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April 4, 2014

Yesterday, it snowed six inches in Denver, and today was forecasted to be sunny in the high 50’s. “A perfect day to snowshoe”, I thought.

I have been longing to visit Rocky Mountain National Park in the winter time, so off I went. Going to the park is an all day event. Due to the floods last fall, certain roads are still under construction. Once I arrived in Lyon, I was greeted with a detour sign as the main road was closed.

The Highway 7 detour, however, was gorgeous. It took me through St. Vrain Canyon where rocky hills towered over the babbling brook which just six months ago was a raging river out of its banks. The recent snow lightly blanketed the landscape of evergreens, a pleasant view as I wound through the S turns on my way to the park entrance.

IMG_3917 st vrain

The $20 entry fee for four hours in the park was a bit steep, but worth it nonetheless because I wanted to go! It would have been nice to share the expense with fellow hikers, but I don’t know too many people with Friday off, so I ventured out on my own.

My visit brought back memories of my three days at the park during my trip around the USA…great hikes, awesome campground, amazing elk, and a tense drive across Trail Ridge Road! Today, I wanted to hike in a different part of the park as three days wasn’t nearly enough time to cover all the terrain, so instead of visiting the popular Bear Lake area, I took the advice of the RMNP paper and hiked a featured trail called Cub Lake.

I wanted to hike six miles and this trail was 4.6 miles roundtrip. By looking at the map, I could connect to Fern Lake Trail to add some distance. So, just after the Beaver Meadows Entrance Station, I turned left and then took the first right toward the Moraine Campground. I found the Cub Lake Trailhead shortly after turning onto a dirt road.

The trail began in a valley, crossed a creek immediately and gradually increased in elevation. While the trail through the meadow was snow-free, I strapped my snowshoes and micro-spikes to my pack just in case. After all, we had a decent snowfall yesterday. For the first mile or so, I stepped around mud puddles, ice patches and around a few rocks as I listened to the robins chip, watched the geese peck for food, and admired a mallard and it’s mate sunning on a rock near a marshy area.

Eventually I reach tree cover where the snow was protected from the sun and it was time to fish out my micro-spikes. I strapped them on and made new tracks in the pristine snow on the sometimes indiscernible trail. I was thankful to find a track (usually a post hole) from a traveler on a previous day as it helped me find my way. I “post-holed” a few times myself, once conveniently when I had removed my glove to snap a photo and after losing my balance my hand ended up icy-cold.

As I picked my way through the fresh snow, I came upon an aspen grove part of which was previously burned. As I understand it, an aspen grove is one tree as the roots are all connected. It was interesting to see one Aspen burned and another unaffected right next to each other. It also appeared like the elk liked to rub there antlers against the burned trees as the burnt bark was rubbed off in many places bearing a light inner skin.

It took me 1.5 hours to get the lake. I don’t know what was taking me so long as it didn’t seem terribly steep with only 540 of elevation gain. Perhaps it was due to breaking the trail or perhaps it was due to enjoying the beauty around me…though I just felt slightly sluggish. The lake was snow covered and it was difficult to differentiate between land and water. Being by myself, I decided to stop for lunch at the lake versus blazing more of the trail and mistakenly falling in! Just when I was finishing my peanut butter sandwich a family of three showed a bit winded as well. They thanked me for hiking first as my tracks kept them from getting lost!

IMG_3876 cub lake

The wind picked up and I started getting chilled, so I said my farewells and headed back down toward my car. I came across a few more hikers along the way, not too many and as one moved over to the side, he “post-holed”. With a smile he remarked, “Just cooling my feet.” I’ll have to remember that!

While I didn’t spot anymore wildlife on the trail, I spotted a herd of at least 30 elk in the meadow between the campground and the trailhead. What a treat! Most of them were resting, but one was grazing and a few jumped to their feet as cars stopped along the road. I love seeing animals in the wild. On my drive back, I saw three more small herds. I suppose they waited for temperature to warm up before they came out to play!

While I would have liked to stick around the park longer, it was time for me to head back to Denver for the first Friday Art Walk in RiNo. My new favorite place is the Chocolate Crisis Center…WOW, was their chocolate good! And the whole concept was great with the chocolate packaged in a first aid kit along with a “prescription”! Another great day in the Rockies. ETB

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