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Sunday, January 2, 2022

Bobcat Ridge

We finally got our first snow of the season. It was quite a bit late, but we've been wanting to go do snow activities for quite some time now. Our original plan was to go up into the mountains and do some real snowshoeing, but since we had just driven 5 hours the day prior on icy roads back from the mountains, we didn't want to have to drive that far on potentially on slick roads. We decided that we needed to get out and enjoy the sunny weather, so we headed to Bobcat Ridge, an area that we have both explored on our own, but never together. Bobcat Ridge was an area that was engulfed in flames during the 2019 Cameron Peak fire so we wanted to check it out to see what kind of damage was done to the area. We only did the valley loop, which like its name suggests, is in a pretty open area, so there wasn't a whole lot to burn. We passed by a few patches of burned trees, but the lower areas of Bobcat Ridge seemed to be pretty unscathed from the fire.

There were about 6 inches of snow on the ground, and initially, we started the hike without even our microspikes thinking that it would be trampled down enough for us to hike on. Once we got off the pavement (which is about a quarter-mile from the road) we realized that we did need our microspikes and went back to the car for them. Including our half-mile out and back to get our microspikes, the hike was 3.75 miles long and took about an hour and a half. There was only about 400 feet of elevation, but everything is harder in the snow, something we often forget. I wouldn't call this challenging, but the snow definitely added a layer of complexity that we haven't experienced since the last snowshoeing season. Hopefully, soon we can get up into the mountains and do some real snowshoeing.

SnowyBurntBurnedOver the Bridge

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Deer Mountain

The weather was just about perfect for snowshoeing. There was snowfall during the week and this weekend it was forecasted to be sunny in Rocky with minimal wind and above freezing temperatures. We've been wanting to get out and snowshoe some more now that it's finally snowing in Colorado. We've only received two decent snowfalls in the foothills now, and prior to that, the high peaks just had a slight dusting on them, so this was really our first chance to get to enjoy the snow.

We always plan multiple hiking contingencies when going into Rocky Mountain National Park because the ability to park where we want to is always a gamble with their small parking lots (relative to the demand, at least). We started heading towards Bear Lake hoping to get a spot at one of the major 3 parking lots along the way, just to find out that the road was closed before we even got a chance to do not only our first or second choice of a hike, but also our third backup. Frustrated with the road closure, we quickly pivoted to try and find something else. At that point, we had been in the car for over an hour and a half, so we knew we had to do at least something, so we headed to the Deere Mountain trailhead. There isn't a lot of parking at that trailhead, but we managed to get a spot and we started the hike.

We were only originally planning on doing a 3.5-mile hike, and Deere Mountain is 6 miles round trip, so right off the bat, we knew that we weren't going to finish the hike. The hike started out completely snow-packed with absolutely no need for snowshoes. There were several points where we were walking on the dirt and there was just a dusting of snow on the trail. After about a half-mile into the hike, the snow started getting thicker and the snowshoes were necessary. So at least we did find a hike where we did need our snowshoes.

We ended up making it about two-thirds of the way to the summit of Deer Mountain for a round trip total of just under 4 miles and 1,000 feet of elevation gain. the hike took just love two and a half hours including stopping on the way up for lunch.

Steep MeadowMummysDeer MountainDeer on Deer Mountain

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Icy Hike to Bierstadt Lake

The weather has been great so we wanted to head up into the mountains for the 3rd weekend in a row. In fact, we're 3-for-3 for hiking on the weekends in 2022. That won't last for long, but we've been taking advantage of the unusually great weather during the weekends while we can. There hadn't been any recent snowfall, which doesn't make it great for snowshoeing, but since it was forecasted to be sunny with little wind, we figured why not go and try and snowshoe to Bierstadt Lake. This was the hike that we were planning on doing last weekend, but when we got hit with an unexpected road closure, we had to pivot to a different area of the park.

Every time I've ever driven past Bierstadt Lake Trailhead in Rocky Mountain National Park, the lot has been full. It's the 3rd parking lot from the top, so it usually fills up pretty quickly, particularly since it only has 12 parking spaces. Since Bierstadt Lake was our destination, that was our first pick for a parking spot. Our contingency was to start at Bear Lake (which also likely would have had a full parking lot), and our plan C was to start at the park and ride parking lot. We somehow managed to get a parking spot at Bierstadt Lake Trailhead, so we grabbed the last parking spot, considered ourselves lucky, and started the hike.

The views from the hiking trail were pretty spectacular. The whole way up we had clear views looking East to West, being able to make out many of the peaks along the Continental Divide. We got started with our hike a little earlier than normal, around 10 am, so the sun was still low enough to get some shots of the Western Peaks, but not any decent photos of the peaks looking due East or South. With no snowfall in over a week, the trail was packed down and icy, but that didn't stop us from snowshoeing it. Because it was practically ice, I think we would have had better balance with just crampons, but when we got to the lake we were finally in some snow where the snowshoes were necessary. The first views that we got from the South-West end of the lake were pretty disappointed because you couldn't really see anything beyond the lake and the surrounding trees. It wasn't until we hiked to the East side of the lake that we got gorgeous views of the lake with Hallet Peak in the distance, as well as Otis Peak, Flattop Mountain, and Ptarmigan Point.

Continental DivideBierstadt LakeHallett PeakHallet Peak Through the TreesDisapointing View

Sunday, January 23, 2022

Brainard Lake

We're on a roll - This is week 4 of 4 in the new year that we've gone snowshoeing.

Niether one of us had hiked in the Brainard Lake area before. We knew that the winter was our only chance at going since there are timed entry permits required in the summer, so we decided to head up that way this weekend. There wasn't any fresh snowfall, but there was snow two days prior, and some of that fresh powder was still on the ground. The first half of the hike from the car to the lake probably didn't require snowshoes, but the second half of the loop from the lake back to the car definitely needed snowshoes.

The weather was cooperating for the first half of the hike. There was no wind at the beginning of the hike, and then all of a sudden once we got to the lake it was gusting pretty hard for the remainder of the hike. Even though it was windy, the lake itself was gorgeous. I was worried about the lighting since we got to the lake midday, but the sun was perfectly and evenly lighting the surrounding mountains without making them hazy.

I would definitely like to come back to the Brainard Lake area again. It seems like unless you can snowshoe 8+ miles, there isn't a whole lot of trails to do, so this might be something that we wait until next year or the year after to come back to, or maybe come try it in the summer (since it's easier to hike long distances than snowshoe long distances).

The hike itself ended up being a little over a mile longer than we expected, and we could feel that extra mile in our legs by the time we got back. This is one of the hardest hikes we've done in a long time, but the views were worth it. One thing we did wrong was followed the summer trails, which put us on a ski-route-only trail for about a mile. I've never run into a ski-specific trail before, but a few skiers stopped to nicely tell us we were on the wrong trail, and we were able to hop off the trail and get back on the proper snowshoeing-only trail. But the next time we come to this area we need to double-check the distances of the hike we're attempting and double-check which route we are allowed to be on.

Teasing ViewsMount AudubonBrainard LakeBrightColdLake Selfie

January 2022

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