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Mason Creek at Staunton State Park, Conifer CO hiked 4/12/14

17 Apr

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Mason Creek Trail> Border Line Trail> Staunton Ranch Trail

Starting Elevation:  8197 ft

Highest Elevation:  9450 Ft ( Almost 1600 ft total with a little up and down from Mason Creek to Border Line)

Trail Length: 10.6 miles officially and my fitbit was pretty close with right around 11 miles

Trail Uses: Hiker, Biker, Horses

Degree Of Difficulty:  Moderate to Difficult: mostly due to length.

Fees: $7 a day or $70 for the annual Colorado State Park Pas… we have the pass

Bathrooms:  Yes at every parking lot

Pets:  Yes- dogs allowed as long as they are on leash.

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We have been super enjoying all the snowshoeing opportunities these past 2 months but to be honest I feel like we are totally out of shape. None of our snowshoes were very long or had a ton of elevation gain, we stayed up highish but didn’t climb a ton.  I was starting to worry that all that stamina we had fought hard for might be gone.  That’s why we went back to Staunton State Park on Saturday.  This park is just beautiful, the trail options make it easy to challenge yourself or quickly escape if you bit off more than you can chew.

Picking our Route

Picking our Route

The other driver to get in as many miles as possible on Saturday, was the spring snow storm expected for Sunday.  The mountains were predicted to get a foot or more of snow and we here on the Front Range 3-6 inches so we had to make a bang on Saturday.   I am pretty sure everyone in Colorado had the same goal for Saturday as Spring fever has officially set in!

We started out on Mason Creek Trail and at first it was straight forward so we cruised through the 2.2 miles without blinking an eye.  It was wild flying  through this part when the last time we attempted it in the snow it took us forever!  I am torn which I liked more.  It is beautiful for sure, but I think I might actually like a snowy Mason Creek ( our first hike details here) a little more… but I need to see it in summer.  It wove beautifully along the creek which was babbling in and out of ice and snow.  We crossed it a few times and once again I was so impressed with how they planned this state park, everything is so well thought out!  Overall the trail mostly climbs and the last half mile or so declines to the trail break.

Mason Creek Trail conditions

Mason Creek Trail conditions

one of many creek crossings on Mason Creek

one of many creek crossings on Mason Creek

The last mile on Mason Creek went down...on ice and snow

The last half mile on Mason Creek went down…on ice and snow

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When we got to the trail break, we had a choice to do just 7 ish miles or push on and try for the 10.3 miles.  If you get here and want the shorter route take Old Mill, it is just .9 miles to Staunton Ranch and then 1.7 to the parking lot.  The old original Mill is here too, surrounding by fencing to protect it but it was cool to see.

Old Mill

Old Mill

Boarder Line Trail

Border Line Trail

There is actually an Old Mill  in ruins at the trail break

There is actually an Old Mill in ruins at the trail break

We took Border Line and decided further was going to work… honestly I felt good and just doing the whole original planned loop felt really good.

From here it means climbing again and the first mile is straight up but not a super steep grade or anything plus it is a lot of switchbacks.

Boarder Line Trail Conditions

Border Line Trail Conditions

I was loving the views as we climbed, all the beautiful rock faces we saw as driving to the parking lot were right there…..spectacular.

Views on Border Line

Views on Border Line

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We got to the Staunton view-point after a mile on Border Line, it is a little offshoot from the Border Line trail and we took it knowing it added .2 miles to our overall hike.  I am so glad we did, the views were perfect.  It would have been better had the sky been cloudless but there is something about the moodiness clouds add that make it a sight to behold!  It is just .1 miles to the official view and then we kind of adventured to this other outcropping and got 180 degree views of everything….. I super love Colorado.

Staunton Overlook

Conditions at the overlook

Conditions at the overlook

Me at the overlook Views at overlook

From this point we climbed a little more and then it was straight down to the Staunton Ranch trail.

Coming down on Boarder Line

Coming down on Border Line

Staunton Ranch from Border Line

Staunton Ranch from Border Line

Getting on to Staunton Ranch Trail

Getting on to Staunton Ranch Trail

The Staunton Ranch Trail does a little up and down throughout and overall it is the easier stretch of the hike, just 3.3 miles of a stretch so be prepared if you do this loop.  I will admit the last 2 miles were a struggle for me on Saturday, my feet and legs were protesting the whole way but it felt great to get our original goal accomplished.

I am excited for the next hike, the weather is changing and so am I…. I am struggling with my healthy part but I am so looking forward to so many new hikes.  I want to be higher sooner and the snowshoes helped with that, we are comfortable at 10K already, thank you snowshoes!!!  Now I need to get better at carrying my snowshoes so we can be good at 11k, 12K, 13K and finally some 14k.  As always after the directions will be our favorite pictures…

I Hope your spring also started beautifully, so now just get out there and hike where ever you are!

Directions: Take US Highway 285 south to Shaffers Crossing, about 6 miles west of Conifer. Turn north on Elk Creek Road and follow the signs 1.5 miles to the park entrance

Pikes Peak was all lit up whenever we saw it from the trail.

Pikes Peak was all lit up whenever we saw it from the trail.

Rocks along Mason Creek Winter

Rocks along Mason Creek Winter 1/19/14

Same Rocks on 4/12/14

Same Rocks on 4/12/14

 

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TrailRidge Road Hike/Snowshoe RMNP, Estes Park CO hiked 4/5/14

12 Apr

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There is a Facebook Page called Enjoy Estes Park and every Thursday they run a contest for an all expenses paid trip to Estes Park, free lodging, free meals, Free beer and wine, free snacks throughout the day, free rental of sporting goods and they even gave us money to spend in some of the stores in town.  They started doing it in October and it runs for 36 weekends through May.  They start every Thursday then pick someone by Saturday night for 2 weekends ahead.  2 weeks ago I won!  So this past weekend we had a fun weekend in Estes.  I wasn’t sure with all we had to do for free that we would get in time for hike or snowshoe but we did.

Saturday was crazy beautiful when we woke up at 6AM…. I was determined to get in a hike or snowshoe!  What was not so great… the headache and disconnected head I woke up with.  I will admit I still thought this was my crown work at this point since it had been hanging around all week at weird times.   I am not one to give into things like this when I have so much planned and like so many before me, I just pushed through…..

Driving into RMNP

Driving into RMNP

As we drove up to Rocky Mountain National Park ( after our free breakfast) I saw views I had never seen before, as I have reflected on this shock of awe it occurred to me that every time I have actually entered the park it has been cloudy, snowy or stormy.   I think if had seen the views I saw last Saturday I would have been in RMNP more frequently before now.  I have to be honest here, I didn’t want to leave….like EVER.

It took us almost an hour to get to the Trail Ridge Road parking lot and trail( Snowshoe details here) because we kept stopping to take pictures. I figured that we could hit this trail again and see what it looks like outside of a snow storm, assuming there were views.

When we pulled up to the parking area, I was still not feeling so hot and I seriously chalked it up to poor sleep and the crown.  So we climbed up on one side of the parking area to get this shot, I figured it was just exhaustion.

parking lot

We scouted out the trail and saw it was all straight ice and decided that we didn’t need to bring our snowshoes, but if I was honest with myself I knew I couldn’t carry the snowshoes  anyway.  We started hiking up the road and the views were amazing!

rounding the first corner up the road

rounding the first corner up the road

how the Road/trail looked

how the Road/trail looked

Views before the Snow

Views before the Snow

It was pretty much after this turn that I checked out….. that disconnected head thing that happens when you have a head cold, well I was there. The views were crazy amazing and I was loving them but I was also out of touch….

view

Hidden Valley

Hidden Valley

same view 2 weeks earlier

same view 2 weeks earlier

Looking forward

Looking forward

We walked for about a mile and then all the sudden the snow was deep, and us with no snowshoes… the good or bad of it was, I was completely oblivious and just kept following Aaron.  He was following other footprints so I didn’t care much about our direction and then the other foot prints were  gone … I still didn’t care much I just had my head down thinking-> put one foot in front of the other.

hmmmmmm snow

hmmmmmm snow

As we moved forward, I was fighting with myself the whole way thinking WTF this is cake why am I struggling> get over the stupid tooth thing already ….. while Aaron was moving forward on 2-5 feet of snow with no input from me.  He did awesome, as he always does, but about a quarter to half mile into the snow the tracks we and been following turned around while we kept going.

Looking Back

Looking Back

It was both cool and foggy as we went forward, I completely figured out the snowshoe trail I could not see the last time.  The hard route from Hidden Valley to Trail Ridge Road > Can you see it?

Hidden Valley to trail ridge road

Hidden Valley to trail ridge road

As we were moving through this last little bit I realized I was totally sick…. its not the tooth.

just us

At one point Aaron turned around and said what do you think, I just stared at him and said whatever…. he knew >I had the sick face…. so he said check the time we still have a lot of awards to get.  Sure enough it was 11 and we needed to turn around.  It was then that I realized I was totally sick. For the record it only took me 20 minutes more to voice it….

The drive out was both beautiful and painful….. I never wanted to leave, I was so excited about our prizes AND completely sick…..  We stopped at every awe point and took pictures, we went into town and celebrated our wins, we left early the next morning and I spent the next 36 hours in bed.

I had a crazy good time in Estes Park despite my illness, I loved seeing Trail Ridge Road without a storm, I loved driving through RMNP with moody weather and skies.   I loved going through town and gathering our prizes…. What I didn’t love  was, was being sick the whole time.  Either way we got some good pictures…..

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still pretending on the drive out with crazy beautiful views

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Great view…. pretending to not be sick

 

St. Mary’s Glacier Snowshoe, St. Mary’s/Alice CO Snowshoed 3/29/14

3 Apr
Looking back Over St. Mary's Lake

Looking back Over St. Mary’s Lake

Starting Elevation: 10,423 Ft

Highest Elevation: 11, 023 Ft

Trail Length: To the base of the glacier and back it is 2 miles round trip

Trail Uses: Snowshoe, skis, snowboards, cross country skis

Degree of Difficulty: To the glacier easy to moderate

Bathroom: Yes – there is a well used port -o-potty in the parking lot

Fees:  $5 a day.

Pets: Yes

Looking towards the Glacier over the frozen Lake

Looking towards the Glacier over the frozen Lake

Same view In July 2013

Same view In July 2013

2 weeks ago we won an all expense paid trip to Estes Park… I am so excited and will tell you all about as soon as we get to experience it!  Because of that, I decided that a break from Rocky Mountain National Park was due this past weekend.  I thought it might be fun to try a more advanced snowshoe since the weather was supposed to be pretty awesome on Saturday and St. Mary’s glacier was the one I wanted to do.  To be honest snowshoeing to the Glacier isn’t advanced but going up the glacier to James peak is.  We had no desire to summit James Peak we just wanted to go to the base and back to enjoy the amazing views on what was supposed to be a perfect day. I had great expectations for the day….

Then I got a crown on Thursday and that 3rd shot hit a nerve, it was almost comical at how quickly my whole left side of my face swelled up, I could see my cheek like it wasn’t my cheek.   What wasn’t so great was the pounding headache I had on Friday that forced me into bed all day.  Saturday morning it was kinda ghosting around so we went ahead and stuck to our plan.

The drive was lovely, no traffic jams on I 70, dry roads and breathtakingly blue skies.  When we got to the parking lot around 7:30, we were super excited and then we open the door ….well I tried to open the car door…. the wind was BAD.

Starting out

Starting out

Not easily deterred, we suited up and headed up.  It was a super beautiful every where we looked and what a huge contrast from the summer when it was different beauty:

Same area in Summer

Same area in Summer

But when the wind hit, we just sort of stopped and stood and waited until it finished up.  We were still optimistic we could make the journey we originally planned.

As the Glacier and its surrounding peaks came into view our optimism died, the snow blowing off and around it never stopped or slowed.  We saw snow funnels on the slopes… tall ones.  I had never seen one of those before.  But deep down there was still HOPE and we had not yet put on our snowshoes so we took a bunch of pictures at St. Marys Lake and headed to the glacier.

me at the lake

We got over to the trees to put on our snowshoes and that is when I discovered you put a bizarre amount of pressure on your jaw when putting snowshoes on while wearing a backpack … My headache went back to raging once they were on.

Heading towards the glacier

We headed up the glacier not once, not twice but 3 times.  Each time we would get in the middle of the winds and try to go a little further and then just get freaked out and turn around.  Again if I had more Avalanche training I might have approached it differently but we could not see anything in the windy snow and we could not even look at the mountain ridges to see what the cornices looked like or see what was coming at us from in front or even where we had just come from.

getting close to the wind tunnel

getting close to the wind tunnel

As close to the heaviest wind I could get with my camera

As close to the heaviest wind I could get with my camera

Looking Back the way we came in the wind tunnel

Looking Back the way we came in the wind tunnel

We were out of our comfort zone on a beautiful Bluebird sky but windy day.   My head was pounding worse with each attempt and after the 3rd one, I called it.  We headed back down and home where I crawled into bed after taking some Alieve.

Me Giving up

Me Giving up

I felt so lazy later when I was  feeling better, so Sunday we hit North Table Mountain ( Hike Details here) to get extra mileage and climb in for the weekend.  The day was beautiful but I forgot my camera!

Directions: Take I70 west and exit at Fall River Road ( Exit #238), turn right on to Fall River Road take it up 10 miles past the town of Alice. Look for the Glacier Hike sign on your left; 100 yards past the sign is a public parking lot. $5 to park.

Windswept

Windswept

Trail Ridge Road, Rocky Mountain National Park( RMNP)- Estes Park CO- Snowshoed 3/22/14

28 Mar

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Starting Elevation:  somewhere in the mid 9000’s

Highest Elevation: A little over 10,000 Ft- our watch that gives us the elevation is no longer working so this is a guestimate.

Trail Uses: Snowshoeing and Cross Country Skiing Winter only trail as it is an actual road in summer.

Trail Length:  5.5 miles Round trip but this can grow and shrink based on conditions. We did a little over 6 miles, it took 3.5 hours.

Degree of Difficulty:  Easy to Moderate

Bathrooms: None at the road closure so hit one of the visitor centers just outside the park.

Pets: No pets allowed in RMNP

Fee:  Yes $20 per car a day OR $40 for annual pass with unlimited RMNP access – we have the pass

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I have been trying to figure out the balance when it comes to snowshoeing, is more mileage better or steeper trails?  Since last week we did a steeper trail with low mileage that felt good and maybe a little too easy.  I decided this week would be better to up the mileage and keep the incline low, I was also secretly hoping we might get some magic timing again like last week and catch  the amazing views that Trail Ridge Road is supposed to have.   Once again the weather forecast was snowy…snowy the day before, through the night and all day Saturday and it truly was.

We were just outside of the Park when we came across 2 large groups of Elk.

elk Lots of elk

The roads were not great and the snow was pretty thick at times, so it was no surprise that when we pulled into the area cleared for parking at the road closure we were the only ones there.

Parking lot Start

Trail Ridge road is open through the summer and is closed in the winter months until the snow is no longer an obstacle.  It goes over the Continental Divide in RMNP and in the winter is used as a great way to snowshoe or cross-country ski with amazing views, wicked wind and a certain level of security in that it is impossible to get lost.   Since it was pretty obvious the snow had no intention of stopping, we were confident that there would be no views.  We just got our snowshoes on and started moving and at first it was decidedly….hard.  Not just because we were the first people out there in a while, but likely the altitude played a factor too.  Oh and maybe the fact I overdressed.

looking back after the first quarter mile

looking back after the first quarter-mile

I am always amazed when I do a trail for function then get transfixed by the unexpected beauty.  The snow made any views of the surrounding mountains impossible, occasionally we would catch hints of them but the snowy landscape itself was just lovely.  The bonus of this particular snow storm was that the wind wasn’t all that bad so no wicked wind to make us miserable.

It wasn’t too long before we got to the overlook near Hidden Valley which used to be a ski resort, in fact  my sister learned to ski there, but now it is all closed down and its own snowshoe/winter fun route.  You can make a difficult adventure loop by starting at either Trail Ridge Road OR Hidden valley then climb/descend to the other location.   I have to be honest, staring over the edge at Hidden Valley I have no idea how you do the loop.  Perhaps taking the road all the way around to that main run?  I didn’t get a good shot of it to even let you all hypothesize with me.

Enjoying a brief views of Hidden Valley

Enjoying a brief views of Hidden Valley

At this point on the road the snow was not very deep and we actually almost took off our snowshoes for fear of ruining the metal spikes on them.  When we turned the corner up ahead it was crazy deep again, so deep we could no longer go side by side.  We took turns breaking trail to help us keep some strength in reserve just in case we went further than we originally planned.

Looking up ahead to where the snow gets deep.

Looking up ahead to where the snow gets deep.

We went along the road for about 3 miles and had it all to ourselves the whole way.  We decided to turn around when we got to this sign, for the record the snow wasn’t this bad the whole way it was a just well-timed gust of wind.

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Looking at our single track

Looking  back at our single track

Breaking trail

Breaking trail

All together we got a little over 6 miles from the snowshoe and maybe 600 feet of elevation gain.  Breaking trail was great exercise, after just 3 miles my legs were solidly tired, it was nice to turnaround and head back to the car.  We saw some people on the way back, I think we passed maybe  6 or 7 total the whole snowshoe, all of them taking advantage of the trail we broke.

I have to be honest, I cannot wait to get back to this trail and try it again with a clear sky, the few hints of mountains we saw through out our snowshoe looked amazing!  I would also like to go further than we made it last week.  We didn’t get a ton of pictures because the snow was so heavy I was worried about hurting my new Nikon.  After the directions will be a very few of our favorite pictures.

Directions: Taking 36/66 through Ester Park, at the 3rd light along main street there will be signs for the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and RMNP, turn left.  Once you cross into the park, stay straight then take this road for about 8 miles to the road closure sign.   You will pass the Hidden Valley snow park on your right before the road gets curvy( hairpin turns) and then you will be at the road closure.

being artsy

being artsy

Cool Tree

Cool Tree

Best View

Best View with a little moisture on the lens

Nymph, Dream & Emerald Lakes – RMNP – Estes CO, Snowshoed 3/15/14

21 Mar
Emerald Lake

Emerald Lake

Nymph Lake > Dream Lake > Emerald Lake

Starting Elevation: 9400 ft

Highest Elevation: 10,100 ft

Trail Uses: hiking, snowshoe, cross-country skiing, hike in ski out…. anything with skis….

Trail Length: Officially 3.8 miles, we walked around Emerald and Nymph lakes a lot so we got around 4.5 miles for the day… it took us 3 hours although we did spend 30 minutes at Emerald lake in awe.

Degree of Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Bathrooms: Yes in the parking lot

Pets: No- No pets allowed in Rocky Mountain National Park

Fees – Yes $20 per car a day OR $40 for annual pass with unlimited RMNP access – we have the pass

Looking back at Emerald Lake

Looking back at Emerald Lake

I have to tell you that I have been getting humbled by our snowshoes and how these shorter distances kinda kick my butt.  With that said I picked this easier snowshoe in Rocky Mountain National Park ( RMNP) in hopes that if I try something a little easier I won’t feel so defeated at the end.  It is short and the elevation gain is minimal.

As we were driving into the park, we were lucky enough to catch these Elk battling it out.

elk

We pulled into a huge parking lot that was quickly filling up at Bear Lake.  If this lot is full, they suggest parking at the Glacier Gorge parking lot and walk up from there.  I was impressed with how many people were out there given it was St. Paddy’s day weekend and the weather forecast was questionable.  The weather was supposed to be exactly like our first snowshoe at Mills Lake via Glacier Gorge, snowy with a lot of wind.  I had already made peace with the fact that I would not get any views just some experience and work on my leg strength with those snowshoes on. Getting out the car I was not surprised by our view.

parking lot view

Parking lot view

There are 2 options at this parking lot… well a lot more than 2 but for snowshoeing you had Bear lake, which is a 1 mile loop around Bear lake Or the 3 lakes we were going to that day; Nymph, Dream & Emerald. We took the path kinda up the middle and to the left of Bear Lake.  It is not far to Nymph lake, in fact maybe a half a mile and the path was hard packed we didn’t have our snowshoes on but carried them instead.  It was not super steep but we did climb up to the lake.  It was snowing even harder upon our arrival then when we started.

trail break 1 emerald lake sugn trail break 2

Trail Conditions to Nymph

Trail Conditions to Nymph

 

When we got there I realized I had left my directions in the car and so we started going the wrong way. I should have just looked for the hard packed trail but there was a large guided group there as well and it threw me off.  We went right and the snow felt lass hard here so I put my snowshoes on.  That’s when we saw everyone going left along the lake so we turned around and followed them up.  For the record I didn’t need my snowshoes for this portion either and really I could have gone without them until Emerald lake where I was actually out on the lake adventuring around.   It was kind of steep going up this section, I would say the most steep of the whole snowshoe and it was busy!

Nymph Lake

Nymph Lake

Views on the way to Dream Lake

Views on the way to Dream Lake

When we got to Dream Lake, I was once again confused by where to go.  There is a clear path off to the left but it must go up to other options, we decided to stay straight and cross over dream lake hoping to get to Emerald lake.  I was so consumed to see where everyone else was going that I failed to notice it was starting to clear up.  We thankfully crossed the path of another snowshoer who said we were on the right track for Emerald Lake and so we continued on.

Dream Lake Looking towards Emerald Lake

Dream Lake Looking towards Emerald Lake

Me on Dream Lake

Me on Dream Lake

It was not far to this last lake with some more climbing, a little over half a mile.  As we got a little higher, the sky lit up in the best blue while clouds moved around the peaks surrounding the lake.  It was amazing!  When we got to Emerald Lake Aaron put on his snowshoes while I ran out on to the lake to try to capture the views as best I could before we lost them again.  Honestly I could have stayed there longer it was so beautiful. The best part is we had it mostly to ourselves.

Trail Conditions going towards Emerald Lake

Trail Conditions going towards Emerald Lake

Skies opening up

Skies opening up

Almost to Emerald Lake

Almost to Emerald Lake

We spent about 30 minutes ohhhing and ahhing before heading back.   It was a slow start back because I kept turning around to enjoy the views before they were gone.  By the time we got back to Dream lake the clouds had moved back in, while the crowds were on the move to Emerald lake.  We passed so many people on the way down.

On Emerald Lake

On Emerald Lake

Overall it was a great snowshoe!  I would love to take visitors here so they could see the amazing beauty for themselves.  I  know I will be back in the summer, there is another lake to check out and so much to see, all off this parking lot.  I couldn’t believe how lucky we were in terms of our timing, it made me want to get back there as soon as I could!

Since the snowshoe was on the easier side, we got out on Sunday and did 7 miles at Deer Creek Canyon which is a muddy, snowy, icy mess right now.  It was a good workout.   After the directions will be some of my favorite pictures from the day.

However your week is going, find some time and get out there and hike!

Directions:  From Estes Park stay on 66/36 through town, at the 3rd light in town, turn left and follow the signs to the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station entrance into the park. There is a fee to enter the park through this entrance.
Shortly after passing through the Beaver Meadows fee station, turn left onto Bear Lake Road. Take Bear Lake Road until it dead-ends into the Bear Lake Trailhead area. If parking is unavailable at Bear Lake, it is possible to park at the Glacier Basin area and take a shuttle to Bear Lake.

Me on the way backfav1

 

One side of the lke Ice falls views on the way  down Beautiful

We caught this one on the drive out of the park

We caught this one on the drive out of the park

Spring Break hiking 3/1- 3/6/14 All Repeaters

15 Mar
view from Evergreen Mt.

view from Evergreen Mt.

When my nieces came to visit me last year, their one request was more hiking.  I honestly had no idea they would like it as much as they did.  I wanted to get them out as much as possible while still giving them a break from school.  I had grand plans, hike 3/1, snowshoe 3/2, sunrise hike 3/3, break on 3/4, hike of their choice on 3/5 play 3/6 by ear…. our first hike fell apart quickly while the snowshoe on 3/2 was excellent as I mentioned here.

For our sunrise hike on 3/3 I was pretty uncertain we would ever be able to do it because the avalanche risk was so high all through the high country and I am not yet educated on avalanche safety and awareness.  I picked a mountain that I knew was a low risk but tricky to get to, Colorado Mines Mountain.  With the snow storm we had on 3/1 I wasn’t certain the road up would be open but it was so we got up at 2AM and headed out to attempt their first sunrise hike.  When we arrived at the Berthoud Pass parking lot I was not expecting the 15 foot high wall of snow all around the parking lot nor Aaron getting bad coffee from 7-11.  He hardly had the car in park before he was running to the warming hut vault toilets to be sick.  Which I might add is one of the most awful places in the world to have that kind of situation in…. And my old negative Nellie said out loud “oh yeah we aren’t doing this”.

At the top of the continental divide sign

At the top of the continental divide sign

While Aaron was being sick I told them to get their snow pants on and wait in the car while I scouted out the trail to see what we had to work with.  The snow was actually hard enough to walk on and the snowshoe trail was just like Butler’s Gulch the week before in that we didn’t need snowshoes where all the other snowshoers had gone before us.  I walked a good quarter-mile up without anything but my hiking boots.  That walk felt good so I went back, checked on Aaron and the 3 of us adventured up the trail a bit to get a feel.  I should have had them put on their snowshoes and just gone for it but I didn’t, and my lack of confidence probably contributed to their unease.  We went up about half a mile, shut off our headlamps and then turned around.  We decided we would wait for sunrise in the parking lot and then head back for naps as soon as Aaron could safely leave the bathroom.  We goofed around where we could and then as the sun started to rise the snow picked up along with the wind… it was almost a white out.  I took a look down Berthoud pass and we weren’t going to catch any of the sunrise from there the snow was so thick in crazy blowing winds.  I am still kicking myself for not just taking them up alone, I am perfectly capable but I let doubt rule me!  Regardless it would have been miserable at the top with absolutely no views.  I promised them that if they came in the summer we would do this again on a better mountain.

On Wednesday, we hit Staunton State Park and the weather was absolutely perfect, the views were amazing and my nieces were the perfect company.  We hiked about 8 of the miles Aaron and I hiked last fall.  We did the Staunton Ranch trail to Scout Line, took Marmot down and then Staunton Ranch back out.   The hardest part was the little bit of snow we had to contend with, it was just enough to have slipping and sliding more than we wanted too.

The best view on Scout line - see pikes peak?

The best view on Scout line – see pikes peak?

What I loved was just talking with my nieces about whatever, they are adults now and so incredibly smart it was a revelation.   I found myself wanting to study again so I could keep up!

pikes peak and views staunton view on scout line

We did the length of Scout Line trail and then headed down Marmot passage to get a little loop back to Staunton Ranch trial.  Overall it gave us 8-9 miles of hiking with perfect weather and amazing company.

marmot passage sign

Taking marmot passage

view 2

View on the way down Marmot Passage

Staunton view on marmot

too good to miss

After making them hike a lot on Wednesday, my nieces were still up for another hike on Thursday so we decided that the first hike we wanted to take them on- Evergreen Mountain– would be the one to do.  It was like night and day from just 5 days before.  The only downside was the snow on the path with the ice underneath that snow.  Once again Lauren and Anne proved how awesome they are!   It was supposed to a warm beautiful day, and while it was warm the sun stayed hidden which meant it wasn’t as warm as we had hoped it would be.

I love showing new people to this trail, when I do I usually take them to it before we hike much else only because the route up can be kind of boring after other hikes.  I felt that boring aspect the most this last time with no sun and the pesky snow making us slip and slide all over the place even more than the day before.   But the summit views were lovely to behold as always.  I think that was the redeeming part of the hike for us all after a struggle to get up through the melting, sloppy snow… that and the drinks afterwards.

us on evergreen mt. at the top summit of evergreen

This visit overall was so nice, having my nieces here made me both miss my family terribly and want to redouble my efforts to get them all to move here to Colorado…. now I am patiently waiting until my next family visit.  It needs to come faster!

ice castle moment

I hope you are experiencing some form of spring awesomeness and if you are, get out there and hike, life is too short!!!!

Butler Gulch Snowshoe, Empire CO 2/22/14

26 Feb
The View to the East at the top

The View to the East at the top

On Tuesday when I came home to the huge box with our snowshoes, I kinda wanted to go out right then and to try them out.  Unfortunately there is no real snow here on the Front Range so I had to wait until the weekend to get my fix in.

The view South at the top

The view South at the top

I had hiked Butler Gulch( Hike Details here) in September of 2012 and had read that it was actually a more popular snowshoe than hiking trail.  This is the trail I knew I wanted to do as our first solo snowshoe.  It was one we had done before, the nature of the bowl we were hiking into made it safer from avalanche danger than most and it meant we could hit Tommyknockers on the way home.

When we pulled up to the parking lot, we were impressed with how many cars were already there and more were pulling in constantly.  Fortunately it was not all for Butler Gulch, but also for Jones Pass which is open to motorized vehicles(Butler Gulch is not), lots of snow mobiles were over that way.

Parking Lot

Parking Lot

We put on our snowshoes at the car and started up the road to the trail head, I don’t think we needed to do this as the trail was pretty stable and our boots would have been fine.  It was so cool walking over the gate to the trail, knowing it meant we were on 4 feet of snow, but again, I think we could have walked this all in our boots it was packed so hard.

Standing on the gate

Standing on the gate

The Gate in Summer....

The Gate in Summer….

We moved out at a nice pace and then as we climbed in elevation we definitely slowed down, I guess it had been longer than I thought since we were last at 10,000+feet.  Despite the struggle with the altitude I was so happy to be out there.  The weather was pretty good, just a little snow falling and occasionally we would hear big wind up above.

The start trail1 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAView along the trail 1

It took us longer than we expected to go just 2 ish miles, around 2 – 2.5 hours, and I think it took this long for 2 reasons. First, the altitude kicked my butt the whole way up while I practically flew down the gulch in the return trip.  Second, it was just interesting to get used to the snow shoes, we got mountaineering ones and went with men 30’s .  They are bigger and heavier than what we used 2 weeks before, but it was right for our weight combined with our backpacks.  It was like walking with those ankle weights on but we did float better.

snowshoes

The path itself wasn’t too steep until it was crazy steep, the last climb up was very challenging so when I fell heading up, I wasn’t sure how I was going to get up and it took me a couple of minutes to sort of wiggling around to get to a standing position.  Conversely when I fell coming down at the same point… I couldn’t get up so I just scooted on my butt down to the tree line.

Getting Steep

Getting Steep

Just a peek as we catch our breath

Just a peek as we catch our breath

It flattened out above that steep section and we could see the whole bowl in front of us with all the mountains north of us, it was beautiful!  I am so glad we stopped here to capture it because not 5 minutes after we snapped a few pictures the wind picked up in a wicked way and didn’t stop.  This is the challenge of being at 11,000ft, when the weather changes it is dramatic.  I got a few pictures of the snow blowing like crazy and then we hightailed it out of there.  The wind was coming hard enough that our path up was already being covered.

the way we planned on continuing

the way we planned on continuing

View Before it changed

View Before it changed

Changing

Changing

Changing

Changing

Changed

Changed

The trip down took maybe an hour and let me tell you the traffic going up was heavy, I think we easily passed a 100 people or more heading up.  Most were going up to do some back country skiing, with a couple of groups of snowshoers as well.  We passed one couple that had done almost the whole thing in just their micro spikes, they were so friendly, they had snowshoes attached to their packs and were holding out til the last-minute to put them on.   It was interesting to see that we could have done the same trail in our micro spikes without postholing… next time.  I think the only hard part is knowing when to switch it up.  I am not sure where the right spot to put on the snowshoes is at.  I think I did know where it wasn’t …. I am sure once I get more comfortable I will be able to figure out when I need to switch.

Moving down fast

Moving down fast

The day itself was pretty amazing, I never imagined I would be able to climb up to 11,000+ft this time of year and the snowshoes made it so easy!  I was surprised by the level of traffic on the trail but it is pretty close to Winter Park and likely a good break for skiers on a crowded Saturday.

I hope if you find yourself out this way, that you get a chance to check this one out!

Just as an FYI… I will not be posting for a bit, my nieces are coming out for spring break at the end of the week and we have a crazy schedule set up.  We are hiking, snowshoeing, seeing the ice castle in Breckenridge, doing a sunrise hike( their request) and lots of shopping and laughing.  I think my evil plan to make them love Colorado enough to want to live here is working! I will catch up as soon as I can!

In the meantime get out there and hike!

Weigh in Day 2/21/14 -1lb, 55.4 down 34.6 left to go

21 Feb
Nugget is helping me do chest

Nugget is helping me do chest

I have to tell you this week was really tough.  There were work lunches I had to participate in that were catered in with no input from the attendees, so my choices were limited and I guessed on calories eaten on those 2 days.  I wont lie, I also indulged in the crazy rich, fat full brownie one day for no other reason than I was bored with the topic and struggling to stay focused… so I ate a brownie.  It was delicious and guilt ridden.   The next lunch was at one of those places that is on Diners, drive-ins and Dives and seriously everything in the place was bad for you… not only was it all bad for you, all the good for you stuff sounded extra terrible next to the regular menu.  I was weak-willed and went bad.

The upside is I  exercised off most my guilt and kinda got over myself.

In 2 weeks I will have been on this journey for 2 full years and I thought I had moved to the lifestyle stage, but all week I struggled with old feelings of wanting to eat whatever I want, when I want and in obscene quantities.  It felt like a diet for the first time in a long time.

This loss is coming at the right time, because I fought so hard against old behaviors and had success, it actually made me feel stronger in my determination to get to my goal weight this year.

I know the struggle will never end, I didn’t get 100 pounds overweight in a week or after a bad year, it was a lifetime of bad habits.  I guess that I need to start working on the “some days will be harder than others” aspect of it all and managing it better emotionally.

On a different note, the snowshoes showed up!!!! I can tell you we are like kids on Christmas eve today. I cannot wait to snowshoe tomorrow, I have 2 trails picked out and it will all depend on traffic as to which one we do.

I hope where ever you are, you can get out there hike soon!

Lookout Mountain via Chimney Gulch, Golden CO Hiked 2/15/14

20 Feb
Best view of the day before the clouds moved in.

Best view of the day before the clouds moved in.

Chimney Gulch> Windy Saddle Trail> Lookout Mountain

Starting Elevation:  5780 Ft

Highest Elevation: 7570 Ft ( total elevation gain around 1800 feet)

Trail uses: Hiker, Biker & Horses

Trail Length:  Officially Approximately 8 miles, my fitbit said a little over 9 miles

Degree of difficulty: Moderate, it is steep in some parts but I am not sure I would say it is difficult.

Bathrooms: Not at the entrance off of 6th Avenue but there is one at the Windy Saddle parking lot and at the Lookout Mountain Nature Center.

Pets:  Yes on leash.

View from the Lookout Mountain Nature Center

View from the Lookout Mountain Nature Center

I have driven past this hike a million times and I am always wondering 2 things.  First, what a weird place to pick up a trail and second, dang that is crowded!  It has seemed crowded regardless of conditions too!

This past Saturday, I had hoped beyond hope that we would have our new snowshoes but we didn’t so I decided it was time to check this particular trail out.   I am not sure why I have been avoiding this one for the past 2 years, but strangely I have manged to completely block it out of my mind.  It is a shame too because after the first mile and a half it is beautiful.

You start out literally on the side of 6th Avenue in Golden… And I mean on the side of the road.  If I hadn’t passed it a million times I would never know the Chimney Gulch trail head was here.

The pull off On 6th Avenue to start the trail

The pull off On 6th Avenue to start the trail

Starting out on Chimney Gulch

Starting out on Chimney Gulch

The first mile just starts climbing up along the road and the neighborhood.  Before it gets steep, we came to this cement something or other that acted as a bridge over a little creek or drainage crossing.  I only mention it because there is also a path you can take over to your left which seems more likely but it is the neighborhood access trail, not the Chimney Gulch Trail.  So climb that cement thing and cross over, continuing up.

Drainage Crossing

Drainage Crossing

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On Saturday the trail was super muddy all through this section, with the wind blowing good and strong but strangely warm, we were sliding all over the place!

trail conditions on the first half of Chimney Gulch

trail conditions on the first half of Chimney Gulch

After the first mile you come up to a dirt road/driveway… more likely driveway, go left and look on your right and you will see the continuation of the trail.

Me at the Driveway break with the sign Aaron made for my backpack advertising my blog...isn't he sweet!?!

Me at the Driveway break with the sign Aaron made for my backpack advertising my blog…isn’t he sweet!?!

go left when you get here

go left when you get here

Trail picks up again on the right

Trail picks up again on the right

This next section of the trail goes for 1.5 miles and crosses over a true paved road 2 times.  This is a windy mountain road that I assume ultimately goes to the top of lookout mountain too, but you have to watch out for both cars and bikers.  It was pretty slick from snow/ice, we did have to put on traction devices to help us walk through it safely about a half a mile in.  We must have hit at the right time or the wind and clouds kept everyone at bay, because we had most of the way up to ourselves.

Crossing the road to get to the second section of Chimney Gulch

Crossing the road to get to the second section of Chimney Gulch

Icy conditions

Icy conditions

Views are changing

Views are changing

At the second Road crossing you come to this very picturesque parking lot with a great view of mountains and beautiful stonework.  This is the Windy Saddle Trailhead and parking lot where the one port-o-potty is.  From here it is just over a mile to the Lookout Mountain Nature Center and top of the mountain.

As we climb up to the Windy Saddle Trailhead

As we climb up to the Windy Saddle Trailhead

Windy Saddle Parking lot

Windy Saddle Parking lot

Windy Saddle

Windy Saddle Trail

Windy Saddle Trail

I am not sure exactly when it moved in, but about half way up this final climb, clouds encompassed the top of the mountain and all views evaporated.  Don’t get me wrong, the cloud and fog brought its own beauty to the hike, but I have no good summit shots for you.  Instead of ohhing  and ahhing at Golden down below, we hit the Nature Center talked to the people running it that and found out that Boettcher Mansion was open to the public right that minute for wedding reception tours.  I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to check that out so we walked through there too.  I am sure the views are spectacular here  but the clouds just got thicker.  The house was hauntingly beautiful in all the fog.

Take the Lookout Mt Trail

Take the Lookout Mt Trail

Trail Conditions on Lookout Mt Trail

Trail Conditions on Lookout Mt Trail

At the Top of Lookout Mountain

At the Top of Lookout Mountain

Nature Reserve

Nature Reserve

Inside Nature Reserve

Inside Nature Reserve

Boettcher Mansion

Boettcher Mansion

We made a super quick descent because it was cold up in the clouds!  There were way more people out on the trail now and much of the ice that caused problems on the middle 1.5 miles was melting at a good pace.

On the way down

On the way down

I will tell you I am not very fond of the first mile of this hike, it is kind of boring and your views are of houses with some of Golden spread out below you.  But once we got to that second part, the surroundings totally changed and it was all trees, mountains and terrain which was all lovely.  I think if we do this one again, I would start at the first road crossing on the second section of Chimney Gulch.   I am not sure how to get to that road but I think  it is the light just south of the turn off for the first section.   If you find yourself in Golden CO and need a good diversion, check this hike out, I think you will like it.  My Favorite Pictures from the hike will be after the directions.

Directions: Take 6th Ave West from Denver to Golden for about 12 miles. About ¼ mile before the 6th Ave/Route 58/Route 93 intersection there will be an unmarked pullout on the left side of the road. Park here. You will see some single track leading up the mountain. Take this.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA fav1 Denver back at windy saddle

weigh in Day 2/14/14 -.6, 54.4 lbs down 35.6 left to go

15 Feb
Nugget getting his workout in

Nugget getting his workout in

I know the loss isn’t much but in my mind it is huge because I had my monthly visitor hit this week and was still going through it on weigh in day so any loss is monumental at a time like this.  I worked out hard all week and patiently waited for my snowshoes to arrive… but they didn’t.  I got in almost every workout and ate within my calories every day.  Work has finally become more manageable and all I can think about is all the hikes I have before me.   I love and hate this time of year, the mountains look so impressive but impassable with all that snow and avalanche risk, every weekend is up in the air in terms of what we can do.  Oh and still no snowshoes….

I was more sad about my snowshoe situation than anything else all week, because it meant no snowshoeing for me this weekend but we hiked this morning on a new trail I have kinda avoided until now and I was surprised at how much I liked it.  I am hiking with my hiking superhero, Wendy tomorrow.  All in all has been a pretty good week.

I think my snowshoes will arrive this week… fingers and toes are crossed! I seriously cannot wait to go again and already know what trail we are doing first.

I don’t know your situation but if you can get out and hike this week do it…life is too short to not hike more!