This hike is a favorite among people in northern Colorado. It has beautiful scenery, a gorgeous view from the summit, provides a great workout, and has very lively wildlife close to the trail. The hike is 1.7 miles long one way, but pretty steep most of the time, with lots of switchbacks and a significant elevation gain. It climbs through a thick growth of bushes strewn with black and red berries. Don’t eat them, please. The berries are a treat for black bears, even though we have never met a bear in the Park.
Our first encounter with wildlife on the trail was a hummingbird, which zipped cheerfully from one bush to another. Unfortunately, our camera froze and we could not capture its gracious flight full of swift dashes and sudden stops in the air. What can keep this tiny bird hanging in the air, defying gravitation? Her wings flutter so fast.
From the growth the trail meandered between pines. Suddenly a chipmunk flashed its stripped back, rushing across the trail. When I turned on our camera, he was climbing excitedly up a pine tree. He escaped our camera. He also dropped a pine cone from the tree, which almost hit me in the head. The pine cone fell just in front of me. What a prankster!
The trail then crossed a beautiful meadow with tall grass, swaying under a light breeze. The green wavering field of grass was interspersed by purple and lilac flowers and the trail is lined with the yellow heads of sunflowers. On the edge of this field, in the bushes, a tiny bird with really fancy plumage caught my eye. The top of its head was a bright red color and it also had yellow feathers around its neck and chest, like a collar. The bird was sitting on a branch and suddenly took off swooping down between the branches of the bush. Then we saw another tiny bird of the same plumage fluttering around the bush. It was probably their rendezvous place. Suddenly they flew out together in a playful dance, diving, rising and swirling around each other like two tango dancers.
After a few switchbacks the trail reached a lookout point, which has quite an interesting rock formation consisting of a large mound of boulders piled up on top of each other. Here there is a spectacular view of the valley, a road and a net of trails down below. However, we had another 0.6 miles to hike up to the summit.
The trail became steeper, zigzagging on the slope of the mountain between pines. Soon the imposing cliff of Arthur’s Rock was rising above the trail. The final leg was a precipitous climb up rocks in a narrow passage between boulders. Two boulders along the trail looked like giant guardians of the summit. One boulder resembles a statue from Easter Island.
There was nobody at the summit except a chipmunk, which hastily disappeared in a crack between boulders. The view from the top was breathtaking. Fort Collins was far below, on the horizon. A speedboat sketched a trail in Horsetooth Reservoir’s dark blue water, leaving diverging waves behind it. Vultures soared on up streams of air close to where we were on the summit. Standing on the rocky summit we could feel the freedom of each vulture’s flight.
The trail had more surprises in store for us that day. Suddenly in the quietness of the forest we heard a strange chattering sound and then we saw a black Abert’s squirrel. The squirrel was sitting underneath a pine tree and looked busy picking and munching seeds or nuts from the ground. She picked one morsel, another and then she heard the click of our camera. The squirrel gave up her lunch and scrambled up a tree. From there, sitting up high on a branch, she chattered loudly and angrily at us for disturbing her meal. We took a couple of shots of the squirrel, but she climbed even higher. We continued our hike accompanied by the chattering complaints of the squirrel.
Terry noticed a second Abert’s squirrel. The squirrel did not see him and walked across the trail very close to him. Terry stopped and the squirrel stopped too. The squirrel sat near a boulder and start munching something she found on the ground. Terry made one step forward and the squirrel got scared, shuddered and looked around. Terry stood still and the squirrel came down and got busy eating again. Terry made another careful step. The squirrel got spooked, froze, looked around and hurriedly ran onto the other side of the boulder. I was taking pictures on the trail and was walking towards Terry. Terry called me on his cell phone trying to warn me about the squirrel, which now was sitting on the side of the boulder that I was approaching. I heard my phone ringing and I saw Terry at the same time. So I decided not to answer the phone and instead yelled: “Hello!” and waved my hands. Of course, I scared this poor squirrel and did not take pictures of her. The squirrel rushed to the nearest tree and chattered about loud hikers and annoying photographers.
I think it was our lucky day. Life can be full of surprises and you have to have curiosity and be open to new experiences to be able to see them.