Hiking in Bell Park

With 6 Tips for Hiking with the Kids

Part of the Bell Park trail

Part of the Bell Park trail

There a little known park in Evergreen, CO called Bell Park that is a really nice place to hike with kids because it’s never very crowded. Probably because parking isn’t very good. But, if you can squeeze into a spot on the wide shoulder of the road, you won’t be sorry. You can’t go very far in Bell Park though, as its surrounded by roads and residential lots in the mountains just south of downtown Evergreen. There are also some fun geocaches in the park which is the reason we went there last Saturday.

Park at the 'A' marker

Park at the ‘A’ marker

Several years ago, my wife and daughter and I hid one there in an old engine block in the middle of the park. I got an email from someone searching for it that it wasn’t there anymore and it needed to be replaced. I expect it was either found by a person or an animal carried it away as it was just an old plastic film canister.

Bell Park is actually a bit larger than I make it seem, but it’s bisected by Little Cub Creek Road and this little part we were hiking in is also connected to Cub Creek Park. But, there’s not enough contiguous park land to really get lost – which is probably why we’ve never had a SAR mission in here.  It’s also got some great views, including Mount Evans.

The view of Mt. Evans, which is more visible on a clear day.

So me and the kiddos and the dog jumped in the car and headed out just a few minutes from our house to find the wide spot in the road and start our hike on the Foothills Nature Tail. This trail is actually a big loop, heading south-ish straight up the hill to a clearing on top of wide ridge line that’s actually more of a field. The trail follows the “ridge line” to the east until it approaches some houses, then turns north, downhill towards the road and the creek and follows that back down to where you started.

Today, we weren’t doing the whole loop but were just going to restock the cache and then, since we didn’t have to get back anytime soon, explore for a while, which is where the fun and imagination comes in for us.

A we started up the hill, we noticed quickly that a tree had fallen on the power lines and was resting on them. We VERY quickly rushed by this just in case it broke and promised to call Xcel Energy when we got home. Once up the hill, they both wanted to run and hold the iPhone with the geocaching app to find the cache, but, alas, downer of a dad that I am, I make them choose one or the other, so they decide to trade-off walking and holding the phone and then running with the dog.

Our lunch view in this grove of trees

Our lunch view in this grove of trees

Finding it was pretty easy and then deciding where the new one be should be hidden turned out to he a committee decision. Once decided, then we could start playing, exploring, building stick shelters and climbing some rocks! Eventually, we started meandering back down the trail and went past the turn off to the car and kept going a bit. We “pioneered” a new trail down the hillside to a really nice grove of trees overlooking the creek, found a place to have a seat on the day pack and had a snack.

After our snack, we headed back up the hill, crossed a small gully, saw another tree leaning against the power lines, and then noticed a large outcropping of rocks the definitely needed to be climbed upon. Once this pile of rocked was conquered, it was time to head back to the car but, not before playing in the steam for a few minutes…

All in all, a great day hike for the family and kids. And with a few hints I learned that made it even better for the kids.

  1. Give them a goal. We sometimes go geocaching and while I don’t search for caches all the time, I sometimes use this to create hiking goals for the kids. It gives them something to look forward to and a way to participate in the hike. Some caches are large with toys in them and if they bring a small toy or nick knack to put in, they can take one out.
  2. Give them Responsibility. They LOVE navigating with the GPS or the app. It really gets them excited to see how close they’re getting. They were also in charge of getting our snacks together.
  3. Give them advanced notice. I started talking to them a couple days prior to going and told them where we were going and our goal and they looked forward to it for those days. When the day came to go, they got ready really quickly.
  4. Give them freedom. Make sure you have plenty of time to explore and have a great time. Try not to rush and let them lead and they’ll do great!
  5. Give them a snack. All kids love a snack and this is also a goal; to hike to someplace cool for a snack. I prefer snacks with a view and so do they.
  6. Give them a game. Sometimes our youngest says she gets tired and begs to rest, even though we haven’t been out very long. She also likes to run. So, my wife discovered that we can do a Run-n-Rest with her. Which means that she and one of us runs ahead a bit, then stops to rest until the others catch up. Then she runs again until we catch up and does this several times and then soon forgets she thought she was tired.

I’d love to hear other ideas!


My Favorite Hiking Boots

I have some married friends that have a deal that they can buy any car they want, but they have to keep that car for 10 years. I always thought that was a good way to balance getting something you really want while making sure it’s practical. I have to say, however, it’s probably not the best rule of thumb for hiking boots.

I have two pairs of boots that I’ve used for many years that have both been quite good. So good in fact that I used them longer than I probably should.

hit-tec-boots-1The first pair is one I’ve had for about 20 years. It’s one of the T 50 Peaks boots. When I started working for Outward Bound, one year I needed a new pair of boots. I wrote a letter to Hi-Tec detailing that I was an instructor with Outward Bound and in need of a new pair of boots for a 3 week Canyonlands course I was about to head out on and instruct. A couple of days later, the mail showed up with a box from Hi-Tec with two pairs of boots. Both, 50 Peaks models!

Obviously, new boots the day before a 3 week backpacking trip in the canyons of Utah is maybe not the smartest thing, nor was it probably the best gamble, but we instructors didn’t get paid too well back then and I was really hoping for free boots. So, the next day, when the students arrived, I practiced the “Rule of Befores” and loaded my feet with moleskin before they had a chance to blister, pulled on my hiking socks, tied on my boots and set off. I’m grateful to say that I never had a blister that entire trip. I also broke those boots in really well and used them the next few seasons with Outward Bound and on personal trips during and after being an instructor. These Hi-Tec hiking boots were the first really good boot I ever owned.

montrail-boots-1The second great pair of boots are ones that I got about 8 years ago when I joined the Alpine Rescue Team and started putting on a lot of miles. I still wear them today. They’re from Montrail and have been incredibly comfortable over the years. I remember many of the searches and rescues I’ve been on over the years that I’ve done while wearing these boots. In the rain, sun, some snow, mud and dust, they’ve been constant, comfortable companions.

But, I think almost 9 years is probably enough for these boots as they’ve become less and less comfortable on long hikes. On our recent trip to Grand Canyon, I wore them down to Skeleton Point, about 3 miles down the South Kaibab Trial and on the way back up, the balls of my feet started hurting. Interestingly, though, when we got back to the top, it was the flat walking through the woods back to the car that I noticed the greatest soreness in my feet.

Unfortunately, I can’t find these same Montrail Boots for sale again. I really wish I could because these were the best boots I’ve owned. These boots were comfortable, easy and quick to break in, never came untied, solid, easy to waterproof and the tread held up incredibly well. Besides the foot bed seeming to wear out, a short bit of stitching also started to come undone, but not enough at all to worry about.

Overall, if I could, I would buy these again. And, I would highly recommend them to anyone looking for a good, solid, 3 season, mid-weight boot. Since it doesn’t look like Montrail does boots much anymore (their website is all running shoes), I am on the lookout for a new pair of boots. Any recommendations?

One of My Favorite Green River Campsites

Near the campsite in Lodore.

This is the river right near one of my favorite campsites on the Green River in Lodore Canyon.  I’ve camped here many times.  There’s often a long beach right in front of this campsite to play on, sleep on or just hang out on.  Like many places in Lodore, there are lot’s of trees and campsites on the river right along with a trail to a nice overlook.

My first time to camp here was in the sleet on my very first Outward Bound training river trips in the early 90’s.  It was early season and it was very cold.  I remember this day as being fairly nice during the day, but that changed quickly as the evening wore on.  I also remember having a leak in my bike water bottle that as tied to a boat, hanging in the river.  Without looking, I pulled it up, opened it and took a big swig of river sand.  yuck.

There’s also a nice hike up to an overlook which is fabulous for taking pictures!

The Green River is one of my favorites because it’s a clear, low volume, technical alpine river, which is what I spent most of my life on.  Also, much like the middle fork of the Salmon.  I find them to be so much fun!  Don’t get me wrong, as I also really love the high volume dessert rivers too, but these are different and incredibly special.


Campsite on the Green River Lodore Canyon river overlook

Camping along the Colorado River near Moab

This summer we had a great opportunity to head to Moab with the family to spend a few days camping along the River Road. We didn’t get too far out into the wilderness, but just being by the river was fabulous, as always. Especially when you wake up to views like this.  Camping along the river is truly the best.

Late morning along the Colorado River near Moab

Low Water Flow in Courthouse Wash

We certainly don’t expect high water flows in the end of December, and it’s certainly the case in Lower Courthouse Wash just north of Moab, UT (this flows into the Colorado River).  We had a chance to hike there 2 days ago while spending Christmas in Moab and what a beautiful hike this is!  We didn’t go to far because we had the kids and it was getting late and we hadn’t planned along outing, but we will for sure come back to this wash and do the entire lower section of 5.5 miles into the main Arches National Park road, and maybe the upper section too!  There wasn’t a lot of water running in the canyon right now, but there was a lot of sitting water.  A hiker we passed also said there were some unavoidable waste deep pools further up, so if you do this hike, plan on getting wet.  I can’t wait to do it all this spring!

The other highlight of this hike is the amazing rock art to the right of the canyon mouth.  From DiscoverMoab.com:

You will see large painted ghost-like illustrations typical of the Barrier Canyon Style Archaic figures on the red-orange surface. The numerous figures include human forms, bighorn sheep, shields, scorpion-like illustrations, possible dogs, a long beaked bird and abstract elements. You can see evidence of painted multi-colored figures superimposed on other pictographs. On the desert varnish surface you will see human and animal like figures as well as abstract forms. This site is on the National Register of Historic Places because of its representation of a Barrier Canyon Style rock art panel.

It’s some of the best rock art I’ve seen in the area with both Pictographs and Petroglyphs in the same place.  Here’s just a sample.

And another:

This is a really great panel and is easy to get to off of hwy 191 just north of Moab.  I enhanced these photos a bit as they are fading.  They were also heavily vandalized in 1980 and while the park service did a great job restoring them, they’re not as good as they once were.

How to get there:

Drive north from Moab on Highway 191 and cross the Colorado River Bridge.  Go half a mile to a parking area on the right side of the road and park, then walk back across the small bridge that crosses Courthouse Wash on the graveled foot path. At the east end of the bridge, look up at the cliffs to the right of the point of the canyon wall that is facing you. look at the base of the wall where it meets the slope.  Then walk uphill to the base of those cliffs and look for a park service sign at the base of the slope below the panel.

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