Wednesday, February 16, 2011

If I'm Going to Freeze to Death with Someone, I Want it to be with You.

It was a breezy day in the park on Saturday.  I don't know why I was so desperate to get into the mountains, but I truly believe heading for the hills on the weekends is what keeps me mostly sane, and almost able to put up with my work week.

I knew that we were in for a warm spell...What I didn't think about was that there might be some wind.

It's been a while since I actually accomplished a hike with a goal that I set out for.  I find it harder in the winter to set realistic goals, and usually just go play in the snow.  There are options available.

You can:
  1. Hike near to normal lower elevations.  There will be some snow and ice.   This is hard work.
  2. Cross Country Ski at a higher elevationThis is also hard work.
  3. Snowshoe.  No matter how big the shoes, you will sink in at some point in the powdery sugar snow that happens here in Colorado, and you have these giant webbed monstrosities strapped to your feet.  In other words, it's hard work.
Why do I torture myself?  Well... it's hard in a good way.  It's also desperately beautiful, and completely worth minor physical discomfort.

View of Longs Peak from the North.

Being a (relatively) nice day, the park was packed.  The giant 200 car parking lot at Bear Lake was near to capacity.  Undaunted, we strapped on our snowshoes and took off at a very, very slow pace.

I haven't climbed or attempted to climb Longs Peak in ages.  Every year I think I'll get around to it, but for some reason, I never do.  I might have to add this to the list this summer.

For most of the beginning, we were surrounded by trees, so the wind couldn't get us.  I kept having to take off layers to keep myself from over heating.  Then I would catch a gust of wind, and it would feel like jumping into heart-attack cold water.

The wind picked up old snow and made everything look hazy.

I wanted to go to Emerald Lake.

Emerald Lake is less than two miles from the Bear Lake trailhead, but somehow, I have never been there in the winter.  Miles seem longer in the snow.

The trees became sparse and stunted.  Chris waited for me while I snapped some photos.

Often while hiking, I hit a point of exhaustion where the whole world starts to feel bright, and I experience a strange euphoria.  Maybe I just wasn't trying hard enough, but for some reason, my brain stayed dull the whole time.  

It could have been the family with four little kids running and stumbling through the snow.

They were having fun, laughing and scrambling, none of them over the age of 5, they would run up a hill and then slide down again on their knees with their brightly colored snow pants.

But maybe I really just wanted to be alone with the woods.

I have been here in the summertime, and have never been able to take a picture of this tree... in the summer it is thronged by hikers.

Rocky Mountain National Park is incredibly beautiful, but it is also very popular.

I need to start heading out to places where I don't see anyone all day.

Emerald Lake gets it's name from the bright green color of the water.  There was no green on Saturday.

When we got for the lake, the wind was whipping over the Divide above us, picking up snow and ice particles.  I had added back most of my layers at this point, but I hadn't planned on it being quite that windy. The skin on the backs of my legs started to get cold.

It was sad to leave, but I was getting cold.

When we got back to the trailhead, I realized I couldn't feel the backs of my legs.  I didn't actually get frostbite, but it was close.

I almost literally froze my ass off.

And even though I didn't experience the wonderful emptiness of the wild, it was a brilliant day.  I think I need to remember more layers for my legs, and to go farther, try harder, and make bigger goals.

Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park:
Distance     1.8 miles one-way
Starting Elevation     9475 feet
Ending Elevation     10160 feet
Elevation Change     685 feet

1 comment:

PudMonkey said...

There's a reason miles seem longer in the snow. It's because they are.