Posts Tagged ‘Bloomington Hikers’

To kick off May weekends Tara and I got out for a 26 mile bike ride largely on the roads north and east of Boulder.

Traveling to Indiana for work, I kept up some fitness by joining some spin classes at Indiana University’s rec center, attending a couple yoga classes (a first for me) and joining the Bloomington Hikers for a 12.5 mile, partially off-trail, loop hike through the Deam Wilderness.

The light winter and warm spring made the vegetation seem thicker than normal for that time of year and an increasing number of blow-downs made following the old Blue Diamond trail harder than ever. I won’t even mention the poison ivy or ticks.

After returning to Boulder I was excited to get back on the bike, but not yet acclimated, so I settled for a 15+ mile loop taking in the Foothills bike path, Jay Road, 75th, Baseline, Cherryvale, Arapahoe and back to Foothills.

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On a trip to the heartland I shot another video of the annual Beer Mile:

After a few Thanksgiving meals I needed to work off some of the calories consumed. Hiking with the Bloomington Hikers served that purpose nicely.

As usual, I led a hike of the eastern portion of the old Blue Diamond Trail around the Deam Wilderness.

Seeing old friends again is another benefit of hiking with the group.

The surprisingly warm day brought out some wildlife none of us expected to see this time of year.

The extra hiking I’ve been doing this fall seems to have helped and I felt much better after this hike than the same one last year. That bodes well for the upcoming marathon I’ll be sweeping.

Complete photo gallery from the hike.

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While back in the Mid-Wet for a couple weeks I had the chance to a recent urge to hike in the region’s diverse hardwood forests.

For hiking partners I had the Bloomington Hikers group to join for a 13+ mile loop around the Deam Wilderness.

Our route would follow a few current trails like the Sycamore, Axsom, Grubb Ridge and Martin Hollow trails.

However, we were really following the old Blue Diamond Loop, a trail that was decommissioned when the area was approved as a federal wilderness.

I hadn’t seen a morel for a few years, so it was a pleasant surprise to come across a couple this late in the season.

Water lilies were also getting ready to bloom.

An incredibly wet spring had the Monroe Reservoir up to record levels and we had to detour around the flooded end of the Axsom branch.

As always, it was a great group and a fun day in the woods.

For a shoulder’s eye view of most of our day you can watch the following video:

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Looking at an AM departure for a two week trip back to the midwest, I spent my last night in Golden at the opening of the Alpine Styles art exhibit at the American Mountaineering Center. While there I finally met Chris Pruchnic, the chair of the American Alpine Club’s Front Range section.

I launch out of town the next morning only making a significant stop when I reach Omaha, and enjoy a late lunch at the Upstream Brewing Company. A short stretch of driving takes me to Anita, IA where I ponder how the land-locked town ended up with the slogan “A Whale of a Town”. Camping at a state park I enjoyed the near full moon and lack of other visitors.

Arriving in Chicago I prepare for that evening’s beer mile. I ran the event once before and thought that spectating just might be more fun than participating. To share the fun, I took a video of the event.

On Monday I was struck with the tragic news that Chris Pruchnic had passed away in a climbing accident on Saturday. I can’t say I knew him well, but the shock came from having just met him not 48 hours before his accident. Chris seemed to have been very active with the AAC, and an extremely friendly and giving individual. You will be missed.

The rest of the week passed with me feeling a little lost and wishing I was back in Colorado. A few days of rain and stuffing myself with food didn’t help. At least getting out for a 13 mile hike around the Deam Wilderness with the Bloomington Hikers got me thinking ahead.

I’d be sweeping the Tecumseh Trail Marathon for the 8th year in a row and was badly out of hiking shape. Feeling a little sore by the end of the 13 mile hike I could now shift to worrying about the 26 miles I’d be doing the next weekend.

While camping in the Deam Wilderness, I pondered at what point this summer/fall my life migrated from the largely horizontal concerns of hiking and mountaineering to the vertical life of accumulating pitches of rock climbing with short approaches. Overnight temps froze those thoughts and frosted the tent and I put in another week of work prior to the marathon.

Saturday morning started with a look out the window and seeing 3+ inches of new snow. This was more than we’d had in Golden all season yet. While my brother (acting as co-sweep this year) and I made it to the race headquarters without much issue, the shuttle buses refused to transport all the runners to the start line. The normally point-to-point course would be an out-and-back this year.

The temps stayed right around freezing with intermittent light snow all day and nearly no wind. Beautiful conditions for a run, if not a fast time. Also, passing runners moving in the opposite direction definitely slowed everyone down, but the race officials, HAM radio operators and aid station volunteers all responded quickly to the changed reality. I took a few short video clips, edited together below.

Sore, but proud, once again, to be associated with this event and the amazing runners who push on through at the back of the pack, my brother and I stiffly make our way to a big elk burger dinner. One final huge feed at the Village Deli sends us off in different directions the next morning and I’m several states away before needing to snack again.

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With perfect timing, the up-until-then consistent rain ended about 10 miles before we reached the campground at the Celina and Indian Lakes portion of Hoosier National Forest. Kent and Carole had arrived hours earlier to procure the perfect spot (not that there was much competition) and had struggled to maintain the integrity of the tarp they’d strung up.

The fire pit was more accurately termed “frog pond” when we showed up, indeed I did remove one frog from the pit before Kent, Fred and I entered a two hour struggle to turn moist wood into a descent fire. Under the influence of witch’s brew, Carole declared that I was finally becoming a reasonable person (I think it was the recent absence of 16 hour solo drives or completion of ultra-distance events that influenced that option).

Other than a 2am visit by an inquisitive owl we slept well and were at the trailhead for the 12+ mile Two Lakes loop about 8am. I’d heard from the others that the amount of blown downs had increased recently on the trail and we wondered what the new storm would do to trail conditions. We couldn’t say we weren’t warned.

The first couple of miles were humid and muddy. Shoes were quickly soaked in the swollen creek crossings and muddy portions of the trail. We also quickly started spotting turtles, seven eastern box turtles would be passed before the hike ended.

Usually we make an off-trail detour to some cliffs on Lake Celina near the dam, but none of us wanted to head across the tall grass and chance a tick infestation so we stayed on the trail. The trail across the dam turned out to be overgrown and probably not much different from bushwhacking through the grass.

I was told the worst of the blowdowns from the last hike in the fall had been cleaned up, but plenty still remained.

While the trail’s conditions were challenging, we still had plenty of rewards between the slow clearing up of the humidity, emergence of blue skies and lots of wildlife. Besides the seven turtles, we saw two deer, a rabbit, a garter snake and two black snakes in the middle of procreating. The swollen streams were also pretty.

Those same streams also eventually had to be crossed, but the two worst turned out to only be knee deep.

We dried out shoes and socks during a lunch break, then finished the final couple miles of the loop to end by 1:30.

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I recently heard that I was approved to lead trips for the Colorado Mountain Club, so it was with some irony that since that announcement my first hikes were with the Bloomington Hikers. For the last several years I’ve lead a Thanksgiving morning hike around Yellowwood Lake, and I was able to keep the tradition going this year. With the holiday we had a small group, just four people and two dogs, but it was nice to re-connect with a few of the regulars. We also spotted a few ice flowers along the trail.

Ice flowers are somewhat common this time of year, but they only bloom overnight on cold nights and are most prevalent after a period of warm and wet weather. Certain plants seem more likely to produce them, but I’m not sure what species they are.

After two days of Thanksgiving celebrations I was ready to hike off a couple big meals and so looked forward to a Saturday hike I was leading as well. This time we’d visit the Deam Wilderness, Indiana’s only Federal wilderness area. I wanted to follow the eastern portion of the old Blue Diamond Trail. The Blue Diamond Trail was established before the Deam Wilderness, and once the area was granted wilderness protection it was mostly abandoned (portions were re-used for the current trail system – especially the Sycamore Loop, and parts of the Axsom and Grubb Ridge trails). Several years ago we acquired a old map which included the trail and over two months of hiking and exploring we were able to piece it together. The trail can be difficult to locate under fall foliage and it is quite overgrown. Some of the old blue diamond blazes or plastic markers can still be found to assure yourself that you’re still on the correct path.

We had great weather for our hike and a little larger group (seven people and one dog). We also saw quite a few other people out enjoying the day on the Sycamore Loop, but had the abandoned trail to ourselves. I also took the group by the old stone house that I’ve taken to calling the “Clubhouse”.

As much as I’m enjoying Colorado’s backcountry adventures, I do miss hiking through hardwood forests and the wonderful diversity of plants.

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