Winterlude

It has been three months since I visited RMNP. Well, I was at the back country office last week, but that doesn’t count. I didn’t actually get into the park, let alone do any hiking. I tried back in January, but that was during the government shutdown. More recently I’ve had to schedule things around work on the car, so I haven’t had much opportunity. I finally made it happen today.

I was afraid it wasn’t going to come together. Due to the recent heavy snows, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be able to get there in the Chrysler so I’d have to find somebody to go with who was willing to drive. Luckily, Ed stepped forward and volunteered to join me for a walk in the Park.

When we arrived at the entrance station, we couldn’t help but notice that the express lane was closed. And when Ed proffered his park pass the ranger asked if his car was four wheel drive. “We really discourage continuing unless you have four wheel drive.” We pressed on, undaunted.

The road was pretty slick right away, with ice just a few yards after turning onto Bear Lake Road. We took it easy, going slower than some 4WD trucks which Ed waved by us, and made it to the parking lot without any drama.

The plan was to take Ed’s route to Lake Haiyaha. This one never gets old for me. As I’ve said before, I’m somehow unable to navigate this route on my own. I keep thinking that I should be able to find my own way, and I recognize many landmarks along the way, but I can’t mentally string it together. Eventually, though, (I keep telling myself) I’ll get it figured out.

First stream crossing.

As I’ve mentioned, the Park as gotten quite a lot of snow over recent weeks. Even though Ed has broken this route many times this season, there is little to no trace of his trail. In the depths of the forested parts, I could make out a slight depression indicating his route. But in the clearings, where the wind works full time, there’s nothing. Ed tried pointing out the signs to me on occasion – “see that slight depression there?” – it was far from obvious anybody had ever been through here.

Deep drifts

My snowshoe experience is fairly limited. I make it out only once or twice a year. So I couldn’t help but tell Ed that this was by far the deepest snow I’ve gone through. He responded that it doesn’t get much deeper. Even on snowshoes, we were often sinking knee deep. We went through a few drifts that were waist deep, and on the steeper uphill sections it was tough going. Of course, Ed was in the lead, so he was doing much more work than I was.

It was cold and windy, but that describes most winter days here beneath the Divide. At lower elevations, it was clear blue skies, but here clouds flew above the mountaintops and snow flew along the ground. It wasn’t so overcast that the sun didn’t make shadows, but it was overcast enough that the sun seemed small and distant. Surprisingly, given the amount of wind, the trees were laden with an amazing amount of snow.

In the end we didn’t make it to the lake. I needed to be back to Lyons by 3:30 or 4:00pm, and our progress was slower than usual. And, frankly, it was a fair amount of work plowing our way up the hillside. When we finally stopped, Ed guessed we had maybe another half hour at the rate we were going. Sure, I’d have liked to visited Haiyaha for a quick look at the always interesting ice there, but I’m not bothered we didn’t press on.

It was yet another beautiful day in the Park.

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