On the Trail: Butterfly Road | AspenTimes.com
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On the Trail: Butterfly Road

Janet Urquhart

An Aspen-area hiking guide was the first book I purchased after I moved to the Roaring Fork Valley. I quickly acquired not one, but two, wildflower identification guides as my first winter turned into spring, and added a bird book shortly thereafter. On Sunday, I found my library lacking.

My outing, up rushing No Name Creek in Glenwood Canyon, was hardly a new exploration for me. I’ve been up the side canyon several times and have always found it enjoyable. Technically, the trail has a name ” the Jess Weaver Trail ” but it has always been No Name to me. From now on, though, I’ll think of it as the Butterfly Road.

According to a guy who paused to stay out of the photos I was attempting to take of the butterfly convention going on in a wet stretch of gravel road at the start of the hike, late May/early June is a great time to see butterflies in great variety and number up No Name. He said he makes a point of hiking the canyon at this time of year and has encountered hundreds of the delicate, winged creatures on past hikes. I was admiring dozens. I’ll forgo their tongue-twisting Latin names for ones the average reader can understand: There were a lot of yellow ones and some striking black and white ones.

Butterfly identification is a lot like knowing wildflowers ” you need a book, a decent memory and ideally, a chance to examine the real thing close up. Lacking the first two, I made stealthy advances toward the mob of flexing wings congregating on the moist earth. Unlike wildflowers, butterflies have the habit of flitting away when I’m leaning in for a better look and landing on my hat brim when entomology is the last thing on my mind.

Butterflies were the last thing on my mind when I got started up the trail, my hands shoved in my shorts pockets to stave off the chill. The sun hadn’t quite topped the canyon rim and the first mile of trail is shaded, meandering through stunningly lush vegetation ” ferns, along with the first blooming lupine and wild geraniums that I have enjoyed this season. Mile 2 climbs away from the creek, which is currently a torrent of whitewater tumbling down from the Flat Tops. It gets sunny and dry, with a lot of scrub oak, as if it was a different trail altogether.

It was late morning when I headed back, forced by other commitments to turn around early, but in the shine, I began noticing the butterflies. One or two bouncing on the breeze turned into a profusion near the trailhead.

I can only report that they weren’t monarchs ” the one species I readily recognize.

I’ll be back next year ” armed with a book.

By the way, a note posted to a sign/map at the trailhead indicates the third bridge over the creek is out; I can’t imagine there’s any way to cross it safely at this time of year without the span. One can hike about 5 miles and gain 2,500 in elevation before reaching the missing bridge, according to the posted trail sign. The trailhead is at 6,000 feet.

Drive east on Interstate 70 from Glenwood Springs and take the first exit in Glenwood Canyon, at No Name. Cross over the interstate and drive past a smattering of houses to a small parking area on the left. Watch for the sign for Jess Weaver Trail parking. There’s only room for perhaps five or six vehicles. Follow the gravel road to a water-diversion structure, where it becomes a trail. On the way up the road, check out the left canyon wall for the remnants of an ancient wooden trough system that once carried water. Or watch for butterflies.


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