Catamount and Thomas trail photos

Catamount and Thomas trail photos

Photos taken on the Catamount and Thomas trails near Green Mountain Falls, CO, July 7, 2011.

Copyright (c) 2011, Sandra J. Loosemore. Photos are provided for personal viewing only; no other use is permitted without prior written consent.


This hike starts at the town park in Green Mountain Falls, where there is a lake (apparently stocked with fish) with a gazebo. This is very civilized, with restaurants and a motel right across from the parking area.
You have to walk about 3/4 mile up this dirt road (or more of a jeep trail) to reach the "real" trailhead for the Catamount trail; the signs warn that there's no parking along the road.
Here's the end of the road, at last. It's actually a pretty steep climb just to get to this point.
Beyond the gate, the jeep trail continues to service the water tank in the lower left. Catamount Falls are just beyond, below the cliffs.
The lower part of the falls is visible from the bridge beyond the water tank.
More falls, from higher up the trail.
Still more falls. There's a fair amount of water in the creek due to recent rains.
Mertensia and raspberry bushes grow in the damp area around the falls.
The yellow trail to the left is the Thomas trail. I'll be back to investigate that later, but first I'm going to continue following the blue dots on the Catamount trail. Both these trails are maintained by the town of Green Mountain Falls.
The trail leaves the creek and starts a long switchback uphill, to the right of the cliffs in the photos above. This is a north-facing slope so it's mostly in the trees, but every once in a while you get a view like this; that's highway 24 visible below. Unfortunately, you can hear the traffic noise and also various construction noises from the town below the whole way up this trail, so there's not much illusion of wilderness here. OTOH, I was slightly worried by the trailhead signs warning that there really were catamounts (mountain lions) in this area.
This part of the trail is in pretty good shape, except for occasional boulders you have to climb over or around. There are even stones laid to form "stairs" at most of the steep places.
Being in the shady pine forest, there weren't too many wildflowers, but here's a tall stalk of green gentian growing in a patch of, um, waxflower shrubs?
I was getting very discouraged at this point in the trail, and was considering turning back. It's only moderately steep here, but the trail has deterioriated into a rocky mess so that the walking has become extremely tiring. After consulting the map, though, I figured it was only about a quarter mile more to the top of the ridge, so I decided to keep going after all.
There's really no trail here at all -- just the blue trail markers to indicate where to pick your way across the rock. Especially when coming back down this section, I was wishing I had a hiking pole for balance.
Here's the view looking across to the north from just below the top of the ridge.
Finally at the saddle.
View along the flat area on the ridge top.
Now the trail drops over the other side of the saddle, into a flat meadow where it rejoins Catamount Creek. The trail maps and signs along the trail refer to this section as "The Garden of Eden".
The meadow is full of wildflowers.
Rock formations line the north side of the meadow.
Here's a rose, with an insect.
Yellow buttercups growing near the stream.
More buttercups.
These yellow flowers belong to a potentilla shrub.
Black-eyed susans.
Closeup of a black-eyed susan.
White geraniums.
And the more common pink geraniums.
More wild roses, with rock formations visible in the background.
Purple fleabane, growing right alongside the trail.
More fleabane.
These are Eaton's penstemons, also growing right by the edge of the trail.
These towering stalks with umbrella-shaped clusters of white flowers are cow parsnips, a member of the carrot family.
Here's another big patch of cow parsnip, with some white campion (the inflated-looking pods with small white flowers) mixed in. I think the latter is an introduced weed in this area.
Close-up of cow parsnip flower head.
Here the meadow has become broader and more open. The valley curves around to the left (south) as you head upstream. Pikes Peak is also somewhere over on the left, but it's not visible behind the ridge.
More piles of rock off to the north side of the trail.
Still more piles of rocks.
I think these yellow flowers growing in the sunny meadow area are some kind of ragwort -- the leaves look like they ought to be pretty distinctive, even if the flowers aren't.
There were also a lot of pussytoes growing in the sunny area.
More pussytoes.
Yarrow growing in the sunny meadow.
A tall creamy thistle at the edge of the sunny meadow. Unlike the weedy purple ones, this is a native species.
Close-up of the thistle flowers, and a visiting butterfly.
These pretty purple flowers are fireweed.
Ooops, a little out of focus. This fireweed is crawling with aphids, ants, and ladybugs. The aphids are parasites that suck the sap from the plant. The ants "farm" the aphids and eat the honeydew they secrete. Meanwhile, the ladybugs are predators that simply eat the aphids.
Northern bedstraw flowers.
The trail is still going through great patches of wildflowers.
There was a really big mountain ninebark shrub here.
Here's a view of the stream, with assorted cow parsley, buttercups, mertensia, etc. We've pretty much reached the far end of the meadow here, and the canyon is starting to close in and become more shady.
This log bridge was the end of the trail for me. From here, the trail follows Catamount Creek up to the dam that forms South Catamount Lake; it's another half mile or so. I was really more interested in seeing wildflowers than the dam, so at this point I decided to retrace my steps, back through the meadow, through the rocky section of trail, and down the switchbacks.
Remember that trail junction near the falls? If you follow the yellow dots onto the Thomas trail, almost immediately you come to this creek crossing.
More falls visible upstream from here.
The trail climbs steeply up the left side of the creek, with still more falls above.
View looking out northwestward from the falls. Hmmmm. I'd been hearing rumbles of thunder all the way down but it seemed to be a long distance away. Now it's looking pretty ominous towards the north even if the sun is still shining where I am.
The yellow-dot Thomas trail contours along the mountain to end up at another waterfall at the opposite end of Green Mountain Falls. From the map, I thought it would add about half a mile to my hike as opposed to going back down the road I came up straight to the parking area, and would be worth the detour to see the other falls. But I was dismayed by how rocky the trail turned out to be; it was tough walking, and I was getting pretty tired.
Those thunder clouds are definitely getting closer, too.
By the time I got towards the other end of the trail, it was evident that I was going to get rained on before I made it back to the parking area.
It started raining just about when I reached Crystal Creek. This is the upper set of falls.
A little bit farther downstream, this is the main part of Crystal Falls.
And, continuing downstream, yet another set of falls. Note the buttercups growing rampantly along the creek just above the falls. By this time, it was raining pretty hard. I didn't waste time trying to take pictures of any of the flowers along here because I knew there wasn't enough light.
Finally, back to civilization as the trail comes out on another jeep road. From here it's about half a mile back to the parking area at the lake. I was pretty wet by the time I got back!


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