Breckenridge, Colorado is one of my most favorite places to snowshoe. There are so many beautiful places to explore with canyons, mountains, lakes and streams and old abandoned mines galore! And, most importantly, gloriously snowy trails can be found often from mid-September to early-June! Whee!
So, on a recent weekend trip to Breckenridge for a much needed outdoor snowshoe outing, I was startled to hear my husband, John, announced we were going to “do” the Nightmare on Baldy Trail. What? With all the trails we haven’t yet explored, we are going to pick one with “Nightmare” in the name? Why? Did I do something wrong?
I immediately fired up my computer and typed “Nightmare on Baldy” in the search engine to find out what grisly event occurred on this trail to warrant its name. Maybe, a mine blew up (I knew there were several in the area). Or maybe, a mountain lion attacked the miners while they slept? Was it an avalanche that wiped out a shanty town?
To my intense disappointment, after diligently searching, I couldn’t find anything to explain why this trail got its ominous moniker. Guess I would just have to rein in my imagination and brave the trail without knowing what dangers lurked ahead! Dang!
My research into the Nightmare did prepare me for so of the trail’s stats. It’s a 7.25 mile loop with the trailhead perched at just under 10,000 ft. The elevation gain of 1300 ft means the highest point of the trail is about 11,200 ft. That translates to an intermediate level trek. Of course, in snow, it can be a bit harder than that would seem.
The day we planned to snowshoe dawned mild but cloudy. While we could clearly see the mountains and valleys, Colorado’s famous, impossibly-blue, skies were dulled. Nonetheless, I was excited to be out in the snow, playing in fresh air! So with bear spray strapped to my pack, a loud whistle clipped to my belt and other emergency gear stowed, we set out to conquer the Nightmare! Hey, I was prepared to NOT have a nightmare experience!
I’m not going to bore you all with a turn-by-turn description of the trail; there are plenty of websites that map out Nightmare quite nicely. SummitCountyExplorer.com is my favorite. What I do want to tell you is a bit about OUR snowshoe experience on the trail.
Putting on snowshoes in the cold and/or snow is not my favorite thing to do. But with my new Tubbs’ Wilderness snowshoes, I find they are easily strapped on even while wearing my favorite gloves. Before my first outing, I had tried them on a home in the comfort of my living room, so I knew I had them “all set” and ready to go.
The trailhead starts out going downhill a bit through the trees before it curves around and starts a fairly mild but also relentlessly uphill climb. Generally, I hate to see a trail start out downhill because then I know I will end my day going uphill! Maybe, that’s the “nightmare” part.
Anyway, the trail follows an old mining road so it is wide and there are no steep drop-outs to remind me of its name. On this day, it was obvious that Nightmare is a popular trail and the terrain was tramped down to a hard surface. I was pleased to see the Tubbs’ Wilderness snowshoes teeth handled the sometimes-slippery slope well and I marched confidently uphill towards the first of several abandoned mine ruins, the Sally Barber.
When we reached the Sally Barber which is about 1.5 miles in, we stopped to take some pictures. This is where the Nightmare on Baldy trailhead officially begins and where we could see few people continued the hike. From here onward, the going was slower as we were on unpacked (powdery) snow and were breaking trail. Again, I was pleased with the Tubbs’ Wilderness snowshoes’ performance as I had minimal sinking and no post-holing whatsoever! Poking our trekking poles into the soft off-trail snow, we found we didn’t touch bottom with the poles right up to our wriststraps!
I have to confess, we actually, didn’t complete the whole loop that day but because of incoming weather we turned around at the 6.5 mile mark. Of course, going downhill was a lot quicker though I was glad for those crampons on some of the steeper parts.
Thankfully, when we reached the final uphill climb to the parking lot, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be as we were too busy gaping at and trying not to startle, a small (6) herd of mule deer grazing in the near-distance!
Again, thankfully, the Tubbs’ Wilderness snowshoes were a breeze to take off and had not caked up with hard snow.
Once back at our rented condo, as I sank into the outdoor hot tub with glass of wine in hand, I contentedly reflected on a wonderful winter’s day. I’m not sure who I need to talk to, but I think, seriously, that a mistake was made in naming the Nightmare on Baldy Trail. It should be the Baldy DREAM Trail!
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