Saturday, November 26, 2005

Echo Lake on Mt. Evans Colorado

With winter not heavily settled into Denver, I head to the mountains for the first snowshoe trek of the season. Up early, meeting the group, the brand new Denver Snowshoe Club, in the dark for the drive up hoping to avoid the ski traffic. Mount Evans road doesn’t look terribly promising for snow. On we go just past Echo Lake, ice covered and wind-blown. Getting out of the warm car and feeling the drastic change in temperature, I quickly select the clothes to bundle up against the harsh conditions and head into the woods. There is a sense of urgency to get and keep moving. You warm up very quickly when snowshoeing but do not forget that you cool off just as quickly! Even though the paved road up to the summit of Mount Evans is closed for the season, it is mostly bare of snow, so we snowshoe into the woods picking the straight-up-the-mountain route. The snow is moderately deep powder and easy to negotiate. The hardest part is the complaints from my muscles that are getting a workout unlike any they have had in the warm season months. These woods might be called the Usnea Forest, dark with closely spaced moss-covered lodgepole pine. This gray green old man's beard is draped everywhere on all of the dead pine branches. We are protected from the wind in this sheltered place and our physical exertion more than makes up for the lack of sunshine. We literally wander the forest, four people together yet with enough isolation to be in our own thoughts. At one point, we come into an opening that allows us a view of the Continental Divide and the clouds hanging over it portend the arrival tonight of a winter storm. We test out an airboard for a little heart pounding fun and then descend on Echo Lake. I have become chilled while we stood around taking turns on the airboard and the sun’s warmth is a welcome feeling as it shines on Echo Lake. We walk around the edge of the Lake on the ice and head across frozen willow wetlands back towards our parked vehicles. At one point we see the abandoned holes of ice fishermen. The ice is only about three or four inches thick here. I keep hearing a sort of indescribable resonant knocking or thumping. We stop to listen and one in our group knows that this is the sound of the ice cracking, the eerie lake voice that is amplified and echoed against the surrounding tree-covered mountains. We enter a short stretch of trail, level and easy, leading us once again through the dark lodgepole pine, only shafts of sunlight penetrating in columns, highlighting the snow-covered downed trees and lichen rocks. Again I feel isolation, both in sound and vision from my companions. Abruptly, we empty out into the road, washed in sun and are greeted by several groups of people just about to start their adventure. We weren’t gone that long but it feels like a good first outing of the season. Hopefully, there will be many to follow. Now I am headed home for a hot bath and a nap. Does life get any finer?


At 3:27 AM, Blogger George said...

I tried snow shoes once and I thought I was gonna die.

No, seriously- I had chest pains....

I have much more fun riding my mountain bike through fresh powder out on the trails:-)

At 7:59 AM, Blogger the old bag said...

What an incredible spot -- been there both on the bicycle and on skis. Thanks for the post!

At 8:52 AM, Blogger Ptelea said...

I take lots of breaks when I am going uphill on snowshoes. I do a lot of groomed trails, too. The hardest thing for me is breaking trail and going uphill in 'slippery' powder. That is kind of like running uphill in sand - you lose half of what you gain with each step.

I see a lot of cylists on my Green Mountain hike - I feel more comfortable with my feet on the ground! I greatly admire you cyclists who are plugging away on those steep, rocky singletracks. That can't be easy.


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