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Corral Creek Trail, CO August 23, 2008

March 1, 2009

Posted March 1, 2009

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I decided, one Saturday last summer, to head back up to the Long Draw road area for another hike (yah, if you note the “posted” date above, I’m just a mite behind on my blog : ).  I’d recently hiked the Trap Park trail (see my prior post to this one) and wanted to see what else was in that little known (to me) area.  Taking a look at the map I could see that not too much further up the road from the Trap Park trailhead was a nice looking stream called Corral Creek.  It looked like there was an extensive set of open meadows along the creek.  So, it should be nice hiking and held the possibility of seeing moose.

Before I go any further in the trip’s description, here is my standard comment. Please check my photo galleries here for all the larger and higher quality photos for this trip. The photos in the gallery are a quantum leap in size and quality compared to the little teaser photos I put in this site’s trip narrative. I have two other links that will help locate the area if you are interested in making the hike yourself. A Google Earth map can be found here. Use the scale bar on the left side of the Google map to help zoom in or out to help locate the area based on where you live. (This link will direct you to a Google map that shows ALL my trips.) In order to help you with the actual trail itself, you can use this link to view a topo map of the Corral Creek trail. All links open a new browser window.

In addition to the Google map link above, below is a Microsoft Live map.  The red tack shows the general location from Fort Collins, CO.  You can click on the map to bring it up in a “live” mode.

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I got up to the area fairly early in the morning (well, early for me; probably around 10 am which meant I left Fort Collins around 8 am).  A rather cool and cloudy morning, by the way.  But, I had rain gear, so no big deal.  One thing that seemed to be different about the creek, from looking at the map, was that there was no indication of a “trail”.  So I just went up and found a place to park on the road that was close to where the stream crossed.  There was a small rise that I immediately had to get over.  Looking back to the south, downstream, I could see the Big South Fork of the Poudre River canyon/valley.  I think that is Comanche Peak in the distance.

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This is what can be seen looking west up the Corral Creek valley.  If you look at a map, you can see that the stream parallels the road (off in the trees to the right) for a good 2-3 miles.  The creek then curves away from the road (to the left) once you get closer to that mountain in the distance.

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Here is a zoom in of that area.  So, instead of going to the right, close to that cabin that you can barely see in the trees, I would be going left up the main valley.

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Here is a further zoom at the cabin. Again, the creek comes in from the left.  So instead of going “right” (past the cabin), you head “left” to continue up the creek (so to speak : ).

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I mention all this because you probably could, if you wish, park further down the road and cut across to skip the part of the hike that is  parallel to the road.  That said, the hike along the left/south side of the Corral Creek meadows was quite nice and far enough from the road that you easily forgot it was there (too far away to hear any of the vehicles).

So, I took off along the stream.

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However, I quickly found out that the best thing to do was to stay up along the edge of the meadows along the tree line.  The meadows themselves were, in many areas, quite wet and boggy.  Even up close to the trees you had to cross a lot of “drainages”.  Lots of springs, really, that drained down into the stream.  Very pretty, but you had to watch your step or you would quickly get wet feet.  I did see a lot of moose/elk sign, but nothing of the animals themselves.

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At this time of the year, and at this elevation,the main crop of wild flowers seemed to have come and gone.  But there were still a few around.

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Pretty from a distance, and even nicer close up : )

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As I stated already, there really was not a designated trail to follow (that I ever found), but you could usually find game trails that took you in the right direction.  I used them to cut across some of the smaller hills in order to straighten out my hiking somewhat.

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I mentioned that the first couple of miles paralleled the road across on the other side of Corral Creek.  Here is a photo that shows what you could see of the road.  Pretty nice distance (I could never hear any of the few vehicles that were traveling it) and most of it was in the trees.  So, very much “not there”.  That said, you can’t expect a true wilderness setting : )

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As I stated earlier, staying up near the trees is best if you want to keep your feet dry (unless you have waterproof boots).  That said, being out in the wet meadows provides for some nice views of the area that you could not get from the trees.  So, occasionally I walked out into the meadow.  This is looking “up” Corral Creek.

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Here is a photo looking back down the creek (eastward).

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Zoom in a little.

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The hike along the creek to where it veered away from the road took a lot longer than I thought it would.  But, I did eventually get to that point.  Here is a photo of that cabin that is the demarcation point for Corral Creek veering away from the road.  Also, this shows another reason it was taking so long.  The game “trails” (using the term rather loosely) were not nearly as easy to follow through the willow brush as up along the tree line.

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Zoom in a little.

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Max zoom.  Some one has a nice little getaway cabin : )  Looks like there may be a small pond out there also.  That’s a beaver lodge poking above the bushes between the cabin and where I’m standing.

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Anyway, I “turned the corner” (so to speak) where the creek began to curve around to the southwest and had to make a decision.  Should I stay on this side of the creek or cross over to the other side?  There were a lot of pros and cons either way.  The other side appeared to be easier hiking (from what could be seen at this point), but would add mileage to my hike.  Staying on this side looked shorter, but I might have to do a little more “bushwhacking”.

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I decided to stay on this side.  Turned out to be an ok decision, but crossing to the other side probably would have worked out fine also.  In fact, if you start hiking up Corral Creek by stopping on the road close to that cabin’s driveway, it would make sense to stay on the other side.

As I thought, I had to do a little bushwhacking to skip some areas along the creek that looked too wet.  I crossed over a little ridge which let me enjoy true “woods hiking.”  Did find some pretty nice game trails to follow and, in general (mostly), was never out of sight of Corral Creek.

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Another slightly different section.  Pretty nice.  Remember that when doing hikes like this (so, not following designated/maintained trails), keep aware of where you are at all times.  If you daydream while doing “off trail” hiking, it’s pretty easy to get turned around (lost).   Unfortunately, I know this from experience : )

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I eventually got to a point where I could see the Corral Creek valley again.  This is looking across the valley.  And looking quite nice.

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Then, a little further along, I could get a full view of the upper Corral Creek drainage.

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Zoom in a little.  Yes, quite a bit of country up here to wander around in.  And no real trail, so pretty remote.

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Got up to a really nice meadow which gave a pretty good view of the upper valley of Corral Creek.

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Zoom in a little.

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This part of the hike was about as far as I went.  I tried going a little further, but ran into some deep forest and lots of wet areas.  In addition, it decided to rain for a while. So, decided to turn back.  If someone was coming up for an overnight trip, then it would be worthwhile to try and go further.  But, be prepared to do a lot of bushwhacking through the brush, downed trees, and wet/boggy meadows.  Probably worth it once you got further up the valley into the upper bowls.

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Here are some views from the last nice meadow (dry : )  Sorta panning from left to right.

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And here is a pano made up of those photos (better quality is available on my website (http://www.geoffw.smugmug.com/gallery/7165464_8cCqp#460369147_Chxrx-X2-LB ).  I did meet up with a couple of other day hikers at this point.  Otherwise, seems like a nice place for a campsite.  Pretty good chance to see moose in the evening and/or early morning.  Or, elk in the Fall.

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Also met this guy on the trail.  Think I’ve seen him on some of my other hikes.  Could be a stalker : )

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Heading back down the trail I happened to spot what I at first thought was some sort of bee or moth or something flying around the grass.

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But, I’m pretty sure it is a hummingbird.  One of the few I’ve actually encountered in the “wild”.  I think that long windy thing is it’s tongue.  I think, but I’m not a humming bird expert.
OK.  After some further research, I think this may not be a hummingbird, but rather a “hummingbird moth”.  Please see this link.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macroglossum_stellatarum That link seems to be about a European species.  This link        (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hemaris )is about American species.  Maybe they have only recently started appearing in Colorado?  Interesting.  Again, check my gallery (see link above) in order to get a really good view using a larger photo which allows you to see good detail.

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It pretty much ignored me, but was very tough to actually get a good photo since it’s flight was so erratic and swift.  I took a lot of photos of just the grasses and flowers because the humming bird/moth would be gone by the time the camera went “click” : )

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Have to say it was an entertaining interlude in my hike.

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It was definitely getting something from the few remaining wild flowers.

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It would literally bury it’s head in them.  Pretty amazing.  I should have stuck around to see if it would fly back to a nest, but the day was getting on and I had several miles left before the end of the hike.  Obviously, if it is a “moth”, then no nest.

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After saying “bye” to the moth (or, whatever it was), I turned into the final leg of the hike down Corral Creek.  The clouds had mostly cleared up giving me some great views.

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Here is slightly different photo of that.

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Zoom portrait mode.

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Crossed Corral Creek at one point and stopped to get some photos of the water action.

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Closer.

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Trying to stop the water.

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This was getting to be late afternoon and the quality of light in the valley was hitting that “magic” time of day.  But, although I could see it with my eyes, it was difficult to capture in a photo.  Looking back up the valley.

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These come close.

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Overview.  I had to sit for a while and just enjoy.

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Turning around you can look down into the Poudre River Canyon.

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I walked to a slightly different vantage point and zoomed in a little.

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Max zoom from the same point.  From where I parked the car, there was a trail that takes off down to the Poudre.  Looked like a 1-2 mile hike.

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Neat clouds.

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After getting back to the car and heading back down the gravel road to Colorado 14, I happened to passed a cow and calf moose in a meadow by the side of the road.  Running out into the dirt road in my bare feet (drying them out from the hike) I took, of course, more photos : )

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Hmmmm.  Zoom in a little on that.  I’ve got a movie on my web site at http://geoffw.smugmug.com/gallery/7165464_8cCqp/1/474140397_a2G7U/Original that you can use to view the moose if you wish.

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All in all, very nice hiking only a short ways from Fort Collins.  Lots of new country back in this area that I look forward to checking out next summer.

– Geoff Weatherford

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