Two weekends ago, we ventured to Grand Lake for our second trip there this winter. While there was plenty of snow, that may not be the case for much longer if the temperatures continue to remain high. The two days we were there, the temperature was about 40ish degrees with a clear blue sky. It was fabulous! In Aspen the weekend prior, our faces got sunburned, so this time we remembered to wear sunscreen, thankfully.
Day 1 ~ The past two years, we had discussed skiing on Trail Ridge Road up to Milner Pass inside of Rocky Mountain National Park. In the past, we had completed a few treks to Fairview Curve using our skis and snowshoes, which is roughly 4.25 miles up (total trek of 9.5 miles). This time, however, we achieved our goal and made it all the way up Milner Pass on our new Madshus Panorama M78 Skis.
Around 10:00 am we were ready to begin our journey, but just before we got started, I broke one of my trekking poles. Fortunately, my other poles that I use for cross-country skiing were readily available. The downside of using my cross-country ski poles is that they don’t possess snow baskets, as they’re intended to be used on groomed trails at Nordic centers. But something is always better than nothing.
Shortly after we began our trek up Trail Ridge Road, we spotted at least a dozen massive piles of moose poop and fragments of moose hair directly on the road, along with several bedding down sites alongside of the road. Seeing such a copious amount directly in the middle of the road, and all within about a mile stretch, is not something we have seen before while skiing/snowshoeing on Trail Ridge Road.
Naturally, about two miles up, we came around a corner and a young moose bolted out of the trees about 150 feet in front of us. I quickly darted behind a nearby tree. Larry, on the other hand, just stood there watching it. Fortunately, I don’t think the moose had noticed us. It simply continued on its journey into the trees on the other side of the road. After that, I was on an even higher level of alert, as well as other thoughts about stumbling upon a black bear just coming out of hibernation.
After we had made it to Fairview Curve, we already felt accomplished. But we still had about two more miles to go to reach Milner Pass. This was the very first time that we had skied up to Fairview Curve where someone had already set the ski tracks in the snow ahead of us. And better yet, those same people cut the track all the way to Milner Pass! In the past, it has always been Larry and I cutting the tracks through the snow for others to follow in, though it seems few endeavor up the road as far as we do.
This had been a treat for us because the snow on the road that day significantly varied from spot to spot: soft and fluffy; hard and crusted; slick and icy. Multiple times, our poles got stuck in the hard and crusted areas, almost pulling us backward as we attempted to pull the pole out of the snow. And my poles not having snow baskets didn’t help at all.
When we had about a mile left to reach our destination, we crossed paths with the skiers who had cut the track that morning; a family of three. They were on their way back down. Once we had reached Milner Pass, we both felt a sense of achievement by pushing through to reach this location. Milner Pass sits at two miles above sea level. Just beyond the gate closure is Poudre Lake, where Larry and I had a terrifying experience with a moose a few years prior. Beyond the lake, the road continues up to the Alpine Center. Trail Ridge Road divides Grand Lake and Estes Park.
After Larry had snapped some photos, we began our journey back down. Because of the varying snow conditions, it wasn’t necessarily simple. But we had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed using our new Madshus Panorama M78 Skis. Total miles: 13.39.
Day 2 ~ We did not have a concrete plan for the day. We ended up at the Robbers Roost Campground where we eagerly took off on our snowshoes, weaving our way in between the trees. Robbers Roost is the first campground when heading north coming down from Berthoud Pass, located on the righthand side of the highway. It is only open for a short period of time during the summer, typically mid June through Labor Day weekend. When you look at the map of our trek, you will see that we made three big loops, trekking wherever our snowshoes took us.
The snow was calf to thigh deep the entire journey, making it a great challenge! On three separate occasions, I asked Larry if he would like to go out in front of me and break trail. Each time he promptly responded, “Nope!” I just chuckled and pushed on as he trampled the snow down behind me. We completed a total of 1.59 miles, which had felt like double that distance because of how laborious it was breaking trail, for me in particular. Plowing through deep snow is what I love to do!
Sadly, due to the warming temperatures and the unfavorable condition of my knees, this will be our last winter outing of the season. However, the end of winter brings forth great anticipation for our upcoming warm weather adventures! We look forward to sharing them with all of you.
Where is Base Camp @ Grand Lake headed next?
- May 6-8: Steamboat Springs
- May 14-15: Open Base Camp in Grand Lake!
- July 27 – August 7: Canada; Sandpoint/Clark Fork & Coeur d’Alene, Idaho
SOME OF THE GEAR USED:
NEW GEAR REVIEWS:
~ Madshus Panorama M78 Skis: coming Fall 2022
~ Tubbs Flex VRT Snowshoes: coming Fall 2022
~ Yakima SlimShady: coming Fall 2022