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Fitness and Photography for Fun - A blog on staying fit by hiking and doing photography by David Mendosa

Mount Sanitas

July 4th, 2015 · 4 Comments

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Six days ago I didn’t know that this trail up to the top of Mount Sanitas existed. In fact, it didn’t exist until a few months ago and the trail still isn’t on the maps or in the guidebooks. It purposely isn’t publicized because there are only five places to park at the main trailhead in Sunshine Canyon.

When I got there before 6 this morning, I didn’t have any trouble finding a place to park. This new “Lion’s Lair Trail” climbs gradually from 6,088 feet at the main trailhead to 6,838 feet at the summit. Smooth with few rocks and roots to trip on, the trail is closed to dogs and bikes. It climbs through ponderosa pine forest and meadows for about 2.1 miles or for precisely 5,899 steps.

At a switchback near the peak I paused to view the Rocky Mountains to the west.

Snow Covers the Rockies

Snow Covers the Rockies

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I was hiking in what is known as the Front Range. Just last night I was reading about it in Richard Manning’s beautiful book, Grassland:

“The Rocky Mountain Front, or simply the Front Range, is a term of resonance from Canada south to New Mexico. It is the name for the eastern edge of the Rockies, a sort of hinge between mountains and plains. Those of us who have come to know this long line of place regard it with a singular reverence.”

I am blessed to live in Boulder where the high plains meet the Front Range, which I see every day from my living room window. I am blessed.

On this hike I was fortunate to see a large, dark tree squirrel that lives only in isolated mountainous areas of Arizona, New Mexico, southern Utah, and Colorado. In all my wanderings in these forests I had only got glimpses of an Abert’s Squirrel two or three times.

An Abert's Squirrel in the Sun

An Abert's Squirrel in the Sun

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We have three species of chipmunks in Colorado. But the most colorful are the basically orange Colorado Chipmunks.

A Pair of Colorado Chipmunks

A Pair of Colorado Chipmunks

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Flowers are abundant in the mountains now that it is early summer after a wet spring. Among the most common are this invasive species. While it doesn’t belong here, I appreciate its beauty.

A Russian Thistle Begins to Bloom

A Russian Thistle Begins to Bloom

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I often forget the names of many flowers that we see here, but one that I always remember is the Mariposa Lily. I suppose this is because my father’s first job after graduating from the University of California was teaching at Mariposa High School in the rugged foothills of the Sierra Nevada.

Dew Drops on a Mariposa Lily

Dew Drops on a Mariposa Lily

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While dew drops are plentiful, I saw only a single plant with another kind of drops. On the way up to Mount Sanitas I noticed it just a few feet from the trail, but it was still in the early morning shade. Reluctantly, I passed by, hoping that I would spot it on the way back and that it would be in the sun then. I was lucky on both counts. This unusual plant is one of few species that lacks chlorophyll, which gives most plants their green color. It gets its nutrients only in rich soils and usually among pine trees.

Pinedrops in the Sun

Pinedrops in the Sun

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After I passed these Pinedrops, I continued back down the trail. But I missed a turn and came out to Sunshine Canyon Road at the alternative trailhead a steep half mile down from where I had parked.

I had hiked a total of 13,461 steps, and didn’t look forward to walking up the road. So I put out my thumb and quickly got a ride. My luck held.

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Posted in: Photography

4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Gretchen // Jul 4, 2015 at 2:36 pm

    Beautiful photos, all of them. I’d never heard of pinedrops. They’re lovely. I wonder if they feel rejected by green plants.

  • 2 David Mendosa // Jul 4, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    Maybe the pinedrops are rejecting the green plants?

  • 3 Renae Taylor Adzima // Jul 4, 2015 at 4:44 pm

    The picture of the Rocky Mountains had such clarity that it was almost like being there.
    The pine drops flower was new to me. Very unique and lovely. I enjoyed the pictures of the other beautiful flowers as well.
    Thank you David for sharing your wonderful hiking adventure with us.

  • 4 David Mendosa // Jul 4, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    I’m always happy to share the beauty of nature, Renae. I’m so pleased that you appreciate it too.