Tag Archives: Hiking

Matthews/Winters Park, Lakeview CO Hiked 5/17/14

23 May

best view

Zorro Trail> Dakota Ridge Trail> Village Walk>Red Rocks Trail> Morrison Slide> Red Rocks Trail> Dakota Ridge> Zorro Trail

Starting elevation: 6055 ft

Highest Elevation: 6800ft ( total Elevation gain was around 1600 ft)

Trail Length: Approximately 9 miles, it took us 4 hours to do the whole hike

Trail Uses: Some sections are hiking & horses only, most are hiker, biker & horses

Degree of Difficulty:  Moderate-mostly because of length

Fees:  None

Bathrooms:  At the parking lot of both Green Mountain and Matthews/Winters Park parking lots

Pets:  Yes – On Leash

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At 5PM on Friday I found our hike for the weekend, it didn’t give me the climbing I wanted for the but it did give us some good mileage plus we had never done this one, extra bonus.  I had wanted to do this one for over a year, but I had written across the map “lots of snakes only hike in winter”  and yet this winter we were obsessed with snowshoeing and completely forgot about this one.

Saturday was strangely humid for Denver so when we pulled up to the trailhead we were cold but determined to not overdress this time.  We actually parked in the lot for Green Mountain (hike details)in Lakewood because that was the best place to start for the loop hike we wanted to attempt.

Starting out

Starting out looking towards the trailhead

The trailhead across Rooney Road

The trailhead across Rooney Road

Zorro is a nice easy climb up about 500 ft over the course of almost of a mile to the Dakota Ridge Trail.  The bad part of this section is all the noise from 470 on this side and then when we got over the ridge, I70 noise was also super loud.

One of the views as we approached the top of Zorro

One of the views as we approached the top of Zorro

Some rocky steps close to the top of Zorro.

Some rocky steps close to the top of Zorro.

As we were on this side of the mountain or hogback, there were clouds all over the front range and they were low.  Green mountain just across the road was covered in clouds, when we got to the top it was all blue skies over Red Rocks.

Green Mountain all cloudy

Green Mountain all cloudy

Dakota Ridge Trail - Go right.

Dakota Ridge Trail – Go right.

Yay Blue skies

Yay Blue skies

Me on Dakota Ridge with Red Rocks in the background

Me on Dakota Ridge with Red Rocks in the background

We walked along this until we crossed over to the west side and through some trees, had a small break from traffic noise until we could see I70 and then the noise was all back.  We could also see the parking lot for Matthews/Winters Park below us.

Coming down Dakota Ridge

Coming down Dakota Ridge

There is Matthews/Winters Park...and I70

There is Matthews/Winters Park…and I70

Coming down Dakota Ridge was the most muddy part of the whole hike but wasn’t super bad and before we knew it we were at the road crossing to get to the next set of trails.

Matthews/Winters Park

Matthews/Winters Park

Trail Map

Trail Map

As we got to the next section of our hike, there were a bunch of vault toilets that we could take advantage of.  It was also the start of all of this fantastic red beauty and because of all the snow the weekend before, the green was amazing against the red.  We took Village Walk ( no Bikes allowed) To the Red Rocks Trail.

Changing over from Dakota Ridge to Village walk.

Changing over from Dakota Ridge to Village walk.

The next trail section starts just after this creek crossing.

The next trail section starts just after this creek crossing.

Village walk

There is an old Cemetery just off the Village Walk Trail.

There is an old Cemetery just off the Village Walk Trail.

Red Rocks goes back to bikers and hikers

Red Rocks Trail start

Red Rocks Trail start

I have to tell when we got to this part of the hike, I was so glad it snowed the week before because the flowers were so plentiful and as we got to the lowest part on this trail there was an oasis of green & red with the running water was stunning.  It was the best part of the hike!

An Oasis

An Oasis

2nd creek DSCN1721

From here we started climbing back up to the Morrision Slide trail, which climbs up to a lovely flat with lots of views of everywhere we had been so far and where we were going.  It is also the highest part of the hike.

Picking up Morrison Slide

Picking up Morrison Slide

Views of Red Rocks and the Part of Dakota Ridge we had already been on

Views of Red Rocks and the part of Dakota Ridge we had already been on

Morrison Slide flat part on a beautiful day

Morrison Slide flat part on a beautiful day

After the beautiful flat top of Morrison Slide we started descending back to Red Rocks Trail.

Back on Red Rocks Trail

Back on Red Rocks Trail

Trail Conditions coming down Red Rocks Trail

Trail Conditions coming down Red Rocks Trail

I have to tell you coming down this portion of red rocks trail was really hard to not keep looking behind us as it was just a perfect view.  Which made the next section a little disappointing because it was detour on a regular road with car traffic, down to the other side of the Dakota Ridge Trail which also is known as Dinosaur Ridge.  I saw that the construction in Red Rocks had forced a detour of the trail but I never guessed it was actually on the road.

Boo - Detour :(

Boo – Detour 😦

Crossing over to the Dinosaur Ridge part and a closed road.

Crossing over to the Dinosaur Ridge part and a closed road.

This is cool!

This is cool!

I have heard about this place but I have to tell you it was way cooler then I thought it would be.   They left dinosaur bones in the rock so that people could see what they look like when they are discovered!  We were like little kids checking it all out, oohing and ahhing

Dinosaur bones

As we finished up reading about all the bones and the changing landscape, we got back to the original Dakota ridge trail.

End of detour

no more paved road

no more paved road

This last section of the hike was all white and felt so different from the rest of the hike and I loved the change!

The last stretch

I really enjoyed this hike and I honestly think we did it with perfect conditions, on the best day possible.   It is a really exposed trail which means in the summer it is likely HOT, I mean it didn’t get much above 60 while we were hiking and the sweat was pouring off of us-now I get why there are typically a lot of snakes here.   The downside(outside of the snakes of course) is how close it is to both 470 & I70, the noise went away for a good portion of the hike but when it was around it was pretty bad.   Despite that, I will for sure do it again and likely bring guest hikers here because of the great views of Red Rocks.  After the directions will be pictures of all the flowers we had the good fortune to catch before they burn off in the sun.

This 3 day weekend we will get in 2 hikes that will both likely be repeaters!  I hope you all have great plans for the holiday weekend that includes a hike!  Life is too short… you should hike more!

Directions: Take I-70 West from Denver for about 9 miles to C470-East exit (exit 260). Go about 2 miles on C470 East and take the Alameda Parkway exit. Turn right onto Alameda Parkway, then take your first right onto Rooney Road. Go about 1.5 miles and the trail head parking lot will be on your right.

flowers 1 flowers2 Flowers 3 flowers4

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

Peaks Trail #45, Breckenridge CO Hiked 5/3/14

9 May

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Starting Elevation:  10,075 Ft

Highest Elevation: 10,221 Ft

Trail Length: We did a total of 6.5 miles round trip but you can take this trail all the way to Frisco for 10 miles one way.

Trail Uses: Hiker, biker, cross-country skiing, snowshoe,

Degree of Difficulty:  Moderate to difficult depending on how far you want to take it.

Fees: None

Bathrooms:  None at the trailhead but the Grand Lodge on Peak 7 is a resort right next to the trailhead and does have public bathrooms

Pets:  Yes – I think they are supposed to be on leash but there were some(most) not on leash

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Three years ago we impulsively bought a time share in Breckenridge and because we have spent that money I make sure to always take advantage of it when I can.  They offer something called bonus time to owners, which means when the resort isn’t full they sell the rooms for a third of the cost they normally are.  This past weekend was one of those weekends there was availability via bonus time and on top of it if we sat through another sales pitch, we got the room for 2 nights for $38.  Needless to say we took advantage of the deal.   The best part of the stay is that this trail we wanted to do is right next to the resort…. well that and the hot tubs.

mileage sign DSCN1530 DSCN1528

The not so great part is the resort allows pets and guess where everyone comes to walk their dogs…. this trail head, where apparently none of them ever bother to pick up after their dogs.   It was a poo minefield for the first quarter-mile, it was actually hard to miss stepping in it all while walking through this first section.

We were out on the trail just 30 minutes after we got up, at 7AM.  The snow was icy and stable so all we needed for most of the hike was traction devices.  The sky was the most beautiful blue, I don’t think the day could have been more perfect for us to be out hiking.  After the poo-field, the trail goes up a little, then down a little then up and down some more.   Nothing too crazy but a good workout on snow and ice regardless.

These trail markers make following the path in the snow easy. Very well marked

These trail markers make following the path in the snow easy. Very well-marked

Trail Conditions in the beginning

Trail Conditions in the beginning

We came to this road a little less than mile in, but the trail was well-marked on the other side.

crossing the road

It isn’t far from this junction that the views just open up on both sides of the trail.

Looking North and East

Looking North and East

Looking West

Looking West

We started to hear the melting snow all over and then we crossed over a snow melt stream, this one is the first of 3 or 4 we would cross from this point forward and while the picture doesn’t quite capture it, we are 4-5 feet above the stream on snow

crossing over snow melt

It was just after this we ended up on a Nordic Center snowshoe trail, which threw us because we didn’t remember seeing a trial break.  Fortunately, I had sort of  remembered from our snowshoe at the Nordic Center(snowshoe details here) that there was one part of the trail system that merged with the Peaks Trail so we kept moving forward and kept an eye out for a blue diamond.  I do have to say when it went off on its own there was absolutely no snow the way it went, I was a little jealous, I am definitely done with snow.

Snowshoe routeroute has no snowOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We continued on and got the absolute best views of the day in the next section which was pretty flat until it started to descend to the three mile marker and this beautiful pool about 6 ft below us but the picture doesn’t show how high the snow was.

fav2 good view

trail conditions 2 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA turnaround point turnaround stream

We felt really good and almost went further but we didn’t want to go too far and then spend hours post holing back to the trailhead.  Instead we decided to turn around and promised each other to walk the 2 miles down to town for a little extra movement.  We did walk those 2 miles to town and around town for a total of 12 miles over the course of the day which isn’t too bad.

This trail was spectacular and I cannot wait to try it in the summer or fall, the trees were perfect, the views amazing and frankly I would love to say I walked to Frisco on it.  You can really get out of it whatever you want, just make sure to go a mile to a mile and half in so you can see the best views possible,

I hope whatever your plans are for the weekend, they involve hiking!

Directions:  from I70 to Breckenridge take 9 to Lincoln/Ski Hill,  turn right.  Take Ski Hill for approximately 2 miles to Grand lodge on Peak 7 – drive just past the Resort and follow the road, as soon as it is unpaved you will see the trailhead on the left.

I thought these looked like ice ornaments instead of icicles

I thought these looked like ice ornaments instead of icicles

nice view

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

fav 8

still pretending on the drive out with crazy beautiful views

fav 7

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

DSCN1076

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

1

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.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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!!!!