High Line Canal Trail, the Final Miles
Once again, the weather arrived to our walk in grand splendor. Nine of us headed out on High Line Canal Segment 11 (note: we have since renumbered the segments), our final meander of our 71 mile adventure. Feeling the love from the High Line Canal Conservancy and Walk2Connect, seven of us who had completed all ten segments were joined by two more walkers, including one brand new to Walk2Connect, for our last segment of 6 miles. Under 68 degree, mostly sunny skies, we headed west, then southerly with Waterton Canyon within sight.
Immediately in our first mile between mile markers 6 and 5, we met a herd of longhorn cattle. You’d think we’d never seen cattle before because we couldn’t get enough pictures. To our credit though, this segment was the first time we saw cattle or mounted horses.
Blue Headgate Handles, What?
While walking the Trail, we got used to many things; the consistency of the mile markers, the lack of benches, and the beautiful cottonwoods along the entire way. It actually got easy to miss things or take them for granted. As we ambled along, we would learn about this history of the Canal and notice how the Canal itself would be shallow and wide, narrow and deep, with and without water. But as if hit by a club, we all stopped in our tracks when the head gate handles turned from orange to blue. Why, we don’t know. But it was such a shocking change, one of our High Liners couldn’t resist a quick pose.
Nothing But Beauty
The entire walk contained nothing but beauty. Each town offered up its own relationship with the Canal, and walking this last segment continued the tradition. Between mile makers 4 and 5, giant homes on ranchettes provided pastoral views backed by the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Along the way, we enjoyed several horse clubs and riders enjoying the Trail.
The Original Cottonwoods
Coming into Mile Marker 3, we passed what must be some of the original cottonwoods on the Canal. These old beauties have shared their seeds for almost 71 miles, and each one always provided us shade, beauty, and care. We had sat on many of their stumps, hugged a few of them, and enjoyed their shade at just the right times. Many times we took standing breaks under these giants while eating Trader Joe snacks of dried peaches, ginger, and our favorite, Gorp Crack.
Right before Mile Marker 2, we passed a giant McMansion and then shortly beyond it, we passed one of the original homesteads along the Canal. Although we’re guessing, the same amount of people probably lived in both homes. We have no idea, but it was a joy to think about life in the original homestead versus life in the larger, custom home. Does the family in the bigger home even know where its water is coming from now?
The Final Mile
We reached the High Line Canal Parking lot, walked through it to Waterton Canyon Road, and around the overflow structure to the Platte River. Tears of joy started to flow as we all began to realize what we had accomplished. 71 miles, broken into 11 segments, of which many of us never thought we’d be able to do. We jumped over fears, strangers became friends, and seven out of an original twenty-six can now say we’ve done something only a very small percentage of Denver folks can say. We finished High Line Canal Segment 11, meaning we walked the entire High Line Canal. All 71 miles. Grin. Group hug.
But Wait, There’s More!
Having now walked the entire High Line Canal, we had many questions about the history of water and Denver Water’s role in all the water rights of western water. We wondered how the Canal was built, where the water came from, and how it was filtered. With a special thank you to Denver Water and the High Line Canal Conservancy, we got a special tour of the Kassler Center. After a slide show walking us through the historical building of the Canal and its original owners, we got to go into the original garage and machine shop, followed by the original Kassler home and administration buildings. In addition, we even toured the original filtering fields and got to see some of the original pumps and joints! I even got to stand in a cross-section of the wooden pipes that create the tunnels from the head waters.
And Thus, the End
So after 71 miles of sweat, tears, and joy, we came to our journey’s end. We couldn’t have done this walk without the support of the High Line Canal Conservancy and Walk2Connect. These two great organizations support the [email protected] movement, and they promote walking all over the front range. Please consider supporting them back if you’ve enjoyed this journey by giving feedback to the Conservancy about the future of the Canal and become a supporting member. In addition, if you love walking and learning about Denver’s great walking movement, become a Champion at Walk2Connect. Join us.
Until next time, I’ll see you on the trail.
Note: When we finished, we realized we weren’t really finished. We still had two more miles to go to the final head gate at mile marker 0.