Monday, March 23, 2009

Mud Season

This weekend brought a long-awaited trip up to Julie and Steve's condo in Winter Park, a ski area in the mountains that's less well-known than many of Colorado's winter sport offerings. We'd been planning for several weeks around their schedules and were looking forward to getting in some good snowshoeing and relaxing and spending time with our friends who we hardly ever get to see during the months of December through April.

We made it up to Winter Park by around 6 PM, narrowly missing Friday afternoon traffic. To get to Winter Park you go up Highway 70 into the mountains, and then take highway 40 north over Berthoud Pass - over 12K feet at the summit, I believe, and then descend a couple of thousand feet into the valley. The WP area has two different ski/snowboard areas: Winter Park itself and a smaller, more independant-style one called Mary Jane, both of which we passed on the way to the condo. We settled in for an evening of good food and good company, partaking in tasty beverages and a screening of Big Fish.

Saturday, after a hefty breakfast, Dan and I headed out on our snowshoe adventure, hiking a trail we found in a borrowed guidebook. It wasn't especially well-marked but enough people had used it since the last snow had fallen (which, judging by the snow conditions, had been quite some time) that it was pretty easy to follow. From the very beginning, we saw lots of evidence of beetle damage and beetle-caused tree death, which was quite sad. Our trail started (STARTED) at nearly 11 thousand feet in elevation and we probably ascended close to another thousand during the uphill portion of our hike. It turned out to be a great hike, but wicked challenging (there's not much oxygen up that high!).

Dead tree macro

Pine cone macro

Despite the difficulty, we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly, and Dan's four snowshoe mishaps in deep, slushy snow that led to his right leg being trapped up to his hip didn't spoil his good mood (thankfully!). It turns out that I'm pretty coordinated on the ol' 'shoes and I didn't have as many issues (part of the problem, we think, was that the rented snowshoes Dan was wearing didn't seem to be strapped correctly and he wasn't getting the full benefit of the surface area of his right shoe).

On the way up

I wonder what this looks like in the summer

The culmination of our hike ended in reaching a milestone described in the guidebook as a dead tree that resembled a telephone pole. This was right about at tree line, and the snow was patchy in this area, so we found some rocks to sit upon for a while and eat a snack before heading back downhill. It took us a lot less time to get down than it did to go up (probably because we didn't have to stop, rest, and catch our breaths every thousand feet).


Pole detail

The hike continued up this way, but we were done ascending for the day. Note the lip of snow at the top; prime avalanche danger.

We made it back to town in the late afternoon, and prepared for the evening and the next day by making a grocery store run. We had dinner with the group (Julie, Steve, another couple, and another friend = totalling seven of us, plus an 11-week old Spanish Waterdog pup named Bailey) at the friends' condo and afterward most of us watched Pineapple Express while some of us (read: me) fell asleep halfway through.

The difficult thing about staying overnight at 9 thousand feet is that the air is even more dry than we're used to, and has far less oxygen so one's sleep isn't as sound as one might like. I dreamt all night about unquenchable thirst and so the next day, rather than snowshoeing again we opted to just tailgate in the parking lot at Mary Jane while most of the others drank beers between their ski runs.

View of a run from the parking lot at Mary Jane.

Bailey and dad's legs

We saw lots of dogs, lots of skiers and boarders on the slushy shiny runs, and spent hours trying to get Julie's new tiny cheap grill to function (yet another example of You Get What You Pay For), during which time I got too much sun, drank too much girl beer (it turns out 2 is too much at that altitude when all I've had to eat is potato chips and cookies), and didn't drink nearly enough water or put on enough sunscreen. Ultimately, it was a fun afternoon and a fun weekend but I was glad when we got home and got to sleep in our own bed. You can sleep on the most comfortable pullout couch in existence, but ultimately it's still a pullout couch.


tmjackson said...

Sounds like fun! Great pics of the mountains - so beautiful! So what is girl beer, exactly? The image that popped into my head was beer that comes in a smaller, curvier, pink or purple bottle.

Jess said...

This is so fun and beautiful! I want to go snowshoeing but maybe on a less challenging trail.