The days before Christmas are quiet in a college town. The streets empty, and the population disperses. For years, our group of young friends has traveled to distant family for the holidays, but this year, with new family members popping up, many of us stuck closer to our own homes.
This is why we found ourselves at the sunny trailhead for Eagle’s Nest Open Space just a few days before Christmas, with Doug and pregnant Liz, our own baby and dog, and a plan for enjoying mountain views and blue skies.
Since G was born, Mark and I have started to appreciate the local trails and open spaces surrounding our little Northern Colorado town. We used to drive right past these for high peaks and tall granite climbs, but we’ve recently learned that we were missing out on some great hikes by doing so. The tall peaks of the Rockies are dramatic and stunning, but there is a quiet beauty in the wooded foothills, hidden plains rivers, and local sandstone.
Eagle’s Nest Open Space is located about 40 minutes north of our house in Livermore, CO. The 755 acres offer 5 miles of hiking trails, beautiful views of the Laramie foothills, and access to the North Fork of the Cache La Poudre river. The area is named for the large rock formation that stands sentinel over the river valley, and has (supposedly) been home to nesting Golden Eagles for over 100 years.
Mark, G and I were all fighting off colds (as we have been all fall and winter) and Doug and Liz were being super adventurous at 26 weeks of pregnancy to even come out and meet us, so we opted to forgo the long hike, and stick to the first 3.4 mile loop.
Even though the ground was covered in 3-4 inches of snow back at our house, these high-plains trails were well melted, and our hike was done almost entirely on solid dirt. The winter southern sun warmed us up nicely for the afternoon, casting long shadows on the hills and posting sage brush and yucca in stark relief on the hillsides.
G tried out his new REI snow suit, which might have been overkill for such a mild day, but he seemed comfortable enough. He zonked in the backpack about 20 minutes into the hike, and had a nice afternoon nap as we plodded along the hillsides. He slept though our break on the banks of the frozen river, so didn’t get his usual chance to get out and wander around on his own two feet until we were back at the cars. For sitting in a backpack for 2.5 hours, he did really well though, only getting cranky at the very end of our hike.
It was a beautiful day, and a really lovely hike. The trails were nearly deserted, only one horse rider and a handful of other people crossed our path during the afternoon. These wide-open spaces just south of the Wyoming boarder glowed in the low afternoon sun, and I sucked up every moment of the light, the air, and the freedom of those hills.