Winding along the road to Reynolds Park in Conifer, bright green leaves popping out of aspen branches are a welcome sight after a long, cold winter that didn't want to quit. After arriving at Reynolds and heading onto Oxen Draw Trail, you notice that the woodland park is alive with springtime activity. Birds perched in high trees call to each other, and delicate wildflowers are blossoming brightly on the forest floor.
Spring has returned!
On a cloudy Wednesday morning, a group of Colorado Mountain Club hikers were taking in spring sights while making their way along the Oxen Draw Trail. After crossing a small stream, the hikers headed up the hill toward the intersection with Eagle's View trail, which holds the promise of sweeping views of Rampart Range and Pikes Peak.
However, a gurgling brook and bold rock outcroppings along the way are also visual delights. Walking through the forest, you can take in the sounds of rushing water, squirrels fussing at one another, and melodic birds singing to their mates. You can breathe in fresh, moist air scented with earth and conifer needles.
The CMC hiker at the head of the group was concerned that she was going too slow for the rest. However, a walk through the woods on a soft, spring morning doesn't have to be a heart-pounding endurance trip.
On the way back down the trail, a single hiker comes into view. She looks peaceful and unencumbered.
Hiking solo does have its advantages. You can go as fast or slow as you like, and as far as you want to travel. Sights and sounds of the forest are clearer when there is no conversation among fellow travelers about hiking gear, jobs and spouses.
However, most trail guide books advise against hiking alone. And there are some risks. If a single hiker is injured or lost, help is not immediately available.
One idea to consider for those who enjoy hiking in their own company is to let someone know when and where you are going, and the time you expect to return to civilization. Also, it's doubly important to carry hiking necessities, including an extra layer of clothing, water and food. A compass or GPS device, whistle, first-aid kit and matches are also recommended.
Hazards for all hikers include unexpected severe weather and encounters with rattlesnakes and other wildlife, including bears. By checking the weather forecast before heading out, and staying on the main trail, hazards can be minimized.
From the parking lot, the Oxen Draw Trail begins shortly after a brief venture on the Elkhorn Trail. After hiking a little less than a mile, you reach a trail junction with the Eagle's View and Raven's Roost trails. By heading left at the junction, you access the Eagle's View Trail, where you can gaze at snow-covered mountains, if the weather is clear.
Eagle's View is a moderately challenging 2.2-mile loop with a 547-foot elevation gain, which brings you back to the trail junction with Oxen Draw Trail — after a 0.3-mile walk to the right on Raven's Roost Trail, that is. With an elevation gain of 610 feet on the Oxen Draw Trail, a hiker has climbed more than 1,100 feet in about 2 miles on these trails.
Hiking and horseback riding are permitted at Reynolds Park, but not mountain biking. The park is within the Jefferson County Open Space system and has the same opening and closing times as others in the extensive system: from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset.
To get to Reynolds Park, travel to Conifer on U.S. 285 and turn onto Foxton Road by the directional sign to the park. After traveling 5.5 miles on Foxton Road, you will see the parking area on the right.
For those who would like to picnic either before or after hiking, there are picnic tables near the stream. The park also has restroom facilities.
Contact Sandy Barnes at email@example.com.