Tag Archives: snowshoeing

Snowshoeing Fern Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

February 6, 2016

Fern Lake
Location: Rocky Mountain National Park
Fees: Day Use = $20, Weekly = $30, Annual = $50
Website: http://www.nps.gov/romo/index.htm
Elevation: 8,165-9,503 feet
Distance: 8-9 miles roundtrip

My friend Jim organized another snowshoe in Rocky Mountain National Park. He does so about every other week, and it is nice to be able to tag along. Our group of five met at the visitor’s center before entering the park around 8:30am. We were in the parking area and walking down the road to the trailhead around 9am.

To start our trek, we only needed our micro-spikes as the snow was somewhat packed down, but as we gained elevation the snow thickened. The last mile, from the falls to the lake, was somewhat steep as we switch-backed up the mountain. David led the way and toward the end had to break trail.

Eventually we arrived at the snow covered lake. The whipping wind directed us to a rock shelter for lunch as it was too cold to enjoy the lake view for more than a few minutes. Lunch didn’t last much longer. With our fingers and toes numb, we hustled down the mountain.

About half-way down, we warmed up. We got to some beautiful rock formations and decided to switch back to our micro-spikes as the snow didn’t seem that deep. We probably should have stuck with our snowshoes. The softening snow caused us to slip around the rest of the way down. Over all we enjoyed 8-9 miles of snowy exercise. It was nice to get outside in the sun, despite the wind! ETB

For David’s map and corresponding pictures, click here: map of our hike

For photographic notecards and key chains, visit www.notablenotecards.com or www.etsy.com/shop/nichenotecards

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Snowshoe Jim Creek Trail

Jim Creek
Location: Bonfils Station Outdoor Center in Winter Park
Fees: Free
Website: http://alltrails.com/trail/us/colorado/jim-creek
Elevation: 9,220-10,383 feet
Distance: 5.3 miles roundtrip

January 30, 2016

On a snowy Saturday morning, I headed up to Winter Park. The 1.5 hour drive took 2.5 hours due to heavy ski traffic given the forecast of good snow.

I met some friends at the Bonfils Station Outdoor Center. Our group of eight started out on the Challenger trail that led to Jim Creek Trail.

Soon we reached Jim Creek trail where we shoed beneath a light snow and through a snow-covered evergreen forest. When the wind blew, snow tumbled off the tree branches.

The trail was quite beautiful and for being so close to a ski area, we hardly saw a soul. The first half of the path was packed enough that spikes were all that we needed. I had my snowshoes on the back of my pack, and one hooked onto a tree! Erin saved it.

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Soon, however, we needed snowshoes. At this point, three in our group turned around as the ascent steepened and the snow deepened. Eventually, there wasn’t much of a trail to follow. We only saw a skier’s backcountry tracks. We followed these tracks as Joshua basically broke trail.

We switch-backed through the trees to the extent we weren’t sure if we would get to anything interesting. At this point, Brian stopped for a breather. The final four continued a little farther to arrive at a picturesque opening with a view of surrounding snow-capped mountains.

The skier’s trail continued through some more trees to another opening where we finally stopped as in front of us was a little more forest and an impending mountain. Joshua wanted to shoe up over the pass and hitch-hike back. The rest of us emphatically said, “NO”.

On our way back, we met up with Brian who had continued up after his breather. We shoed back on the Challenger Trail which connects to the Discovery Trail to create a loop to the parking lot. We worked up an appetite as we unknowingly shoed farther than the 5.3 out and back trail. No wonder it took so long. We ended the day filling our bellies at Ditch. Fun! ETB

For photographic notecards and key chains, visit www.notablenotecards.com or www.etsy.com/shop/nichenotecards

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Herman Gulch Trail and Lake Attempt

February 7, 2015

Herman Gulch Trail
Location: 52 miles west of Denver on I-70
Round-Trip: 6.5 miles
Elevation: 10,332-11,987
Fees: None

It was a glorious, winter day in Denver…sunny, 70 degrees and record-breaking! I thought what better time to go for a snowshoe as I won’t freeze.

Jim and I met in the Wooly Mammoth parking lot at 9:30. The late start was specifically chosen to let the ski traffic die down and to enjoy the warm weather. We hopped on I-70 West, sat in intermittent traffic, and in a little over an hour exited #218 and made a hard U-turn into the parking lot for the trailhead to Herman Gulch Trailhead (and lake).

The snow seemed packed at the trailhead, so we stepped into our micro-spikes, strapped our snowshoes to our pack, and pulled on our hat and gloves in preparation for our hike. Armed with the trail description, we expected a flat start with a steep climb only to level off again in a valley and then a final climb.

Without my sunglasses (Ugh) and one eye squinted closed, I led us up the snow packed trail than began at 10,000 feet. At first we walked through evergreens, and then along a flat, open area, and then up again through the trees. I kept thinking to myself that the trail didn’t seem as steep as I expected a 2,000 foot gain over 3 miles to be, but I decided to give myself credit for all my recent trips to the gym.

Soon, after about a mile, the forged trail abruptly stopped. No snowshoe or cross country ski tracks could be found. After post-holing for the last thirty feet and then reaching the end of the trail, I turned to Jim and said, “I don’t think this is right. Do you think we missed a trail junction?”

He replied, “I didn’t see another trail junction. Let’s keep going.”

Based on the cars in the parking lot, I knew others went out on the trail ahead of us, therefore, I had some hesitation with breaking the trail. In addition, in the back of my mind I felt like I saw a trail go off to the left from the corner of my eye, but it seemed less traveled so I followed the trail straight ahead.

I asked, “Will you pull the trail description out of the back of my pack?”

After studying the description and Jim adding a few waypoints to his GPS, Jim decisively determined we went the wrong way. I suppose he won’t follow me anymore! Normally, he has all the coordinates in his GPS before we go, but after a long week in California, he just relied on me printing the trail directions which were relatively simple.

As we backtracked the mile, we met a group of five.

Jim nonchalantly inquired, “Where are you guys headed?”

The leader of the pack looked at him inquisitively and replied, “The lake”.

Jim informed them that we think they are headed the wrong way, so they turned around.

Sure enough, near the beginning of the trail, we needed to do a hairpin left turn instead of following the trail to the right. Our print out didn’t mention a switch back, but it did mention at trail junction at 0.17 miles. Unfortunately, there wasn’t even a sign deciphering the two trails. It must have been covered in the snow?!?

Now that we were on what we felt like was the right track, we climbed up the incline through the aspen grove. The next couple we found, who were lucky enough to notice the trail junction, waited for someone to come along but when no one did they guessed left. At this point, I wasn’t feeling too bad about my misdirection, and we had plenty of time to make it to the lake.

As we continued up the tacky, soft snow, each group we met hadn’t made it to the lake. Having wanted to do this hike for over a year, I was feeling a bit discouraged, but determined to make it.

Once we exited the shade of trees and hit the level meadow of rippled snow in the blazing sun, we started post-holing regularly. Each time we fell thigh deep into the snow, we’d lean on our pole to push out only for our pole to sink or our other leg to sink. Finally, we succumbed and strapped on our snow shoes, something we were trying to avoid because they are clumsy and slow going. Not to mention, we could see the next section of packed snow just ahead where snow shoes wouldn’t be needed.

I must admit, in this instance, snowshoeing was much easier. We should have switched over sooner, especially me since I was falling through the snow three times more often than Jim. We’d probably only hiked a little over three miles by now, and I was exhausted from all the squats and lunges I was doing to get out of the snow!

We kept going intermittently through open areas, with views of towering snow-capped mountains, and the trees. Soon we were less than a mile from the lake, yet not one snowshoer had made it. One girl, who was a regular on the trail suggested that we not break our own trail to the lake since we didn’t know where we were going. Silently, I agreed with her. In addition, another couple mentioned they had never made it to the lake in the winter time. With those two comments, I told Jim, “We are turning around!”

Not one to quit, I’m kind of glad we turned around when we did. A dark cloud rolled in, and it began lightly snowing on us! Oh the joys of mountain weather. Not to mention, I rubbed one heck of a blister on the back of my heal, so I wasn’t extraordinarily faster going down hill than up!

We still got the 6.5 miles in that we planned, though at a much slower pace. We probably got in four hours of exercise and were on the trail for almost five.

Not making the lake only fuels the fire for me to go this summer. It is supposed to be home to fantastic wildflowers, moose, big horn sheep and mountain goats!! Overall, we had a blast laughing at ourselves and enjoying a lovely day! ETB

PS…Should you forget you sunglasses on a sunny day in the mountain snow, remember to put sunblock on your eyelids!

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