In my first post, I mentioned my walk up the Anemone Trail on Sunday. Checking with Google Maps Pedometer, the total round trip turned out to be just under 5 miles, with about 1.3 miles on unpaved trails. Here is a clip of Google Maps illustrating my route:
The way up felt really good on my feet. I was taking my time, stopping frequently to snack and to write. The trail is well maintained, with smooth rocks and sandy dirt for the most part. There was some gravel in the mix that was somewhat sharp, but that is common enough on trails in Colorado that I expected it. The grade was also comfortable for climbing, with a few short switchbacks in steep sections.
I arrived at the peak area of the hill with no pain and with plenty of energy, and I enjoyed the view to the west with the continental divide for a few minutes. On the way down, I decided to take another fork in the trail so I could make a loop. I had seen the trails join at the base of the Anemone trail, so it seemed like a reasonable option.
It did not take long for me to start doubting that trail, however. Portions of it looked so washed out that I wondered if it might have been a drainage to begin with. There were plenty of signs that it did receive plenty of foot traffic, but it was not well maintained. The center of the path was littered with fist sized sharp edged rocks, and the gravel there felt especially sharp. Maybe my feet were becoming sensitive just from being out so long, so that sharpness is hard to judge. The grade of that path was much worse, though. Sections of it had to be at least third class. I found that climbing downhill uses lots of new muscles and foot positions, and I slowed down dramatically. Toward the end I stopped every ten yards or so and just sat where I was. By this point the soles of my feet were extremely sensitive, making every step painful. I felt no muscle or joint pain, though, so I pushed on as carefully as possible.
When I got back to the nice trails around Settlers’ Park, the dirt and gravel there felt painful too, even though it had not bothered me on the way up. The rest of the way down I spent creeping more than walking, but as soon as I returned to pavement I was able to resume my normal gait. The difference between my pain levels from beginning to end was pretty drastic, which reminded me that though my feet are used to walking and running barefoot on pavement, I need to ease in to hiking on trails slowly.
Back at home, I checked the online trail map of the area and noticed something curious.
Now it seems less surprising that the trail was in such bad shape. In my defense, there were no barriers preventing me from taking that second path. There was even some signage here and there warning hikers off of the middle area due to restoration, so it would seem that foot traffic along it is expected. Perhaps I should check the trail maps in advance next time, though, if only to keep to the gentler trails.
It was a great hike overall, and I do not even mind how difficult it became at the end. I will never improve if I never challenge myself, and I gave myself enough time to avoid injury. Still, it did underscore my need to transition onto trails gradually. I think I will look for trails to take some shorter and easier walks more frequently before attempting something like that again.