Kenosha Pass Evening Snowshoe

South Park (episode 92)

South Park (episode 92)

We finally made it outdoors this winter! (After many Denver guided holiday tours with visiting family, J getting into a routine with his new academic career, my travel with work, and Furry B’s miscellaneous medical mishaps…)

kenosha pass

A Sunday evening group snowshoe was just what we needed to get back in our outdoor groove.  We met up at Kenosha Pass around 4pm, and headed up trail with our group of adults, kids, and dogs.  This trip was just for fun with an approximate 1.5 mile hike to a small clearing where we hoped to watch the Full Moon.  However, the evening skies had different plans as clouds drifted in.  So in the light of headlamps, we enjoyed our hot cocoa (other warm beverages) and cookies.  By dark our sugar rush had kicked in and provided plenty of energy to get us back to the trail head.

Winter Camping

Being a member of the Colorado Mountain Club, I had heard about the Winter Camping School that was offered and thought, why not test my camping and backcountry skills on the snow?  The class lasted about a month with three evening lectures at the American Alpine Center and then three weekend overnight trips.  Our instructors had some pretty impressive resumes with some having climbs of Aconcagua, Denali and Mt Rainier.  Knowledge and experience was not an issue.

During the lectures we covered topics such as: planning (goals, weather), equipment (boots, shovels), cold weather ailments (frostbite, hypothermia) and site selection (avalanche risk, snow conditions).  We had two training days in the field before our overnight trips which is where we applied what we had learned and of course the obligatory stop at Tommyknockers Brewery in Idaho Springs after every session.

We went to St Mary’s Glacier and camped below tree line for our first over night trip.  When we arrived, we began digging out areas for our tents.  The St Mary’s Glacier weather is notorious for wind and blowing snow and this weekend was no exception.  It is important to create some type of barrier from the wind, so we stacked snow blocks that we cut and built walls.  After our tent compound was complete, we began carving blocks to build our kitchen area.  This is where we all cooked and melted snow for drinking water and where we all froze together before we crawled into our sleeping bags.  One member of our team learned an invaluable lesson – always keep the sheath on your snow saw when not in use.  It was a freak accident, but a gust of wind blew something out of their pack and when they went to grab it, they hit the saw that was stuck in the snow with their hand.  It left a pretty nice gash that required stitches.  Needless to say, the instructors worked quickly to get him off the mountain and to an emergency room.  Unfortunately, this cut their trip short, but they rejoined us on the last outing.

This weekend was our last trip as a class.  Winter storm “Triton” was bearing down on the Front Range, but we still headed to the high country.  With snow-packed roads and lots of accidents, we slowly made our way west.  Finally we arrived at the Second Creek trailhead between Berthoud Pass and Winter Park with a fresh layer of powder to greet us.  We all grabbed our gear and headed up the trail to about 11,000 feet, where we set up camp.  One of the instructors and I attempted to build a snow cave.  After 2 hours of work, we found a crack in our ceiling that made it unfit to stay in.  He used his back-up tent and I attempted another, much smaller snow cave.  Temperatures were supposed to dip to -8 F and a snow shelter is warmer than a tent, as the ambient air is a constant 32 F inside.  Snow is an excellent insulator and sound barrier.  After setting up camp, we went snowshoeing, ate some dinner, hung around and again, froze together before going to sleep.  I woke up around 6am and fired up the stove for some scrambled eggs, potatoes and bacon and some hot coffee.  Everyone else started slowly crawling out of their tents and we all hung around in the kitchen until we were thawed out enough to start packing.  It snowed almost the entire time, until just before we broke camp.  With blue skies trying to pierce the clouds, we finally saw the beautiful landscape that had surrounded us all night.  Denver only saw half of the snow that was predicted, but we had a fun hike down in about 12 inches of fresh powder.

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Silver Dollar Lake Trail

We needed an escape from our domesticated morning at home, so we broke out the snowshoes and headed for the mountains to Silver Dollar Lake Trail.  The trail is fairly easy and short, but is steep.  It is popular with cross-country skiers and snowshoers.  Easy to access, it is located just off Guanella Pass, near Georgetown and Idaho Springs.

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Trail Stats:
DISTANCE: 3 MILES ROUNDTRIP
ELEVATION GAIN/LOSS: 1,000; START: 11,200 END: 12,200
AVALANCHE: N/A
 

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J and Furry B with Naylor Lake in the background.

There are actually two lakes on the trail.  The first is Naylor Lake, which is privately owned; and Silver Dollar Lake (public) awaits for you at the end of the trail.  We turned around at Naylor Lake, since the sun was starting to go down, and with so much snow on the trail, the path to Silver Dollar Lake was not well defined.  We definitely plan to return in the spring/summer, because we have heard the wildflowers near the lakes are amazing.

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Private and oh so peaceful cabins at Naylor Lake.

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Hey Joe – We found the towers!

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Before heading back to the trail head, we warmed up with a hot cocoa break.

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Guanella Pass – CLOSED for winter

Emerald Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park

Today, a friend and I drove to Rocky Mountain National Park and went snowshoeing around Emerald Lake. It was about 12°F when we hit the trail, but it quickly warmed to the upper 20s and it ended up being a great day for snowshoeing. We passed two small lakes on our way, which were frozen solid and snow covered. The wind started to pick up when we neared Emerald Lake and it became pretty fierce as we made our way to the other side. Check out the video.

We headed back down the trail and stopped for lunch once we were out of the wind.  I had one of my trail favorites: smoked salmon and cream cheese wraps.  Not a long trek, but it was a good half day of snowshoeing.

Snowshoeing, Golden Gate Canyon State Park

Sunday seemed like the perfect day for a hike, so we drove 20 miles to Golden Gate Canyon State Park. We went to the visitor’s center and looked around and I asked the ranger if they could suggest a good day hike that would allow for some snowshoeing. She suggested Horseshoe Trail. It was a moderate 3.5 mile hike with a starting elevation of 8,140 feet.  We arrived at the trailhead and Furry B was ready to lead the way. K and I got our gear ready and decided to start with micro spikes as the trail looked like packed snow and ice. We took off up the trail with temps in the 40’s and winds at 15-20MPH. We made our way up and were very glad we had the spikes. I don’t think furry B had any issues… The cool weather and snow gives him a burst of energy that makes him look like a rabid dog.

Rapid Snow Dog

We stopped at a switchback and had some water, trail mix and jerky and enjoyed the scenery. As the trail changed from packed snow to powder, we decided to use our snowshoes. Continuing up the trail we reached an open meadow and the halfway mark, so we turned around and headed back down.  Horseshoe is a very popular trail, so we were glad that we had gotten an early start.  As we descended, we met several hikers and dogs heading up the trail eager to enjoy the snow and the views.

 

 

 

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Steamboat Springs

“Well, when I was your age, I walked 4 miles…uphill…in the snow, just to get an elk loin steak….”

As most people do, the majority of our Christmas was spent eating…a lot of eating.  So, it was time to head out to Steamboat Springs and burn off a few of those festive calories.  Steamboat is a hip western ski town that has plenty of entertainment for the entire family.  Skiing, shopping, and relaxing in the hot springs are just a few activities that the town has to offer.

Just outside of Steamboat, there are lots of cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and snowmobiling trails.  Snow levels in many parts of Colorado are currently about 30% lower than normal.  However, the Steamboat area has more snow than many of the neighboring ski towns, so it was a good choice for our day of snowshoeing.  We decided to spend our afternoon at the dog friendly trail, Fox Curve Loop.  It is just a few short miles from town on Rabbit Ears Pass/Buffalo Creek.  Fox Curve Loop is a 4 mile trail that provides some variable terrain…downhill, through the meadow, over the creek, up the mountain and through the woods.  There is no shortage of beautiful snowy scenery.  It was a fun and exhilarating hike, but at the finish line Furry B was ready to warm up from the breezy 28F temps.

At the hotel, the clerk was kind enough to provide a recommendation for dinner….Ore House at the Pine Grove.  We were the first diners in the door and ready to eat.  The Ore House is located in a 100 year old barn that was renovated in the 1970s and is full of western pictures and artifacts.  It is the oldest restaurant in town…and I’m guessing one of the busiest too.  In true western fashion, J ordered the peppercorn Elk Loin and I chose the Steak Bits.  All entrees include the salad bar, bread and cinnamon rolls (yes, cinnamon rolls!), and choice of potato – their specialty is the House Potato, which is shredded red potato rolled into a ball and fried, and then covered in a warm cheese sauce.  Trust me, order it!  This was one of the best dining experiences since arriving in Colorado.  The dinner was delicious…fresh salad, tender and flavorful steak, and the sides were divine.

However, the true test of restaurant greatness is of course dessert. At many restaurants desserts often look great, but the taste rarely lives up to their gourmet look.  So here it goes…Brownie Fudge Sundae please.  And then it arrives at the table…an extra large warm brownie (corner piece) covered in fudge sauce with a generous scoop of vanilla ice cream, and whipped cream garnishing this delicious ensemble.  Heaven on a plate and angels dancing on my tongue!

If you are ever in Steamboat Springs, Ore House at the Pine Grove is a must eat!!

Before saying our goodbyes to Steamboat, we drove downtown to visit F.M. Light & Sons clothing store.  Walking into the store, one takes a step back in time.  This historic store opened in 1905 and still uses many of the same display cases from when it originally opened.  Western clothing, boots, and Stetson hats fill the store.  Take a few minutes and read the fascinating story of this store’s humble beginnings: History of F.M. Light & Sons.

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Snowshoeing & Muttluking on a Bluebird Day

Winter is upon us…and Furry B has been dying to try out his new Muttluks.  Since we have already been skiing and ice-skating; it was time to try the fastest growing winter sport in the world – snowshoeing (and of course muttluking).  We chose a hiking trail next door to Nederland, CO for our first snowshoe adventure.  West Magnolia Trailhead is just off the Peak to Peak Highway and offers easy access to several trails.  We strapped on our snowshoes (and muttluks) and had a quick practice walk at the trailhead, before heading up the trail.  We hiked up to a lookout, where we could see Eldora Mountain Resort.  Furry B, “The Abominable Snowman,” goes insane when he is in the snow.  We had a hard time keeping up with him.  It was an outstanding day to enjoy the outdoors… with blue skies, sunshine and snow.

A Little Snowshoe History— Even though snowshoeing is mostly now just a recreational sport, it actually began out of a need for survival over 6,000 years ago in Asia.  In cold climates, snowshoes allowed people to travel and hunt in deep snow without sinking into the snow.  Snowshoes are designed to cover a large surface area so that your feet will “float” on the snow.  Snowshoes have definitely advanced since 6,000 years ago.  The first snowshoes were made from wood and rawhide; and now they are typically made from plastic, aluminum and synthetic materials.

We worked up an appetite while snowshoeing, so we were glad that Nederland was close by so we could enjoy a late lunch.  Nederland is a unique mountain town, with friendly people and a laid back lifestyle.  While Furry B napped, we ate at the Wild Mountain Smokehouse and Brewery.  It was busy; apparently a popular hangout for skiers since the Eldora ski area is close by.  After lunch and a brew, we went in a few of the downtown shops and the local Mountain People’s Co-op….very small, but full of unique items and reasonably priced.  Mostly all organic groceries, and a large selection of bulk staples and exotic spices.  It is one of the only two grocery stores in town.

Our visit would not have been complete without a visit to the train car sitting in town.  Curiosity got the best of us, so we had to drop in Buffalo Bill’s Coffee and Confections.  It is a coffee shop inside of an early 1900’s train car.  Very neat atmosphere with good coffee and even better homemade mini doughnuts!  It was a great end to our Nederland visit.

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