Put the one foot in front of the other… Words from an animated childhood Christmas special ring in my head. I put one foot into the deep unbroken snow, and sink down into the powdery fluff. Good thing I brought my trekking poles with me for balance or I would have probably keel over into the blanket of white. Most people think of trekking poles as something to use for summer backpacking or hiking, but I’v found them invaluable during the winter season.
I continue on, making my way into the forest. I thought (well, more like hoped) at some point, I might spy snowshoe tracks coming in from another direction, providing a welcome relief from breaking trail. Nope, if I want to make it to the creek, I’m on my own to break trail through the new fallen snow. Maybe I started too late... I had strapped on at 3:30 p.m, figuring I had plenty of time. I would probably have light from the setting sun until close to 5 p.m.
Normally, a walk through the neighborhood Forest Service land to North Boulder Creek takes around 40-45 minutes round trip. But then again, this wasn’t a normal day, walking on a dirt path. This was definitely going to take a lot longer. It is quickly going from a hike to a slog.
At least there is some solace that I am going down hill rather than up hill. A couple winters back, Bryon and I snowshoed up to Forest Lakes out of East Portal in Rollinsville. No one had broken trail there either, and heading up the steep trail to the lakes was arduous, as I kept sliding backwards with every step through the deep snow. It literally was two steps forward, one step back.
Today, I’m sliding as well, but sliding down the steep pitches of the trail, almost as if I am surfing the snow. I must take big wide steps with my snowshoes to accommodate their width. As I step forward, I feel a catch on the back of my heel from time to time. Our two dogs are no fools — they don’t want to break trail any more than I do, so they stay close behind me, stepping on the tails of my snowshoes. Argh!
Finally I make it to the creek – a frozen ribbon of snow and ice. I pick what I know is a shallow part — more likely to be solidly frozen, and head across, trekking on the Forest Service land to an old mining cabin. Glancing at my watch, I see the time of 4:15 pm and know I must turn around.
On the one hand, heading back is a bit easier from my stomping out a path heading downhill earlier. On the other hand, I am faced with going up the hill at a steep pitch, still dealing with copious amounts of snow. I settle into a pattern of taking 4-5 baby steps in order to stomp and grip while using my poles to provide balance, then taking a short pause, before resuming.
The dogs are taking advantage of the previously broken path, leading the way up the hill — they are well ahead of me. Geez, the least they could do is wait for their gallant owner who broke the trail for them in the first place!
As the sun sets, a gray light settles over the frosty forest. It’s quiet, hushed and full of winter’s beauty. I stop for a moment on the final ascent, turning around to take in the snowy mountains of the Indian Peaks, peaking out from behind wispy gray clouds during the dimming light.
I love winter in Colorado….