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.

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