Family friends Cass and Amil drove up from Texas to visit and I figured they’d enjoy a little hike.  So we headed out early this morning to the Brainard Lake Recreation Area to hike Mount Audubon.  This picture is of them at the saddle with about a quarter mile remaining to scale the peak.  You can’t see it very well but Longs Peak is behind their heads to the north.

We left the house at 7am and drove through Lyons to the Peak-to-Peak Hwy.  Counting time to stop for gas, it took us 70 minutes to reach the Mitchell Creek Trailhead which is a stone’s throw past Lake Brainard.  Our timing was good as we were able to snag a parking spot in the lot.  This is a popular hiking spot so close to Denver.  It’s a very well groomed area with paved roads and vault toilets.  The Mitchell Creek trail leads out of the south end of the lot but we took the Beaver Creek trail on the north end.  This leads to the Audubon trail around treeline two miles up.

The trail starts out fairly pedestrian with soft dirt in the trees, but it’s non-stop up-slope.  Both Cass and Amil were wearing Merrell Barefoot trail shoes.  Cass wore the ladies version.  These are awesome shoes but just happen to be what I was wearing when I stressed something in my left foot this past spring.  Despite the slope and having begun at 10,000 feet, Amil was bounding upward with enthusiasm.  And although the trail increased in steepness each mile on its way to 13.2K feet, he never really slowed down.  He danced from rock to rock like a Gazelle.  Youth!  Despite being twice his age however, I kept up.

It’s four miles from trailhead to peak and I think treeline splits it fairly evenly at two miles.  The top half takes longer of course because it’s steeper.  Above treeline offers great views and at about three miles it provided these Texans with some snow in August.  The weather couldn’t have been better.  The temperature was high 50s starting out at 8:10am but Amil was comfortable the entire trek up in a t-shirt and shorts.  I wore a long sleeve t-shirt of high-tek fabric with shorts.  Cass unzipped the legs from her pants at some point to create shorts.

It was warm enough on the peak that Amil showed a little flesh.  Really he was just letting his shirt dry out.  It was a bit cool up there but unusually void of strong winds.  The scramble to the peak is maybe just an eighth of a mile from the saddle, but by the time you zig and zag over the rocks it will feel like a quarter mile.  The trail largely disappears in the rocks and you have to follow the cairns.  It’s a large flat area with plenty of sheltered seating.  Fortunately it wasn’t crowded as there were just a few other couples enjoying snacks and the view.  We munched on our trail food for probably 20 minutes before heading back down.

The descent brought us into contact with quite a few more hikers.  I didn’t consider our start early but apparently the average day hiker is a late riser.  This picture captures our return to treeline where the trail rocks finally turned back to softer soil and pine needles.  As we returned to the parking lot and drove around Brainard Lake on our exit, we discovered hundreds of cars parked along the road.  Not sure where all these people went hiking.  This area has tons of options.  I’ve been up here before snowshoeing and I think I’ll be back.  We lunched down the road at the Millsite Inn listening to a little blues band named Doctor, Doctor.  Nice day.