Hiking

Keith Costley: Bear hiking as part of Colorado trip | Sports

Should we take a vacation in September when the aspen leaves display gorgeous hues of yellow, red and orange or in August to escape unbearable temperatures of over 100 degrees?

Weighing the pros and cons of each option, we chose the last one. Colorado, the centennial state, was our destination.

Cheryl, my wife and I camped at Cedar Bluff State Park in western Kansas the first night. Luckily the air conditioner was not needed.

We camp the next day in the Pike National Forest near Colorado Springs. Hundreds of majestic pines embellished the landscape of the campsite.

At dusk, Cheryl and I took a short hike and observed a large black bear from a safe distance feeding in a meadow adjacent to the campground. The host said the bears are regular visitors to the campsite in the fall, eating and drinking almost nonstop to prepare for winter hibernation.

A sign recommended steps campers take to avoid attracting bears to their site and how to deal with a potential or actual bear attack.

“If you encounter a bear, slowly back away from the bear. Speak softly to the bear and try not to show fear.

Easier said than done, but great advice, nonetheless.

“Fight back if the bear attacks you. Use stones, sticks, binoculars or any other object available. »

Fighting by any means possible is engraved in my DNA. If I had carried a gun, it would have been my first line of defense. Not knowing Colorado’s gun laws, I abstained.

The next morning we reported the bear sighting to the campsite host. “Are you sure you saw a bear?” He asked. “Another camper said he spotted a bear a few days ago and later found out it was a big black stump!”

“It was a bear,” I confirmed. “We saw it feeding and moving around.”

In the afternoon we visited Garden of the Gods, a popular natural site at the base of Pikes Peak west of Colorado Springs.

Tourists from around the world hike up to 20 miles of trails, which vary in difficulty, to see the massive, jagged red rocks. The site and visitor center are free and open to the public.

Speaking of trails, we hiked over 4 miles in intermittent rain over moderate to difficult terrain; for younger generations, the same pitch would probably be easy to moderate.

At some point, I had to show off my almost seven decades on this planet. I was huffing and huffing when an old man walked towards me, made direct eye contact, and ordered, “Keep breathing!”

“That’s the point,” was my hasty reply before rolling my eyes. “It’s just another reminder that I’m getting old.”

“It’s also a reminder that you’re out of shape,” my wife replied.

Cheryl scared me to death, so I took her teasing rebuke.

Or was she teasing? Hmmm.

After a hearty breakfast at camp the next morning, we visited Cripple Creek. The city is very different today than it was a few decades ago. It has been taken over by gambling casinos and frequented by old people who want to make a fortune.

We camped several days at another national forest campground – Silver Dollar – on Turquoise Lake, 5 miles west of Leadville.

The magnificent 1,800-acre body of water, dammed in the 19th century and named after rare nearby turquoise deposits, is one of Colorado’s favorite high-altitude recreation destinations.

During the summer, the lake and its surroundings offer boating, canoeing, kayaking, fishing, biking, and relaxing on the beach. Winter sports include ice fishing, snowmobiling, fat biking, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing.

Not observing the fall foliage was bittersweet; however, our mission to escape the hot and humid temperatures of the tri-state area for a few days was successful. Nights were chilly into the 30’s and 40’s and warmer on sunny days into the low 70’s. Breathing in the crisp air of the Rockies was exhilarating and it was a refreshing change from wearing winter clothes every day until the temperatures warm up.

Our trip to Colorado was time well spent. God willing, it won’t be our last.