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Nordic Center Snowshoe, Breckenridge CO Snowshoed 3/2/14

9 Mar
View at the Hallelujah Hut

View at the Hallelujah Hut

Willow Trail > Engleman Trail > Hallelujah Hut

Starting Elevation:  Around 9800 Ft

Highest Elevation: Around 10,800 Ft ( total guess based on my fitbit number of stairs)

Trail Uses: Snowshoe only – Designated Terrain Park

Trail Length: 6-ish miles round trip

Degree of Difficulty:  Easy(Willow) to Moderate(Engleman)

Bathrooms: Yes – At the Nordic Center and at the Grand Lodge on Peak 7

Pets: No but it seemed like season ticket holders or locals were using the trails too and had dogs

Fees: Yes $20 for a day pass for the terrain park and $18 a day for snow shoe rental

View as we crossed over by Grand Lodge at Peak 7

View as we crossed over by Grand Lodge at Peak 7

Our first hike with our nieces was a disappointing cancel for 2 reasons, first when we  pulled into the trailhead parking lot we literally couldn’t see more than 2 feet in front of us the snow was so heavy.  I have to admit I didn’t want to try the hike with the weather the way it was but my nieces were still game… they ROCK!  Then when we were getting our shoes on I realized I had left mine at home in the garage, yep  I forgot them sitting all nice and warm on the tool table.  Needless to say we decided the weather was too bad to hike and just drove straight on to Breckenridge.  It turned out to be divine intervention because as we pulled back onto I70 the weather cleared just long enough to get to Breckenridge, where I could pick up new hiking boots, before the next wave hit.

On Sunday we got up early and headed right to the terrain park so that Anne & Lauren could try out snowshoeing, this way we could see how they liked it before we attempted a sunrise hike the next morning.  I had read up on the 3 Nordic Centers in and around Breckenridge and decided this one the best one to hit mostly because of all the trail options.  I have read that a lot of people didn’t like that it winds around all the mansions on Shock hill but we didn’t see that much of the houses on our trip and what we did see, didn’t bother us.

Anne & Lauren all ready to go.

Anne & Lauren all ready to go.

The people running the Nordic center might be the nicest people I have ever met, seriously they went through the trail map with me and circled all the places we might see Moose and suggested options for trail changes.  Then when I explained I needed to keep the snowshoes over night to do a sunrise hike/snowshoe but would be returning them early the next day, they only charged me the overnight fee of $5 instead of an additional full day rental. They also gave us tips on dealing with the Moose… did you know that if a moose is standing and looks like it might charge you can just jump behind a tree and it loses you? And as long as there are trees between you and the moose or they are laying down you should be fine!???! This is by no means scientific so always use caution around wild animals because they are WILD, but we found it interesting.

We started out on the Willow path, which was pretty nice and easy to let you get used to the snowshoes .  It winds through Shock Hill and the Alpine wet lands behind the Nordic Center.  We went under the Gondola going to Peak 8 and then popped out of the trees just north of the Grand Lodge on peak 7.  I stay at the Grand Lodge as much as I can so I knew right where the public restrooms were, we took off our snowshoes and took advantage of those restrooms. Up to this point the trail was pretty easy and VERY well-marked, the terrain park did a great job in putting trail markers every where to ensure their guests could find their way around.

Crossing over the first xcountry skiing path.

Crossing over the first cross-country skiing path.

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Turning onto Engleman from willow Red markers to Yellow Markers

Turning onto Engleman from willow Red markers to Yellow Markers

how Engleman was feeling in the beginning

how Engleman was feeling in the beginning

Once we crossed over by the Grand Lodge, the trail got a little harder but it was also almost completely empty.  The best part was when the sun came out bright and strong making the day perfect!

By the Grand Lodge on Peak 7

By the Grand Lodge on Peak 7

Very well marked

Very well-marked

Trail Conditions on Engleman

Trail Conditions on Engleman

The trail marker for the last mile to the Hallelujah hut

The trail marker for the last mile to the Hallelujah hut

We climbed the most at this point, through the pines and up along peaks 7 & 6 but outside of the skiing area.  As we came to a nice large open area the views were amazing and across the area we could see our turnaround point, Hallelujah Hut.  It was a welcome sight as we were all getting a little tired.  I am starting to learn that snowshoeing requires a little more stamina than hiking does, so each time I am surprised that I am so wiped after what I consider short distances.  We had a snack at the Hut and then made a quick return trip to the Nordic center.

Start of the last stretch

Start of the last stretch

Hallelujah Hut

Hallelujah Hut

While on the return, I overshot the trail turn back but we were thrilled with my mistake because it led us right to the some Moose  just chillin on one of the cross-country ski routes.  They had told us the Moose were all over the park that day but we had given up hope we might actually see some.  It was the perfect way to end the snowshoe!

Moose

Moose

Us and Moose

Us and Moose

I loved the Terrain Park at the Nordic Center, in fact I plan on going there again as soon as we can.  It is a really good way to get used to snowshoes, the trails are well marked and goes through amazing scenery.  We had a lot of fun on our snowshoe, I think maybe we took on a little more than we should have as we were all wiped at the end of almost 5 hours of snowshoeing.  But we laughed a lot and got to see moose!  After the directions will be some of our favorite pictures.

Directions: From Breckenridge Main Street take Ski Hill/Lincoln West up Ski Hill for almost a mile, the NOrdic Center will be on you Left at 1200 Ski Hill Road.  Go Past the first Nordic Center sign for the actual parking lot. entrance.

More VIews

More Views

Aaron said get crazy I heard Get Cozy.... much laughter and confusion followed

Aaron said get crazy I heard Get Cozy…. much laughter and confusion followed

Action shot

Action shot

hh views Stream corssing SC 2 fav1

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Upper Mohawk Lakes, Partial Repeater-Hiked 7/4/13

20 Jul
Upper Mohawk Lake

Upper Mohawk Lake

When we started our vacation week in the mountains, the original goal was James Peak on Saturday(done), Mohawk Lakes on Sunday ( done Thursday), Quandary Peak on Tuesday ( Done), Upper Crystal Lakes on Wednesday (Skipped) and Thursday a drunken celebration (delayed), Friday up in the air since we knew the tattoos would be intense.  But that Saturday night was unexpected, Aaron had 3 bad blood sugar lows in the night, that 3rd one was especially bad at just 40 and I made the decision then we would change our hiking plans.   We slept in and headed back to town so I could work on Monday ( I didn’t have enough vacation for the whole week).

Tuesday and summiting Quandary Peak was a huge success, then we celebrated way too hard but had a great time!  When we got up at 5AM to attempt Upper Crystal Lake on Wednesday we couldn’t even eat and if we couldn’t eat we can’t hike.  It was a well deserved rest day and while Thursday was quickly upon us, Aaron graciously agreed to do this repeater because I was desperate to make it to that 3rd lake we missed out on the first time we did the hike.  We got up at 5AM and were on the trail to Upper Mohawk Lakes (hike details here) at a respectable 6:30AM.

It was a surprisingly slow start, not because we weren’t rearing to go, hung over or because we were struggling with the altitude, but because Aaron’s diabetes was just not cooperating.  He dropped fast and had to aggressively feed the insulin he had on board, since exercise helps lower blood sugar we had to just move slow.  Honestly it wasn’t a big deal to me because this trail is just crazy beautiful and since we started early, we had it all to ourselves.  Taking our time just helped me love it more and notice the changes from our first attempt last September.

Continental Falls from Spruce Creek Trail

Continental Falls from Spruce Creek Trail

Last year it had been a deep drought intense year and while we are still in drought conditions, they have let up some with our late snowy April and May, Breckenridge got like 8 feet of snow in those amazing 6 weeks.  The fact we could see the falls from way below and so far away is an example of our improved situation, last September they were nowhere to be seen until we climbed over to them.  This was a pretty joyous discovery, one we wouldn’t have necessarily noticed if we were trucking through like we planned, so yay forced slow approach!

I had to capture this reflection again on our 2nd attempt

I had to capture this reflection again on our 2nd attempt

The first time we came upon this pond I was amazed at the reflection, this time I still loved the reflection and was amazed at the additional ponds all around the main one.  There was lots of ohhhing and ahhing on my part, mostly Aaron was sick of eating to keep his blood sugar up but was handling it all like a champ.  I am so crazy proud of him and his fighting attitude!

This hike the second time around was a revelation, we were easily moving forward I am 20+lbs lighter than the first time and had a tremendous gain in stamina as well as strength.

As we came up to the scramble to the first lake, it was hardly the harrowing obstacle I remembered it to be, but simply lovely in its approach to the Lower lake and the flowers!  I mean ….WOW, they lined the trail like a parade and we were the floats.

FLowers

I cannot begin to explain how different I felt from that first time we hiked this trail but I can tell I was in a very happy place.  We made quick work to the 2nd lake and the snow there only made everything prettier, we took a couple of pictures and then got so excited about a huge Columbine bush along the lake, that we missed the correct trail to the upper lake but managed to make our own way up there.

As we got to the 2nd Lake

As we got to the 2nd Lake

Seriously....just breath-taking

Seriously….just breath-taking

The fish were jumping out of the water for attention

The fish were jumping out of the water for attention

Aaron quickly made his way to the Columbine bush we were spying, completely missing the trail on the far right

Aaron quickly made his way to the Columbine bush we were spying, completely missing the trail on the far right

Nature still does it best so worth missing the trail

Nature still does it best, so worth missing the trail

We just kept moving forward not realizing we missed the trail and made our way up over the ridge.  I guess all of new-found bouldering skills have made us blind, as we got to a hard part Aaron saw the actual trail to our right and we just laughed at our ignorance. Climbing to this 3rd lake, what I think is Upper Mohawk Lake, was so easy but the bugs were really intense. This was the view as we crested the ridge

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Us at Upper Mohawk Lake

Us at Upper Mohawk Lake

I have read there are 3-6 more lakes past this one and that they require serious climbing skills, but standing at this 3rd lake and seeing the trail over the next ridge made us seriously contemplate an attempt to go further.  What stopped us was a lack of real knowledge of what lay ahead and the fact that we could see 2 groups approaching this 3rd lake.   Oh and the mosquitos were a little too thrilled to have fresh meat….I know we are in short sleeves but it is maybe 55 degrees in the above picture so you know they were hearty mosquitos!  We stayed for a mere 5 minutes and then practically ran down to Mohawk lake and killed an hour taking pictures and eating some snacks.

It was an amazing day for so many reasons but mostly because you can’t beat scenery like this.  We got to actually hit every waterfall, got great pictures and this time I actually jogged down the part of the trail I fell down last time.  The only question I walked away with was is the 3rd lake upper Mohawk Lake or is the second….many passed hikers seemed to think the 2nd lake is in fact Upper Mohawk and most were only trying to get to that first lake.  Either way I am completely in love with this hike, there isn’t one bad part and the views from all over are just amazing.  It has made me realize the best thing I ever did was move to Colorado, the hiking here has opened up a huge new world to me.  I will post our favorite pictures, it should be no surprise that we took well over a thousand pictures between the 2 of us.  If you ever find yourself in Breckenridge DO THIS HIKE!

Mohawk -2 Us and east over lower mawhawk fav 2

Looking out East Over Lower Mohawk Lake

Looking out East Over Lower Mohawk Lake

Facing North from Mohawk Lake

Facing North from Mohawk Lake

Us at Mohawk Fav 4 Fav1

These Goats scampered up and the Fisher woman scared them up above her

These Goats scampered up and the fisher woman scared them up above her

They quickly climbed way above her and then stood in Judgement of her skills...she was pretty good

They quickly climbed way above her and then stood in Judgement of her skills…she was pretty good

Continental Falls up close

Continental Falls up close

Looking down and east fro the falls

Looking down and east from the falls

Some of the flowers by the falls

Some of the flowers by the falls

Same Pond and the PM Reflections on the way down

Same Pond and the PM Reflections on the way down

Aaron checking out the view east from half way down

Aaron checking out the view east from half way down

Views East From COntinentail fallsPacfici Peak and Mohawk GOod ROute picture

Riverside Trail A Breckenridge *Repeater* Hike 5/4/13

9 May
Mountain Range from the path

Mountain Range from the path

When I booked our weekend in Breckenridge a couple of months ago I thought that we would be able to do some higher hikes by this point in time.  Of course that was before the 5 weeks of blizzards and the 4-5 feet of snow Breckenridge got during April.  The last storm finished dropping a foot of snow 2 days before we got there so when I asked the concierge what they thought about us trying to hike the Mohawk Lakes, he tried not to laugh at me as he told me yeah that is not happening.  Our options were pretty slim given we could see the ledges of snow hanging over every mountain in sight, it would be a road or path anyway we did it.

We changed our priorities and did the Riverside Path (Hike Details here) again.  We did almost 10 miles in just 3.5 hours and the day was just beautiful.

Views from the river

Views from the river

It is hard to actually call this a hike because most of it is along a paved path, which turned out not to be so nice on my feet and legs.  In the end it is pretty easy and you can make go as long as you want it too but since our priorities changed to hot tubbing 10-ish felt like enough.  The weekend was great even if the hiking was not  what we wanted, the views cannot be beat!

Here are our favorite pictures from the day:

Great views from the river

Great views from the river

fav 2Fav 3

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Hiking to Healthy Kathy & Aaron

Hiking to Healthy Kathy & Aaron

Spring Break: Breckenridge Adventures 3/3/13 – 3/5/13

15 Mar
The view Monday morning at Breakfast

The view Monday morning at Breakfast

We went right from our hike at White Ranch Park to Breckenridge for 2 nights. The weather we had been planning on completely changed between Saturday night and Sunday morning. Instead of no snow with sunny bluebird skies, a huge snow storm was moving in for Sunday afternoon and supposed to go until Monday morning. I don’t know if you have ever experienced driving west on I70 past the Eisenhower Tunnel during a snow storm but I consider it a white knuckler as you head down a 6-8%grade decline on a typically icy road, and no I don’t have 4 wheel drive which is so stupid living here hiking like we do. I started working up my nerves at the back end of the hike as I was watching those clouds churn off to the west of us. Fortunately mother nature was on our side, the first snow flake didn’t hit until we were almost down that steep grade decline and the car was safely parked in the garage before any real snow hit. We didn’t move it again until we left Tuesday morning which was beautifully sunny so there was no ice on the return trip either, yay me!

This is how we spent Monday morning hoping we would be able to get to keystone for tubing

This is how we spent Monday morning hoping we would be able to get to keystone for tubing

Anyway, we had planned on doing tubing at Keystone on Monday with the snow coaster in Breckenridge as a follow-up. After 9 inches of snow falling they actually closed the interstate and the one road between Breckenridge and Keystone, so we had to regroup. I was able to delay our tubing reservation by 2 hours but then that meant no snow coaster for us, we took advantage of all the free transportation in Summit County. There was a free gondola ride from our condo to the bus station just off of Main street in Breckenridge and then we hopped a free bus to Keystone. The tubing was actually at the top of the mountain and so we had to ride up that Gondola too, but the snow had picked up again and we didn’t have much of a view.

The Tubing tracks at Keystone

The Tubing tracks at Keystone

A little closer

A little closer

As we walked up to the Yurt for tubing we were pretty excited, the tracks they had set up for tubing were awesome, then they had a people mover to get you back up from the bottom. We could go alone, in groups of 2, 3 or all 4 of us which we did a lot of. I think we got in 10-14 runs and we laughed and screamed the whole time. It was so fast the snow looked like moving to warp speed in Star Trek ( as observed by Anne). There were Keystone workers at the top making sure the track was clear and then they asked if you wanted to go straight or spin and spinning was freaky but AWESOME!!!! The hour went too fast and at first I thought oh man I have to get us another hour, but at the end we were all ready to be done and so we began the journey back to Breckenridge.

Anne and Lauren spinning together

Anne and Lauren spinning together

Action shot of Lauren and the 4 of us tubing together

Action shot of Anne and the 4 of us tubing together

Lauren with the white snow fog as we sped up

Lauren with the white snow fog as we sped up

We ate and hot tubbed the night away as everyone should do when in Breckenridge, then headed back home on Tuesday for our next adventures….

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Upper Mohawk Lake – Breckenridge CO 9/1/12

2 Sep Mohawk Lakes Trail

Spruce Creek Trail -> Continental Falls Trail-> Mohawk Lakes Trail:

Starting Elevation:  Approximately 10,400 ft

Final Elevation:  Approximately 12,120 ft ( 1700 ft gain)

Trip Length:  According to the trail head and all research, 7 miles round trip ( 3.5 out and 3.5 back)  According to my fitbit 8.5 miles.  We really took our time and took a ridiculous amount of pictures, if not for our awe-delay we would have been done in 4 hours likely….however we managed to spend about 2 extra hours just taking in all the spectacular sights at so many different points.

Trail Uses:  Hiker, Biker & Horses

Degree of difficulty:  Moderate to Difficult due to altitude and the last 1.5 miles.

Bathrooms:  No, as in none anywhere along the way or at either end of the trail. ( A challenge for those of us who cannot randomly pee outside and don’t want to get dehydrated)

Pets:  Yes, and on six-foot leash under control at all times.  I don’t care how well-behaved your pet is, use the leash.  I was almost knocked over twice by unleashed dogs at tough parts of the hike and the owners seemed to think it was “cute” that the dog was so excited to get to the end. Yeah, not from my perspective.

I have confession, I picked this hike for 2 reasons, first ( and probably the reason with the most weight) I needed a change of scenery for a few days and Breckenridge is one of my favorite places to spend time.  Second, this hike was one many other people said was amazing and they were all right!  The above reflection picture was one I caught while we were still on the lower part of the hike.  I have always loved pictures like this where you can get a perfect reflection in the water, this was my first time doing it myself!   So when I proposed this hike to my husband I tried to focus on how it would really help with getting us better at higher elevation hikes to keep us on the road to our first 14ner by next summer.   But really I was thinking, “Yay, a break from my own 4 walls and a hot tub”!  Oh and of course looking forward to a new adventure, really I swear….

Ok, let’s talk trail.  This is a high altitude trail in the mountains, which means we were starting higher than we had ever even hiked up to before, 10,400 ft so we knew we would need to take our time in order to deal with the higher altitude.   The other challenge, and this one is true of all summit hikes at this altitude, is that weather comes in fast here so be prepared.   We tried to be on the trail by 7 but we were moving slower then we wanted and didn’t get started until 8AM.  I knew by the weather reports that there was a good chance rain would roll in around noon.  The trail head is not very far from Breckenridge, the road in, Spruce Creek Rd, is a well maintained dirt road through a residential area with the trail head a little over a mile in.  You can’t miss the parking lot, on the other side of the parking lot is a 4×4 road which if you wanted to do the summit only you could drive up it as far as you can go and do the final 1.5 miles ( 3 miles roundtrip)  up only.  You can also hike up this 4×4 road, if you prefer that type of hiking to the forested Spruce Creek trail.

We took the Spruce Creek trail head:

While Aaron was dealing with a wardrobe malfunction, I actually read the trailhead board mainly because it looked like one of the people getting to hike was a hunter and I wasn’t sure if this was a hunting area and/or a hunting area.  It wasn’t as far as I could tell.  What I did learn was that the Spruce Creek trail is marked by squares carved into the trees, which did come in handy throughout this early part of the trail.   There are also blue diamonds placed along the trail as well.   The first 2 miles is through this beautiful wooded forest is so different from what we had been hiking through along the foothills.  I actually felt like I was in all those Grimm fairy tales where it seems all the magical stuff happens.  It starts out going along a stream, which you will cross over a few times.  I have to post a few pictures here, just because it was so pretty:

We were getting pretty excited at this point because we knew the Mohawk Lakes trail was not too far away.  What we didn’t expect was the small pond shortly past this intersection, it was reflecting Mount Helen perfectly.  We killed a solid 20 minutes taking pictures of this.  I felt so proud to have actually captured these images, although is was more likely the quality of camera then any talent of mine….

So the next trailhead is not too far from here and we popped out of the wooded coverage onto the 4×4 road I mentioned earlier.  We saw a couple hiking up the road and they said it was very exposed so on the way back they would take the way we came from to avoid extra sun exposure.  The wooded trail was shaded and so nice and cool the whole way.

Just follow this road around the curve, there is fence and the trail picks up again just past that on the left:

From here the incline increases greatly, the couple we met on the road was still with us and they both had hiking poles.  This is a good time to point out that if you have poles and want to do this hike, bring them along maybe not a big deal at this point but later on they will be so helpful….  It is not to far to the next split, you have Mayflower lake on the right and then the Mohawk Lakes and Continental falls on the left…go left!

Ok, from here on out it is quite a hike.  There are the lower falls, then the Continental falls and then all long the way are remains of the old mining operation.  We took about 30 minutes taking pictures at the lowers falls and when we popped back out to the trail our beautiful blue sky was starting to get cluttered with clouds.  At this point we made the decision to focus on getting to the top to avoid weather changes and then we would take our time going down capturing more images.  Here is what the lower falls had to offer:

So from here you get back on the trail at some old cabins, one is restored and used by hikers who get stuck when weather comes in too fast.  Something to keep in mind when planning to do this trail, make sure you are prepared for any weather.   We had on layers of clothes and more in Aaron’s backpack just in case.  It is always easier to take off clothes then to try to figure out how to get warm when things change.

From here we tackled the last part of the trail, and I read everything I could find on this hike there was a constant term used to describe this last part….a scramble and I don’t know about you but I have no idea what a scramble is.  I googled it and it was a climbing term that recommended bringing a rope.  I could only find 1 picture of this scramble and it was the very beginning where it is a series of large rock(s) you have crawl up but then it is not AS bad as I had imagined.  I was determined to get pictures but on the way down…. unfortunately Mother nature had a wicked sense of humor after we headed back down.  Every time I pulled out my camera it started raining and hailing, yep hailing!  I wanted to kick myself for not taking the time to capture the “scramble”, but here is my advice take your time and look around.  They have adjusted the trail recently, before you would scramble up along the falls using the cable left over from the mining operation to pull yourself up.  The new path is not easy but it is easier, it would have been nice to have poles to help navigate it and add some stability for my poor knees that are fighting with all my extra weight already.  Now it takes a series of steep switchbacks over lots of rocks and boulders up to the lower Mohawk lake ( I think) which a is a beautiful destination on its own.

Along the left of this lake the trail continues up to the next lake and at the time I thought this was upper Mohawk lake from all the pictures I saw but I am not so sure any longer it could be Mohawk lake and we failed to make it to the upper lake.   But it is where we stopped and spent almost an hour taking pictures because it looked like everything I saw for Upper Mohawk lake:

Where this other hiker is located is where the path comes up to the next lake, you can also see behind her the trail that goes up to at least 3-4 more lakes.  I understand from this lake on it is pretty challenging to get to the remaining lakes and actual rock climbing skills would come in handy.  We stopped here and took pictures like crazy people.  The views were just amazing, everything we moved to Colorado for.  We could see Breckenridge in the distance along with the surrounding mountains and ranges.

We are really proud of ourselves on this one, it was a new and exciting challenge.  Unfortunately we took too long at so many different points during the morning, we headed down at 11:30 with our cameras out and it started to rain big alligator tears sized drops.  We captured a few things but had packed away our cameras because of the rain.  Then we started down the scramble he sun came out and went to the top of the continental falls, took out our cameras to catch how beautiful they were and it started hailing.  We stayed there for a while thinking it would stop and then finally gave up and as soon as we got back to the trail the sun came out blazing hot….I think you get the point, it was like this the rest of the way down until we actually gave up pulling out the camera and then I think it drizzled only one more time.

This is a spectacular hike, I think it should be on everyone’s bucket list as it has some of everything that makes Colorado so special.   Take your time doing it and don’t ignore the changing weather, it was a tough time getting down the scramble when it was wet.  Start early and know the weather for the day.  It is really only a summer hike although I have read it can be a good snow shoe route, really the beauty is best now!  I think snow shoeing would be quite a challenge, one I am not ready for yet.

How to get there:

From Breckenridge, drive south on U.S. Highway 9. From the last stoplight in Breckenridge to Spruce Creek Road is about 2.4 miles, turn right on Spruce Creek Road. Drive about 1 mile to a well-marked parking area and trailhead.

Here are just some more pictures from the day: