If you’re lucky enough to be in the mountains, you’re lucky enough!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Limbaugh Canyon Loop

Back in May we did a little experimentation on Trail 715 leading out of the Monument Fire Center up onto the flanks of Mount Herman.  We have been looking to get back out and do a loop around to the south, over the saddle, and down through Limbaugh Canyon to complete a circumnavigation around Mount Herman.  Thanks to some fantastic trail data from our friend Jon, we finally made it out for the loop today.  Not knowing what to fully expect for a completed loop mileage, we hit the trails fairly early with some cool breeze and mild temps.  Though we have mountain biked Limbaugh before, the route we took for that was quite a bit different.
Kathleen ascends Trail 715 with Monument, CO below
Up into the scrub oak zone, before the forest begins
Dense Gambles (scrub oak) blanket the lower hillsides of Mount Herman

We made our way through the Fire Center and over to the bottom portion of Trail 715.  This trail makes up the "spine" of a large portion of the loop around Mt Herman.  The majority of the first 6 miles is climbing, broken into two very significant pushes to gain the ridge before dropping into Limbaugh Canyon.  The first segment climbs the lower flanks of the mountain before dropping into the Beaver Creek drainage.
Kathleen climbing through the forest
Looking south from the ridge across ranch land to the US Air Force Academy
Dropping in to the drainage

There was a tricky turn down the hillside that we missed on our recon run in May - thanks to Jon, no problem this time.  We dropped in to Beaver Creek and discovered an awesome little section that we would have never thought existed back here.  There was lots of dense vegetation, plenty of shade, and several crossings of Beaver Creek.  
Trail 715 crosses the creek

After the first crossing, it was back to climbing and this one was steeper than the initial push.  After crossing the creek several times and then Mt Herman road, we continued on 715 for one final push to gain the ridge above Limbaugh Canyon.  Now it was time to drop into the canyon for one of the cooler trails in the area.  Limbaugh has everything from super steep, loose descents in dense forest to flowing rollers through lush open meadows full of dense vegetation as it follows the Monument Creek drainage down into Palmer Lake.
Steve rolls through the forest on Limbaugh
Aspens and singletrack - sweet!
Open meadow with Mt Herman rising up behind

It has been many years since I have been back in this canyon (although Kathleen has been through more than I over the years) and we'll just say less time will pass before the next trip.  Pristine singletrack and lush surroundings lend to an atypical setting for our alpine desert climate.  Need to add a quick note too:  Jon and his wife, who we'll call the Trail Queen, have helped organize a lot of trail work in this area with many hours put in by local Boy Scouts and other volunteer groups.  The work shows, as Limbaugh was in better shape than we have ever witnessed - GREAT WORK!

Little video work from Kathleen
Nice pools on Monument Creek
Oasis in the canyon

It is too bad this spot above was still a ways from the finish of the loop - these pools would make an awesome place for a cold soak to start the leg recovery!  Since water is scarce in these parts, this creek provides the life force for all of the beautiful scenery in the canyon.  From here, we ascended the eastern ridge to make our way around the northern side of Mt Herman.  After climbing a bit through the trees, you round a corner to this:
Inspiration Point

The trail rounds a bend and there, 900 or so vertical feet below lies the town of Palmer Lake.  Quite a view!  Spruce Mountain and Greenland Open Space are in the far distance.  Now it was time for a quick drop and then up onto the eastern side of the mountain.  The exit from Limbaugh has been a land use controversy for years (thanks to ONE single landowner with a stick in his behind) and this was our first trip on the re-route trail that was cut to avoid Mr Cranky's wrath.  The trail was as expected - awesome.  Tough in spots and technical, but absolutely smile-inducing the whole way across.  After navigating across the contour above Palmer Lake, we dropped out of the forest onto Mt Herman road and crossed back into the Fire Center.  We made our way past Monument Rock and down to the trailhead for our first completed loop around the mountain.  Loop was 14.25 miles with around 3400' accumulated elevation gain.  The experience can't be captured in numbers.  We're already up for another shot and thinking of a couple trails we could add to up the ante a bit.  If you're interested, come run it with us!  Hope everyone has had an awesome weekend - Happy Trails!

Shoes - K Asics 2150 Trail
S - La Sportiva Wildcat

Almost forgot - here is the profile of the run from SportTracks:
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