Authored By Kathy, Day Hiking Ambassador
I have to confess; I’m the black sheep of my hot-weather, beach-loving family. They and many of my friends shake their heads in bewilderment and dismay when I publicly profess my love of winter, cold and SNOW. It’s true. I’m a Snow Fan(atic)! I simply love snow!
I’m totally unrepentant though and when the last patch of dirty, icy slush disappears in the blazing temperatures of summer, I start studying the almanac, planning for the return of freezing temperatures and that wonderful white stuff. I become obsessed with the weather because, the advent of that wonderful white stuff is a prerequisite for my favorite winter activity and that’s SNOWSHOEING!
However, I know it will be several weeks yet before there will be any significant precipitation of the frozen kind and most likely several weeks after that before I can don my snowshoes without the possibility of having to carry them more than wear them.
So, to tide me over the snowless summer months, I busy myself with hiking and backpacking. This serves two main purposes; keeping me sane with outdoor activity and exercising my body so as to prevent me from being a marshmallow when snowshoeing season does come around.
This summer, I decided to put my hot-weather trekking to additional good use as research for trails I’d like to explore when the world is white and the trails are silent and serene.
Many trails that are great in the summertime just aren’t do-able once they are snow-covered. Knowing that in advance might save me the disappointment of having to turn back when a path dwindles to what would be a passable, albeit narrow, ledge when dry but when snow-covered would require acrobatic skills as I try to swing one snowshoe in front of the other while wobbling on one leg. (I should insert here that my dad affectionately called me “Tanglefoot” when I was growing up!)
So, I’ve started to take notes about different routes, rating them for suitability for snowshoeing.
For instance, during a recent trip to Utah, I scouted out the Alta area and Albion Basin as I know I will be back there in January, 2015 and Utah is noted for its glorious powder. My first try was the trail to Cecret (or Secret) Lake in the Wasatch National Forest in the Little Cottonwood Canyons (Albion Basin). This trail is 1.2 miles into the lake with an elevation gain of 470 feet from 9,500 feet to 9,970 feet – thin air up there! That’s a 7.4% grade and only moderately steep in places.
The trail starts out from a parking lot near a campground with rest rooms (yay!) and fairly steadily goes uphill through what in the summertime is pine forest mixed with gorgeous fields of wildflowers until a pretty little lake ringed by high cliffs and boulders is reached. Great place for a picnic lunch! I was pleased to note, the trail is wide for almost the entire way and I think even the narrowest parts will be totally passable on snowshoes when covered with the average annual snowfall of 50 feet (!). And I saw a couple of MOOSE! Definitely a four-star possibility for this coming winter’s snowshoeing adventures! Can’t wait to see those mountain vistas blanketed in white!
A few days later, I was on the hiking trails again, enjoying the warmth and wildflowers near Mt. Brighton on the Twin Lake Trail. My goal originally was Lake Mary, but I missed an unmarked turn-off and ended up at Twin Lakes. No worry, it was a beautiful hike, of 1.3 miles one way with an elevation gain of 650 feet to a high point of 9,480 feet at a 9.5% grade. The way was wide, steadily uphill, but gentle and the views were spectacular. The gurgling of a small brook was the only sound I heard until the crunch of dry grass alerted me to a small mule deer browsing nearby.
Now while this would be a perfect snowshoe adventure, alas, the trail is on the Mt. Brighton SKI Resort property and if I didn’t get run over by a hotdog snowboarder next January, I’d probably be carted off the mountain by ski patrol! Good to know, eh?
The day wasn’t in vain though as I found the Solitude Nordic Center just down the road which I suspect is a little slice of heaven on earth for those of us with “big feet”!
Now that I’ve made the mental decision to scope out future snowshoeing destinations, I am excited about even more summer hiking trips. Tomorrow, I’m off to a hike to Mt Harvard near Buena Vista, Colorado where while I’m slaving up that mighty 14er in the heat of day, I’ll be dreaming of cold weather and planning a future snowshoe trek when all is covered in white snow! See you on the trails!