Recently along Fountain Creek, we came to a kiosk educating about the history and ecology of this riparian corridor. There was also a refreshing suggestion:
“Don’t let speed or time rob you of wonder and discovery,” reads a passage from naturalist Tom Brown. “Slow down. Better yet, sit down. ... When you are truly still, both without and within, then nature will begin to unfold its secrets.”
Plenty of benches are available along the trail from Fountain Creek Regional Park — places to do as Brown advises. To listen to the stream and birds. To gaze at Pikes Peak between the tall cottonwoods. To enjoy simple pleasures of this preserve along the banks of Fountain Creek, seemingly far removed from the adjacent, busy thoroughfare.
We started from the trailhead at the end of Duckwood Road. We went west (straight rather than left or right), joined by cross-country skiers after a recent snowfall. Winter silence prevailed until about a half-mile, at a short but mighty waterfall over a dam. Cross the bridge for the aforementioned kiosk, which chronicles the Chilcott Ditch, its water first appropriated for irrigation in 1866.
This loop continues with the trail trending northeast toward Fountain Creek Nature Center, a pride and joy of the El Paso County parks system. The path meanders through Cattail Marsh Wildlife Area, rich with biodiversity and a birder’s paradise.
At a picnic pavilion, we continued uphill on the trail to the nature center, overlooking the wetlands and foothills beyond. This is a site for more discovery before continuing on the other side of the building, descending to a foot bridge. Cross it and turn left (east), following another tranquil stretch of water back to the parking lot.
Trip log: 2 miles, 232 feet elevation gain
Getting there: Going south on Interstate 25, take exit 132A for Mesa Ridge Parkway. Keep right for U.S. 85/87 and continue to Fountain Creek Regional Park, 2010 Duckwood Road. Follow past maintenance facility to trailhead.
FYI: Park open 5 a.m.-9 p.m. Foot traffic only in Cattail Marsh Wildlife Area and no dogs.
SETH BOSTER, THE GAZETTE