Lovell Gulch

Location: Pike National Forest, just north of Woodland, Park
Access: From the center of Woodland Park, head east a bit to Baldwin St (at the McDonald’s). Head north on Baldwin St as it becomes Rampart Range Road for 2.1 miles, then turn west into the small trailhead parking lot just south of the water treatment plant, just as the road curves east. The TH is a little hard to find as there is no signage on the road to indicate where to turn. Best to look for the City of Woodland Park Fleet Maintenance sign and turn there. If you take the curve and start heading east, you've gone to far.
Maps: USGS 7.5’ Quad: Mt Deception
Trail: Begins at 8600’, winds through the woods for ½ mile to a 3.75-mile loop. Following counter-clockwise, the trail gradually rises through pine, spruce and aspen while following a small, seasonal stream. Elevation tops out at 9300’ (700’ gain) at Rampart Range Rd, then follows a relatively-open ridgeline back downhill to the trail split. Total hiking mileage is about 5 miles. Multiple spur trails lead off from the trail, but the main route is always wider and usually marked with a Forest Service sign.
Trailhead: NAD83 zone13 496399e 4318795n  Elev: 8609'
Dogs: Voice control
Fees: none
Webcam:Woodland Park Webcam
Weather: National Weather Service Point Forecast 
                 NOAA Snow Conditions

June 8, 2008
On a stubbornly cloudy June afternoon, I trundled over to the trailhead south of Lovell Gulch with Frank and Makenzie in the back seat, each hanging a head out a car window, sniffing the breeze and allowing their ears to flap in that way that happy dogs riding in cars always do. They had been put through their paces the last two days on vigorous hikes, and both seemed to be a little less frenzied than usual. I threw some basic gear on my daypack, including my rainjacket, and released the hounds. There were about 5 other cars in the parking lot, and I could see two groups of people, with dogs, nearby. The rainshowers from earlier in the day had been short, and the ground was once again dry, though the sky certainly appeared to have more in store. We walked along the trail through ponderosa pines and a nice green understory of wheatgrass, blooming wild iris and yellow pea. I passed the two groups ahead of me, and came upon a couple on mountain bikes taking things slow. The trail was pretty steep here, so I walked past them, but they would catch me later on the downhill. Makenzie demonstrated her uncanny ability to locate a tennis ball from somewhere in the grass, and it became a treasured possession for the remainder of the hike. Frank trotted along the trail resolutely, stopping to sniff key points of interest, but never leaving the trail for long. This is behavior he exhibits when he is especially tired. I reached a small stream, and the trail split into its loop. I decided to take the right fork, primarily because it looked less steep. The next mile and half of the trail were wonderful, winding along the gulch bottom through thick aspen with fresh green leaves, dark spruce, and red-barked ponderosa. Flowers of all kinds were in bloom and it was a nice, peaceful area. The mountainbikers passed me in a shallow meadow, and a few minutes later, I passed them on a steep uphill climb. We went back and forth like that for quite a while. Eventually, the trail left the gulch, and ran into a pullout on Rampart Range Road. Powerlines ran overhead, and a perfectly straight swath of forest was missing under the powerlines as they ran on into Woodland Park. The trail was clearly visible for a mile or so, winding along the ridgetop under the powerlines. We walked quickly through this less scenic section, although there were a couple of points where Pikes Peak was visible through clearings in the canopy to the south. I can definitely see where this section of trail would be very fun on a bike. And it was on this stretch that the mountain bikers again passed me. Further down, the trail goes uphill again, and I passed the mountainbikers. By this point I was wondering who would get to the trailhead first, answering the question that had arisen in my mind as to the quickest means of completing the loop. Makenzie and Frank trotted on with a purpose, and every 50 yards or so, Makenzie would drop her ball in the middle of the trail for me to kick off into the woods. For her, hiking 5-miles is not enough. She must seek out extra exertion. A final clear view of Pikes Peak and the town of Woodland Park came at a high clearing before the trail plunged steeply down to the west, then followed along a fenceline of private property before finally coming back to the trail junction, completing the loop. From there, it was a quick walk back south towards the car. The mountainbikers passed me about 100 yards shy of the parking lot, finishing first. That answers that question. My own time was something around 1:45. Nice hike and wonderfully close to town. Just before hopping in the car, Makenzie dropped the tennis ball for some other dog to enjoy. They must have some secret understanding in the dog kingdom that a ball you find at a trailhead must be left at the trailhead. Fine by me, it was a pretty sloggy ball by the time we were done. 

July 2, 2008
I came back to the trail with Frank and Makenzie a week after we learned Frank has untreatable cancer. It's a hell of thing to try to comprehend that your best hiking partner ever won't be making hikes with you for much longer. Even a few days before, I thought Frank wouldn't hike again, so this trip was very significant. The day was radiant, much more than on our previous hike which was overcast and cool, but I didn't have my camera with me to capture the moment. Maybe that's best...the beauty in memories always trumps a photograph. We took 4 hours for the hike that normally takes less than 2, spending extravagant time sitting in the woods well off the trail, savoring each moment.  When Frank was a pup he liked to chase rocks we'd throw for him in the field. You could throw the rock 30 feet away and he bound after it, hopping high in the tall grass like a deer so he could hear it hit the ground, then he'd pounce on it and dig a little in the ground. Then he'd bounce his head up, cock his ears out in a jaunty angle that Andra terms "Gromit Ears", waiting for a new rock with his tail wagging furiously. I suppose this simulated the thrill of the hunt for an essentially urban dog. This game has never gone out of style, and we played it in the woods for quite some time against the backdrop of Lovell Gulch. Rocks were hard to come by in the woods, so I used small spruce cones instead. At 10 years old, Frank doesn't hop like a deer, or really even chase after the rocks or cones at all. They pretty much have to land immeidately at his feet for him to pounce and dig, but he still has those Gromit Ears, and still wags his tail furiously, so it's all fun for everyone. Here's a clip taken nearby later in the day. During these times Makenzie ran wildly through the woods, tongue lolling, chasing squirrels. The sun was very white as it filtered through high clouds, and the light shining off the Kinikinik ibeneath the spruce trees seemed unearthly. We took a few of the side trails we had passed over before, and enjoyed the quiet of a weekday in the forest. We made awesome memories that day.

July 6, 2008
After hiking to the summit of Mt Huron the day before, Christine, Andra, Mike, Makenzie and I (and Frank too, though he missed out on Huron) hiked the full loop under another cloudy sky. The columbines were at peak bloom, and it was a perfect quick hike to fit in before Mike had to leave for Denver at noon to catch a flight back to Vermont. It was especially gratifying to see Frank trot through the woods so comfortably and quickly, as we did the full loop in under 2 hours and he showed no sign of fatigue. It's wonderful to have a great trail like Lovell Gulch so close to town.

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