Thirsty Thursday: Stanley Canyon

Rambler: Beth Drink at Hand: Green Barn Chardonnay (Impulse buy near the register at Trader Joe's...average at best)

Good evening faithful reader. Welcome to another addition of Thirsty Thursday. Time to pour something yummy (hopefully) and make those weekend plans. Since its October and most parts of the country are feeling that chill in the air and seeing some color in the trees, I figured a nice bit of fall color was in order for this evening. Throw in watching a rare Thursday night football game from the United States Air Force Academy (as abysmal as it was for a Falcon fan), and I thought a little photo essay from a fall hike up Stanley Canyon was in order for tonight.

I was at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs last October for a women's soccer alumni event. My flight out after a weekend of catching up with old friends, watching soccer games, and football tailgating wasn't until late Monday afternoon, so I decided a trail run in the wonderfully crisp air of a fall morning in Colorado was in order. I thought about doing the infamous Incline at Pikes Peak, but a little part of me said "been there, done that about 20 times" and I didn't want to deal with getting to south Colorado Springs from Monument during the morning rush. Something else was in order. The Stanley Canyon Trail is legendary amongst cadets, especially those cadets on intercollegiate teams, as there is normally some sort of pre-season "team building" run slated for this trail. Yet, somehow, the women's soccer team never did this run. Terry did it with the men's soccer team, but I'd never done it (read: Beth has no idea what she's in for).

It was such a beautiful morning that I had to take a camera along, but I wanted to run rather than hike, so I grabbed my little Canon G10 in place of the DSLR and off I went. The G10 does surprisingly well given its portability. Holy cow, the first mile or so was tough! Gaining over 1200' in the first mile, the trail is steep and rocky and fraught with the loose decomposed granite "marbles" typical of Front Range trails.

Eventually the trail leveled off a bit to a straight forward (though still very much uphill) singletrack through aspen groves and wide-open meadows. Beautiful despite the fact that many of the aspen leafs were already gone at this altitude. After 4.4 miles (according to a trail map), I arrived at Stanley Reservoir. A beautiful fall morning at a beautiful lake. I strolled around for a bit, taking in the loveliness of a great spot on a beautiful fall morning. Have I mentioned how much I love fall in Colorado?

Across the lake I noticed a still-golden aspen grove and what looked like a fire road that might lead to said still-golden aspen grove. So off I went.


At this point I had to start heading back down the trail toward my car so I didn't miss my flight. I didn't even realize I'd left the confines of the Air Force Academy and crossed into Pike National Forest until I came across this sign on the way down.

Overall, a fantastic run on a beautiful fall morning in Colorado. I was so glad I finally experienced Stanley Canyon!

If you're in Colorado Springs and would like to hit the Stanley Canyon Trail, head to the Air Force Academy. Visitors without a Department of Defense (DoD) ID card can get on base with a valid drivers license between 0800 and 1800 (that's between 8:00 am and 6:00 pm for you non-military folks). Enter the Air Force Academy though the South Gate, then turn left on Pine Drive. About 3.9 miles later turn left into a dirt road right in front of the hospital. Drive another 0.7 miles to the parking lot. The trail climbs 4.4 miles to Stanley Reservoir. The ambitious hiker/runner can continue another 5.5 miles on Pike National Forest trail #707 on to Farish Recreation Area at the top of the Front Range along Rampart Range Road. Terry tells me this portion of the trail is quite pretty, too.

Thanks for stopping by our get out there and enjoy fall this weekend!