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Devil’s Backbone Open Space

A beautiful and diverse topography can be found at Devil’s Backbone Open Space in Loveland, Colorado. This was another place that Alan and I checked out on a Saturday morning. NOT a good time to show up here! We returned on a weekday and essentially had the place to ourselves.

We had Kara the Border collie with us. Larimer County regulations stipulate a leash, but we had a remote collar. The two Larimer County Park Officers that greeted us upon our return said Boulder County allowed remote collars, but not Larimer… she needed to be leashed. It’s nearly impossible to leash a dog and ride a horse. The thing is, Kara is the first one to give other people and other dogs a wide berth, and she listens incredibly well. I’d put my unleashed dogs up against most folks’ leashed dogs any day. But… rules are rules.

We covered 7.29 miles on a 79-degree day. Much like Bobcat Ridge, this is primarily riding in open spaces, in the sun. It is minimal elevation gain, at least what we did, logging a mere 748 feet. That is nothing compared to most of the trails we ride around here.

Horses & bikes vs. hikers

Horses and bicycles share a trail, and hikers have their own trail (although they are welcome to use the horse/bike trail.) In fact, according to a biker we met early on, the biking community had much to do with creating the trail that we rode. We encountered 4 bikers that day… a single woman, a single man, and a teenager and his preteen companion.

The single woman tried to give Kara water, but Kara wouldn’t approach her! Instead, we visited with her about what we would encounter on the trail ahead. She gave us advice, suggesting that if we passed Hunter’s Loop and continued on to Laughing Horse Loop, we should stay high and be very careful on the latter loop. She said, “People have died there!” In fact, she said, “I beg of you not to take your horses there.” She had some horse experience, according to her… so we listened.

We continued on, climbing very slowly. The Hunter’s Loop trail was straightforward and not difficult. On that section on the way down, we encountered a half-dozen deer enjoying some lunch. The view is incredible!

Devil's Backbone Open Space
A group of deer, a very rocky trail, and a warning about difficulty!

Not long after exiting the Hunter’s Loop, we saw the sign for Laughing Horse Loop. Heeding the advice of the biker, as well as the sign that said, “DIFFICULT”, we turned left and went higher. The trail shifted from mostly dirt to essentially solid rock. It isn’t just solid rock, it is like layers of slate. Nevertheless, the horses handled it just fine.

To ride or not to ride?

As we were climbing the Laughing Horse Loop, we encountered our second biker, a single man. We had seen what we thought was the back half of the Laughing Horse Loop, and it didn’t look that bad! We asked the biker if he had ridden it? He said, “No, it is too tough for me.” Hmmmm…

We decided to ride to the point where the second half of the loop began. We quickly realized that what we thought was the back half of the trail was actually a road. The trail was more of the same… rocky slate. We opted to turn around and retrace our steps.

It was on our way back that we met the teenager and pre-teen. We all know that kids that age believe themselves to be invincible, so they were not the least bit intimidated by the harder part of that loop! The teenager said he had no horse experience, but in his opinion, we’d be fine.

Alan and Sadie at the turnaround point of Laughing Horse Loop, the picnic area at the beginning of the trail, and the view on the high side of Laughing Horse Loop.

Before we rode that day, I took the three dogs that are sound on our usual 2.5-mile hike up our mountain. It was an afterthought to take Kara on our horseback ride. By the time we added our 7+ miles at Devil’s Backbone Open Space, Kara was slowing down! That’s quite a rarity, for a Border collie to slow down….

At the beginning of the trail, in addition to a nice picnic area, you will pass what used to be a plaster mill. Alfred Wild (1653-1933) discovered gypsum on his land and formulated a plan to convert it to plaster. For nearly 80 years, plaster was produced here and shipped to locations as far away as Alaska.

The plaster mill and story of Alfred Wild

It was as we reentered the parking area that we encountered the Rangers who nabbed us for a “loose” dog. I asked them about the harder half of Laughing Horse Loop. They said there were a couple of boulder “steps” that were roughly 2-foot drops. Alan and I have navigated those types of obstacles in the past. The Rangers thought we would be fine to take the horses on it. I think, should we decide to ride that trail someday, that we will do it counterclockwise. Going up the steps would be easier than going down.

Snake update!

Recently, on my daily hike up our mountain, the dogs and I startled our second rattlesnake that we’ve seen here in Colorado. I am so grateful that we have exposed all the dogs to not one but two Rattlesnake Aversion Training sessions. It saved Mica on our first encounter with a rattlesnake a couple of years ago. This time it was Leah who jumped back. Right after her retreat, I heard the rattle… Kara gave the snake an incredibly wide berth!

Shaky video… the rattlesnake was not the only one rattled!
An exciting but non-horsey adventure

This blog posted a few hours early this week, because as you are reading it Alan and I will be embarking on a great adventure! We are spending 6 days and 5 nights rafting down the Grand Canyon. We are so excited! I will have lots of photos and videos to share, showing you the Grand Canyon from the bottom, not from the top of a horse. Watch for it later this summer!

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