Who Wants To Rake Leaves?
text and photography by Ryan Stikeleather
Every fall, procrastination slowly creeps into my weekends. Sure, it starts off harmless and inconsequential, but we all know the outcome. I’ve got a massive silver maple in my backyard, and every autumn, as the healthy green leaves slowly change to yellow, an epic battle starts once again—my chess match of calculated procrastination.
Do I wait for all the leaves to fall off before I rake them up? Maybe I should wait and let a sustained wind carry them from my yard? That’s not really an option…my backyard is fenced in, so the leaves just end up in a huge pile—usually up against the house and the sliding door. Which means they’ll just end up in the house (crushed into the carpet), carried in by their favorite vehicle, our dog.
By now, the gutters are full of slowly decaying leaves; they’re much easier to clean out when dry. If I wait too long, it’ll rain…or snow, and then it’ll be a goopy mess. Decisions, decisions.
I don’t ever win this game. Nature always wins. But, I’m going to roll the procrastination dice one more weekend and go for a hike instead. Go ahead Mother Nature, show me what you’ve got!
Just The Facts
- Trail: Edna Mae Bennet Nature Trail
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Elevation Gain: 400 ft
- Distance: 2.6 mi. (loop)
- Trail Use: Hiking, Mountain Biking, Trail Running
- Trail Condition: Maintained, and clearly marked
- Bring Your Dog: Yes (but must be on a leash)
- Access: Spring, Summer and Fall
- Trail Map: https://coloradosprings.gov
- Entrance fee FREE
Hiking And The City
If you’ve lived in (or even just visited) Colorado Springs, you might be familiar with Palmer Park. Palmer Park has been a part of Colorado Springs for a very long time—donated to the city in 1907—and is a popular destination for hiking within the city. With around 25 miles of trails to explore, I knew I wouldn’t be limited with options. I was looking for a quick hike and Edna Mae Bennet Nature Trail would do nicely.
While it may not get top billing as a major tourist attraction (like Garden of the Gods) the park offers an easy escape route to get away from some of the summer crowds. Autumn, however, might be the best time of all to visit. Hot days are behinds us and the cool evenings are gradually getting colder. A crisp autumn day-hike sounds perfect to me. I got the autumn part correct, but this fall has been unseasonably warm…if not down right hot. Not to be deterred, I set off on the trail.
How Difficult Is Difficult?
I think if I were new to a trail, difficulty, would be one of the first things I’d want to know. I don’t think this is a shocking statement, but trail difficulty is all relative. What is difficult for me, isn’t going to be the same for someone who just summited Mount Everest. Know your personal limits and be smart about your abilities.
Ok, great! How does that apply to this hike? This is how I see it…Palmer Park breaks trail difficulty down to easy (mostly smooth path), intermediate (some hills and loose rocks) and difficult (steep climbs and more effort required). Edna Mae is listed as difficult—and it does have some rugged parts—but overall, if you take your time, it’s a pretty easy trail.
So, is it difficult? Kinda, in some spots. Is it easy? Yes, but not all of it. It’s a “difficult” easy trail with intermediate parts—is that vague enough for you? I guess what I’m trying to say is be willing to sweat it out a little…the journey will almost always be worth it.
A Whole New World
It’s been a long time since I’ve hiked at Palmer Park. I genuinely forgot how otherworldly the environment feels. The sheer sandstone bluffs (with their mix of white and golden tones) stand out. I still like an easy start to a hike, but sometimes a quick climb is what you need. A quick climb is what I got today. The most difficult part of the trail happens right at the beginning. Wood and stone steps—which blend with the natural setting—directed me up through the narrow canyon and to the first overlook.
Even on an overcast day, the lovely views to the West take the cake. Pikes Peak stands out prominently against the skyline, a perfect backdrop to the city below, complimented by the rusty-red rocks in Garden of the Gods. It isn’t difficult to imagine how removed this spot would’ve been at the turn of the 20th century. Time and progress have change the immediate surroundings, but the views are still a big draw.
Share And Share Alike
My favorite part of the hike is actually shared with another trail. Edna Mae merges with the much longer Templeton Trail, and this sections provides the best separation from the city noise. Even though the hustle and bustle of Colorado Springs (and the neighborhoods nearby) never completely go away, the winding trail keeps your focus.
The scraggly scrub oak—now wearing earthy brown leaves—shake and shutter in the light breeze and fill the air with familiar autumn sounds. Along the path, in cracks and crevices, are small collections of purple-blue berries, shed from Utah Juniper. Dry, dusty steps carry you past Ponderosa pine and Douglas fir, accompanied by the playful sounds song birds.
A Stable Environment
The path winds back down through another narrow canyon and skirts along a sandy creek bed. I’m sure that after a good rainfall, or during spring runoff, this creek comes to life…but today it’s just dry and dusty.
From the overlooks and along the trail, you might have noticed a horse stable. This is the Colorado Springs Therapeutic Riding Center. If you’ve met any horses along the trail, it’s probably from this stable. Just another example of how unique the Palmer Park area can be.
As the trails leads back to the parking lot, I get a few more views of the chalk-white sandstone cliffs and the dry, rocky surroundings. Sometimes a short hike is just the detour you need to perk up your day. Edna Mae is a fun little hike and is a perfect way to start exploring Palmer Park, even it is does keep you from your to-do list. Then again…what’s one more weekend of procrastination going to hurt?