With my son having just been born a week plus one day ago, I was hoping to find a nearby hike that was a gentle stroll for my 3.5-year-old daughter and I. We ended up at Gregory Canyon, in Boulder, CO, which provides access to the backside of the Flatirons, including the well-known climbing spot Gregory Amphitheatre.
During the latter part of October, the area is highly trafficked by Black Bears, but by now they are hibernating (said the ranger). We spotted a variety of squirrels and one unidentifiable bird of prey. The Gregory Amphitheatre trail makes a steep elevation gain, made up by a seemingly never-ending series of giant steps, forged of logs and stone, ultimately snaking its way to rock faces that rocket beyond tree boughs to the skyline. En route to The Amphitheatre, we mastered the etiquette of back country bathroom, found walking sticks, and collected organic helicopter blades for my daughter’s biomass collection. Back home, we sanded, sawed, and added handles to the walking stick and updated my daughter’s leaf book. Pretty rad morning.
I’m on paternity leave and our household is moving slow today. After Dutch Baby pancakes (oh, we’re addicted!), we pack up and head out.
We arrive at Gregory Canyon, get out of my SUV, and make our way across a bridge and head up the steep trail into the forest. It is cold, gray, and quiet. Still. Beautiful.
My daughter eyes a slew of sticks alongside the trail. She finds one that’s her “walking stick” and promptly finds one for me. We now have walking sticks.
Moments later she eyes a river of moss growing in the rock cracks and seams. Everything is a little damp.
The endless series of logs and stones make a stairway into the woods. Some steps are so tall my daughter is forced to go around them. Or employ her infamous lay-on-tummy-climb technique.
Thus, sometimes making forward movement can be challenging. My daughter looks for opportunities to rest or cajole another snack out of her backpack. We make up games on the trail using our walking sticks. Three favorites this hike:
- Sing row your boat while standing on large rocks in the trail, using your walking stick as an imaginary paddle. After a verse or two, switch to the nearest “boat” rock upstream (up the trail).
- Make foot prints of bunny rabbits as they hop up the trial, the same destination as you, wearing the same backpack, using your walking stick to create the foot prints.
- Play hockey with a pine cone and walking stick, hitting the pine cone up the trail.
On our last hike my daughter had to go #2. While I had toilet paper, I was not prepared for #2. For #2, you are meant to bury the remains beneath the soil and pack out any toilet paper (eg do not bury it). Today, I brought a shovel, toilet paper, and extra bag with us – just for this purpose! Surprisingly, my daughter announces she has to go #2. So we do. It With the right tools, it’s a snap!
We return to the trail. My daughter requests we pull out the compass and map. My heart swells. Is the apple really going to fall so close to the tree? I show her how to find North, and I point out where we are on the topographical map. A minute or two into it she’s ready for her next snack.
My daughter charges up the ascent to Gregory Amphitheatre. She’s the smallest human being out here.
We make it to the Amphitheatre. It is beautiful. Hard to photograph without a wider lens.
We remove our backpacks and relax here beneath the giant slabs of stones. There is no one about and the silence is lovely.
We break into the dark chocolate chips for the summit.
After savoring the treats we head back down.
We run across what looks like an Albert’s squirrel (far right) and a chipmunk (far left).
The squirrels eventually abandon their perches and my daughter examines the orange lichen on the stump the chipmunk rested upon.
Back home, we decide to pimp our walking sticks.
First we remove the bark, saw off the knobs, then sand down the surface of the sticks.
Then we wrap a chord around the top of the sticks to make a handle.
The final product:
Near The Amphitheatre, my daughter found some helicopter leaves. We add them to her leaf book.
- Directions (Google maps)
- Downloadable trail map
- Printed Topo map (I bought mine at Boulder Army Store)
- Bathroom: Shovel, toilet paper in ziplock, extra ziplock for used paper
- Navigation: Trail map, compass
- Carrying: two backpacks
- Medical: Band aids
- Animal Sighting: Bird identification guide, binoculars
- Food: Beef Jerky, Almonds, Dried Mango, Chocolate Chips (dark chocolate), Granola Bar, Apple, Crackers, Seaweed, Pretzels
- Water: two water bottles
- Recording: Camera, Camera bag