Hall Ranch Open Space is only 20 miles from my apartment in Boulder, but it looks and feels like the desert around Albuquerque. The warm, windy weather this afternoon and the complete lack of water heightened the effect.
Boulder’s temperature peaked at a near record for the day of 70 degrees, which was more than I needed to push me to trails. Hall Ranch ranges from 5,440 feet –which is about the same as Boulder — up to no more than 6,820 feet, and its trails are just enough of a challenge.
But a couple of hours of dental work this morning held me up until the early afternoon. After being held down that long, I needed to get out into open country.
The Nighthawk Trail that winds about 10 miles (out and back) from one end of the Hall Ranch Open Space to the other was just what I needed this afternoon. I knew that I wouldn’t be able to go all the way today, but I gave it all that I had.
Hitting the trail at 1:30, I decided to hike until 4, when I knew that I would have to return if I wanted to avoid hiking too long after dark. At that fail-safe point I veered off the trail to see if I could make my way cross-country to a parallel trail about a half mile away that I had hiked last May.
But I had underestimated the steepness of the terrain, and after 15 or 20 minutes I decided to be sensible rather than stubborn. So I returned the way I came, recognizing that hiking — like life itself — is about the journey, not the destination.
When I returned to the trailhead at 6 p.m., the light was almost gone. In a few more minutes I would have needed my headlamp. So I made the most that I could of the day.
Much of the West is desert, and Hall Ranch today did seem like the wild West of the old cowboy movies:
Everything at Hall Ranch is dry in winter:
Dominating the skyline of much of Hall Ranch is Indian Lookout Mountain. Here are two cowgirls, who I met earlier on the trail, below that mountain:
While I was still 45 minutes from the trailhead when I took the shot below at 5:15 p.m., this was my last acceptable photo today: