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.