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Brainard Lake

Santa brought Karen snowshoes for Christmas so today we headed up to Brainard Lake.  We wanted to watch the Broncos play too – which we are doing right now – so we headed up early.  Even without a game to get back for it’s generally a good idea to get up to the mountains early.  The wind was expected to increase in speed each hour, and did.  Plus Brainard Lake is one of the most popular winter recreational areas in Boulder County.  Carousing with the Prices and Sebestas last night didn’t help us to get an early start, but we reached the trailhead around 9am.

Brainard Road

We drove through Lyons to get there.  The turnoff to Brainard Lake is just north of the turnoff to Ward on the Peak-to-Peak Highway.  It was snowing but drivable.  The parking lot at the trailhead only had a dozen or so cars.  I think they built this lot in 2010/2011.  It’s pretty big.  The wind was howling like a banshee.  We put on our gear sitting on the back bumper of our Honda Odyssey under the shelter of the hatch.  We practiced at home to size our boots to the shoes and ensure we were familiar with the new gear.  Still, the cold wind in 23° was brutal.

trailheadThe wind was totally absent in the trees, once we were on the trail.  We took the snowshoe trail that veers south or to the left of the Brainard Lake road.  It heads west toward the lake.  I felt like we were snowshoeing through a Hallmark postcard.  No wind.  Falling snow.  God’s country at 23°.  I wore my new Sorel Conquest snow boots that Karen gave me for Christmas.  I’ve never had a quality pair of snow boots for hiking or snowshoeing before and these are so nice.  They are super light, water proof and have a built-in gaiter.  We were both comfortable in our gear.  Karen wore a balaclava to protect her face but my face was fine bare.

Millsite Inn

The wind didn’t hit us hard until our turn-around point where the trail crosses back over Brainard Road.  This is right at 1.5 miles.  We planned to take the road back if we were tired but we weren’t.  Good thing because even though the wind would have been at our backs, it didn’t look very enjoyable.  Visibility on the road was poor with near whiteout conditions.  It took us just over an hour to reach the road, maintaining a 1.5 mile per hour pace.  We returned back through the trees.  The wind was noticeably stronger, but mostly above our heads in the tree tops.  Plus it was at our backs so going back was fine.  A number of hikers were just headed out.  They would have to deal with tougher conditions than we did.  We encountered a mountain biker with the fattest tires I’ve ever seen on a bike.  What a bad ass.  It didn’t seem possible but the wind was blowing even stronger in the parking lot as we completed our trek after 2 hours and 10 minutes.  The lot was much more full.  Apparently not everyone planned to watch the Broncos later in the afternoon.  We had time to stop for lunch at the Millsite Inn on the way home.  We ate an awesome pizza fireside.  We plan to return back to Brainard Lake next Sunday.