Fraser River Trail Winter Hike & Colorado River Trail Adventure

Saturday morning we awoke early in anticipation of racing up to the mountains for the weekend; Aspen was also eager to get a move on… as usual! With the Tahoe loaded, we had begun the journey west, with our first stop at the Fraser River Trail. We accessed the trail South of the Safeway Grocery Store and parked next to CrossFit Thin Air. The trail heads southeast towards Winter Park and runs parallel to the Fraser River. In the summer, this is the trail that we bike on and it is a really nice ride as it winds closer to Winter Park.
We could not have asked for a better day – the skies were a vast infinite blue as far as we could see and the sun shone brightly in the cloudless sky. According to the Tahoe, the temperature was a balmy 15 degrees, so we layered appropriately, harnessed up Aspen & away we went. But shortly after we started our trek, we began to shed those layers because the sun was blazing directly upon us; it was heavenly. And, because we had anticipated the trail being fairly snow packed, we went without our snowshoes, which ended up being a mistake.
A short while into the walk, Aspen ran into two canine friends bounding towards her as if they had been shot from a canon. After greeting her friends, we moved on and found ourselves crossing Rendezvous Road. Across the road there is a little park with a giant bear attempting to climb a large rock. After stopping for a photographic moment, the most interesting portion of the hike took place. The trail had begun to meander through a series of ponds where Stella decided to seek out a shortcut back to the road in town.
That was one of those times when I wished that her little journey had been recorded, because my prose just won’t do it justice.
Aspen and I had stayed put on the hard packed trail as we watched intently as Stella suddenly found herself waist deep and face first in the snow. I watched as she was able to regain her footing, but just as she took her next step, she gracefully found herself lying in the snow once again. After fighting the forces of nature, she rejoined Aspen and I as we continued along. A short while later, we exited the trail at Kings Crossing Rd and we began our journey back to our starting point along the paved portion of the Fraser River trail that parallels US 40 through Winter Park and Fraser.
After grabbing a bite to eat for lunch, we continued on to Grand Lake and checked into our winter base camp. After the Tahoe was unloaded, we headed off to explore the Colorado River Trail inside Rocky Mountain National Park. The experience driving inside Rocky Mountain National Park during the winter is the antithesis of the summer months. Unlike the summer when the masses are visiting the park in endless streams, in the winter you literally have the park all to yourself. Your own private playground, and that afternoon it had started at the Colorado River Trailhead for us.
After gearing up with our snowshoes, we immediately had to climb up a steep switchback to get to the top of the trail. This trail primarily heads due north; we were looking for the Shipler Cabins about 2 1/2 miles from the trailhead (right!). About a 1/2 mile into our journey we happened upon an intersection where the trail diverges west to the Grand Ditch, or north towards Lulu City. As we trekked along the path to the cabins, portions of the Colorado River were open, with the waters gently trickling before the spring melt begins. The trail along the river is broken up by a series of large meadows covered in snow offering glimpses into the Never Summer Mountain Range and the peak of Thunder Mountain. With the winter’s sun just above the ridge line and the Shipler Cabins nowhere to be found, we decided it was time to reverse course and head back to civilization. On our way back out, we happened upon another fellow snowshoer heading north along the trail, who appeared to be prepared to camp overnight in the backcountry. What solitude winter offers inside Rocky Mountain National Park.
We had planned to have a light dinner at Sagebrush that night, but due to the wait, we went to Grand Pizza and indulged in their veggie pesto pizza. Upon return to our room, we gave Aspen tons of love and jumped into our respective book interests. Initially, we had high hopes of snowhoeing on Sunday as well, but the blisters on our heels had put a huge damper on that adventure. Sunday morning, we slept in and headed to the Hub for breakfast and coffee. We took our time and then headed back to pack up the Tahoe. Prior to leaving town, we walked Aspen along the boardwalk streets and along the shore of Grand Lake. She seemed quite relaxed and satisfied with her weekend, which is what’s most important.

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