East Shore Trail and more…

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The Islands of Shadow Mountain Lake

East Shore Trail

As adventurous as Stella, my wife, is it may surprise some to learn how intolerant she is of hiking in hot weather. She can and will do it, but will likely grumble quite a bit along the way, and be utterly miserable. Instead, she much prefers trekking in the Spring and Fall, and snowshoeing/cross-country skiing in the winter. So when a cool-weathered summer day presents itself, we take advantage of it and embark upon a hike together.

RMNP East Shore Trail sign
Never trust the distances, they typically are a bit off…

With that being said, last weekend, we trekked the full length of the East Shore Trail down to the end of the dam on Shadow Mountain Lake, which was a first for us, surprisingly. A few years back, we had started out on the East Shore Trail, and then turned off onto the trail that leads up to the Shadow Mountain Fire Lookout. That was in the middle of the summer… with Stella. That is a very steep trail… and it had been a very hot day – I will leave it at that.

The East Shore Trailhead is located a short distance past the Hilltop Kayak Launch in Grand Lake. At this time, an entry permit is required from 6AM to 5PM, as the trail is located inside Rocky Mountain National Park. The trail is an easy out and back trek, and now allows for bikes to be ridden on it (that is new for 2020). At the beginning of the trail, there is a slight uphill, before the trail meanders down to the water’s edge. Approximately a mile and half onto the trail, it diverges to the path leading up to the fire lookout. Or, you can choose to leave the lakeshore and embark onto the Ranger Meadows Trail. For the majority of the trek, you are walking alongside of the shoreline where you can take in the views of the lake. The left side of the trail is completely forested, with many massive bouldering overhangs, which Stella constantly scanned for mountain lions.

We encountered several bloomed wild flowers, along with spotting one of the many Ospreys that call Shadow Mountain Lake home. We had also witnessed a rather large gaggle of geese resting on a rock jutting from the water’s edge. Additionally, we did encounter a few large fallen trees strewn across the trail, most of which needed to be climbed over. There are several niches along the trail that allow for one to comfortably fish from shore, or just spend the day taking in the scenery. Once we had we arrived at the dam, we ventured down to the Colorado River that flows into Lake Granby. We could not help but wonder how close we had been with our kayak when we had paddled into Columbine Bay in the years past.

The Colorado River below the Shadow Mountain Lake dam
The Colorado River below the Shadow Mountain Lake Dam

Fraser River Trail Bike Ride & Pinic

A few weekends ago, Stella and I decided to do a bike ride and picnic on the Fraser River Trail that leads into Winter Park. We have biked it many times over the years, and have snowshoed on it as well with Aspen. Side note: that was the time when Stella had fallen prey, not once but twice within a two-hour period, to massive pockets of snow where she had been swallowed whole – literally, in her attempts to be adventurous.

Anyway, the morning of our bike ride, I added a rear cargo rack to my Trek mountain bike so that we could carry our newly purchased RTIC Soft Pack 8 cooler. As usual, we started at the trailhead located next to Safeway in Fraser. The trail itself is a combination of dirt, gravel, blacktop, and pavement, but is literally up hill all the way until you decide to turn around. Naturally, the ride in the other direction, back to the trailhead, is pretty much all downhill and a wonderful respite.

RTIC Soft 8 Cooler
Packing our picnic lunch…

The trail meanders around small ponds and marshy areas where you cross over wooden plank bridges, and then leads through Idlewild Campground, which is heavily forested and beautiful. Eventually, the trail leads under US Hwy 40, and then pops you out into the heart of Winter Park. At that point, you may either slowly ride your bike on the side walk, or walk your bike to the area where the trail resumes (Stella usually walks this area with her bike because of all the traffic and people). The trail ends at the north end of Winter Park Resort; you can follow the road to the ski lifts.

Fraser River
The Fraser River near the Idlewild Campground

We did not make it all the way to the resort that day, but had still completed the vast majority of the trail. On our way back, we located a shaded picnic bench along the river, north of the campground, where we enjoyed our picnic lunch and cooled off.

A relaxing picnic
Our picnic lunch along the Fraser River

Paddle Boarding/Kayaking Shadow Mountain Lake

Last year, unbeknownst to me at the time, Stella set off and paddled pretty much the entire circumference of Shadow Mountain Lake on her own, hence the post from last year, “Stella’s Solo Paddle Adventure.” A few weekends ago, we had completed the journey together – it is roughly seven miles. Paddling along the Rocky Mountain side of the lake, we headed south toward the islands dotting the southern end of Shadow Mountain Lake. We had begun early enough in the day that there were only a few boats out on the lake at the time.

Paddling Shadow Mountain Lake
Heading out to SUP Shadow Mountain Lake

With Stella as our guide, we recreated her journey, only opposite of the direction that she had paddled last year on our ISLE Glider Wood SUP‘s. Weaving our way through the islands, we followed the buoy line towards Trail Ridge Marina. It is there that the water had become very challenging, as there were far more boats on the lake by that time, churning it about like a washtub. From the marina to the northern end of the lake, we paddled from a kneeling and/or sitting position to avoid getting overturned. And just as we rounded the corner to get back to our starting point, the winds then picked up. Fortunately, we were pretty much done and ready to head into shore.

The following day, we were back on Shadow Mountain Lake. But that time, we were in the “Big Mango.” We followed the same path as the day prior, but once we had reached the dam at the end of the lake, black clouds had gathered overhead, and the appearance of rain was on the northern horizon. After a bit of debate, Stella had insisted that we cut the journey short and get back to the launch site as quickly as possible. Within a mere few minutes of reaching the shore, the winds kicked into high gear and rain followed shortly thereafter. Good call Stella. She refers to this as “women’s intuition,” which is generally spot-on.

Relaxing while paddling Shadow Mountain Lake
Relaxing on Shadow Mountain Lake

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