Deer Mountain is an easy to moderate hike with a trailhead right at the intersection of Hwy 34 and Hwy 36 in Rocky Mountain National Park. There were other hikers with snowshoes but I don’t think there was enough snow for them. The trail was mostly hard-packed snow with some ice in spots. I wished I’d taken my trekking poles, especially near the top. The trail rises 1000 feet over three miles for a six mile round trip.
The trail largely side-hills through switchbacks and while it’s mostly in the trees, there are plenty of clearings with incredible views. Longs Peak can be seen to the south in both of my photos.
I turned around shortly before reaching the peak because I was on a timeline, but I got in two glorious hours of Rocky Mountain sunshine. I selected Deer Mountain because there wasn’t any parking at the other trails I wanted to try. Tomorrow I’m going to shoot for Bierstadt Trail. I think one needs to enter the park by 7am to be confident of a parking spot at the trailheads. All the trails are good though. I recommend getting up to the mountains this spring. There’s more snow on the way.
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.
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.
The snow hasn’t been great for snowshoeing around the house, but it’s awesome at eleven thousand feet. Karen and I hit two trails in Winter Park today, Little Vasquez Creek, on the south end of town, and Second Creek Trail, up very near the top of Berthoud Pass.
We had decent weather, warm and sometimes sunny. The clouds finally came in though, the snow is blowing sideways as I watch from inside my room at the Vintage Hotel at the Village. Glad we got out early.
I can play the intellectual. Chair-bound, pipe in mouth, read for hours on end, but that’s not who Karen married. Wintery February be damned, we drove up to the Wild Basin this morning with snowshoes in tow to trek through the cold and snow.
It wasn’t that cold though. Certainly below freezing, but full sun. The wind ripped through the treetops like a freight train, but we were sheltered on the forest floor. Much less snow than we expected so we left the snowshoes in the CRV as we hiked the Sandbeach Lake Trail.
There were snowshoe tracks on the trail from earlier in the morning, but too many bare rocks and tree roots for that to have been pleasant. Trekking poles might have helped for some of the steeper sections of trail, but we did fine without them.
I know the ski resorts are doing well with snow, so surprising that the snow isn’t deeper at Rocky Mountain National Park. If this becomes our new weekend routine, and I hope it does, we might need to head higher up.
You might not know that Blue River is a town. It’s more like just the rural space south of Breckenridge, Colorado. The 65 mile long Blue River running through it collects itself from Quandry Peak and the slopes of the Ten Mile Range, then flows north toward Frisco, through the Dillion Reservoir, and finally empties into the Colorado River in Kremmling. Our friends Scott & Julie let us stay in their Blue River cabin for the weekend, something Ellie wanted to do for her birthday.
Ellie brought some friends up with her to celebrate. Brit came up as well and they all stayed up late playing games. I woke up early the next morning to a half foot of fresh snow. I made coffee and read Comey’s “Higher Loyalty”. Despite my running blog where I try to present myself as athletic and adventurous, I’m a sucker for passive activities as well. Reading a novel in a big leather chair with snow falling outside the window is as good as it gets for me.
It occurs to me the last book I read was in the political genre. I guess I’ve started others but lost momentum and haven’t finished them. I won’t comment on the political aspects of Comey’s book, it’s just a good read. My interest was in Comey’s writing. I was fascinated after reading his memos by his writing style. I take notes all day long at work, sometimes on paper but mostly using Evernote. My writing style when note taking doesn’t deviate much today from 30 years ago when I used to furiously copy down details in college while capturing information from a lecturing professor.
Comey writes memos with the flair of a fiction writer. I know, that might be telling. Seriously though, he adds adjectives and describes obscure observations on the mood of a room for simple record keeping. It makes for great reading so I knew his book would be good. It is. He had a storied career and there is so much more than what he writes on the Trump saga, from telling mobster stories to prosecuting Martha Stewart.
Karen wouldn’t let me stay inside all day. We went snowshoeing on the Willow Trail at the Nordic Center. It snowed most of the day but wasn’t cold. Snowshoeing is my favorite couples sport to do with Karen. So peaceful in the trees.
This trip was for Ellie but I enjoyed myself too this weekend. I needed a break from working every weekend. I probably enjoyed reading inside the comfy cabin the most, but there was good social time, and of course the snowshoeing.
This is our Austrian exchange student Caroline’s first trip to Crested Butte and the Slate River Valley, so naturally we stopped for a quick pic when we crossed the Continental Divide. Monarch Pass sits 200 miles from our house, assuming you duck into BV for a bite at the Eddyline Brewery. Ninety minutes later, we checked into the Elevation Hotel & Spa. Don’t ask me to explain the holes in these girls’ pants. I blame the influence of Emma Gonzales.
Karen and I hiked Friday morning from the Slate River Trailhead. The snow was packed hard enough that we left our snowshoes in the van. Not a great snow season for Colorado, but there’s enough. We trekked along another trail above town after lunch. We’re learning our way around Slate Valley. If you’re not familiar with Crested Butte, it sits in a gorgeous valley, north of Gunnison and south of Aspen.
The girls got in a full day of snow boarding. So warm they didn’t need their ski jackets. Tomorrow should be even warmer. Nice views from the mountain with the clear skies and full sun. BTW, Camp 4 Coffee is the best in CB.
We’ve yet to eat out at places we’ve been before. As good as we know they are, we’re still exploring this town. We ate at the Last Steep tonight. Looks like a cheap sandwich shop but will surprise you. We do plan on pizza at Secret Stash tomorrow though. Too good to ignore that one.
Ellie and I cross country skied today through Slate Valley. Quite possibly, all of Slate Valley. Trail maps suck. With less than two miles to go, so close we could see the end, we were faced with a trail closed sign. Turning around meant maybe another two miles. We didn’t turn around, we skied right past that sign. A couple of hundred meters later, we were faced with a washed out bridge. I thought we could have jumped it, Ellie is more cautious than me. Failure to make the jump cleanly might have led to hypothermia. We ended up skiing a good eight miles, but enjoyed every minute of it. I love nordic skiing. It’s like trail running but so smooth and graceful.
The Crested Butte Nordic Center is off 2nd Street in downtown, so afterward, Ellie I and strolled around Elk Street taking photos. We met up with the gang later at Lil’s Sushi for dinner. Incredibly good but the really special thing is their fantastic happy hour. People queue up outside waiting for them to open.
This town has great dining. The night before was super good Italian at Marchitelli’s. And the night before that at Coal Creek Grill, where the lovelorn working girl Liz threw herself to her death in the icy street below the hotel back during the gold rush. Hard to pick a favorite, it’s all good.
Brittany was only five years old the last time we visited Crested Butte. She’s not here with us twenty years later. Someone had to stay home to watch the dogs. So I got to board with Ellie instead. Her first time to Crested Butte. She’s become a much better snow boarder than me. She was carving the snow up today while I was lucky to get on my toes by the end of the day.
We used to come up to Crested Butte with Karen’s family in the early years of having moved to Colorado. It’s a pretty cool town. The downtown is as cute as any mountain town in Colorado. There’s no highway cutting through town like Breckenridge or so many other towns. We’re up here this spring break with good friends. I survived my first day of snow boarding and hope to report improvement before returning home.
Karen and I returned to the Bear Lake Trailhead last night, this time with a 3 car caravan of friends, to hike under a full moon. Doubtful you can make anyone out from my blurry photography, but there are 15 of us, standing here on the frozen Nymph Lake. Beautiful night for a hike in Rocky Mountain National Park.
Following a snow covered trail at night, even with such a large moon illuminating the path, isn’t easy. We took some wrong turns at times but most of them ran back into the main trail at some point. Karen and I turned around half way between Nymph Lake and Dream Lake while the main group forged on. The sides of the trail were fairly steep in this area. The right bordered by ice covered cliffs and the left dropped off into the darkness. The trail is wide in this photo above but got fairly narrow in places.
This photo looks like entering light speed in space. Susan took this looking down on the ice while standing on Dream Lake. It’s air bubbles trapped in the ice. The rest of the group turned around here. The trail continues to Emerald Lake but it’s slow navigating in the dark.
We reached the Stanley Hotel near 9pm for dinner. Jen and her precious daughter Lauren pose here in the Redrum frame. I said something morbid to prompt grim faces but Jen began to crack up instead. The food is very good at the Stanley but it’s possible we were simply starving for dinner. We attacked our food like the Donner family. I quaffed a Shining Pale Ale with mine, locally brewed. Super fun night.
Karen and I wake before dawn to sit in our chairs by the fire and look out over the meadow to watch the sun rise. The clouds have cleared and we see Twin Sisters, Longs Peak, Mount Meeker and countless other peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park. I bring up a french press and two coffee cups in time to see two elk mingle with the horses in the meadow.
We are the only guests this weekend at the Golden Leaf Inn. Next weekend is booked for a winter festival. Our exclusivity allows us to get to know our hosts, Dave and Jane, over breakfast. Dave and Jane are Inn-sitting for Monica, the regular hostess, while she holidays in New Zealand. They are retired and previously volunteered at the YMCA of the Rockies for five weeks. By working at least 21 hours per week, they received full room and board. Karen visited this camp as a child while her father attended medical seminars. Today it’s more of a resort with 5000 beds and a convention center.
Five miles down Bear Lake Road is Sprague Lake where Karen and I hike this morning in the fresh snow. There are numerous trails here. We select a three mile loop. Once again, we leave our snowshoes in the van, choosing instead to wear our hiking boots over the lightly packed snow. It’s deeper than yesterday at Bear Lake. I post-hole occasionally but the boots work well and are much speedier as we complete a 90 minute jaunt in the woods.
We lunch at Ed’s Cantina before leaving Estes Park for home. We barely make it back in time for our scheduled recovery massages. Rough weekend.
I take Friday afternoon off from work, arguably early in the year for vacation but I’m finding the transition back from two full weeks away difficult and believe pacing myself is the best path forward. Karen suggested that we snowshoe in Rocky Mountain National Park over the weekend. The one sport we do well together. As you might know, Karen is a little bit dancer and I’m a little bit runner. Snowshoeing is where we can come together. So Karen booked a night at the Golden Leaf Inn, and we head up just after noon.
Nine miles from the Beaver Meadows park entrance is Bear Lake. I’ve always wanted to run here. The setting is so incredibly stunning, you have to get up here and see it for yourself. The snow around the lake trail is packed well enough that we hike in our snow boots rather than snowshoe. The clouds lift a bit to reveal the mountains. The dull disk of the sun could be mistaken for the moon as it filters through. It’s about 20° and the air is still, perfect conditions for hiking through the trees. A soft snow falls. This is ideal.
We check into the Heavenly Room at the Inn. We’re sitting now in the two comfortably overstuffed, wingback chairs by a fire, with a southern view out over the valley. I suspect if the snow stops and the clouds lift, in the morning we’ll be able to view Longs Peak and the Continental Divide. Next stop is dinner at the Stanley Hotel.
I’m on spring break. Well, Ellie is on spring break. Same difference. I always take the week off from work to play and do my taxes. I used to do the same with Brit. We would ski. Ellie snowboards. We didn’t get a chance to board here in Breckenridge. Ellie did enjoy sledding on a hill outside our cabin with her friends in the morning and later snow tubed Saturday afternoon.
This is a late spring break. It would have been fine last year as the slopes were operating into June. Colorado is only at 65% snow pack this season. There’s enough snow still but it becomes slushy by noon. On a good note, the weather is awesome. Both Karen and I eschewed jackets on our snowshoe jaunt while Amy and Dave skied cross country at the Breckenridge Nordic Center. We did this in the morning.
It took Karen and me an hour even to traverse 1.75 miles. We completed the Willow Trail counterclockwise, and added a short spurn with the Engleman Trail. I completed a second loop while Karen waited for me in the lodge. Sometimes I don’t know when to quit. You’d have trouble knowing when enough is enough out here too, it’s just so gorgeous. In fact, Dave and I both returned in the afternoon for another round. Springtime in the mountains, with both snow and full sun, is not to be taken for granted.
On this second round, I trekked the Engleman Trail much higher, ascending into the upper trail section. Here I discovered the Peaks Trail which follows the eastern side of the Ten Mile Range all the way to Frisco. I wasn’t prepared for that long of an outing but got in another 90 minutes snowshoeing, running about a quarter of it. Dave and I rejoined in the lodge for a couple of Hop Hunter IPAs.
I’m not sure I can describe in words just how satisfying this second hike was. The trail entwined thick forest with snow-laden single track, and I was all alone for most of it. I truly felt religion snowshoeing through God’s high country in Hallmark card perfection. I was high the rest of the day – which mainly consisted of snacking, watching the Final Four, and having an early Easter, ham dinner. Karen and I returned home Sunday so she could teach an aerobics class. I’ve since called my mom to wish her a happy Easter. Ellie remained in Breck with her friends for another day of snow and fun. Still full sunshine out there on the Front Range. I think I might go for a run.
Today marks our sixth consecutive drive up to Eldora Mountain Resort for Ellie’s snow board lessons in the Eldora Kid’s Trek Program. Certainly not our final drive up but Ellie’s last lesson for this course. She has a coupon for a discounted private lesson that I intend to schedule after my return from Austin in March. And the first full week of April is spring break. I told her I would snow board with her then. It’s been six years for me. Last time snow boarding, I broke my ribs. Maybe I need lessons.
I snowshoed with Marilee. We hiked the Lonestar Loop counterclockwise, until we lost the trail. We wound up returning on the Rising Sun Nordic Ski Trail. Fortunately we weren’t seen by any Nordic skiers. Despite the snow this past week, we trekked across a couple of bare spots. But then, it’s also been 70° the last few days. Mixed blessings.
Marilee and I lunched with her friend Nancy at the Sundance Cafe. Great menu with awesome views, located about a mile outside of Nederland toward Black Hawk. I ate a bison burger with Brie and jalapenos. They have a lodge too. This photo captures Emma leading Ellie down the hill.
I dropped the distance of my Saturday run down to ten miles. Saw Amy riding her bike on the LoBo Trail. I probably won’t exceed six miles on any single run this week. I’m in super taper mode. My focus is now on nutrition and not hurting myself before next Sunday’s Austin Marathon. I think my pace will be posted to Facebook at key intervals. Hoping to have a good run. Seven more days.
I began my taper for the Austin Marathon this weekend. Twelve mile run Saturday, down from twenty. And a bit shorter snowshoe today. My winter-style taper means only running about four days a week, and snowshoeing. If I think about it, I probably have only been averaging four days of running per week all throughout January. This year launched the start of the next ice age and conditions have been treacherous. Saturday’s run was at a comfortable pace. My legs were heavy from a hard run Friday, so it was mostly a recovery pace. I loosened up on the return and squeezed in two tempo runs. Weather was ideal. Planning on a similar run next Saturday.
The girls had a great day snow boarding. We drove out of Boulder Valley across icy roads and under heavy snow clouds. Canyon Drive up to Nederland was crawling at 35 mph. But Eldora Mountain Resort was somehow above the clouds. Full day of sunshine and minimum wind. Ellie and Emma are becoming comfortable on their boards. Pretty sure I know what we’ll be doing over spring break. This first picture is of Emma, the second is of Ellie. I didn’t get any shots close up. I got yelled at for being on the hill without skis. No pics of me today so I’m giving you a photo of one of our new puppies.
I tapered a bit on my snowshoe today as well, keeping it under two hours. I took the middle loop for the first time – Snowshoe Hare Trail. This was too short so I worked in some other smaller trails as well. The Snowshoe Hare Trail is the newest for the Nordic Center, and I would say the prettiest in terms of trees. All the trails are hilly.
We made it home in time to watch the Super Bowl. I made a beer cheese recipe I read in Saturday’s paper. There were three other queso dishes at the party, so I probably shouldn’t be upset that my dish was only half eaten, but I didn’t care for it. The texture is odd. Susan suggested melting the cheese and I agree. The story in the paper said that serving the dish warm is sort of a new spin on the recipe, otherwise it is historically served cold. I also improvised with a seasonal ale I had from Austin called, Yule Shoot Your Eye Out. Maybe not the best pairing with Cheddar.
The parking lot at Eldora Mountain Resort was packed early today. No football on TV. And an acceptable wind. Karen and Marilee joined me this morning to snowshoe. We started counter-clockwise on the Lonestar Loop, like I have on previous outings, but turned onto the Twisted Snowshoe Trail for the shorter inside loop. The Snowshoe Hare Trail is the middle loop and Lonestar is the longest, outside loop.
Marilee took to snowshoeing like a pro. The snow isn’t difficult on these trails, no super deep powder. But the slope is fairly steep, much more so than any of the trails Karen and I did last year. We did well though despite the hills with a 1.5 mph pace for 1.5 miles – which made a one hour hike.
The girls enjoyed less wind for their snow boarding lessons. Shortly after lunch though, Ellie went down hard on her left shoulder. We collected her in the medical tent after the staff had recorded every ache Ellie experienced over the last several weeks. They likely learned from this to ask my daughter less open-ended questions. Who knew such extensive healthcare comes with the price of a lift ticket? Ellie is still a bit sore but nothing serious.
Saturday’s twenty mile run didn’t go as well as last weekend. I was hoping to show improvement, that would help my confidence going into the Austin Marathon. Doesn’t matter, the important thing was I was able to complete the distance. Speed isn’t critical. I figure my legs were heavy from my workout the day before.
There’s still a bit of ice on the LoBo Trail south of Hwy 52. There was enough clean dirt to safely navigate around the ice. In my seventh mile, just before the ice patches, I saw Jen running back toward Longmont. We gave each other a low five because we’re cool runners. On my return, I began to run over the ice simply to make the trail less pedestrian.
My pace was slower than last weekend during the first half but I really slowed down at 17 miles. Kind of like how a bad marathon goes. Actually, I slowed down considerably at 17 miles last week too. But everything was under a 9 minute pace then. I ran a half minute per mile slower this Saturday. Still, running the distance is all I need to feel prepared for Austin. Three more weeks, I’ll be ready.
I wasn’t the only one out running on the ice this week. I shared some “are you effin’ kidding me” looks with a few others on the LoBo trail. The week before, I couldn’t get over the snow. My runs were necessarily short given the exhausting conditions. I donned snowshoes one day and ended up with a blister that I’m still feeling. It was a poor week for running. I commended myself for simply getting out at all and figured it couldn’t get any worse. I was wrong. It wasn’t safe to walk down to the coffee shop this week, let alone run. We began with a foot of snow and below freezing temps. Then, in half a day, the mercury rose by 50°. Only in Colorado can that happen. The flash-melted snow refroze as ice later that same night, so perfectly you could ice skate down the sidewalk.
Running was unthinkable and I lost a couple of days. I know how unwise running was because I tried the day after the big snow-to-ice conversion. Got in four miles. Not sure how to describe my form. I kept my stride as short as possible without actually standing still. My effort was extremely taxing on my quads and groin. There were countless out-of-control moments where I thought I was going to die. It was not enjoyable and I spent the next two days indoors looking out the window like Sally and her little brother in the beginning to The Cat in the Hat. Conditions were reasonably better Saturday and I skated for twelve death-defying miles, with a similar super short, groin-stressing stride.
This is not ideal considering I’m training for a marathon. I have five weeks to step up my distance. With Ellie’s snowboarding lessons every Sunday, my only chance for the requisite twenty mile training runs is Saturday. Fortunately I ran some twenty milers back in December. I don’t need to run massive miles every weekend, I’d settle for two such runs before February. January has three more weekends in it. This is why Colorado runners plan their marathons for the fall, after a long summer of optimal conditioning. I’ve run two Austin Marathons in February and three Denver Marathons in the fall. Despite the altitude difference, I’ve yet to run as fast in Austin as I do in Denver. It’s difficult to train sufficiently for winter marathons. I’m happy with my snowshoe training though.
I snowshoed the same Lonestar Loop today that I did last Sunday, but this time I found the spur to the Tennessee Mountain Cabin. This added nearly a mile for a five mile, two hour effort. Trekking counter-clockwise, the right hand turn to the cabin is at 2.3 miles, at the second intersection with the Rising Sun ski trail, a full mile after passing the high point sign. That first 1.3 miles present a 700 foot climb. The cabin housed some lodgers but they showed me inside. Nine of them slept comfortably overnight, kept warm by a wood burning stove.
The girls had an awesome day with their snowboard lessons. Zero wind today made the 20° feel warm. This photo captures the only sun I ever saw today. The clouds were black with snow, which fell heavy throughout the day. This completes two of the girls’ six Sunday course. Julianna, their instructor, praised their coordination and balance as they steadily progress up the mountain. The girls are having fun while I get in some high-altitude hill training. Maybe not your conventional marathon workout, but works for me.
Winter recreation is exhausting. Ellie and Emma began their six week snow boarding course today up at Eldora – in 20° and 30 mph winds. They loved it nonetheless. I snowshoed at the Eldora Nordic Center while they snow boarded. Ellie is dead tired. I take a perverse pleasure in being able to physically exhaust a kid. But I’m much more beat. The trails at the Eldora Nordic Center are hilly.
I paid $20 for the Nordic pass. Compare that to a lift ticket. Although I’ll be doing this again for the next five Sundays. Karen will likely go with me. She remained behind today to teach an aerobics class. Emma’s mom plans to snowshoe with us too on occasion. I expect this Nordic Center to really work out well for us three as it contains a series of concentric loops at various distances. Concentric might be a poor word choice. The loops don’t have a common center, rather they all start from the Nordic Center Lodge. We can start out together, but I can go for a longer distance. I trekked the Lone Star Loop today for about four miles. There’s a spur off to the Tennessee Mountain Cabin that would add some distance, but I missed the sign for it.
Today’s little winter fun marks the end of my Christmas Holiday. Actually, I worked Friday. Still, this weekend feels more official. It’s been a big two weeks. A trip to Texas. And the other day, Ellie rescued two puppies. After Jack’s passing, I told her she could get a puppy in May, so that she would have time to train it once school is out. Not only did May become January, but Ellie elected to adopt two dogs. I’m mixed on all this, but they are cute. Meeko is on the left, weighing in at two months. And Millie is on the right, she’s four months.
I’m interrupting my hiatus to report to you a continuation of this season’s snowshoe activities. Although I didn’t actually snowshoe. Ellie wanted to visit the mountains for her birthday and sonofagun if they don’t still have some snow. We drove up Friday evening after work in about 90 minutes. Winter Park still has some ski runs open but we didn’t go there. Devil’s Thumb Ranch is a few miles further north off Hwy 40. Turn east at the town of Tabernash onto County Road 83. DTR is three miles down this road tucked into a meadow hanging off the western side of the Continental Divide.
The weather Saturday was gorgeous. Karen and I hiked around the meadow for an hour in the morning while the girls swam. Ellie brought along her friend Ivy. Brit was back home working and watching the house and dog. The pool is outdoors but heated. Karen and I had to negotiate around mud and random streams of melting snow on our hike, but it was nice. Later in the morning, the girls did archery out in the meadow while Karen and I hung out at the pool. We also did some weights. This was my first time lifting weights since my surgery. Karen also introduced me to planks. I took it easy and felt fine. The swimming felt like a great exercise to stretch out my abdomen.
We woke Sunday to a few inches of fresh snow and cooler weather. Perfect for snowshoeing, although not for horseback riding. The girls planned to ride at 9:30 but the Stables cancelled the outing due to unsafe conditions. In addition to ice on the trails, a 25 mph wind was blowing which would have made the event unpleasant. I struck out on my own per plan though. I left the snowshoes off opting for my Sorel Conquest winter hiking boots. I could have used snowshoes after the first mile.
The wind dissipated after I crossed the meadow and reached some trees. This is also where the snow deepened. I post-holed a bit but only up to my shins. This didn’t completely kill my momentum but it made for a tough slog. I was smart enough to bring along my trekking poles. While snowshoes weren’t absolutely necessary, I would not have been able to hike very far without the poles. From the lodge, which sits at 8500 feet, I started out via the Interpretive Trail until I reached Horizon. I took Horizon north to the stables where I merged onto the Moosestomp Trail. I took this up to 8800 feet which is about the boundary of the ranch.
I crossed several creeks that were not on the map. Not that I took a map but later I compared my Garmin results to the trail map. A meadow like this undergoing massive snow melt has innumerable, ephemeral creeks. Pretty happy with my boots for keeping my feet cozy. My boots were often under several inches of water but my feet remained dry and comfortable. My total distance was 3.31 miles with a 22 minutes per mile pace. Seemingly slow but not really given the conditions. This is easily my biggest workout since my surgery on April 2nd. Naturally I was winded but I was never light-headed or dizzy. It appears the anaesthesia has finally worked its way out of my lungs.
Vacationing in the mountains during springtime is tricky given the random weather and certainty of mud. This worked out well for me though. Ellie enjoyed the archery and got in tons of swimming. I got in my best workout of all of April. I’m starting to think I might be running again well before my target date of July. In fact, I have an aggressive plan to hike 80 miles along the Continental Divide Trail at the end of June. That won’t be running necessarily, but it will be five days of hiking around an average elevation of 12,000 feet. This spring is mostly downtime for me but I expect to back be on track this summer.
After a month long break, Karen and I headed back up the hill to continue our snowshoe season. The drive up was icy and we only drove about 35 mph. The Peak-to-Peak Hwy 72 was in better shape and we decided on the fly to pass up our previous trailheads and launch from Rainbow Lakes. The entrance to this trailhead is almost exactly five miles south of the road to Brainard Lake. This is the south end of the Sourdough Trail, which we hiked in a northerly direction.
We expected cooler weather but we stepped out of the minivan into full sun and 30° with very little wind. Zero wind on the trail in the trees. I was surprised at how large the parking area is at the trailhead, which sits less than a half mile off the highway. I left my jacket in the car and Karen tied hers’ around her waist. A woman cross country skier headed out ahead of us and we saw two other couples on the trail. Otherwise I imagine everyone else was home today watching March Madness. Couch potatoes missed an awesome day to be in the mountains.
We slogged for one and a half miles, up hill the entire way, before turning around. We got in three miles in ninety minutes. The ascent made for a great workout. The trailhead sits at 9200 feet and we turned around at 9800 feet.
We decided to drive back through Nederland since it was closer than Lyons. We lunched at the Black Forest. I recalled eating their steak tartare once before so I ordered that again. So satisfying. Karen savored the fresh fish catch of the day – trout sautéed with parsley butter and lemon, potatoes and vegetables . Just another perfect snowshoe outing.
This is likely our last of the season. We’re thinking of spending next weekend in Denver with the kids to see a play and the Denver Art Museum. I have surgery after that and won’t be active for possibly three months. That might make this blog somewhat inactive. I’m blogging about my medical escapades on another site. Here’s a link if you’re interested and can handle graphic content.
We returned to Peaceful Valley this morning for our final winter snowshoe before I head to Austin for three weeks. This was our fifth weekend in a row. Karen wanted to return to Beaver Reservoir and I wanted to return to Brainard Lake. We opted for Peaceful Valley due to weather conditions. We would not have been able to traverse the 2 mile county roads to either of the other two spots. We couldn’t even drive onto the short road for Peaceful Valley. We parked on the shoulder of the highway with our van pointed downhill in case we needed to push it out of the snow.
Snowshoeing down the road to the trail is about a 200 yard jaunt. We only got about 50 yards before we had to stop and spend 15 minutes helping push a lady who got her Ford Explorer stuck in the snow. She made the critical mistake of driving over the crest and couldn’t get back up the hill. The new snow was too soft and deep. I was burning up after that and hiked with my jacket unzipped. We were in an odd weather inversion with the temperature warmer than 3000 feet lower in Longmont. It was over 32° with zero wind. I even took off my gloves. The warmth was ironic given the thick clouds and falling snow.
Peaceful Valley has a good three or four feet of base snow now. The most recent snow fall is super fluffy. Middle St. Vrain Creek Trail was postcard perfect in the falling snow. A few hikers in front of us laid the only tracks which helped ease our trek. We continued beyond where they turned around though and blazed our own tracks. The soft powder slowed us down considerably. We made it as far as the intersection with the Sourdough Trail and turned back for an hour long outing. I needed to dig out some snow in front of our tires with my snowshoes in order to get onto the road, but we made it home safely. We stopped again for lunch at Oscar Blues in Lyons and were back home by 12:30. It’s been a great winter snowshoe season. Next time we’re up n the mountains will be late March or April. I expect the snow to be even deeper then.
The mountain trails of the Front Range are gorgeous, but there’s not much need to drive up there to snowshoe when there’s a foot of fresh powder down here. And you know what a big day it is in Colorado with the Broncos playing this afternoon in the Super Bowl. So we decided to snowshoe today quite literally in our backyard. We started at the Niwot Loop Trailhead and headed south into Gunbarrel. We covered the segment between 79th and 71st Street.
I ran out here yesterday. Slogging through the snow was tough and I was the only runner. Everyone else yesterday was Nordic skiing. Today, at 18° but with full sun and zero wind, had mostly runners and a few cross country skiers. Yesterday’s skiers helped to pack the snow for running. Snowshoeing was great. You’d think 18° is cold but we quickly pocketed our gloves and Karen unzipped her jacket. The sun shining off the snow serves to warm things up.
The Cottonwood Trail is fairly flat, certainly relative to the mountain trails we snowshoed on in January. Plus it’s easier to breathe at half the altitude, so this was our fastest ever pace – well over 2 miles an hour for 3.5 miles. We brunched afterward at the Niwot Tavern. If the nearby IBM site has a company bar – this place is it. We’re home early prepping for the game. I made my shrimp ceviche mostly last night. I added avocado and cilantro now to avoid those from turning mushy overnight. After our 90 minute workout, we’re ready to party over at the Sebestas. Go Broncos!
Another perfect day to be snowshoeing along the Peak-to-Peak Highway. This morning we drove to Beaver Reservoir which sits half way between Brainard Lake and Peaceful Valley. The trailhead lies two miles down County Road 96, which is marked on Hwy 72 by a sign for the Tahosa Boy Scout Camp. The trail crosses the road about a quarter mile before the reservoir. We simply parked on the side of the road.
We started out southbound on the Sourdough Trail. The trail was a bit hard to spot among new growth aspen and evergreen. We turned around on a ridge after nearly a half mile because the snow was fading and the trail just wasn’t very pretty. This was a good call as we discovered the northbound trail to be absolutely gorgeous. We might have known since there were no tracks southbound but several northbound.
We found ourselves shedding gear under the warm sun. Despite the strong wind on the road, the trail was quiet. We were able to cover 2.32 miles in about 90 minutes.
We skipped the Millsite Inn this trip and lunched at Oscar Blues in Lyons. The weather was so nice we ate outside on the deck. This marks our third consecutive weekend to snowshoe. We hope to squeeze in a couple more jaunts through the woods and snow before I head to Austin. This really is ideal training for a marathon. Tomorrow I have a four mile cross country race in Boulder. Ellie plans to run it too.
How can anyone resist snowshoeing at a trailhead called Peaceful Valley. Karen and I couldn’t. I initially planned another trail up at Brainard Lake, but this is closer. We had a later start today and this saved us about 15 or 20 minutes. The parking is just off the highway. The entrance to the campground is closed off in the winter, but there’s about 100 yards of road to park on. By the time we finished, others were parked out on Hwy 72.
We took the Buchanan Pass Trail. This starts down the road a couple hundred yards or so past the first gate. Actually just in front of the Peaceful Valley Campground which has a second gate. The trail begins with a climb and is super pretty, in the trees and lined with natural boulders. My Garmin captured 12° but it felt at least 30°, and the wind was only about 4 mph. With a cloudless sky, the Colorado sun lit up the snow for a gorgeous day.
We were passed by a Tokyo Joe’s team of 8 or so mountain bikers. Click on the pic and check out these fat tires! This looks really cool to me. We had a decent workout, completing 3 miles at a 2 mph pace. Thirty minutes faster than last weekend. Karen thinks this trail is less technical. The snow was fairly well packed too. This is clearly a high use trail. It’s a shared trail and had more cross country skiers than hikers snowshoeing. Dogs are allowed and there were plenty. One dog wore boots. Definitely a dog day out there. We were shedding gear on the way back. I even took off my gloves.
We found ourselves back at the Millsite Inn for lunch. The owner, Kurt, is quite a character. He looks about 65 – hard to say. Could be older. He said he played NCAA Basketball for Ohio State – he looks about 6’4″. He tells us stories of his snowshoeing and skiing. He showed us pictures he took today of some snowshoe hares. Stunning photos. This is two weekends in a row snowshoeing for us. Our goal is to hit the next three weekends before I head to Austin for the Austin Marathon. I should probably be getting in more running miles, but I don’t intend to run that race very hard. And I’m a big proponent of mixing up workouts – even though I’m generally bad at it. If I do well in Austin, I’ll publish a book on how to snowshoe yourself into shape for a marathon.
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.
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.
The 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.
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.
My second snowshoe outing for the year – this one while on spring break with Karen and Ellie in Breckenridge at the Nordic Ski Center. This was the first time ever for Karen and Ellie to snowshoe. Karen really enjoyed it. Ellie started out strong but for some reason lost her mojo and got grumpy. Still, a grumpy Ellie is nothing like some temperamental youngsters. She stomped onward; she even assumed the lead for awhile.
We hiked the Pence Miller trail. It’s a loop (not sure the distance) and it took a little under 2 hours. Tomorrow we plan to hike the shorter Willow trail, but will take it to the Shock Hill gondola stop and ride up the mountain for lunch and more activities on Peak 8. Not sure if we’ll do any typical skiing on this trip, but we also have plans for ice skating. No running on this vacation, but it’s good to mix things up every now and then. I’m thinking of even squeezing in a deep tissue massage in the spa. Why not?