Monday, January 31, 2011

A Perfect Weekend

The weather in Denver has been unseasonably warm for the last few days. That's all about to change, and we'll be paying for it with single-digit high temperatures by mid-week. But whatever the week turns out like, this weekend has been just about perfect.

Friday night my wife and I went to see the Colorado Symphony Orchestra perform Mozart's Requiem. We met up with our friends Jody and Hayley at the concert hall. Afterward we went out for drinks at Baur's Ristorante, where the wine list was impressive, the food was great, and the service was amazing. It isn't very often that my wife and I are able to get out without the kids. I think we got the most out of the time that we had.

Saturday morning I got out and ran my first (unofficial) half-marathon. CardioTrainer (a workout-tracking app for Android phones) said it was 13.2 miles. The CardioTrainer website has this map with a circle on it with a radius equal to the total mileage that you've logged, and centered on whatever location your last workout was in. The run on Saturday was enough to finally push my circle beyond the borders of the USA, both into Canada and Mexico.

Total (mostly running) mileage since August 26, 2010
Later in the day on Saturday, my boy and I did some running around while my wife and daughter were at a birthday party. I scored a new pair of boots for snowshoeing on clearance at Marshall's for $25.

Sunday I headed out early to meet a coworker at the Longs Peak trail head for a bit of snowshoeing. The trail was packed down pretty hard, and a pair of crampons would have been sufficient much of the time. There are several places where the switchbacks of the trail have been bypassed and folks have cut a trail straight up the side of the mountain. We took every one of those that we saw. So while it wasn't a terribly long a hike, it certainly got my blood pumping. We went up as far as the tree-line, which afforded a really nice view of the diamond on Longs Peak.

So now it's Monday, I've returned to the bike trainer in my basement for my workouts, and we're bracing for the snowy cold weather that's settling in as I type this. But it is winter, after all, and it was a really good weekend.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Allenspark Snowshoeing, Take 2

Armed with some better information from Snowshoe Routes: Colorado's Front Range, which I'm borrowing from a coworker, I set out today to go on another snowshoeing adventure in Allenspark, Colorado. Last time I just kind of stumbled into things, but had a good time, even if it wasn't the right trail. This time I actually made it to the right trail head and was hoping to make it out to Pear Lake. But I got a late start, so I expected that Finch Lake might be as good as I'd be able to do.

It was a windy day all over, and snow was coming down by the time I got into town. There was no one else at the Allenspark Trail Head when I arrived, but a couple pulled in behind me while I was still in the Jeep getting ready. I hit the trail before they did, around noon, and that was the last I saw of them for the day.

The only sounds as I hiked along were the crunch of my footfalls, the wind, and the creaking of the spruce and pine trees. There may have been others pass through earlier in the day, but if they had, the wind had quite covered their tracks. But following the trail wasn't difficult most of the time.

The highest point of elevation on the trail is in an area which had been burned by a fire some time back. On a clear day the views from here would have most pleasant, but with the snow blowing all over the place, it wasn't all that great.

View from the burn zone on a snowy day
Given the poorly marked trail and thin snow through this section, I had some trouble making out exactly where to go, but a couple of pieces of surveyors tape hanging from trees guided me to the other side okay.

I was about two hours into the hike when I arrived at the lake. After walking out to the edge of the tree line to take a look, I retreated back a little way to sit on a fallen tree and enjoy a thermos full of hot vegetable barley soup.

Finch Lake
Since it was 14:00, with the snowfall increasing even as daylight was rapidly waning, Finch Lake was as far as I would go today.

The trek back started off pretty well. Having already left a trail to follow, it was easy to find my way. But then I arrived back at the burn zone, and there was no trace of my earlier passing. I ended up off track and lost the path altogether. I assessed the situation, consulted my map and compass, and determined that if I headed northward, downhill, I should cross the path again. Buried deadfall made the going tricky, and I nearly lost a snow basket from one of my poles. To my unspeakable relief, the plan worked out and soon I was retracing the track I had left on the way in.

I came across the tracks of what I presume was the couple behind me at the trail head. It appeared that they made it about two miles in before turning around. Shortly thereafter, I met a cross-country skier - the only person I came across on the trail the whole time. We chatted for a bit before moving on, and I was soon back at the trail head, packing up to go home. The total time was about 3.5 hours.

For anyone doing this hike, especially in the winter, I highly recommend taking a copy of National Geographic's Trails Illustrated, Longs Peak (#301). This trail is just on the southern-most end of the map. Without it (and a compass), my blunder in the burn zone would have proven a much bigger problem.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Yay, Winter!

My lovely, talented, and thoughtful wife got me a pair of snowshoes for Yule this year.  I've been talking about wanting to go snowshoeing since the Autumn, but I was somehow still surprised when I opened the box.  This weekend turned out to be my first chance to get out and use them.

Yesterday, the kids and I stopped by REI to pick up some trekking poles, or "sports canes," as I've always liked to think of them.  (Then we headed to the National Western Stock Show to look at alpacas, llamas, chickens, rabbits, and so forth.)

This morning I woke to some pretty good snowfall down here in the lower elevations.  I headed out to Allenspark, Colorado, around 7:30, and the roads were nasty.  No sooner had I started to think that maybe driving in those conditions wasn't the best idea than I saw an older lady out for a run along Highway 66.  So my misgivings were immediately replaced by thoughts of what a strange and sometimes wonderful place Boulder county can be.

It's funny, being such a small place, that I apparently can't find my way around Allenspark.  I had intended to go to the trailhead and hike toward Pear Reservoir.  So I drove around until I found a place where folks were unpacking skis from their SUVs and assumed I had come to the right place.  It turns out to have been Rock Creek trail, but I was well on my way before I figured out that I was in the wrong place.  It wasn't until I got home that I figured out exactly where I had been.

View Larger Map

I was also a good way down the trail before I discovered that I had lost my water bottle, so the thermos of vegetable soup in my backpack was the only source of hydration I had with me.  Had it come down to it, I could have found a way to melt some snow to drink, but things worked out okay without that.

After nearly 2 hours, I was really close to the summit of the trail.  But since I didn't know where I was, I didn't know how far the trail would leave me.  And I didn't want to push my luck with the water situation, so I turned around and headed back down the way I came.  After returning to my vehicle, I found my water bottle off the road a little way where I'd relieved myself of the coffee I drank on my way there.  It wasn't even frozen all the way, so I got to rehydrate on my way home.

This was just my second time snowshoeing, the first being on a guided tour on groomed trails at Winterpark.  So I think I learned a lot, got a great workout, and found something to get me out in the woods as often as I can manage for the rest of the winter.