Saturday's early morning rain did us a solid by delaying our fellow hikers and providing cloud cover for our hike up Devil's Head. Without a swim meet or baseball game to kick-start an early morning, the kids slept in, ate a big breakfast, and dallied while Rob and I debated attempting a new hike in the wet. Finally, full of bacon, pancakes and optimism, we rallied with multiple water bottles and raincoats.
After an hour's drive - much of it on bumpy, windy dirt roads - we arrived at Devil's Head. An empty overflow lot was a good sign and though the guidebook warned us to be there by 8am, it looked like our 11:11 arrival time would work for the cool and misty day. William took off, free running off massive grey boulders and large, initialed, aspen trees. Aden followed close behind, while Rob and I struck our usual tenuous balance of keeping the big kids in sight while staying back with Daniel in order to encourage his faltering steps. Daniel is usually too focused on "Are we there yet?" and "Where can we go for lunch?" to enjoy a climb.
We passed trees swizzled on the ground in mad disarray, surprised to read that they had been uprooted and tossed by a tornado last summer. Casting wary eyes on the grey sky we hustled forward. The trail runs just 1.4 miles and provides startling peeks out over the plains and foothills in all directions. As a training hike for the 14'er we plan for later this summer it wasn't quite strenuous enough, but the wildflowers, aspen and evergreen forests made us forget any other ambition.
The Devil's Head Lookout Station sits on the top of a massive rock formation at trail's end. Bill Ellis, the lookout, scans Pike National Forest daily for fires and allows five hikers at a time into his office. Rob and Daniel went in to meet Bill and get his card; Aden and I snapped selfies while ribbons of grey cloud unspooled behind us. Occasional breaks in the sky revealed windows of blue and glorious panoramas of Colorado's topography.
A fabulous way to spend the first day of the holiday weekend - a reminder that family hiking is worth the preparation and occasional complaint. Happy Fourth to all!