I parked at the first large pullout on the left and the Five Mile Gulch (#2) trailhead was just a few steps further down the road.
Right away I could see I was going to get greener views thanks to Five Mile Creek than on the other hikes I had encountered in the area.
I also got to see tiny Woodland Star flowers blooming here and there in the shadier spots.
I didn't get close enough to the sheep to smell their wool, but I did get close enough to smell a variety of new-for-me wildflowers.
At the intersection with the Watchman (#3) trail I continued straight instead of turning right to follow the Five Mile Gulch trail.
As the trail gently climbed I crossed the creek a few times and then started seeing masses of Arrowleaf Balsamroot.
And the Lupine was just starting to open up on the sides of the hill.
I continued to make my way up the gulch, wondering what else I was going to find and enjoying my last big hike before I had to go back to Wisconsin's woods.
As the trail crossed a creek yet again it made a sharp left turn and started to climb the side of the hill. Waterleaf was thriving in the shade of the Cottonwood and Locust trees near the water.
And tiny blue butterflies gathered to enjoy the shade and water too.
Now that I was on the side of the hill and not in the gulch the profusion of wildflowers increased. If anyone knows what this one below is called please let me know!
The view and the wildflowers were so stunning I was inspired to make a short video!
I kept zigzagging from one hill to another as I circled one gulch and moved to another. When I passed through a section that was particularly shrubby I spooked a grouse but it was gone too quickly for me to get a picture.
As the miles and the hours accumulated I started to worry a little bit. I didn't realize the hike was so long since I had asked for a suggestion for a hike that was 2-5 miles in length. I didn't see the dirt road, or my car, anywhere...
But eventually I came upon the intersection for Three Bears (#26), and then it was a steeper downhill route through some grazing land for a mile before I made my way back to Rocky Canyon Road. If you take this loop make sure to keep your eyes open for the turn on Three Bears that says "To Rocky Canyon".
My knees were complaining, but my heart was happy after the challenging hike. This one is definitely a keeper, just watch out for the mountain bike riders that started showing up after the work day was done!