Thursday, June 4, 2009

Hiking at Aiken Canyon Preserve

We have had the best timing this year for the hikes we have chosen.  Yesterday, a friend and I both loaded up our backpacks with babies and headed south to the Aiken Canyon Preserve for their 4-mile loop.  While researching the hike just now, I discovered that one of the beautiful wildflowers we came across, the Campanula rotundifolia (or Bluebell Bellflower...redundant but descriptive), is only in bloom from late May through early June (not pictured, sorry).  We were surprised to see a ton of cactus and yucca in the lower elevations as well.

This 1600-acre Nature Conservancy is located 15 miles south of Colorado Springs on highway CO-115.  Just turn right on Turkey Creek Ranch Road and the trailhead is almost immediately on your right.   (Thank you, Gazette, for the directions).  I've been through this neighborhood before, so if you feel like drooling over some beautiful McMansions, go for a drive after your hike.  The trailhead contains large, colorful signs depicting the animals and vegetation you could expect to see, and the entire trail is well-maintained.  We even found tiny signs stuck into the ground identifying specific wildflowers.

Because the Conservancy is located just south of Garden of the Gods, you come across beautiful red rock formations throughout the hike.  Take a left the first time the trail splits to slowly head up to a saddle (about 500 feet elevation gain), followed by an open meadow of flowers.  Here, you'll find another division in the trail; head left for a 1.5 mile dead-end trip up to a cabin and a stream, or right to complete the 4 mile loop you began.  It had started sprinkling at this point, so we stuck to the loop.  
We came across a sign listing the wildlife that we could encounter, including bears, mountain lions, bobcats, rattlesnakes, and wild turkeys.  I consider us fortunate that we didn't spot a single living creature, although Baby exclaimed "Kitty!" at one point (well, her pronounciation is more like "Tee!", but I recognized the voice from when she chases the wildlife at home).  I'm glad we didn't come across any big kitties on this hike, although a wild turkey may have been fun!
Baby likes to play with my ponytail as we walk.  I think she has hair envy.  All-in-all, this was another gorgeous Colorado Springs hike and a fun day with Baby!

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