Trail of the Week: Spring Creek (with video)
Spring Creek isn’t a hidden gem. It’s very popular among dog walkers, casual hikers and mountain bikers.
So I was surprised when at 8 a.m. on a Sunday, there were just a few other cars at the trailhead off Amethyst Drive downtown.
My dog Dallas and I had been there a few times but never much farther than where the trail turns to singletrack. On this day, we were going the whole way up to Dry Lake Trailhead on Buffalo Pass, which totaled about 10 miles.
This might be the most casual 10 miles in Routt County, though. The incline is gradual, and the terrain is smooth. The beginning follows Routt County Road 34. After about a mile and a half, the trail branches off the “road” and becomes singletrack. From there, it’s about 3.5 miles to the top.
Spring Creek is historical in Steamboat Springs. It was one of the first access points to the National Forest through public land, using a land parcel that the city purchased from the U.S. Congress in 1910 at $1.25 an acre.
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Spring Creek Canyon is this lush little oasis. There are Aspens everywhere, 4-foot-high ferns and the constant sound of running water.
The higher we climbed, the hotter it got. There were fewer trees the closer we got to Dry Lake Trailhead, but traffic started picking up. Spring Creek is an uphill trail for bikers, but as of 2019, there is a downhill-only trail for mountain bikers, making the trail safer for people on foot.
I went into this hike with a goal to locate mushrooms. I’ve spent all summer looking at wildflowers and learning their names, but most are gone. So, I went on the hunt for mushrooms. I didn’t want to pick them; I just wanted to find them and prove that I had some sort of knowledge in locating them. I was also curious how many different types I could find.
To my surprise, I found four, maybe five different types all fairly easily. Spring Creek keeps the area moist, and the recent rain probably brought even more mushrooms to the surface.
Most mushrooms I found were right before or right after a creek crossing, of which there are 15. Most were near or on a log. The best mushroom logs are not so recently fallen that they are still green, but not so old that there is no organic material left. Mushrooms are the fruiting bodies, or the reproductive phase, of fungi, which break down material, so the log has to be at the ideal state of decay.
Most mushrooms were brown or tan and small. Some were more orange and massive. One was wavy and growing out of the side of a downed tree.
With the little knowledge I had of fungi, I was able to find more than a dozen mushrooms with little effort. It’s astonishing when you take the time to look for something, it’s suddenly right in front of you.
As crazy as it sounds, the same can be said for opportunity, change and joy.
So get out, take a hike on a trail you think you’ve seen a million times and put on a new lens. Keep an eye out for a specific color or shape. Search for mushrooms or signs of animals. Suddenly, you’ll see what you’re searching for everywhere.
To reach Shelby Reardon, call 970-871-4253, email sreardon@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @ByShelbyReardon.
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