I probably hadn't gone even 100 yards down the trail before I started paying the price for being a couch potato for the past 3 or 4 weeks. Since the trail goes into a canyon, you start out going downhill. It's steep. My legs were quivering with every step. It was embarrassing and I planned to stop and be taking pictures in case anybody else came along, so they wouldn't see how terribly out of shape I was. I wondered how far I would be able to go before my legs gave out completely and collapsed under me. Well, I had driven out there twice, it had taken me 4 hours to get there, so I planned to keep going until I had just enough strength left to get back out.
The sides of the Clover Canyon look like they must be made of petrified sand dunes. It's pretty rock. It's the same rock from top to bottom. I tried to guess how deep the canyon is and decided that it was at least 300 feet, which is a long way to go on wobbly legs. I had to try, though. Whenever I stopped, I thought I could hear flowing water down below. I decided I was being fooled by wind through the pines, though. I could also hear voices now and then. I saw at least 3 other hikers during the day.
I did make it to the bottom, and it didn't seem to take too long (about 40 minutes) or to be too torturous (I could still stand). It sure felt good to walk on semi-level ground, but my legs felt like lead. There really was water flowing in West Clear Creek, too. The water is full of fish and crawfish. The creek must flow year round.
I wandered around for about 40 minutes taking pictures. I wanted to get out of the canyon before dark and figured it might take me a long time to make the climb, so I didn't want to stay at the bottom very long.
I did a lot of sitting and walking very slowly while I was at the creek. Still, I had sweat trickling down my temples the whole time. It was very humid down there. It was only 85 when I started the hike, so it wasn't heat making me sweat.
Since I was at almost 7000 feet and the trail is steep, I knew the hike back up would be slow going. I moved very slowly but still had to make frequent stops to catch my breath. My legs were tired, of course, but at least they didn't wobble going up hill. At that altitude I always had to stop for air long before my legs gave out. It only took me about 50 minutes to get back out. I was hungry and after a while all I could think about was going to get something to eat. I would stop to rest and think about being hungry and immediately start moving again.
I checked when I got home and learned that the canyon is 700 feet deep. I'm glad I didn't know that when I started out. It's a beautiful area and well worth the effort, wobbly legs and all. Click below to see all of the pictures.