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Mt. Falcon (repeater), Morrison CO hiked 5/10/14

16 May
Red Rocks from the trail

Red Rocks from the trail

This past weekend I had a meeting I had to attend  at 11AM on Saturday and to be honest I figured we would just hike on Sunday.  Then this wicked storm was predicted to hit on Sunday, it started out not being so bad and moved to a couple of feet in the mountains several inches on the Front Range.  Given this impending weather wrinkle we decided to get the best bang for our late start buck by hitting something close but challenging, yay Mt. Falcon ( Hike Details here)!  Unfortunately the weather forecast continued to change dramatically even between Friday and Saturday morning, so our day of beautiful sunshine turned into breaks between rain during our hiking window.   The worst rain shower actually hit before we started hiking when we first pulled up, nothing like a rain storm to make you question if you should go or not.  We decided we had enough gear to risk it and fortunately the rest of the hike ended up being pretty tame weather wise.

Flower3 Flower1

The best part of the hike was the flowers, they were everywhere and just lovely!  It was also obvious that Jefferson County had some trail work done on the bottom half of the trail to repair damage from the floods last fall, it was all leveled out at the bottom of Turkey trot and then nicely packed as it wound up to the trail break with Castle view.  The volunteers did a great job fixing it up!

Flower2 flower4

Because of the rain, this normally high traffic trail was decidedly pretty empty on Saturday which was a nice change.  We also were coming down late enough in the afternoon that we could hear music from Red Rocks  coming over to the trail, it was kinda cool.

denver Denver2

I keep forgetting how fickle May is for high altitude hiking, all the snow that hit on Sunday is still lingering as low as 7ooo ft.  Plus the mountains have been getting hit once a day with snow/rain since Sunday and I don’t know if I have mentioned it yet, but I am kinda done with the snow!  I know we have been trudging around in it for months, but spring snow is different you can’t float on it in snowshoes and  you are guaranteed postholing anytime after 10AM when the sun starts really to ramp up.  I am not a fan of postholing.

I am struggling to find a hike for tomorrow and praying that inspiration hits me sometime tonight!  Wish me luck!

I hope where ever you are, you find time to get out and hike soon!

These lovely ladies were just a few feet away from us on our way down

These lovely ladies were just a few feet away from us on our way down

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Three Mile Creek Trail, Grant Co Hiked 4/26/14

30 Apr

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Starting Elevation: 9022 ft

Highest Elevation:  11800 ft but we only made it to 10,100 ft for a total of 1100 feet of elevation gain.

Trail Length: Officially it is 13 miles round trip, on this hike we only made 5.2 miles round trip because of the snow.

Trail Uses:  Hiker, Biker & Horses

Degree of Difficulty:  Moderate to difficult, depending on how far you go

Fees: None

Bathrooms:  No, but there are 2 scary vault toilets along the road before you get to the trailhead, personally going outside would be easier….

Pets:  Yes on Leash

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Last week Burning Bear Trail made me fall in love with the area around Guanella Pass and the Mt. Evans Wilderness.  Three Mile Creek was another trail I had found late last year and it is in the same area so we headed out that way first thing Saturday morning.  The morning was absolutely perfect,  sunny with blue skies and the whole day was supposed to be that way with maybe some wind later in the afternoon.

parking lot trailhead

We started out and there was no snow or ice on the trail, it initially climbs just a little bit and goes along the road and then the creek.

starting out

I have to admit I was so excited in the beginning, I really thought we were going to make the whole trip with not too much snow. it was a nice steady climb through this stretch.

Views at the beginning

Views at the beginning

I had read that on this trail that as you go along the creek, it actually crosses over it 15-18 times in the first 3 miles, get to the first meadow and then climb on switchbacks up to the next Meadow where all the views are.

First creek Crossing

First creek Crossing

We made it over the creek about 6 of those times when the snow got to about 3-4 feet deep and while we had our snowshoes with us, the snow was getting so unstable from the warmth building throughout the morning that it was obvious at 2.6 miles in we weren’t getting in any further.

Along the creek

Along the creek

We turned around and just enjoyed what we could see of the trail.  We will for sure go here again and as soon as we can, maybe even backpacking here over the summer.  I had found out that this trail is considered a centennial trail, in that there is supposed to be a 100+different varieties of  flowers to be seen once the snow melts, that it has been written up a number of times.  That also means it is a busy trail during the summer and this summer promises to be epic for flowers given all the snow we have had.

Not too far from our turnaround point

Not too far from our turnaround point

Last picture I took before the snow was too much

Last picture I took before the snow was too much

At times we have made impulsive decisions that can be expensive, getting snowshoes was one of those.  We bought them from the Clymb for half the cost they would have been had we gone for this year’s versions and say I had gone for women’s versus men’s… but we got the adventure ones that are most useful for climbing mountains in the snow with backpacks on.  In total we spent $270 total with shipping and use of a coupon for 2 pairs of snowshoes.  This is how we figured we would pay them off; it costs $18-20 a day per person to rent snowshoes – each time we used our snowshoes we took $20 off what we paid.  We had hoped to have paid them off by the end of next season or spring of 2015.  This week was the 9th time we brought/used our snowshoes which means we paid off our snowshoes in just 3 months!  It is a stupid way of looking at things but it makes us happy, we did a little happy dance after our hike!

Not too many pictures from this hike so here’s how to get to this hike.

Directions: Take 285 from Bailey 10.8 miles to the town of Grant, turn right on to Park County Road 62( often referred to as Guanella Pass Road).  Drive 2.9 miles on the road and you will see the trailhead on right immediately before the Private property for the Next Mile signs.  It is a tiny parking lot so come early!

 

 

Burning Bear Trail #601, Grant Co Snowshoed 4/19/14

25 Apr
Best View

Best View

Starting Elevation:  9627Ft

Highest Elevation:   10,708Ft is the highest we made it but the highest part of the hike is supposed to be 10,740 ft

Trail Length:  The full length of the trail round trip is a 13 miles to Hall Valley  Trailhead we made it just under 8 miles round trip almost to the ridge top which was supposed to be 7.4 miles round trip, we didn’t make it to the Ridge line.  It took us 5 hours.

Trail Uses: Hiker, Biker, Snowshoe, cross-country skiing, Horses

Degree of Difficulty:  Moderate to Difficult

Fees:  None

Bathrooms:  Not near this trailhead but we passed a few outhouses on the Road up….they looked scary going outside would be better.

Pets:  Yes on leash

Beginning views

Beginning views

Last Fall I found this random website that gave a whole bunch of trail names with no information on where, length, difficulty or elevation.  I wrote down a couple of pages of them, found a few details and last week was the first time I actually studied them.  I wanted something that got us over 10,000Ft and in studying them I found this particular trail.  It looked perfect for our goals, lots of mileage, possible 2000-ish feet total elevation gain, getting above 10k and possible awesome views.  The other great thing about the trail is every report I found, and there weren’t many of them, said there was low to no traffic.  The only thing I wasn’t sure of was if we would need snowshoes or not… the week had been really warm and sunny so I figured if we needed them, it would only be to get over the ridge to get to that last 1.5 miles to the turnaround point.  When the news was reporting from Vail on Friday, there was no snow at the lower elevations which was about where we would be starting so I figured if we carried the snowshoes it would at least help me with my strength building for backpacking.

Saturday we got up early and started our almost 2 hour drive to the trailhead, the weather called for possible light rain in the AM, with thunderstorms starting around 2PM so I wanted to make sure we had enough time to finish before those possible thunderstorms started.  You have to park .2 miles past the trailhead.

Parking lot

Parking lot

Walking back to the trailhead

Walking back to the trailhead

The trail is immediately off of Park County Road 62 :

thru the gate Trail sign

It starts out really well-defined and marked, we took just 5-10 minutes to get to this bridge.

Trail in teh beginning cross the bridgecrossing geneva creek

The creek was beautiful and at first the snow was not a big deal, we went along our way for about 20 minutes before the first posthole.   Through the trees the postholing was minimal and the views were lovely.

DSCN1398 DSCN1400creek n meadow

We saw our first trail marker before the meadow of our downfall

This marker is how you follow the trail

This marker is how you follow the trail

We  got to this meadow with the next trail sign and the postholing was epic, the last one went above my knee and I hoped Aaron wouldn’t break through when he came over to help me out.  Then we shuffled to the most stable spot we could find and put on our snowshoes, just a little more than half mile from the trailhead.

meadow  of snowshoe

It was much easier going with our snowshoes one, the trail skirts this huge meadow for around a mile when there is supposed to be a trail break  left takes you to the ridge( Our destination) or further.  While right takes you around the meadow back to Guanella Pass Road (Park CO 62).   We noticed lots of old tracks heading left 5-6 times looking for the right path.  You really need to follow the meadow for about a mile, maybe a little more with the trees on the left.  Once the trail reached the trees we went left, saw a marker and knew we were on the correct path.  We were also now thoroughly in the trees with a nice slow climb.

thru the trees

It was in this section we passed this tepee, it made me wonder under what circumstances it was built because it had to take some time to gather all those trees.

tree tepee

From here we wove over and around the creek.

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Along the Creek

Along the Creek

The snow was pretty deep the whole way and just before we hit the second meadow, it disappeared for maybe a tenth of a mile.

Oh that is what the trail looks like

Oh so that is what the trail looks like

Second Meadow before the  Sun came out

Second Meadow before the Sun came out

The cabin ruins aren’t too far past this second meadow, about half a mile.  Most people turn around here from what I read and from the tracks we saw, no one went past in a long time.

cabin ruins OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The trail goes past the cabin and then climbs steeply up switch backs to the ridge.  The sun also came out strong and bright, which was lovely but super snow destabilizing warm.  We decided it was too pretty not to continue on and we felt good, like another mile or so wouldn’t be so bad.

A lot of the blueish gray markers had fallen down at this point so we used the notches to keep us on track

A lot of the plastic markers had fallen down at this point so we used the notches to keep us on track

This last mile was a struggle, in hind sight I should have called it much sooner, my legs become jello so much sooner in snowshoes and while we knew we had to be right at the ridge at 3.75 miles, the trail just continued to climb up as far as we could see.  We had two issues to consider… first we knew that while skies were blue, the clouds hanging out were definitely of the thunder storm variety and with the conditions of my legs at this point meant a fast escape if the weather changed wouldn’t be likely.

Just us with 4ish feet of snow at the turnaround point

Just us with 4ish feet of snow at the turnaround point

We turned around and headed back down, I fell 3 times in awesome fashion.  Then we got to that second meadow closest to the cabin and the effects of the sun made me bummed I didn’t turn us around sooner…. ever posthole with snowshoes on…. EXHAUSTING.  Our quick return was suddenly stalled and after an hour of it I was moving very slow when we finally got to that first meadows the views were spectacular.

Looking back from where we came from OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I will tell you this last half  mile or so was painfully long, but I wouldn’t stop moving because we could see the storm coming.  As we finally got back to the bridge and took off our snow shoes, the first drops started  falling which turned into an immediate downpour.  We tried to run but our legs were just toast, fortunately we made it to the car before the sleet started.  Almost perfect timing and despite our exhaustion we were also exhilarated, so worth every bruise I woke up with on Sunday.

pouring

I loved this trail, the views, the forest climb, the meadows, the creek and everything else.  I cannot wait to get back when there is no snow and make it to the ridge, hopefully further.

I hope whatever your weekend has in store for you, it involves getting out there and hiking!!!

Directions:  From Bailey  drive west on 285 for 10.8 miles to Grant.  Turn right on Park county Road #62( Sometimes called the Guanella pass road) and drive 4.9 miles to the trailhead at a turn in the road.  There is a sign and a gate on the left (North) side of the road at the trailhead.  Parking is available .2 miles further at the parking for Abyss Lake Trail.

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

MC tc 3

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…..

heading out fav 1 fav 2 fav 3 fav 4 longs peak fav5 fav 6

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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