“Are we still going to do our Fourteener hike?” Jack inquires of me.
“I’m afraid that window has closed. With the snow above 10,000 feet we’ve gotten the last two weeks, I don’t think we will be able to hike the high peaks until next summer. Next year!”
Snow covers the mountains as I gaze out from our back deck. It is beautiful Indian Summer day. Cool and nippy in the morning, yet warm by the time afternoon rolls around. A great day for hiking to be sure. But where to hike?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m as excited by our early season snowfall as anyone. Early October snow bodes well for a great ski season. I dream of powder turns, and the sooner the better. But even with the snow that has fallen, it’s too early for skiing (except for those willing to earn it by skinning up in the back country). It will still take many cold nights of snow-making and many more snowstorms to open intermediate and above trails. A really good early ski season means challenging slopes open by Thanksgiving weekend.
Last year this time, it felt like summer and the high peaks looked like summer. We were still climbing the highest peaks into the first week of November. One year later, the scene and conditions are vastly different.
It is the “in-between” season. We are in-between hiking and skiing. But the weather is still amenable to spending time outdoors. What to do?
Go low, or go out of town.
The trails on the plains in and around Boulder, like those at Walker Ranch are still free of snow. As are the county and state parks around Lyons, like Hall Ranch and Heil Valley Ranch. They offer great hiking opportunities in forests and along streams.
For Bryon and I, we had planned a backpack trip for this coming Columbus Day weekend for weeks now. Our original plan, to do a loop backpack, hiking the Continental Divide Trail, had to be scrapped. Not only is there too much snow up there now, but more snow is forecast for Sunday night and Monday, and the last thing I want to be doing is hiking through white out conditions
We still wanted to backpack, so looked for alternative options in warmer, snow-free climates. We hadn’t been to Moab and the national parks there in quite awhile. I knew from experience that fall can be the perfect time of year for canyon country. Hiking on the sandstone in summer can be scorching hot. Hiking in Capitol Reef in August is the only time in my life I got heat rash on my legs from the searing heat. I don’t do heat, especially when shade is few and far between.
But October can be downright lovely. Temperatures during the day are frequently a much more comfortable 60-70 degrees, with nice cool nights to snuggle up in your sleeping bag. And the autumn sun at the lower angle makes for spectacular sunsets as it illuminates the orange and red canyons.
So our in-between season backpack just turned from a trek through the tundra to a journey through spires and canyon at the Needles District at Canyonlands National Park.
I hope you too can find an ideal spot to enjoy the limbo between summer and winter.