My husband was sure the trail wasn’t too long, and was relatively close to Fort Collins. So we planned a hike to Comanche Lake for a picnic lunch after church in mid July. In the car I took a look at his handwritten directions. The first thing I noticed was that the cumulative mileage was over twice what he had mentioned at home. The drive time ended up tripled, but more on that later. The second thing was that yes, the Comanche Lake trail may be short and easy, but it starts 3.7 miles in from a separate trailhead! That would make it nearly 10 miles round trip if we got to the lake. It was written in his own writing, but he was ever so surprised when I pointed this out somewhere along Hwy 14 heading into the Poudre Canyon. However we were already committed to a trip by that point, right?
Since the drive was longer than expected, we pulled off to a picnic area beside the Poudre River for lunch. While there, a rafting tour bus offloaded and we watched about half a dozen rafts set off down the river. Further along, we turned up Pingree Park Road and that’s where the driving got fun. Now Pingree Park Road, though gravel, is well maintained. But it’s long, and definitely slower than the highway.
When at last we reached our forest service road turnoff, we were greeted by a sign warning about a “class 4″ road. We had no idea what that was… we found out that it means lots of rocks and bumps, actually really big rocks and holes in the road. It also means a few miles add another half hour. The last thing it means is that we should really consider 4wd if we’re going to make this a habit. Whew!
As you can see by the pictures, we did eventually find the trailhead. Knowing we wouldn’t make it to the lake, we decided to hike as far as Comanche Reservoir, which the trailhead sign said was just two miles up the trail. We saw it through the trees as we hiked along. Trevor rode in the backpack and Jaron had some difficulty with the rocky terrain. There were a lot of dead trees (pine beetle damage) and it was definitely not one of the prettiest hikes. There were a few nice views though.
One cool thing we found was a gentle waterfall that simply disappeared into a hole, apparently crossing the trail as an underground stream.
I could not see an outlet on the other side, though there was evidence of a dried up seasonal stream bed. Here’s a pic of the hole where the stream went subterraneous.
The kids were getting worn out and we still hadn’t reached the reservoir. Bear Creek curved near the trail at one point and Melody wanted to go touch the water. Then of course the boys wanted to touch the water too. Realizing that everyone was tired and not really knowing how much further it was to the reservoir, even though we guessed it to be maybe only a quarter mile away, we decided to celebrate the stream as our accomplishment and turn around.
Jaron was especially tired and Trevor was restless in the child carrier backpack, so the boys swapped positions. Trevor was a happy little hiker even though he kept tripping on the rocks.
Although our original goal was too ambitious for the kids, this was another great day spent as a family enjoying nature. We’ve talked about returning for an earlier start when we’re better prepared and the boys have more endurance. And although Jaron complained on the trail and said he wanted to go home, in the weeks to follow he frequently told us he wanted to go hiking again!