The months of January – March in Colorado were unusually dry, even high up in the mountains. The snow pack in January touched a 30-year low, and was the warmest on record, which was most likely attributed to a festering La Nina. It wasn’t until the first weekend in February that I was able to get into the mountains to view first hand the lack of snow. That day as I headed to Kenosha Pass for a short trek north along the Colorado Trail, descending into the valley, I looked across the South Park Valley. It should have been covered in snow, but instead, it was completely dry as I looked west toward the Mosquito Range.
Naturally, we spent several weekends in Grand Lake snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. That year marked two new snowshoe treks. One was to Doe Creek Trail, which is a trail system prior to reaching Monarch Lake.This was a great new adventure, and the snow was so deep in one particular meadow, that Aspen was unable to continue pushing forward, as the snow was up to her chest. Stella and I also snowshoed along the Colorado River Trail in an attempt to reach Shiplers Cabins but were unable to reach it before nightfall.
I had also embarked upon a new trek to the Geneva Basin Ski Area, which is a must for all. It is an abandoned ski area, one of many throughout Colorado. I trekked from the south towards the Guanella Pass in the Pike National Forest. And just before the pass, the ski resort begins to appear. However, a late start in the day prevented me from finding the old Ski Patrol Shack, but I intend to make it back in 2019 to continue my exploration of this area.
Another first for me was a short hike to the Devils Head Fire Tower. It is not not an overly lengthy climb; however, on the trek to the base of the tower you gain nearly 1000ft in just over a mile. While the views are spectacular along the trek, you stroll into Hells Half Acre, where a climb of 143 stairs awaits hikers in order to reach the lookout tower. It is well worth the effort once you’ve reached the top. Pikes Peak is to the south, Ten Mile and the Gore Range to the west, and Sangre de Cristo is to the South/Southwest. Longs Peak to the north is visible on a clear day.
The weekend prior to Memorial Day, we were back at Base Camp for the summer. A few new items made their way to camp this year: Pudgie Pie Irons, a Lodge Dutch Oven and a custom wood sign to mark Base Camp. One of the new adventures that I embarked upon earlier in the season was a hike to find the elusive Lulu City, a place rich in history, dating back to the late 1800’s. The trek begins at the start of the Colorado River Trail.
The highlight of our summer was our trip to Bear Lake with Stella’s parents. This is a place that Stella had spent many childhood summers, and she wanted me to experience the wonder of the area as well. The lake is very large, bordering both Idaho and Utah, and is absolutely breathtaking. Bear Lake is often referred to as the “Caribbean of the Rockies” due to its turquoise blue waters. During that trip, we kayaked 20 plus miles, biked nearly every day, explored the Wind Caves in the Logan Canyon, and journeyed below the surface in depths of the Minnetonka Cave. And Aspen was able to swim in the warm, blue water nearly every day.
A late fall trek along the Baker Gulch trail was more of a relaxing hike, which would culminate at a series a waterfalls. The ultimate goal would be to continue on to Parika Lake, which will have to wait until 2019.
Every time we would drive to the Alpine Center in Rocky Mountain National Park from the Grand Lake entrance, Stella would always comment on wanting to explore the Cache la Poudre River Trail. So one day we did! On a warm, fall day, we set off to explore the trail, which is a relatively flat trek that winds through the valley of the park. The views from the high alpine meadow are awesome, and provide a totally different perspective from the one you would receive from seeing it while driving along the road. We were rewarded in spectacular fashion as we made our way along the backside of Poudre Lake, because little did we know, that large bull moose had been following along behind us on the trail.
Stella and I attempted to hike to Timber Lake just prior to the Bear Lake trip but were held up at the landslide. A few weeks later, I set off on my own and navigated the landslide, going up and over as I made my way to the lake. After several hours of a steady climb, you are rewarded when you finally happen upon the lake. I wish I would have been able to spend a bit more of time to hike around the lake area, but daylight had begun to wane.
Another adventure was to get to the top of Grays & Torrey Peak. Unfortunately, my climbing partner and I had only made it to 13,442 Feet. So close!!! The conditions that day were very favorable, but we stopped short just shy of Grays Peak. I will make the dual peak in 2019, plus set my sights on another two or three 14’ers in the near future.