Winter Break Snowshoe Trip

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Kathy, Day Hiking Ambassador

Every year, my husband, son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter make it a point to snowshoe over the Christmas/New Year’s Holidays – usually on Christmas Day or on our wedding anniversary two days later. This year, we decided instead to take a family holiday after Christmas and make it a dedicated snowshoe trip. So with great expectations, we packed up all our gear, lots of food and Dexter, the dog, and set off to Twin Lakes, Colorado a roughly 2 – 2.5 hour drive from home.

Driving from Denver, that Saturday afternoon, I was very apprehensive since there was no snow, even as we got to higher elevations. Was this trip going to be a big bust? I needn’t have worried because as soon as we drove over the pass to Leadville, the snow made its appearance and everything was blanketed in lovely white! A couple of feet at the very least!

By the next morning, we were unpacked and settled in our temporary home and ready to go exploring on our snowshoes. We had three different trails picked out – all within walking distance of our cottage, though we ended up driving to two of them to save time – snowshoeing on paved roads is not nearly as much fun as plowing through the fluffy stuff! The first trail we planned to explore was a segment of the Colorado Trail which is a roughly 500 mile trail from Denver to Durango. Of course, we only planned on a few miles and the trailhead was practically at our doorstep.

The trail immediately climbed up steeply and continued going up the whole way. The snow was deep and we were breaking trail through aspens and pine trees. It was very cold – negative temperatures the entire weeklong trip – and the day was grey. Fortunately, there wasn’t any wind. Despite the less-than-favorable weather, we had a blast! I was so happy to be behind three others. By the time I was passing through the snow drifts, the snow was much more manageable. We did switch off leading every so often and I can tell you that even with my fantastic Tubbs RDG snowshoes, it was tiring to be first in line in several feet of snow! After a couple of hours, we called it a day/afternoon and headed back downhill. Much easier going!

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Our next snowshoe outing we drove to the end of the plowed road – Route 82 – which in summer months goes over Independence Pass onward to Aspen. The road is seasonally closed down and hiking up it in snowshoes gave up wonderful views of various mountain peaks, including some of Colorado’s famous 14ers (14,000 ft + summits). The day was gorgeous blue skies with no wind, thankfully, since we exposed and out in the open. Snow on the road was probably only 2 feet deep and a nice trail had been packed down by other snowshoers. We never did see any one though. However, for a mile or two we had the pleasure of following a cat track – that is a mountain lion – through the snow! Too fun! Jillian and John kept us laughing with their calling “Here, kitty, kitty”. The scat was pretty fresh, but we never did catch up with the critter.

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Our last snowshoe trek was on the La Plata Peak Trail. La Plata’s summit is over 14K feet and is not an easy climb in the summer even. We just wanted to see how far we could get. This time my husband had to stay behind to handle a business “thing”, so it was just Shawn, Julia, Jillian and me. We were happy to see that someone had gotten to the trail before us and led the way through the fresh snow – maybe 6 new inches on top of the 2-3 feet already on this trail. The trail was beautiful through the woods with snow-covered pine branches just waiting for a slight breeze to dump onto our unsuspecting heads! Seems like Julia and I took the brunt of these sneak attacks!

After an hour or so, we spotted two returning snowshoers – our trail blazers – headed down towards us. These guys were SERIOUS trekkers – climbing ropes, ice picks, etc. on massive packs. We stopped to chat a bit and they let us know they had to turn around a couple more miles in because the snow became waist high even with snowshoes! We knew then and there we weren’t going to be able to go much farther. Actually we turned around way before that after crossing a deep gorge on a very narrow sloping ridge and Shawn spotted an “avalanche danger area” sign up ahead. Avalanche? No thank you. Time to go home. Even Jillian was willing to not forge ahead and she is always our most adventurous.

We certainly did have a great time on those three snowshoe days and before the trip was even over, we were planning our next outing. Valentine’s Day, anyone?

Our thanks to Tubbs for making our outing so much fun! John, Julia and I all have Tubbs – Shawn and Jillian aren’t so lucky. Yet! Birthdays are coming…

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