Last weekend we spent time snowshoeing and cross-country skiing in Grand Lake, aptly named, Grand Lake Winter Weekend! It was a very cold weekend, so we had elected to start our adventures a little later than usual each day, around noon. And that also had been a special weekend because we used our brand new Madshus Panorama M78 backcountry nordic skis for the first time. They are beyond awesome!
Friday afternoon it was a Colorado bluebird day. I (Stella) elected to lead us on a snowshoe trek in the upper Kawuneeche Valley. We parked at the Colorado River Trailhead and headed west. We wound our way through the trees as well in the vast openness of the valley. In some areas, it was safe to cross over the river, while in other areas we followed alongside of it until we were able to cross over.
We continued breaking trail for about one mile south of the Beaver Creek Picnic Area before turning around and looping back toward the trailhead. For the journey back, we trekked closely to the side of Trail Ridge Road. The snow was deep, and there was a set of moose tracks in the direction that we were heading. We elected to break our own trail instead of following inside of the moose tracks because their tracks dig so deeply into the snow that sometimes it is safer to just stay out of them. We saw multiple moose tracks everywhere on this trek and were fortunate to not have encountered one, although they must have been watching us. And, we never saw any people other than those driving by on the road. It felt as though we had the park to ourselves.
Larry’s GPS program had stopped working for a portion of the trek so we do not have the map and exact miles of our journey. We suspect that we trekked around 5 miles. It had been a fantastic day breaking trail inside of Rocky Mountain National Park.
On Saturday, our plan had been to ski up to Milner Pass inside of Rocky Mountain National Park. But when we parked the Tahoe at the winter gate closure, my eyes skeptically viewed the clouds heading up the road in that direction. I suggested to Larry that we ski down in the valley instead. We parked the Tahoe at a pullout by Bowen Gulch and headed west on our skis. We really wanted to first test them out breaking trail through the powder since that is what we bought them for versus skiing in existing tracks.
Unlike Friday, where spent our time snowshoeing at the north end of the Kawuneeche Valley, Saturday we spent the day exploring the southern end. This also happens to be the gateway to Bowen Gulch. After crossing the Colorado River, we stumbled upon Little Buckaroo Ranch Barn, a structure we knew nothing about. It was built in 1942 but that is all the information Larry was able to dig up about it.
We continued our travels further to the west near the Never Summer Wilderness Boundary before we doubled back and began our trek to the north. On our journey north, we came upon a well-maintained cabin smack dab in the middle of the valley. It appeared to be privately owned, as indicated by the private drive sign protruding from the snow. Yet another new find for us.
Again, the river was a constant nuisance to circumvent and cross over since it winds throughout the entire valley floor. We made a big loop, rounding about north of the Coyote Valley Trailhead before skiing alongside the road back to the Tahoe. On the trek back, the wind suddenly swept in and bit our skin like a slap to the face. I looked behind us and up to the road leading to Milner Pass. It was scary looking and I was relieved that we had followed my intuition and changed our plans.
On the route back, we did find some existing tracks to follow in. The Madshus Panorama M78’s performed fantastically well in both powder and in existing tracks. We are excited to continue using them so that we can post a thorough review. We trekked 4.66 miles and had a blast, although I think we both got a little wind burn on our faces. That wind was bitter!
Where is Base Camp @ Grand Lake headed next?
- Feb 21-26: Jackson Hole/Alpine, WY
- March 11-13: Aspen (again)
- March 19-20: Grand Lake (again)