A Snowy Hike to Carpenter Peak

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Roxbourgh State Park (Carpenter Peak Trail)
Fees: $7/day $70/Annual Pass
Website: http://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/Roxborough
Elevation: 5,937-7,160 feet
Distance: 6.4 miles
Hours: Daylight

So now that summer is on its way, I am getting into the hiking mindset. My girlfriends and I are hoping to hike every Thursday, weather permitting. We have planned to stick with the Front Range during the school year to accommodate some time constraints as well as to avoid the snow as much as possible, but this summer we will be headed to the mountains.

With this plan in mind, we chose to hike Carpenter Peak at Roxborough State Park. The hike to Carpenter Peak, the highest point in the park, is 6.4 miles round-trip. We set out around 8am, carpooling from Tanya’s house at 8:30am . Belinda was kind enough to drive us 20 miles south of Denver as she had a state parks pass which saved us the $7 admission.

By 9:45am, we were following the damp path through the leafless bushes overshadowed by red rock. The exposed sandstone formations are red from the oxidation of iron minerals. As we climbed the lightly graded path that turned from damp to mud to snow, we wondered if it was a mistake to leave our snowshoes behind. So much for the plan of avoiding snow. It hadn’t snowed for four days, and with the warm temperatures, I thought most of the snow would have melted as it had in our yard. Perhaps I should have read the alert on the website!

The higher we climbed, obviously, the more snow we encountered. At the first open ridge, one hiker who was returning to the parking area said no one had broken trail up to Carpenter Peak and he had turned around at Elk Valley. With that news, we continued. I thought to myself, despite the snowy conditions, we will summit the 7,160 foot peak with Diana, the ironwoman, leading. I knew she had all the determination necessary.

As we entered the forest, Diana trounced through the shin deep snow. With each step, she exclaimed how fun this was as she had never hiked in conditions like this. I should have titled this blog “Diana’s Adventure to Carpenter Peak”. I followed, sometimes in her footsteps and sometimes pressing down more snow, as I worried that my tennis partners may never want to join me on a hike again!

A group of twenty year olds were catching up to us, so we stopped to have a snack and enjoy the view in effort to let them break trail for a while. They bounded along, all in their leader’s footsteps, who had a huge stride. We could hardly keep up with their stride, so ended up breaking trail anyway (or should I say Diana did)…not to mention the youngsters took a break, so we passed them by in the untouched snow. So much for that plan…I was 0 for 2!

By now as we passed by a few budding flowers, most of us had soggy feet as melting snow soaked our shoes and socks. Upon reaching the rocky summit, I stripped off my wet shoes and socks to warm my feet in the sun. We enjoyed lunch at the top with a lovely panoramic view…snowcapped mountains to the west and city views to the north and east.

With Army copters overhead, we retraced our steps on our descent, now in even wetter conditions as the sun melted the displaced snow. Anyone who didn’t have a wet foot did now. We started to vote on who would dump the most water out of their shoes at the car, but then we realized that would be Belinda who didn’t even have boots covering her ankles much less tall socks. She was a definite trooper!

I was the only one with hiking poles and two of us had spikes for our shoes. For some reason, we decided not to strap on the spikes which was likely a bad idea. Coming or going, I think three of the five us slipped in the snow or mud. Diana and Tanya had an easier time downhill as they cruised down the trail like mountain goats immune to the slippery conditions. On the other hand, I wiped out. I can’t say there was any grace about it either…just a splat in the mud! Ann and Belinda, who were standing right behind me, were kind enough not to laugh. I guess maybe falling in the mud was better that falling in the small streams of melting snow runoff? Or perhaps I’m just trying to make myself feel better :-).

Regardless of the soggy conditions, we all had fun on this warm, spring day and everyone has already signed up to hike next week. Hopefully our shoes will be dry by then! ETB


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Beth Bankhead

Former public finance professional turned award winning travel blogger and photographer sharing the earth's beauty one word and image at a time.

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