Roadtrip to the Rockies: A Weekend in Breckenridge!

November 24-25, 2017

After a lovely Thanksgiving, I “opted outside” for the weekend.  Ross and I carpooled up to the ski town early Friday morning and got two hikes in before heading back Sunday morning.  We took advantage of my membership at the Schussbaumer Ski Club, so we got to stay at its large chalet just two blocks from town.

After settling in, we geared up for our first hike around 10:30am.  The trailhead began at Carter Park, just on the outskirts of town, so we walked over just in time for it to start snowing.  It wasn’t the pretty, big flaky type, but small pellet balls that sometimes come with thunder as it did today!

Despite the snow and intermittent breeze, it wasn’t too cold.  I was surprised to see that the trail began with a bunch of stair climbing!  I was hoping for something easy for our first day in the mountains as I was acclimating to the altitude.  Perhaps I should read the trail description before I pick what we are going to hike!  I mostly just look at the mileage, the highest elevation, the directions to the trailhead, and if there is anything interesting to see on the hike.

This trail, Barney Ford, began with a climb of rock stairs!  There was an easier route as far as steepness was concerned by following a path of switchbacks, but given the zig-zags were covered in ice, we opted to climb.  Soon we came upon a plethora of trails.  The signage was decent, but for a first-timer on the hill it required a lot of stopping and consulting google maps to determine which path to follow.

After the initial climb, the trail leveled off and led us through an evergreen forest with a trace of snow covering the path.  We ended up following Moonstone Trail into a meadow which afforded lovely views of the ski slopes across the way.  Soon we connected to Juniata and climbed to the highest point where we connected to Barney Ford Trail, creating a loop.  This way, we saved the best for last.

We descended through much more snow than the original trace we climbed through as we passed the remains of an old mining cabin.  The overall five mile hike was nice and didn’t take very long to complete.  The most interesting part of the trail, however, I think is the history.  It is named for a slave who came to Colorado in search of riches and successfully became a prominent citizen of Colorado.

We had extensive free time after the hike to wander the town, to get lunch, to do a VERY hard 500 piece jigsaw puzzle, to grab dinner, to play a few games of ping pong, and to review the hike I had planned for the morning.

Our morning hike was to Wheeler Lakes.  To reach the trailhead, we drove to the Copper Mountain parking lot where there will soon be a fee to pay in the winter, but was currently free.  We walked a quarter mile to the trailhead which was strangely located by the exit ramp on I-70.  This coupled with the fact there was no snow on the side of the mountain made me wonder about the trail I had selected.

We followed the trail which paralleled the noisy highway as we took in the view of the Copper Mountain Ski Resort beneath the morning sun.  I can’t say much nice about the first half mile or so.  Slowly, it switched back and forth up the mountain until finally we reached the solitude of the forest along with some welcome snow.

We felt the warmth of the sun on our faces as we passed through mostly coniferous forest and one stand of dormant aspen trees.  Soon we reached an alpine meadow where the wind whipped across our bodies only donned in a long sleeved shirt.  Fortunately, it was the only time the temperature was chilly.  The rest of our hike, we enjoyed bluebird skies.

About this time also, however, the snow deepened.  Only one person had broken trail ahead of us.  I tried following in this hiker’s footsteps, though the person boasted a very long stride.  As such, I finally succumbed to making my own footsteps as I broke trail through the shin deep snow.  I’m not sure if it would have been easier to strap on cumbersome snow shoes or to trounce through eight inches of stiff powder.

But I suppose we didn’t have a choice in the matter given we left our snowshoes in the car based on the snowless trailhead!  As we neared the lake, we were afforded magnificent views of the surrounding snow capped mountains.  Upon reaching the sign pointing to the lake, the only tracks left in the snow were those of moose!  How exciting…I wish I could have seen one from afar.

Anyway, the lake was frozen and close to blanketed in snow.  We reached it just in time to enjoy it as a frozen lake rather than a field of white.  With the lovely weather, we could spend a little time wandering around without freezing before we returned on the out-and-back trail.  While the first portion of the trail stunk, the rest of the six mile hike was worth the effort!  I highly recommend it.

We finished this hike quite early as well, so we got spend some more time lunching and lounging before we met some more friends for a nice dinner.  It was a nice Thanksgiving weekend!  ETB

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The Rockies: Olympic Qualifiers at Copper Mountain and Snowshoeing Mayflower Gulch

December 19-22, 2013

I spent this weekend with Heidi at Copper Mountain watching the US Freeskiing and snowboarding athletes compete in Olympic qualifiers. Given neither of us ski, we stayed near the base and watched the half-pipe event. Sadly, we were too cold to stay for the entire event, but we did get to see the likes of Scott Lago and Louie Vito, to name a few.

The hike up the ramp to the half-pipe was hard enough, but we managed to plant ourselves near the end of the pipe on the left-hand side, while we watched countless spectators slip and fall right behind us. We were definitely in the wipeout zone and occasionally we found ourselves in the spray zone as well when athletes came to stop. Most the time we managed to get our back turned to the spray of snow before it hit us, but there was nothing we could do about the giant flakes falling from the sky into our face.

The conditions were rough for the athletes, but they still pulled off all sorts of tricks and caught big air. We found our spot was perfect for smiling in the background of multiple athlete interviews, and had an appearance on television the last few days as NBC Sports replayed the event. This was all by accident as we had never attended an event like this previously, but it was fun none-the-less.

When we weren’t freezing in the ten degree temperatures and heavy snow, we were scouting out the different restaurants to try at the resort. We definitely ate our way through Copper trying breakfast burritos, freshly cooked mini donuts, bacon cheeseburger mac and cheese, tortilla soup, corn chowder, fantastic sushi and more! We also joined Brian, Steve, and Katie who worked for the US ski team as well as for sponsors for the event at the local watering holes.

I had planned to snowshoe on Friday, but the group coming from Denver cancelled, so opted out in the snowy conditions as I wasn’t familiar with the area. On Sunday, however, I decided to at least look for the parking and trailhead to Mayflower Gulch and Boston Mine. If it looked relatively straight forward and safe, I planned to snowshoe on my own.

The snowy parking lot was home to three or four cars, the trail was open and smooth, and the information board at the trailhead included a map and all the details of the trail. As such, I felt safe to go on my own…not without first notifying a friend of my whereabouts.

According to the information, the trail was ranked “moderate” and the roundtrip would have been 5.6 miles had I snowshoed all the way to the Mayflower Amphitheater. Personally, I was more interested in the mining ruins and the Boston Mine camp that was constructed in the late 19th-century by prospectors who wished to mine a thick vein of mountain-bound gold outside Leadville. Unfortunately, the ore’s purity was poor, and the would-be gold town went bust before it boomed.

I followed the hard-packed snowy trail through the snow-dusted evergreens in fifteen degree temperatures and light snow. Newly retired from soccer, I found myself winded as I noisily trounced up the slight incline that began at 10,996 feet and topped out at 12,415 feet. About a mile into trail, I finally found the first remnants of the mine as well as crossed paths with three cross country skiers finishing up their morning jaunt.

On the left of the trail was a mining cabin covered in snow and on the right was a structure that seemed like it was balancing precariously on a vertical, wooden beam that had snapped in half. After stopping to admire the old structures, I continued on toward the camp which was situated in an open space by the creek. It was so cool. I inspected the old ruins, checked out the views from the structures, and once in a while sunk to my knees in snow. Most of the surrounding mountains appeared hazy beneath the falling flakes, though one mountain in the distance glimmered in the sun. It looked magical.

As I returned to the car, I stopped once in a while to listen to the birds chirping in the otherwise quiet, solitude. I was definitely the noisiest thing around with my hiking poles squeaking, my ski pants swishing, and my snowshoes crunching in the snow. I began to wonder how much more weight in clothes I carry while hiking in the winter versus the summer. I’m certain I burned more calories than normal on a 3.2 mile hike! It’s a lot more work while wearing all those clothes, especially if nature calls! I also thought of those birds. If I were a bird, I would not pick to winter in the Rocky Mountains…of course, Denver is the coldest place I plan to live.

I reached the car blanketed in a light sweat with a frozen nose dripping snot. An attractive description, I know, but that’s what winter sports provide. It was 9:30a.m., and I planned my return to Denver to catch the Broncos game. It was a fun weekend in Copper with Heidi, and it was nice to cap it off with a little exercise! ETB

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