High Line Canal Mile 62-52 Rural Aurora’s Surprises
Google said it was 7.5 miles, but our pedometers clocked us in at 8.92-10 miles. No matter how you count it, 10 walkers set out High Line Canal Segment 3 under 80 degree skies and light winds. And once again, we had a blast. In partnership with the High Line Canal Conservancy and Walk2Connect, I am leading a 71-mile walk along the High Line Canal, one segment at a time. Segment 3 walked off miles 61.5 to 52. Here’s what High Line Canal Segment 3 looked like.
We had left off Segment 2 just north of the intersection of Tower Road and Colfax, and this is where we picked up Segment 3. From mile 61.5 down to Colfax, we walked in ankle high grasses along the Canal, getting goat heads in our socks. Luckily, though, the walk was short, taking us out to Tower Road for about 100 yards along the edge of the street in gravel before crossing south across Colfax and then west across Tower. Quickly we picked up the Canal and the Trail again, continuing our walk along nice 8-foot wide cement walkways.
Ambling along, we came to our first fork in the Trail. Google didn’t help. We had come to the intersection of the High Line, the Sand Creek Trail, and the trail head for the new Triple Creek Trail. Sadly, there was no signage or wayfaring. Fortunately, I had a printed tour guide from the High Line Conservancy. In their drawing, it was clear we should take the first left of the fork (taking the right fork would put us on the Sand Creek Trail), and then we would take the next right at the next fork. The right put us on the High Line, but the left would put us on the Triple Creek. Signage is definitely needed here, as I suspect this will be a major intersection once folks discover this new trail head built by the City of Aurora.
We settled into a nice pace, and we really began to notice how rural we were despite the fact we were just south of Colfax. Horse farms graced the south side of the Canal where tractors plowed up hay for them, while the north side of the Canal played host to the opposite–earth movers putting in a new subdivision or new businesses. The juxtaposition of the rural to the new development jarred us. We also started to see some interesting aspects of the Canal, including some older stonework, head gates and large cottonwoods.
One thing that makes walking the Trail so adventurous is that wayfaring and mile posts go missing. We hadn’t seen a mile market since 60, so as we approached our second crossing of Colfax, we assumed we were at about mile 58. The Trail crosses Colfax-that’s four lanes with a divided median. Rather than risk it, we walked just a bit to the west. There we crossed Colfax to the north and then Airport Road to the west. We then walked north along Airport to catch up with the Trail as it crossed over Airport. (A bit later, we would come across mile marker 58 on the south side of Colfax, but there’s no way it was a mile. By crossing Colfax and picking up the 1.5 miles around Norfolk Glen and Star K, we certainly added at least 2 miles to our walk.)
Here at the Airport Road crossing just north of Colfax, the Trail crosses Airport–and, four lanes with a divided highway. Traffic and pedestrian signage is minimal at best and a crosswalk does not mark the street. We had played it safe to cross down at the intersection, but not a group of bikers. As we caught back up with the Trail, we found a group of 5 bikers trying to unsuccessfully cross Airport in the unmarked crossing. I convinced them to go down to the intersection, and they gleefully complied. We picked up the Trail and the Canal and continued west.
Mile 57, no wait, Mile 58?
The Trail and Canal turn west and border the Norfolk Glen Open Space managed by Adams County. To the north are gorgeous views of tall grasses and a mixture of hard woods. A red-tailed hawk treated us to a good ten minutes of thermal exercises while smaller birds tried to scare it off. We passed the sign that told us we could connect back to the Sand Creek. By taking that connector trail, we could get to the Morrison Center at Star K Ranch. But our goal is to walk the High Line, so we continued west. Needing a break, trail magic intervened and delivered us a cute little park, Norfolk Glen Park, with a pavilion and tot lot. We settled into some long-wanted shade and took a break.
Mile 56, no wait, 58?
The Canal and Trail horseshoe-bend back upon themselves and turn south. We continued our trek along the Trail as we started to come into some businesses, and we could tell we were approaching Colfax again. To our west, tucked into the long grass and along a creek, which I believe was the Sand Creek, we spotted two tents. Perhaps homeless? Squatters? When we arrived back to Colfax, again the Trail crossed in the middle of a four lane, divided road. But we spotted a 7-11 at the intersection to the west at Laredo and Colfax. Bathrooms! Slurpees! Thus, we made a pit stop.
Mile 55, no wait, 58!
After our pit stop, we walked east back to the Trail and continued south. Almost immediately, we spotted mile marker 58. Feeling a bit like we were in a time warp, we continued south. At this point, we certainly felt the Trail had become a transit tool for local folks walking to and from groceries and homes. Not long we came across a man racing his remote control cars in his backyard that he had fashioned into a remote control racetrack which he called Bash Town. Across from him on the west side of the canal, we found several farms housing chickens, goats and sheep.
We continued on our mysterious mile 58, and soon we came across some more fun hardware of the Canal. It was easy to see how the Canal watered the local agriculture, but it was not easy to determine the last time any water might have flowed to these small goat and sheep farms. Soon, we found a wonderful bridge connecting the neighborhood to Hinkley High School where a track meet was competing. Thinking it was a wonderful breezy spot for a break, we sat down and enjoyed youngsters running track and field.
After enjoying a nice break and a chance to watch the track meet, we continued south. Along this mile, the City of Aurora has built many small bridges on the east side of the Trail to allow folks to cross the Canal into their neighborhoods. At this point, the Trail is certainly a conduit for pedestrians and commuters alike. For the first time, we even began to see folks out jogging on the Trail, a first since we had started back at mile 71.
I do have to say that despite our confusion on mile markers in the 57-60 range, the City of Aurora has done a beautiful job at wayfaring and sign posting. At nicely placed intervals, nice maps started to show up along the Trail doing a great job of wayfaring. They also gave a nice regional view of the Aurora Trail System, pointing out some of the creeks and other trails that connect up or run close to the High Line Canal.
Finally, we began our approach into DeLaney Farms! Coming down the slight hill past the Community College of Aurora, a nice breeze followed us into the outskirts of the Farm. Prairie dogs barked our approach and even were kind enough to pose for us. Students relaxed on picnic tables, lovely views of waist-high grasses invited us to keep walking, and beautiful ravines of hard woods framed our vistas. Soon, we found our next break, a lovely pagoda of shade with a picnic table. We didn’t care that the table had no chairs–our dogged feet were tired and the shaded concrete was good enough.
Realizing we were on the last stretch of our 7.5 mile walk that had certainly become longer, we journeyed on. At this point the Trail begins to turn westerly to parallel Alameda. A red-tailed fox ran in front of our lead walkers, and those picking up the rear enjoyed a few hawks flying above the ravines. Although the temperature was around 82, a nice breeze kept us cool despite shade that was few and far between.
We paced at about a 20-22 minute mile. By keeping track of our time, I could anticipate when we’d come across the next mile marker. Mile 54 never showed itself to us, so I guess we crossed Mile 54 at the point that the High Line Canal connects with the West Toll Gate. Here the Canal sports a spiderweb of gates and diversions, sending water to the southwest along the West Toll Gate spur. Also, we could see the Toll Gate Creek meandering its way under Alameda.
At this point, I simply began guessing at mile markers. But the last mile into the end of our final step on Segment 3 certainly housed some surprises. We finally made it to the headquarters of DeLaney Farms, where we spied the Historic Register-listed silos and homes. We could see Denver Urban Gardens off in the distance tending their crops for the summer. We then went under Chambers via the Wedding tunnel. At the western end of the tunnel, rather than continuing to the back side of the Aurora Central Library, we took a u-turn and walked up to Chambers. To our surprise, a deer appeared out of no where, in a super populated area of the trail, but with enough grass to hide! At Chambers, we went south. On the northwest corner of Chambers and Alameda sits a xeriscape garden maintained by the City of Aurora. Skimming along the gardens as we moved west and made notes of the natives and drought-tolerant plants, we finally arrived back to the library.
We Made It
When you think you’re going for 6 miles, then you adjust for 7.5, and it becomes almost 10, joy takes over at the end. It has to! As we pulled into our last 100 yards when walkers checked their pedometers, smiles and giggles appeared. Rather than being angry at the misjudgment in distance, everyone was thrilled to find out they were able to walk the distance we covered. One lady even said she’d never walked that far in her life. None the less, we all posed for our final picture, and everyone stated they can’t wait for the next segment. Will you join us for High Line Canal Segment 4? See below.
To see all the pictures from High Line Canal Segment 3, watch this video. I had user error on the GoPro, so there is no video. Sorry.
- Wednesday, 7/20 @ 5:00 p.m. | The Creeks of Aurora: Westerly, East Gate, and Toll Gate | 5.5 | Miles Details & Registration
- Saturday, 8/6 @ 9:00 a.m. | Denver’s Urban Core with a Cherry Creek Respite | 10.5 Miles | Details & Registration
- Friday, 8/12 @ 4:00 p.m. | Beautiful Cherry Hills | 8 Miles | Details & Registration
- Sunday, 8/28 @ 9:00 a.m. | Greenwood Village | 4 Miles | Details & Registration
- Monday, 9/5 (Labor Day!) @ 9:00 a.m. | A Long Amble Through Littleton | 10 Miles | Details & Registration
- Wednesday, 9/14 @ 6:00 p.m. | Fly’n By Highlands Ranch | 5 Miles | Details & Registration
- Friday, 9/23 @ 6:00 p.m. | Down and Back Plum Creek | 8 Miles | Details & Registration
- Saturday, 10/1 @ 9:00 a.m. | Southern Terminus and Waterton Canyon | 3-5 Miles | Details & Registration
The more information about the High Line Canal Conservancy and how they advocate for the Canal, visit their information at www.highlinecanal.org. For more information about whole health, community walking initiatives, visit www.walk2connect.com.