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BEACON Senior News - Western Colorado

Liberty Cap: an excellent outdoor adventure

Aug 30, 2017 11:00AM ● By Jan Weeks

An article in The BEACON motivated me to put a trip up Liberty Cap trail on my life list, under Things to Do This Year. And what better time than a cool Summer morning? I parked at the Wildwood trailhead, just off South Broadway, figuring I’d be up the trail and back by noon.

Then I looked at the mileage sign and gulped. Yikes! Still, as they say, a journey of seven miles begins with a single step. So donning my daypack, I set off across the rolling scrubland, ignoring the forks labeled “Corkscrew” and “Uncompahgre.” The trail climbed a little then fell a little, gaining altitude all the time.

Soon the red rock walls of the Colorado National Monument loomed ahead, bright in the early sun, a stunning blue sky overhead.

Memories of a Monument picnic in 1959 flooded through me. I could feel the scrape of my Keds on the sandstone of Saddlehorn Rock. My knees felt the jolt jumping a gap to reach the upper entrance to the Lemon Squeezer. I was 13 again, and adventure called.

The trail steepened into a shadowed gap. I wished I’d worn shorts instead of jeans. Even in the shade I was sweating. A convenient boulder beckoned so I sat and pulled my iced tea bottle out of my pack. A couple of long swigs perked me right up.

I’m fairly fit for being in my seventh decade, but my huffing and puffing was fast becoming a danger to houses made of sticks and straw. A scramble over tilted strata tossed sideways eons ago in some geological cataclysm made me wonder if I was still on the trail, but it seemed easier than the steep rock face on one side and a gully full of prickles and poky things on the other.

Several stops and photo ops later, I arrived at the juncture of the Lower and Upper Liberty Cap trails. A man passed me, running toward the top as if he were part mountain goat. Way too much work for this kid! I’d tackle the upper six miles another day. This was supposed to be fun, after all.

A sign pointed to the Corkscrew trail, two miles of downhill (I hoped!) that wound back to the parking lot. The first few yards wandered over fairly flat terrain, punctuated by cedar, juniper and the occasional yucca. Coming around a blind bend, I found myself staring into space. Lots and lots of space, with only a two-foot path between me and a long way down.

It’s called the Corkscrew for a reason, and I soon wished I had its smaller namesake and a bottle of Bordeaux to give me courage as I peered at the switchbacks that seemed to go on forever. But if John Otto could do it, so could I. I started down, which was much easier than all the up had been. Then the trail disappeared over an expanse of caprock. Which way was out? And why had I thought this was a good idea? A cairn caught my eye, then another, the time-honored way of marking a path.

I hurried on, eager to be finished with what had seemed like a good idea two hours earlier. Then a funny thing happened—I began to enjoy myself. Months in front of a computer, weeks of fall cleaning, days with the couch and TV remote fell away as I stretched into the stride, breathing easily. I had endured. I had prevailed. I had dreamed—and done it.

Take a hike!

Liberty Cap (via Corkscrew Trail) Located in Colorado National Monument

Access trailhead from Wildwood Drive.

Approximately 4 miles with a strenuous 2,000-foot elevation change. No dogs, horses or bikes.

For more information about Liberty Cap and other local hikes, visit This wonderful resource has photos and reviews of trails across Colorado and the Western U.S.

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