Point and hiked on. From the top of the falls you are in the 6800 foot elevation range. I think our original plan was to spend a few hours here hiking several of the trails here. Sometimes things don’t go quite the way you plan. Hiking out past the canyon Overlook point and to Inspiration Point is only a little better than a half mile has some nice honest inclines to get your heart rate up and sweat going. We reached the Overlook point and were provided with an awesome view of the canyon area and a peek of view looking over the city, you just know the view of Colorado Springs will be better at Inspiration Point, we can even see some approaching afternoon rains. We move on with purpose now knowing we may have a little less hiking time than previously planed.
Helen Hunt Jackson, 19th century poet and writer, was originally buried at Inspiration Point, reportedly it was one of her favorite spots to write, inspired by the views and beauty of the area. So of course, despite imminent rain and distant thunder, it makes perfect sense to get at least to her marker. Just as the rain started.
One of the reasons for a practice hike is to discover what gear works and what gear you don’t have. Like zip-lock bags. Sounds like a little thing, but they are really great for keeping things like cell phones and cameras dry in case of rain. That way you don’t need to use your rain shell to wrap up said cell phones and cameras to keep them dry, and I can wear my rain shell instead of my phone and camera.
The hike down went very well. We made good time. We paused at a shelter packed with people only long enough to allow the rain to increase a bit. The second shelter we passed was overflowing. At this point we are committed to hiking down off the mountain as purposefully as possible, with the occasional not-so-far lightening and corresponding thunder clap motivating us along the way. Interestingly here, when we started this trek, our group was the only few people in the part with hiking poles, day packs of water & gear, hiking shoes, etc. so some of the comments overheard from passersby might have been less than complementary. The general exception was related to envious comments about hike poles during passing on the previously mentioned “nice honest inclines.” Now the huddles masses with Birkenstock sandals, sneakers, and no jackets or rain gear, had more complementary words as we hiked past. The hike down reached it’s most exciting period when we reached the open stairs. Metal open stairs. 244 wet steps of metal open stairs. They really weren’t too bad. at this point the rain was subsiding, and we were able to grip both sets of handrails without interruption all the way down to the base of the falls. Mission accomplished! down at the base level, it was now just a simple walk out to the shuttle and back to our car and then back to our cozy airbnb and warm showers.
The following days consist of drying out thoroughly soaked hiking shoes and making gear adjustments, like buying some zip-lock bags. Overall an outstandingly memorable hike. Now on to bigger peaks.