Giving back with some trail maintenance

Yesterday morning, Piper and I met up with a handful of guys from Rising Sun to do a little trail maintenance on Kingston Peak. Not a difficult trail by any means but definitely a good one to stretch the Tundra a bit and get a feel for how she handles.

We didn't have a super early start, which was nice, but I wasn't sure about getting Piper out of bed. I shouldn't have worried. She was up, dressed and ready to go almost faster than I was. Snacks, water, lunch and camera were all in the truck. Walking out to the truck, you could feel the change in the weather. There was a sharpness to the air that's a good signifier of fall. I smiled. We hit the road about 7:30.

Saturday mornings on I70 can usually be unpleasant but the traffic was light. The weather started closing in as we neared Evergreen and by Idaho Springs it was completely socked in and raining. I started to worry about what the top of the peak was going to be like. But, as we stood around waiting for others to arrive, the rain stopped, the clouds broke and the sun popped out. After a quick, mandatory safety speech from the Forest Service, up the hill we went.

Fall colors are really in full swing now. Aspen golds and reds against the darker green background of the pines. Into Alice, onto the dirt and the climb began.

The last time I had been up this trail was in the FJ, almost 4 years ago. The Tundra is just a tiny bit bigger than the FJ. A few of the switchback coming up out of Alice were, um, tight but I am impressed with her turning radius in the dirt.

At the seasonal gate, a couple of the RS guys jumped out, put up a new sign and a Stay the Trail poster. As we were putting up the signs, a couple in their Subaru Outback pulled up behind us.

Just through the gate, we made our first "work" stop. The Subaru also stopped and the Ranger went over to have a chat with them. He wanted to make sure they knew what they were getting into. He urged them to err on the side of caution and not take the Outback any further up the road. They looked at him. Looked at us. Looked at the trucks. Looked back at him. Then, went for a hike.

Our first task of the day was to up some bird house for the local blue bird population. We were just above tree line. The truck said 39 degrees. The wind was howling. Windchill was probably upper 20s. Felt good but I had definitely brought the wrong jacket. Piper stayed in the truck reading Harry Potter for a bit but I convinced her to take a quick trek across the tundra to take a look at what we were doing.

The views were, as always, phenomenal. The upper peaks, in the 11-12k range, were dusted in snow. The sky above was blue. Below, in the trees, reds, yellows and greens.

Bird houses were up so we headed out to the next stop for more bird houses. Looking down the hill to the west was Georgetown and the gray ribbon of I70. Towards the north, Loch Lomond was peeking out of the trees. We were out of the trees now and into the tundra. The change in landscape is always drastic. Like a line in the sand. The trees just stop.

Upwards we went. Quick stop at the mailbox as the Forest Service Ford would not be able to navigate the upper portion of the trail. The lines get a little more difficult. Unfortunately, people have made bypass trails where they shouldn't have. Our next bit of maintenance was putting up new trail markers and creating some "obstacles" to deter the use of one of the bypass lines.

We were over the ridge and in the valley meadow now and had a break from the wind. Sun was out and it felt great to be doing some physical work above 10,000'. I had missed being up here. Missed the quiet. Missed the natural beauty.

Piper loves collecting rocks. So she jumped out of the truck and helped gather rocks to add to the mini walls we were building. Of course, she had to pocket a few for her "collection" here at the house.

There were a few folks out driving the trail. Couple of FJs. Handful of Jeeps. A stock Pathfinder with paper tags still on it.

Once the walls were built and trail signs driven into the ground, we grabbed some food, realized what time it was and said our goodbyes. The group was going to put in a few more bird houses on the east side of the trail that heads down towards Rollinsville and Apex. Piper and I made our way down and had the trail to ourselves.

Again, the change in landscape is drastic. You come down out of the meadow, towards the trees and everything changes. Including the road. Nature is awesome.

Once the rocks in the road dissipated, it was back to 4Hi and a little bit more pressure on the skinny pedal. We took the fork to Apex for a more direct route home. Cruising through the trees, the Tundra floated along with the Kings doing their job. Visions of LT danced briefly in my head, followed quickly by dollar signs running at me with pitchforks and axes. It wasn't pretty. But outside, the forest closed in as we approached Apex.

We got out of the valley and made the small climb up to Central City. On the way into town, there is a very old cemetery. Worthwhile visit if you're a history buff. Last time we were there we had an interesting experience with the weather. Sometimes, things happen that make you think twice about the afterlife.

Past the cemetery and we were back on pavement. Once into town, I remembered just how big the Tundra is compared to everything else. Most of town was block off for the Hot Rod Hillclimb event. Lots of cool stuff and I wish we had had time to check it out but alas, it was time to put the hammer down and head home.

Pretty soon, we were back on 70 with the Nittos humming. Then we were into Denver, heading through the city with masses of people who have no idea about the open nature so close to them. Life outside is so much better.
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