The Ceran St. Vrain Trail

Calypso orchids are only one of many delights along the Ceran St. Vrain Trail west of Jamestown. When we hiked the first mile or so of this trail on the solstice, the creek was running high and noisy, a roar that keeps hikers company from far below. The creek is the South St. Vrain Creek, which joins up with the North St. Vrain in Lyons. Sun-warmed rocks line the edge of the creek at the trailhead:

Wildflowers burst out of the hillside. False Solomon’s seal (Maianthemum amplexicaule) was especially happy this spring. False Solomon’s seal is in the lily family:

Nearby was a flower I don’t see very often: rock clematis (Atragene occidentalis), in the buttercup family. The petals of a rock clematis are actually sepals, and they are usually more lavender colored, but along this trail they were lavender-tinged white:

The trail flows slightly downhill through the lodgepole pine forest. Most of the trail is well shaded:

Heartleaf arnica (Arnica cordifolia), in the aster family, can be found here and there. This is the arnica that goes into remedies for sprains and bruises, a remedy that I always carry in my hiking pack:

Of course the highlight was at last discovering the fairy slipper or calypso orchid (Calypso bulbosa):

Here is the view looking backward on the trail near where we found the orchids. This is one of a few mossy spots on the trail:

Farther down the trail, we spotted cool rock formations above:

We always do a simple out and back on this trail, turning around where it joins a four-wheeler road about a mile or so in. On our way back we spotted the second highlight of the hike: a huge old ponderosa pine with a four-foot diameter trunk. I could reach my arms only halfway around this giant. After the loss of the six-hundred-year-old ponderosa on Bald Mountain in last fall’s fire, it was a special treat to find this enormous old tree. What you’re looking at here is the lower twenty feet of the tree. This tree is huge:

A circle of quiet encloses it. Step into this cool and shaded clearing, and you know you are meeting an elder. Above, the tree reaches up and up, taller than the surrounding forest:

We stopped near the end of the trail so Bodhi could paddle one more time in the shallows of the icy creek. This is the dog who hated water when he was a pup. Now he loves splashing in it, chomping it in his jaws, and of course getting muddy:

It had been a perfect solstice morning—warm but not hot, flowers and trees to enjoy. We headed to the car and out to lunch, hungry and happy.

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