Trout and Mule Creeks

Location: Pike National Forest, north of Woodland Park, Colorado
Map: USGS 7.5í quad: Mount Deception
Access: From Woodland Park, drive north on State Highway 67 3.9 miles, then turn left (west) onto FR342. Follow FR342 0.4 miles to an elevated dirt parking area on the left by the creek.
Trail: Easy, 2.8- mile round-trip stroll along Trout Creek, then Mule Creek. Multiple stream-crossings required, but the water is seldom more than inches deep. Good turnaround is the dirt road you cross after hiking up Mule Creek, 1.4 miles from the TH. Elevation gain=185í
Trailhead: 492216e 4321973n zone13 NAD83
Fees: None
Dogs: No posted regulations
Webcam: Woodland Park Webcam
Weather:  National Weather Service Point Forecast 
                  NOAA Snow Conditions

June 6, 2008
Andra took a job at the Colorado Lions Camp during the summer of 2008, and lived down there with the dogs. The original plan was that she would keep the dogs only while I was away on travel, but the schedule was so unpredictable that she ended up keeping them 100% of the time. I visited whenever I wasnít travelling for work, and so ended up there numerous weekends in May, June and July. Trout Creek runs right through the Lions Camp, and just up the dirt road thereís a trailhead that accesses a nice trail that runs upstream of Trout Creek, and then up the Mule Creek tributary into private land. Andra, Frank, Makenzie and I took this trail the first time in late May, as everything was greening up quickly and seemed to glow with a brilliant, deep green under an overcast sky. We started off walking west through willows along the creek, then followed the creek upstream as it curved south into alternating open meadows and dense pine/spruce forest. Numerous stream crossings were required, all assisted by rocks in the stream and waterproof boots. The water was flowing pretty nicely, though we noticed an odd and unpleasant foam on the water, often stacked up against tree branches and rocks to a height of several inches above the surface. The stream flowed through a nice canyon, and ran through a few pockets of very large spruces. Rounding a bend, Trout Creek could not be followed further because of a private property boundary, but the trail turned right and followed Mule Creek, a much smaller but nicer-looking stream, as it cascaded down a similar little canyon. We followed this to a road, crossed the road and followed it a bit further. The USGS map indicates this is all National Forest, but we encountered a private property sign on a fence, though the fence was dilapidated and had no gate across the trail, Itís unclear whether this is a legitimate private property boundary or not, but anyway we were ready to turn around and head back so we didnít press the issue. 

Video: Frank and Makenzie hanging out on the trail

Two weeks later Frank had terrible bloody diarrhea and a stool test revealed he had Giardia in his gut. Imagine, after 10 years of hiking all over the west, drinking out of thousands of streams, and he comes up now with Giardia. From what Iíve learned, it could be that he had Giardia for years and only recently his immune system has slowed down enough to allow it to flare up. Perfectly possible. My suspicion, however, is that he got it from the beaver ponds along Trout Creek. My mind kept wandering back to the foam on the water, and how the Giardia cysts could settle and linger in the fine mud around the beaver ponds. After some checking, I found out that Woodland Park sends sewage effluent out via Trout Creek at a point just a mile or two upstream from this trail, so during the summer months, the creek is majority effluent. I know modern waste treatment gets rid of the nasties and regulations wouldnít allow release of anything bad into a creek, but I also know that sometimes shit happens, equipment fails, raw sewage leaks into waterways and so forth. The Woodland Park Waste Treatment Plant is old, inadequate and is scheduled for a major renovation in 2009, according to the cityís website. We treated Frank with metronidazole which cleared him up literally in a day. Makenzie began showing symptoms a few days later, so we treated her immediately with metronidazole before symptoms (bloody, mucousy, light-colored diarrhea) became too bad, and she likewise cleared up immediately. Nevertheless, no dogs wants to go through that again, and so I hesitate to take them to Trout Creek because itís impossible to keep them out of the water. Passing by the trailhead, I routinely see dogs near the cars, and it seems to be a very popular dog-walking area, so perhaps itís fine. Still, I think Iíll take my 4-legged critters elsewhere. Itís not like there are limited options in the area. As far as hiking it alone, it would be a nice place to return to. Just donít drink the water.

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