During the quadrennial Winter Olympics, I spend a lot of time “tele-veging” because the sports of snow and ice are my favorites. My husband and I took a break today, going for a walk on the Eagle Trail in northeast Boulder. The trail system crosses grazing land, some of it now managed by Boulder Mountain Parks & Open Space and some in private hands. The gentle, flat trails provide fine big-sky views.
The trail was snow-covered, and while it was soft in late-morning, I did slip the traction paws onto my LEKI Nordic Walking poles. They are like studded snow tires, suitable for ice sidewalks but good for soft snow as well. We saw people walking, people walking with dogs, people running, people running with dogs and one cross-country skiers. I was the only Nordic Walker.
Fabulous close-to-home snowhsoeing follows major Front Range
It starting snowing sometime on Thursday evening. It kept snowing all day Friday. And all Friday night. And much of Saturday. By the time it stopped, 22 1/2 inches had accumulated on our back deck — a local record. Someplace identified only as “four miles north of Blackhawk” reportedly snared four feet of snow. That’s would be an impressive single-storm accumulation even for the Sierra Nevada.
Boulder Valley Ranch is a working ranch & also part of Boulder Open Space
My first Nordic Walk of the New Year was at Boulder Valley Ranch, an true multi-use parcel that remains a historic and working ranch and also is part of the Boulder Mountain Parks & Open Space system. Recreational uses include hiking/walking, running, dogs (on leashes or required voice/sight control) and horseback riding — and we saw every one of those uses. We parked at the east trailhead off 51st Street rather than the more popular (and more crowded) one at Longhorn Road and made a 3 1/2-mile loop of the Eagle and Sage Trails. The Longhorn Road trailhead is not the one marked with a the arrow on the OSMP map below but rather the one directly to the east, marked with a P for “parking.”
I enjoy Boulder Valley Ranch’s wide trails — ranch roads, really — that have ample room for runners and walkers to be side-by-side, even leaving room for mountain bikers and horses to pass with no conflict issues. And because trails are smooth, with very few rocks, it is easy to maintain a Nordic Walking stride. The views to the west provide a panorama of foothills and often the snow-covered back range as well. And the big-domed sky is always uplifting.
Free entry to & activities in archeological park in January and February
My resolution again is to be more conscientious about maintaining this blog to encourage people to pick up poles for Nordic Walking whenever and wherever the ground is bare and poles plus snowshoes when it’s covered in white. There’s good news for snowshoers and in fact, all visitors to southwestern Colorado.
Entry to Mesa Verde National Park in southwestern Colorado is FREE during January and February. The park’s main road and Mesa Top Loop Road remain open throughout the winter, 8 a.m. to sunset, weather permitting. Bring your skinny skis or snowshoes to explore four winter trails with a total of 28.4 miles of cross-country and snowshoe terrain, snow permitting. More than 20 miles are groomed; the remaining miles are located on Wetherill Road, closed to vehicular traffic in winter.
Moving across this timeless landscape with snow underfoot and the big blue dome overhead provides ample reason to explore Mesa Verde National Park, but don’t neglect is archeological treasures as well. The Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum is open daily, 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. until March 10. Put your snowshoes aside for an hour and join a ranger for a FREEwalking tour of Spruce Tree House, Mesa Verde NP’s third-largest cliff dwelling and the only dwelling open during the winter, available daily at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Food is available at Spruce Tree Terrace, 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. daily. The park is near Mancos in southwestern Colorado. For more information, call the Chief Ranger’s office at 970-529-4622, Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Schedule leaves no time for New Zealand coastal city’s fine recreational paths
I’m in New Zealand to attend the Society of American Travel Writers annual convention that will take place in Wellington on the south end of the North Island. My husband and I are part of a small group exploring wineries and restaurants of the Hawke’s Bay/Napier region for a few days before the convention. Particularly in light of the abundant food and drink, I miss my daily Nordic Walk. My tummy and taste buds are happy, but otherwide, I feel like a slug, eating, drinking and being driven around. The realization is painful, but without time to walk and stretch, it has become awkward to hop on and off the motorcoach.
The schedule is too tight to get for more than a very, very short stroll even now and again. If I had any time beyond a few minutes , I would try to connect with a group of local walkers who could tell me about their lives in their lovely little city. New Zealand in general and central New Zealand in particular have many such groups. Or, if I had time here, my poles and I might explore the miles of paved recreation paths around Napier. Funded by the Rotary Club and the city, the prettiest part follows the seafront for miles. I saw a group of fitness walkers striding down the path sans poles but with matching T-shirts, and Nordic Walking New Zealand offers courses in the Napier/Hawke’s Bat area.
The Rotary Pathway Trust was formed in 2002 to create combined walk and cycleways in much of the city and outskirts with links accessing much of the Hawke’s Bay area, where possible utilizing paths that were in place before the project was begun, hard beach frontages, rural roads and riverbanks.
Paths are generally 2.5 meters wide, are suitable for all weather conditions and are well defined using concrete, lime sand and asphal pavement. The routes are landscaped amd provide seating, drinking fountains, signage maps and information, exercise areas and shelter, and they are well lit around Marine Parade and other high-use areas.
There is currently a flat coastal route of about 25 miles to and through the picturesque coastal communities of Haumoana, Te Awanga and Clifton, including well-known Cape Kidnappers. Much, most or all of it seems suitable for walking. The inland Tukituki River Valley loop is described as “a flat off-road trail that overlooks vineyards on one side and the river on the other. It boasts changing scenery and views of the impressive Te Mata Peak, expansive Pacific Ocean views, world class wineries and beautiful countryside.”
I’ve seen much of this countryside through the bus window, and if I had time to explore on foot as well, I’d have shot at working off some of the wonderful food and wine. As it is, one of my “walks” was down the street from the hotel (actually, small apartments operated by Quest) to a clothing shop to buy new pants with an elastic waist.
Jayah Faye Paley came to Boulder — and we went for a walk
The other day, I wrote a post called “Jayah Faye Paley Coming to Boulder” about the well-known and highly regarding pole advocate, personal trainer and mobility coach presentations in at REI in Boulder on Thuraday and group hike with poles in Rocky Mountain National Park on Saturday morning. I couldn’t attend on Thursday because I had a previous commitment but I understand it was SRO in the store, and Saturday morning is out, because the Paley-led “Waterfall Hike with Poles” to Ouzel Falls in Rocky Mountain National Park for the Rocky Mountain Nature Association is sold out.
I was able to spend higher quality time with Jayah. She had been planning to meet Randy from Lafayette and Charee from Parker on Thursday morning for a walk somewhere in Boulder. My house was a good, central place, so we rendezvoused here on a misty, gray morning with clouds hanging low on the foothills. After some tea and chat, the four of us set off for Eben Fine Park with a plan to walk into Boulder Canyon on the Boulder Creek Trail at least to the end of the pavement, but the city is working on the footbridge, so we had to detour and in the end, because Jayah had a schedule, we only walked through the park and a short distance into the canyon.
The casual walk gave us a chance to chat, and I admire Jayah’s philosophy. She is keyed into different uses for different kinds of poles by people with different needs and desires, from hardcord hikers to people with balance or mobility issues. As we were entering the canyon, an older couple with poles was coming downhill toward us (sorry, I didn’t snap a photo). They both had old downhill ski poles. He was simply carrying his; she was rather randomly tapping the ground with hers. We stopped and chatted for a few minutes, commenting about how unusual it was for six people with poles to be on the same stretch of the path. The couple said they liked walking with their poles — but I could help but think how much more they would have liked them with a little basic coaching on what poles meet their needs and how to use them. We mentioned that Jayah was giving a free presentation about poles at REI just a few hours later. They looked baffled and politely went on their way.
I have a quiver of walking poles. These include various brands of specific Nordic Walking poles and a pair of hiking poles that have hundreds of miles and many seasons on them. I keep the rubber booties on some of the Nordic Walking poles and grab those for my daily morning 2-miler right in town, and I leave the tips off others when I know I’m heading for an unpaved trail. For harder mountain treks, I take more rugged hiking/trekking poles. To me, trails are treasures — whether along a rushing stream, across a meadow, through the forest or up a mountain. I am fortunate to live in a state, a metropolitan area, a city and a county laced with trails. All are open for Nordic Walkers, runners and hikers, so I celebrate National Trails Day with gratitude.
The American Hiking Society’s 16th annual National Trails Day, which this year is on Saturday, June 4, adapts to each participating community’s needs: group hikes or bike ride, horseback ride, maintenance project, paddle trip, health fair, children’s event and more. To find your nearest event, click here and scroll down. Either enter your zip code in the appropriate box or click on you state on the U.S., and you’ll get a list of options. Join, donate and participate to make this day a national success.
Front Range finally gets snow, meaning doorstep snowshoeing for Boulderites
Colorado’s Front Range cities (Denver, Boulder et al.)received just 1½ inches of snow until last Thursday, when 6 to 8 inches fell. Oh, was that soft-falling snow beautiful! Friday, New Year’s Eve, dawned cold but still without wind. My friend Jeannie and I declared a mental health, get-away-from-the-computer day. First we thought about going skiing at Eldora, a small (for Colorado) ski area that has the virtue of being just 21 miles from the city. But Boulder’s non-existent winds were whipping around the ski area, nearly 4,000 feet higher than Boulder.
Plan B was to snowshoe Shanahan Ridge in Jeannie’s old neighborhood. We strapped on our snowshoes at a small trailhead across the road from a townhouse development. Jeannie called our route the “lower loop.” There weren’t a lot of signs, so I’m not entirely sure which trails we connected. She has hiked it so often that she has every bend in the trail, every wide and flat section of service road, every little uphill and downhill committed to memory. I just followed.
Friday was cloudy and gray, providing that kind of silent winter beauty that we forget exists when the sun is shining, the sky is blue and the wildflowers are blooming. Near the trailhead, we met one woman on cross-country skis who was finishing as we were getting started. If she wasn’t on her rock skis when she started, she had a pair when she finished, because there were a lot of rocks just under the surface of the snow. It was too cold to take a lot of pictures, because I was unenthusiastic about removing my gloves.
We encountered no other snowshoers — just hikers and walkers, with and without dogs, and surprisingly none with poles. For my part, I have a pair of Thinsulate-lined, waterproof semi-vintage Salomon Winter-X hiking boots that still have an aggressive tread, but snowshoes provide an extra measure of traction if , I like to think that the snowshoes’ additional weight offers extra calorie burn, and I do like using poles. As returned to the car, we agreed that our 3-mile snowshoe hike cleared our heads, made our spirits soar and was a fine way to round out the year 2010. Happy New Year and happy walking (and snowshoeing) to all.
Last year, 19 inches of snow fell on Boulder in late October, and my first snowshoe walk of the 2009-2010 season was in Rocky Mountain National Park. This year, the Front Range has been bone-dry (just 1½ inches of snow so far). The Colorado Rockies west of the Continental Divide have been buried in snow from after storm, and the last couple have actually brought significant accumulations on the east side of the Divide — not in Denver or Boulder, but in the Indian Peaks and Rocky Mountain National Park.
My neighbor, Jim, had already been our eight times this year, mostly in previous 10 days, and I joined him yesterday. We drove up to the trailhead at the winter closure of the Brainard Lake Road, up in the mountains west of Boulder. Federal stimulus money is being used to construct a parking lot, an imposing building with restrooms and perhaps more, which will improve the creature comforts for users of a wonderful winter trail system within the Brainard Lake Recreation Area but outside of the Indian Peaks Wilderness. The the sun was bright and the snow was white, though in some of these images, it looks as blue as the sky. And best of all, there was no wind.
This network includes combined Nordic skiing and snowshoeing trails, skier-only, skier-preferred and snowshoer-preferred, but only the Brainard Lake Road itself is open to all non-motorized winter recreation and also to dogs, which are prohibited on all other trails between December 15 and April 15.
Because of this multi-use, I actually think snowshoes are a better than skis on the chopped-up snow. We simply headed up the unplowed road covered with enough snow so that no pavement showed through.
This is an out-and-back route. From the trailhead to Brainard Lake is about 1¼ miles.