This past weekend, Stella and I headed back to Base Camp for our first trip of the winter. An abundance of snow blankets our home away from home. We had planned just to stay Saturday night but a spontaneous decision by Stella had us racing up to the high country Friday night. Our plans included Cross Country Skiing at the Grand Lake Nordic Center and Snowshoeing at a yet to be determined location.
CROSS COUNTRY SKIING
Saturday was a perfect day – clear blue sky, warm sun and no wind. We had spent the day at the Grand Lake Nordic Center cross-country skiing. Stella had scheduled a lesson to help perfect her classic technique. While she was completing the lesson, I had headed out for a jaunt around Columbine Lane, which is considered an intermediate loop. Since Stella and I would head back out after her lesson, I thought an easier loop would be a great way to start the day, considering that we had not cross-country skied for over a year.
Columbine Lane starts out flat, with tracks laid and set perfectly. I had started out skiing to the north, looking deep into the western edge of Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) before the trail took me slightly west towards the Colorado River. A short trek near the river, and the trail turns back to the east, connecting with the Winters Way trail. At that point, I headed back to the lodge via the Winters Way trail to meet Stella for lunch.
During lunch, we had decided to next complete the Randall’s Romp trail. We took the trail in a clockwise direction from the lodge, which is the more difficult direction because it is mostly up hill. That provided Stella with plenty of opportunity to put a portion of her lesson to work. The trail loop levels out near the end, and with just one last up hill to get back to the lodge. It had been a perfect day for cross-country skiing, and we will be heading there again to take a skate skiing lesson soon.
SNOWSHOEING MONARCH LAKE
After finishing a delicious breakfast, we first took a leisurely drive through Rocky Mountain National Park. Half jokingly, I had said to Stella, “Do you think we will run into a moose trotting down the middle of Trail Ridge Road again?” We both chuckled, since that had happened back in April when we snowshoed in the park. And sure enough, a few seconds later, we had come upon a juvenile male casually trotting down the middle of the road, a mere few yards in front of the Tahoe.
Once out of the park, we had decided upon Monarch Lake for our snowshoe trek. We were determined to make it all the way around the loop. In the years past, we had made several attempts to accomplish that, had never been able to for various reasons.
We had parked the Tahoe in front of the winter gate closure, which is about a 3/4 mile trek to get to the Monarch Lake Trailhead. At that point in time, ours was the only vehicle in the area. Anyway, when we hike around Monarch Lake during the summer and fall months, we typically start out on the eastern edge of the lake. However, Stella, had suggested that we start at the west end of the lake instead. That would allow us to get the more difficult areas of the trail over and done with first. With the crisp air filling our lungs, we had set off towards the the dam.
From there to the Indian Peaks Wilderness, it is mostly an uphill climb, but is not overly difficult. The smell of pine was very fresh and crisp, and trees were pillowed in snow. Crossing Arapaho Creek, the trial began to diverge in different directions, making it difficult to determine where the actual trail was to continue on the loop. Eventually, we had found our way to Buchanan Creek, where we then began the final push around the other side of the lake, which would take us back to the trailhead.
For the first hour or two, we had thought we were the only people out on the trail, but had eventually crossed paths with some cross-country skiers once we were fairly close to the trailhead. And then, after the 3/4 mile trek back to the Tahoe, we saw a half dozen vehicles parked there!
We had achieved our goal! The snowshoe trek was roughly six miles and we had arrived back at the Tahoe just as the sun was setting across the ridgeline. Another beautiful winter day in Grand Lake. However, that was our first time snowshoeing around the lake without our amazing little mountain girl, Aspen. She was dearly missed.