Saturday, May 2, 2015

Painted Mines Interpretive Park | Calhan, CO

This past Friday was our second visit out to the Painted Mines Interpretive Park.    Maybe you remember the controversial video from our first visit.  You know, the one where I was showing how delicate the sandstone formations are.  If you haven't seen it, you can view it here.

We arrived that day shortly before lunch, quickly threw on our gear, and hit the trailhead with ambition and intent.  I felt relaxed and in the moment.  I wanted to share what we were experiencing.  And in that moment, I uploaded what felt like a harmless post to our Facebook page.
Me, letting my hair down with a selfie!

We were well prepared (this first afternoon) with a picnic lunch, snacks, and plenty of water.  We had packed layers and sunglasses.  We were ready!  But the Interpretive Mines are located deep in the plains.  The mountains of Colorado Springs aren't even visible.  And this particular afternoon consisted of relentless winds.  Strong winds.  Winds strong enough to blow over our 3 year old (yes, the wind literally blew Truman over) and sent us running for shelter within the formations.
Nom!  Nom!  Nom!

Brian was ahead of us and Truman in the middle along a ridge trail within the park.  A huge gust of wind came through and I watched Truman's feet lift off the ground.  He then fell down and forward.  This landed him on a hillside.  A shear look of panic on his face and Brian's...and I'm sure on mine as well.  We are never far from Truman while hiking and this instance was no different.  I grabbed his hands, preventing him from slipping any further.
Brian helping Truman on a tricky part of the trail.

Brian was immediately at our side to scoop up our shaken son and swiftly checked him for injuries.  He then hiked with conviction towards the closest inlet.  He had found the perfect enclave of formations to protect us from the wind and allow us to regain our composure and have a snack.
Hiding from the wind!

Once we felt a bit closer to fine, we began the walk back towards the car.  We knew our day had met it's expiration.  The walk back was intense.  Though we had walked maybe 2 miles, we were exhausted.  Truman was content to ride in his pack, adding a 32lb disadvantage to my dragging frame.  Our feet felt like lead weights as we continued to trudge along the dense sand trails.  The head winds didn't help either.  Brian was so supportive as we hiked.  Chanting words of encouragement with every few steps.  He even offered to take Truman, the heavier of the two packs.  I brushed him off and pushed on.  Once I was able to see the car, a second wind hit and I picked up my pace.  A few minutes later we arrived at the lot.  I unloaded Truman and felt the literal weight of what we had accomplished lift off my shoulders.  I swear I heard a "choir of angels"!
Better than Geology Class!

Trail hiking provides a sense of achievement.  Setting a goal.  The physical challenge.  Mind over strength.  Not to mention the views.  Even with that scary moment with Truman, we really enjoyed ourselves that afternoon.

Still feeling the natural high that accompanies a day on the trail, we were a bit blindsided by the negative comment regarding our climbing that afternoon.  We'd never gotten a negative comment before.  Being seasoned and respectful hikers, we reponded to our concerned reader the best we could and made a decision to revisit the Paint Mines.  We wanted to give it the respect it deserved.

What we didn't realize was that first fateful visit we barely scratched the surface of complete visual spectacle this trail system has to offer.  The trail system within the park is less than 4.5 miles.  We planned to use this second visit to explore the park in it's entirity as well as record more video.

This time we picked a sunny day with little wind and fair temps.  We entered the trail the same as before, but stopping to capture video along the way.  Truman was in his own foul mood, but a promise of a picnic lunch around mile 2 kept him in check.  We arrived at our lunch destination only to realize niether of us had packed any food.  Unfortunately, a bit of miscommunication meant we were running on borrowed time.  We carried on, each bend more beautiful and brilliant in color than the last.  

The final part of the hike was an ascent up to a ridge trail that over looks the entire park.  We had finished what we had set out to do.  Once up at the top, the level ridge trail made the return to the car fairly easy.  Brian was ahead with Truman and quickly out of sight.  I lingered on that outcrop for a while, just taking it all in.  I felt really good about what we had done.  Storm clouds on the horizon and a clap of thunder brought me back to reality.  I hustled up to the ridge and made my way along the trail towards the car.  A decent and a climb near the end gives your heart one last push for good measure.  Truman and Brian cheered me on from the trail head.  We turned on the ignition just as the first rain drops began to fall.  Perfect timing!

On the drive through town we had noticed a little Mexican restaurant called La Mission Burrito.  We had promised ourselves a reward meal following our adventure.  What a great little place.  Brian and I shared a margarita on the rocks while Truman comandeered the chips and salsa.  The waitress was so accomodating...bringing us extra chips and salsa (Truman refused to share!).  The food hit the spot.  Everything tastes better after a hard day's play.  As we were leaving Truman spilled his drink all over the floor.  We asked for a mop to clean it up and our waitress did one better and cleaned it up for us with a smile!  Her tip reflected our satisfaction!  We will definitely stop again if the opportunity arises.
Clay from the mines.

After 2 trips to the Paint Mines Interpretive Park, we have put on our list of free hidden gems in Colorado Springs.  That said, we felt a few tips will help make your trips as well as our future trips a success.

Watch the weather...
We have garnered this knowledge from several experiences attempting hikes in the plains.  Winds make for difficult hiking conditions.  In addition, Spring storms are common.  There is little shelter (as you would find in a forest setting).  Ponchos or a tarp will come in handy if caught in a storm.

Pack the right gear...
We encourage packing the following: layers, ponchos, sunscreen, chapstick, snacks, water, and paper products (ie. kleenex or toilet paper).  The only facilities are at the trail head.  There is no potable water available at this trail.  

Know the terrain...
Even though the distance is relatively short, the trail itself is mostly loose sand.  It will feel very much like walking on the dry sand of any beach.  Wear supportive, comfortable shoes and be prepared for some possible leg aches.

Say cheese...
We highly recommed bringing your camera along.  The views are spectacular!

Respect the land...
Please respect this land for future visitors.  The sandstone formations are fragile and the trails make accessing them easy.  There really is no need to climb outside the lines here.  Clay deposits still exist here and it is so fun to pick up and manipulate with your hands, but please leave it and other "souvenirs" behind.  Lastly, leave no trace.  If you picnic, pack out your food and trash.  We want this to remain a treasure for years to come.