Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy New Year from Steamboat Springs, Colorado

When I no longer thrill to the first snow of the season, I'll know I'm growing old.                                                                                                                                 
                                                                                                        ---Lady Bird Johnson

         I'm in agreement with the former first lady on the above sentiment.  Tim and I recently snowshoed our first powder snowfall of the season at Rabbit Ears Pass, southeast of Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

         On the trail we passed two families on a tree-finding expedition—Dad carrying the saw in hand, kids flopping in the snow banks, Mom laughing and snapping pictures.  Later we saw them trekking back to their cars, spruce trees in tow.  It's a family tradition in Routt National Forest country.

        We left the main trail for a lightly used path and found our own little group of Christmas trees with dollops of snow icing on their branches and powdery flakes falling around them.  We took only photos, leaving the evergreens behind for others to enjoy.

 Click below to view a short slideshow (less than one minute) from our first winter frolic:








Sunday, December 16, 2012

Snowshoeing Boulder Mountain, Utah


         Snowshoeing Boulder Mountain in south-central Utah is always a thrill.  Scenic Highway 24 climbs the Boulders, reaches 9600 feet in elevation, and offers numerous plowed pull-outs near the summit.   From there, uphill treks to snow-covered mountain meadows provide views into Capitol Reef National Park and beyond. 

Tim pauses to take in the view of Capitol Reef National Park and the
snow-capped Henry Mountains.

Slightly higher on the mountain (and a year earlier) than the above
photo, Rita is walking in a winter wonderland.

          Boulder Mountain rises to 11000 feet and is the place to find snow, even in years when snowfall totals are lean elsewhere in southern Utah.  Every winter we make an effort to snowshoe the Boulders.  These pictures are some of our favorites from outings over the past four years. 

Surveying my universe through a stand of aspens.

           One year we emerged from an aspen thicket into a clearing to find four trees apart from the grove.  These specimens were enormous—among the biggest, and probably the oldest, aspens I’ve ever seen.  The photos below show the grandeur of the "four ancients". 

Tim stands dwarfed by the four giant aspens.

The old aspen raises its branches into Utah's sunny skies.

         Snowshoeing is a fantastic winter activity that most anyone can enjoy.  Readers, do you have a favorite place to snowshoe?  How about somewhere you've always wanted to snowshoe but never had the chance?  For me, that would be Yosemite National Park.  Maybe someday...

Our day of snowshoeing has come to an end.
Tim glides downhill to our waiting vehicle.

To read about another snowshoeing adventure click here: Snowshoeing in Bryce Canyon National Park

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Climbing Handies Peak in Colorado's San Juan Mountains


          “Because it’s there.”  British climber George Mallory reportedly uttered these famous words when asked why he wanted to climb Mt. Everest.  I have another reason for ascending lofty peaks:  “For the million dollar views.”


View of the Handies Peak area from the trailhead.
The trail passes below the snowfield; Handies Peak is to the left of
the picture.
          Handies Peak is our destination on a blue-sky September day in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado.  We arrive at the trailhead in the early morning and begin the 2600 foot, two mile ascent.  An hour and 20 minutes later we reach our first break point, Sloan Lake—a blue-green gem nestled into snow-sprinkled peaks.


Tim captures our silhouettes as we pause to
appreciate Sloan Lake.
          A few minutes later we continue on from Sloan Lake, on a near vertical trail heading for the saddle (high pass between two peaks).  Something doesn’t look right; Tim reaches the saddle and is surrounded by knife-edge peaks.  This was not in the trail description.  We slide down the scree-covered slope back to Sloan Lake and find the turn-off for the trail, an unmarked “T” junction on the downslope side of the lake.


Moving on from Sloan Lake.  The Lake is nestled in the depression
on the lower right of the photo.  You can see the trail snaking its way
across the talus on the lower left.
          We make our way across a talus field, then up a series of switchbacks to another saddle.  From there we can see the summit, only a few hundred yards away.  The air is thin and it’s slow-going to the summit but when we reach the 14,048' peak it’s worth every step.  The view from the top encompasses 8000 square miles of San Juan splendor.


I'm ascending the switch-backing trail to the summit.


The view from 14,048 feet.
          For a few precious minutes we have this glorious perch all to ourselves, then we spy two men making their way up the slope to join us on the summit.  The men are from Durango and they’ve climbed Handies Peak today to celebrate the older of the two’s 60th birthday.  The younger man, in his 50’s, has climbed 30 of Colorado’s fifty-three 14ers—peaks higher than 14,000 feet.  
We congratulate the men on their accomplishments, and on their choice of this spot for a 60th birthday get-away, and then we descend.  A day spent on top of the world, reveling in million dollar views?  Priceless.

Read about our attempt to hike another 14er in the San Juan Mountains --  Red Cloud Peak

Read about Handies Peak on the "Colorado Fourteeners Initiative" website:  http://www.14ers.org/peaks/san-juan-mountains/handies-peak/
Discover Colorado's San Juan Mountains by visiting this site:  http://www.americansouthwest.net/colorado/san_juan_mountains/