2010 RUNNING & TRAVEL ADVENTURES

 

   
 
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  EXPLORING THE TRAILS AT
RED ROCK CANYON OPEN SPACE
(first of two parts)

THURSDAY, JULY 22

"In 1888, the Colorado Stone Company and the Snider Stone and Lime Company
both began quarry operations in Red Rock Canyon . . . Since the [Lyons sandstone] ridge
which was quarried is a large, competent mass of stone, quarrying involved cutting
the stone rather than cleaving it. For each large block of stone quarried,
channeling machines which rode on temporary rails made cuts along each side
of the block; holes were drilled beneath the block and black powder was detonated
to break the block loose from the underlying sandstone . . .
 
. . . Because of the color and uniformity of the Lyons sandstone and the ease with which
it was cut and carved, stone from the Red Rock quarries had an almost nationwide market . . .
[It] can be seen in various buildings in the Pikes Peak Region and in Denver . . ."
 
~ from one of the Red Rock Canyon web pages describing the history of the park
 
 

The Lyons sandstone AKA Manitou sandstone was pretty expensive in comparison to other types of sandstone and rock used to construct large buildings so often the Lyons sandstone was used only for architectural details.

That's probably a good thing, because the article goes on to explain that this lovely sandstone hasn't weathered very well over the last century or more. The soft texture that makes cutting and carving it so easy also makes it erode faster in Colorado's climate.

You can see some of the handsome historical buildings in Denver that used this sandstone in their architecture at this link.


One of the old quarries in Red Rock Canyon

I'll show additional photos from the Colorado Stone Company's operation at the junction of Red Rock and Greenlee canyons later in this entry. It was a really cool place to explore. Fortunately, we pretty much had it to ourselves for a while before a group of about twenty people showed up.

EXPLORING RED ROCK CANYON: HIKE #1

When we were here in late May-early June I drove to the open space and took photos up some of the trailheads and toward Pike's Peak but we didn't have the time to run or hike on the trails during that visit.

On this trip we hiked in the park two different days and covered about half of the total distance of the multi-use trails in Red Rock Canyon Open Space and a little bit of the Intemann Connection in Section 16, an adjacent open space. We haven't run or walked any of the newer White Acres section yet.

You can read more information about Red Rock Canyon Open Space here. There are descriptions of the facilities and recreational activities, trail maps, historical, biological, and geological information, volunteer opportunities, etc. I won't repeat everything I wrote back in June here about the park. Goodness knows, I'm verbose enough as it is!

This entry is divided into two parts.

This page has photos from a 3+ mile loop Jim, Cody, and I did on the Mesa, Roundup, Greenlee, Quarry Pass, and Red Rock Canyon Path trails. We also hiked one of the dog loops. The second entry (which has two pages) is a 6-mile hike I did on the Contemplative, Roundup, Mesa, Intemann Connection, Greenlee, Red Rock Rim, and Red Rock Canyon trails. I enjoyed it so much I showed most of it to Jim on another day.


View of red rocks from the open-air pavilion and former home of the Bock family

All three days I took pictures were partly cloudy. The photos would have been even more dramatic with the deep red color of the rocks contrasted against brilliant blue sky. It's a beautiful place to walk, run, and ride, even on cloudy days.

And it's free! (OK, unless you live in Colorado Springs and pay taxes there. Thank you!)

MESA-ROUNDUP-GREENLEE-QUARRY-CANYON PATH TRAILS

Here's the route Jim and I took on our first hike in the park; I highlighted our track in yellow. Go here for a larger image of the map.

There is a nice variety of trails in the canyon. All of them are fairly hilly but none I've been on are very steep. Most of them are rather smooth; there are some are rocky places, too. The trails range in width from single-track to about six feet wide in some places.


Jim and Cody (at the end of the red leash) start up from the Mesa trailhead.


Scene from one of the two leash-free dog loops


After passing the two dog loops we could see houses in Manitou Springs to the west of us.


As we climbed higher we could also see the Incline and Pike's Peak in the distance.

All of the trails in the park go uphill from the two parking areas. Elevations range from about 6,200 to 7,000 feet.

Your reward for the climb to the ridges in the southern part of Red Rock Canyon and Section 16? Great views of Colorado Springs to the north and east, the huge plain to the east, and mountains to the south and west. You can even get a bird's-eye view of the rock formations in nearby Garden of the Gods.

In about a mile we came to the intersection with the Roundup Trail (next four pictures), a winding, undulating, single-track path that connects with several trails in the southwestern part of the park. On this hike we followed it for a quarter mile to the Greenlee Trail.

 


From here we could begin to see the rock formations in the Garden of the Gods.

 


Jim gets a better view of a canyon.

At the wide, somewhat eroded Greenlee Trail we turned left to go back down into Red Rock Canyon and we had some great views to the north (Garden of the Gods) and east (Colorado Springs and the valley):

 

 

Garden of the Gods is on the upper left horizon above. There is a close-up of the largest formations below.

In 4/10ths of a mile we turned right on the Quarry Pass Trail. It led up and over a big red sandstone ridge where huge blocks of Lyons sandstone were cut out and shipped to builders from the late 1880s to about 1910. The history is interesting, the photo ops plentiful:


Trail approaching the quarry from the west


Entering the "portal" that leads to the more photogenic east side;
there were several little pools of water in depressions in the rocks.


Wall to the right


Same wall, farther down; note the steps.


The blocks that were cut from these walls were about 6x7x10 feet and weighed 25 tons!

 


A lot of blocks were cut from this wall. It has an interesting pattern.


"Ground" level, looking back


Hey, what's this??

Coming over the top of the sandstone ridge from the west, we didn't see these steps on the east side. We probably would have taken them up to the "portal" if we'd approached from this direction.

Cool. Reminds me of old Native American villages like Bandelier National Monument in New Mexico.


Part of the large group we just missed in the quarry; they are on
Red Rock Canyon Path, which closely parallels Red Rock Canyon Trail.

This rocky ridge was behind me as I took the picture above:

There are several large interpretive signs (like the one below) in the meadow on the east side of the quarry that describe the mining history and the diversity of plants and wildlife in Red Rock Canyon:

Two trails connect with the Quarry Trail in the meadow: the Red Rock Canyon Path and the Red Rock Canyon Trail. The Path is one of two hiker-only trails in the park (the other is Contemplative).

We walked about half a mile north about on the Path until we came to two scenic ponds and a handsome open-air pavilion. I was almost as fascinated with the views here as at the quarry:

The RRC Path continues up a grassy slope where it converges with the RRC Trail in front of the pavilion:

Note that big rock formation behind the pavilion; I'll talk about it below.

There are even more interpretive signs in this area re: the history, geology, and biology of this property.

We can thank John G. Bock and his family for piecing together the Red Rock Canyon property over several decades in the 1930s-1960s, removing remnants of mining and other industry in the canyons, channeling water, and improving the land. In 1967 the family built a home on the site above.


View from the former home site; the canyon land is now protected by the Palmer Land Trust

Their house is gone now but the bomb shelter remains.

Bomb shelter??

Yep.  One of the signs describes the thick-walled and -roofed bomb shelter the family built into the rock wall behind their house and garage during the Cold War crisis in the '60s. It contained several rooms, including a kitchen, bathroom, and even a fireplace. When the City of Colorado Springs purchased the property in 2003 for the park, the shelter was used for storage. It's still there, behind the pavilion; I don't know if it's open to the public but it'd be interesting to see.

Another day I climbed up on the rock ledge on the other side of the pavilion and I got this view of the second pond and the landscape from a different perspective:

Beyond the pavilion and ponds we found some unique holes in the rock walls:

We assume the soft sandstone has been carved out by birds:

Soon we were back at the main parking area, happy to have had such an interesting hike in only 3+ miles:


Pike's Peak looms in the distance.

We didn't see very many flowers blooming on our trek. This is one of the colorful Gaillardia AKA blanket flowers near the parking lot:

Next entry: lots more photos from other trails in Red Rock Canyon

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the Ultra Lab

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2010 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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