Yesterday, Karen guided me on a path south of NCAR, a trail she has only ever hiked before with a close friend. Yesterday was a big day. Momentous.

Turn onto Lehigh St., off Table Mesa, and park at the top of Shanahan Hill. You’ll see a trailhead for the Shanahan Ridge Trail. Crowds were sparse for our noon hour, Thursday hike. The weather was classic Colorado cool air and sunshine.

I can’t imagine what might be on your mind this weekend, but I’ve been thinking about the upcoming snowshoe season.  I’ve been reading my snowshoe routes all week.  Karen and I will target Peaceful Valley trails this season.  

I’ve noted ten of them.  I enumerate them north to south with trailheads along the west side of the Peak-to-Peak Highway.

By the way, Josie, my Uber driver this morning, was from Kingston Jamaica, by way of Florida, then ATL, and now Colorado.  She was smiling under her facemask and has a 4.97 rating.  

While flying Southwest, I outlined the snowshoe adventures for Karen and me this upcoming season.  The ten routes will begin with easy-to-moderate difficulties and novice skill levels, then progress to more advanced, allowing us time to find our trail legs.

Buchanan Pass – Camp Dick Trail, our first route, is rated easy to moderate for novices and is an eleven mile out and back trek that explores the headwaters of the St. Vrain River which flows through our town.  

Our trek will begin easy and sunny, gliding through the Peaceful Valley Campground.  We will cross the Middle St. Vrain Creek twice, once going up and again on our descent.  I’m guessing the waters will be frozen.

Coney Flats Trail is rated easy to moderate. This trek will be similar to our first, following westbound along Coney Creek from the Beaver Creek area, in a seven mile, out-and-back route.  The other Beaver Creek.  

These two hikes will have established our legs for increasing technicality on the next hikes.  If we want, we could take two cars and make a loop of treks one and two, because there is a side trail that intersects the near top of Coney Flats Trail with the Buchanan Pass Trail.

North Sourdough is rated easy to moderate and will be our third route, unless we looped the first two and did them in one.  It’s nearly eight miles one way, but can be broken down into three other treks – all of which would be more pleasant, I think, if we shuffle two cars and hike the routes as loops.

Red Rock Lake and Brainard Lake are rated novice. We’ve snowshoed this several times, so I suspect we will do it only if committed to one of the three spurs that launch from Brainard Lake – Mount Audubon, Mitchell and Blue Lakes, and Long and Isabelle Lakes.

Mount Audubon is challenging as it leads to the top to a twelve thousand foot peak. I plan to skip its seven and a half miles. I’ve hiked it several times in the summer, one of my go-to trails to test friends visiting from sea-level. Audubon’s eastern slopes is where wind comes from. I can’t imagine it being pleasant in the winter. It’s the first though, of the spurs that launch from Brainard Lake, which means you must do the westbound part of the Brainard Lake trek as a warmup.

Mitchell and Blue Lakes are intermediate to expert and also launch their 10K meters round trip from Brainard Lake.

Long Lake and Lake Isabelle are intermediate, located along the Pawnee Trail that leads to Shoshoni Peak. I would love to snowshoe this one.

North Niwot Mountain and Ridge is rated moderate for intermediate to expert skill levels. It’s yet another spur from the Brainard Lake Area, turning south at Long Lake off the Pawnee Trail.

South Sourdough Trail, tucked into the Brainard Lake Recreation Area, is rated novice skill for intermediate difficulty and leads twelve miles south, from the Brainard Lake trailhead that we will have parked at several times in a row for the previous hikes, toward Nederland.

Rainbow Lakes are easy to moderate and lead out of the Brainard Lake Wilderness Area into the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area. Over five miles round trip, depending where we start, this will end our winter 2021 game plan. We do half this and it will be a good snowshoe season.