Castlewood Canyon State Park Hike

Castlewood Canyon State Park Hike

We hiked around Castlewood Canyon State Park this year on my birthday. This is one of my favorite State parks in Colorado. There are nice mountain views, canyons, and a creek. This park has been called the best for accessibility in Colorado, since there is pretty extensive paved trail which goes through a good bit of the park.

Castlewood Canyon Dam

The park has two separate entrances, on this day we arrived at the East entrance, and hiked from the farthest parking lot. We started on the Lake Gulch trail, which is a nice mostly declining walk that takes you from the top of the park down to the creek that goes through the entirety of the park. There are some cool views along the way of the Rocky Mountains. At the end of the trail you reach the creek, which as far as I can tell is only passible in the Winter time. I haven’t hiked this area any time other than winter because of my fear of rattlesnakes, which this place has a ton of.

The Lake Gulch trail eventually leads to the creek, which was one of the icier parts of the trip. Tommy and I both fell, and went sliding just short of the water. After crossing, there is an overlook on the other side of the creek, which has a nice view to watch others do the same fall you just did. It seems like every 4/5 people lost their footing in that area. Stacey and Lucy somehow managed to navigate the icy areas without falling all day.

Overlooking the creek

Across the creek, the trail forks and you can choose to go visit the dam, or take the Inner Canyon trail. We opted for the dam trail, to go see the old Castlewood Canyon Dam. I wrote up some history behind the dam here. After the dam trail, we headed back towards the Inner Canyon trail. This trail goes up and down the canyon following the creek. There are a few nice cave-like rocks to explore along the way. This trail also conveniently brings you back to where we had parked. Overall it was great hike, icy at times, muddy at other times, but a very enjoyable way to start the year.

Tommy standing in front of a small cave

The trail info for what we hiked, from the Castlewood Canyon State Park website:

Inner Canyon and Lake Gulch Trail

  • Overall:1.16 miles, moderate
  • Lake Gulch trail: 0.80 miles, moderate
  • Inner Canyon/Lake Gulch Loop
  • Permitted uses: Foot only
  • Miles paved:  0
  • Miles non-paved: 1.96
  • Total distance: 1.96
  • Usage: High
  • Degree of difficulty: Easy to Moderate
  • Elevation: 6400
  • ADA accessible: No
  • Comments: Takes visitors into the canyon by the creek and back out for nice views
  • Pets: Yes-on a leash

​​The Dam Trail

  • Overall: 0.35 mile, moderate
  • Permitted uses: Foot only
  • Miles paved: 0
  • Miles non-paved: 0.35
  • Total distance: 0.35
  • Usage: Medium
  • Degree of difficulty: Moderate
  • Elevation: 6400
  • ADA accessible: No
  • Comments: Takes visitors around the Castlewood Dam ruins.
  • Pets: Yes-on a leash

Castlewood Canyon Dam

Castlewood Canyon Dam

CRUMBLING AWAY IN A VERDANT state park, the ruins of the old Castlewood Canyon Dam hardly looks like the remains of a sturdy industrial water wall that released a torrential flood on the surrounding area when it finally broke. Built in 1890 and leaking for years after that, the Castlewood Canyon dam collapsed on August 3, 1933. A storm raged on that day, filling the dam’s reservoir to bursting. When the crumbling stone barrier finally failed, over a billion gallons of water were released, traveling over 40 miles of surrounding wilderness before eventually flooding Denver. Huge logs were floated through train stations, bridges were washed away, and by the end of the torrent, the whole city was sitting in four feet of water. Luckily (and tragically) only one person was killed, but the property damage of the catastrophe was immeasurable. While it was likely just age and a lack of maintenance that caused the dam to give way, some residents who still remember the disaster claim that it could have been the local muskrat population effecting the integrity of the dam. No matter the cause, the ruins of the dam remain in Castlewood Canyon State Park. Either side of the structure still remains and the track through which the water broke through is now a dry, grassy thoroughfare. Source: Atlas Obscura

Roxborough State Park

Roxborough State Park

As part of my time away from work, I’ve been able to do some exploring around the local state parks… here are a few pictures from Roxborough State Park. I’m starting to have a large collection of these, so I might create a new gallery.

These photos are from the Fountain Valley Trail — its a pretty easy trail, worth checking out if you’re in the area.

Here is some information on the Fountain Valley Trail from the Roxborough State Park website:

Fountain Valley Trail

The Fountain Valley Trail begins at the main trail head next to the Visitor Center. It is considered easy to moderate for hiking difficulty and consists of approximately 2.5 mile loop that winds through the Fountain and Lyons rock formations with a moderate change in elevation.  ADA accessibility is minimal, though most wheelchairs can maneuver the Fountain Valley Trail with little or no difficulty during good weather conditions. The average hiking time is 1 hour to 1.5 hours.

The Trail includes 2 overlooks (Fountain Valley Overlook and Lyons Overlook), and a Historic Site (The Persse Place).

  • Fountain Valley Overlook
    • The Fountain Valley Overlook is only 100 yards from the Visitor Center and provides spectacular views of several beautiful rock formations, including the Fountain Formation, Lyons Formation, and the Dakota Hogback. The Fountain Valley Overlook features a viewing platform approximately 10’x8′,and includes 2 benches. 
  • Lyons Overlook
    • ​The Lyons Overlook in approximately 1 mile from the trail head and sits on top of the Lyons Formation, providing a view of the Fountain Formation. Both Overlooks can be reserved for special events and are often reserved on weekends throughout the summer.

Chatfield Dam

Chatfield Dam

Tommy and I took a hike along the Chatfield Dam Trail at Chatfield State Park. Here is some trail info from the Chatfield State Park website:

  • Permitted uses: Foot and bike
  • Miles paved:  2.4
  • Miles non-paved: .3 
  • Total distance: 2.7
  • Usage: Low
  • Degree of difficulty: Easy
  • Elevation: 5,500
  • ADA accessible: Yes – Asphalt
  • Comments:  Access trailhead at Dam Overlook parking lot. Connecting trail links include the Highline Canal Trail, Columbine Trail, and Centennial Trail.
  • Pets: Yes, on leash

The trail overlooks the Chatfield Reservoir which is located just south of the town of Littleton, CO. The reservoir was built in 1967 as a way to provide water to the Denver area, and prevent large floods. The intake structure is one of the highlights of the trail, as it is massive, and seems to be high security. The Dam and surrounding area is a great place to get pictures of the Southwest metro area and concertina wire.

The Great Conjunction

The Great Conjunction

In an earlier post, I provided some tips on taking photos of a pretty rare celestial event, as viewed by the Earth. Perhaps one of the tips should have been to double check you’re taking the right gear out to record the event. I forgot my longer lens setup in my other car — and what I was left with was my X100F which has a built in 23mm.

The Great Conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter and an Owl

This photo shows the conjunction, without a ton of detail, but it does have some other items of interest. On the right side of the photo, there is an owl — which I only noticed when I got home.

On the bottom left, there is a bright “star” which sits on Lockheed Martin’s Waterton Canyon campus. The star was first lit in the late 1950s to mark the holiday season. It turns on the day after Thanksgiving through to the New Year. The star sits at 6,687 feet on Warren Peak. It is about 148 feet wide, and 173 feet tall.

The two planets ought to still be close tomorrow night — I might try going back with the correct gear.

Jupiter and Saturn Conjunction

Jupiter and Saturn Conjunction

Today is the day for the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. They will appear to be close together in the sky, the closest they’ve been in 397 years. Here are some tips to photograph it tonight (source: NASA):

General tips

  • Jupiter and Saturn will appear brighter than nearly every star. They can be seen easily from large cities, and dark sites.
  • Dark skies will allow you to see fainter stars, but Jupiter and Saturn are bright enough that you don’t necessarily need to go to a dark site to take compelling photos of them. If you have a clear view toward the southwest, you have the chance to take some great photos.
  • Think about composition. Jupiter and Saturn will just appear as points of light. To make your photo more interesting, try to frame the planets with something – the silhouette of a tree, an outdoor landscape, the arch of a building, or even a neon sign.
  • Experiment with both wide-angle and telephoto shots. In early December, the two planets will be about 2 degrees apart, and will get progressively close toward December 21. In order to show them clearly in your photos, you might use a wide-angle composition early in December, and zoom in later in the month as they get closer.
  • Be sure to go outside on a few different nights, and see how their separation changes.
  • Using a tripod will help you hold your camera steady while taking longer exposures. If you don’t have a tripod, brace your camera against something – a tree, a fence, or a car can all serve as a tripod for a several-second exposure.
  • These planets are visible in early evening, and you’ll have about 1-2 hours from when they are visible, to when they set. The color and intensity of the sky changes during that time. Stay out for an hour or more, and try to capture shots with both the bright colors of sunset, and the darkness of the oncoming night. A photo from the same location can look completely different just an hour later!
  • The crescent moon will pass near Jupiter and Saturn a few days before the conjunction. Take advantage of it in your composition!

Tips if using a cell phone camera

  • Jupiter and Saturn will be bright enough to detect in many cell phone cameras. You won’t see additional detail by zooming in, but you can frame Jupiter and Saturn creatively.
  • Some recent cell phones have a ‘night mode,’ which will automatically stabilize a long-exposure, even without using a tripod. This can be great for capturing the dark foreground of your photo. Some phones will let you use ‘night mode’ on exposures up to 30 seconds, if you also use a tripod.
  • Many cell phones have a wide-angle lens. Try using this to place a subject in the foreground, with Jupiter and Saturn above them.
  • At the time of conjunction on December 21, Jupiter and Saturn may be too close to separate clearly in your photos. Images taken a few days before or after the conjunction may show them more clearly.

Tips if using a DSLR camera

  • Set your focus to Infinity (Manual Focus mode), so the planets will be sharp. Set your aperture wide open, to let in the maximum amount of light.
  • If you have a tripod, it will help you take long exposures. If not, you can still take some great pictures with a short shutter speed (< 1/4 second). If your camera or lens has an image stabilizer, be sure it is turned on.
  • If your photos show that the camera is not steady, shorten your shutter speed. You can also use a photographers’ trick to get a sharp photo when hand-holding: set up your camera to take multiple exposures, then hold the shutter button to take a series of photos. While some will be blurry due to camera shake, you may find a few that are sharp.
  • If you use a 200 mm telephoto lens, you should be able to see Jupiter’s four bright moons in a short exposure. Saturn’s rings will usually need a longer lens or a telescope in order to resolve clearly.
  • To capture Jupiter and Saturn as sharp ‘points’ while using a tripod, use a shutter speed of up to a few seconds. More than this and the Earth’s rotation will smear out the planets and stars. If you are using a wide-angle lens, you can use a longer exposure.

The weather locally looks great, so I’m hoping to get out for some pictures or to at least see the event.

Portraits without Faces Part 2

Tommy @ Chatfield

In an earlier post, Portraits without Faces, I talked about the 500px challenge, and how I seem to randomly get pictures of Tommy without him looking at the camera. This is another one of those from a weekend trip to Chatfield. The temperature outside was a little too cold to be hiking in… at this point, we were trying to locate where we were going. This trip was cut short due to the cold weather and incoming snow storm.

Portraits without Faces

Tommy and Mario

500px is running a quest this month with the theme of “Portraits without Faces”. This is an interesting quest, and I just happened to have this picture available from a recent photo shoot we did in Denver. The quest brief is described as, “Not all portraits need faces! Not focusing on the face can open up a new dimension of interpretation while still allowing the view to capture the personality or mood of the subject.” The quest goes until January 8, 2021. One winner will receive a prize of $200.

Mt Garfield

Mt Garfield

Mt. Garfield is the high point of the Book Cliffs, north of Grand Junction, and overlooking the town of Palisade. Two classic hiking trails ascend the mountain. The mountain was named after President James Garfield a year after Garfield’s death.