Eagle Trail is snow-covered and smooth
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.
Simon Beck creates magnificent patterns in the snow
Artist Simon Beck snowshoes on the frozen lakes of Savoie, France, tramping intricate patterns in the snow. This is not a casual endeavor, but an effort to which he commits 5 to 9 hours a day as he creates large, outdoor and yet epehmeral pieces that typically are the size of three soccer fields. I was alerted to Beck’s work by LaDonna Zall of Powell, Wyoming, who led me to My Modern Met and a blog post called “Man Walks All Day to Create Spectacular Snow Patterns.”
The geometric forms range in mathematical patterns and shapes that create stunning, sometimes 3D, designs when viewed from higher levels. Some look like white quilts. Others like mandalas, and still others like kaleidoscopes.
How long these magnificent geometric forms survive is completely dependent on the weather. Beck designs and redesigns the patterns as new snow falls, sometimes unable to finish a piece due to significant overnight accumulations. Interestingly enough, he said, ‘The main reason for making them was because I can no longer run properly due to problems with my feet, so plodding about on level snow is the least painful way of getting exercise. Gradually, the reason has become photographing them, and I am considering buying a better camera.” Spectacular art for the sake of exercise!
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.
First snowshoe of the season in Indian Peaks area
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.
Product protecting private parts could be man’s best friend during winter workouts
Today was the season’s first cold — well, almost-cold — day here in Colorado’s Front Range. It means winter is really nearly here. No matter the weather runners run and Nordic Walkers walk with poles.
ThermaJock is not a product that I am able to test, so I’ll just quote from its promotional information, which describes this base-layer fleece item as “a patented revolutionary product specifically designed to protect the penis from cold and chafing during cold weather activities. Our technologically advanced Polartec Thermal Pro material helps to prevent pain and frostbite while providing comfort and warmth to every man’s most sensitive area. ThermaJock will protect during any cold weather activity! Perform at your peak knowing ThermaJock’s got you covered!”
Thermajock costs $14.99 and can be ordered online.
Sun Dog’s K-9 Uphill is for fit snowshoers, runners and walkers
I am in no shape to hike or snowshoe 2,000 feet straight uphill at Aspen’s elevation. I couldn’t do that 15 years ago when Sun Dog’s K-9 Uphill, subtitled “A Snowshoe Event for Dogs and their People,” was first run, and I certainly can’t do it now. But I think it’s a super event that benefits Roaring Fork Valley animal shelters — and some of the humans even use poles. The K-9 Uphill takes place on Buttermilk Mountain, the smallest of the Aspen area’s three ski venues and always the first to close. This year, it takes place on Saturday April 10 at 10:00 a.m. It marks the beginning of the end f snowshoe (and ski) season in Colorado and the time when the snow will soon melt off high-country recreation paths in the valleys and then from mountain slopes too.
Expect more than 300 canine/human teams in Recreational and Competitive divisions, but organizer Erik Skarvan of Sun Dog Athletics says that “most participants just take part in all the awesome K-9 energy.” Preregistration is $30 at at www.active.com (enter “Sun Dog’s K-9 Uphill” in the search window) or stop at the Ute Mountaineer in downtown Aspen. Event-day registration is at Bump’s at the Buttermilk base. Fee includes a refueling “Power Station” at the summit Finish and Erik’s Epic Raffle and BBQ to follow at the base. For more information or to volunteer, contact Erik Skarvan at 970-925-1069 or email@example.com.
Gear Junkie reviewed footwear that seems worth checking out
I recently wrote a post about Nordic Walking on a local trail that was still snow-covered. I wore hiking boots with good traction, and when snowmelt over crust and ice made the going get slippery, I slipped YakTrax over my boots. That’s a lot of stuff on each foot. In the back of my mind, I thought that someone might make footwear that would be suitable for conditions we have so often — packed snow in a freeze/melt cycle.
Then into my inbox came the March 1 edition of GearJunkie.com with its timely review of the Saucony ProGrid Razor, a high-top trail running shoe. The site’s editor, Steve Regenold, tested and reviewed this shoe, logging 100 winter miles on packed snow, deep snow, wet winter pavement, in footraces and for orienteering. Each lightweight shoe has a Vibram outsole, is seam-sealed and has a waterproof upper for running (or walking) through puddles or more likely slush. He wrote that they slip on ice, but so did my heavy lug-sole hiking boots, which is the reason I put on the YakTrax.
The heel is designed with ProGrid impact- deflection technology and forefoot cushioning. Regenold wore the ProGrid Razor in temperatures as low as 10 degrees and found them warm. He wasn’t impressed with the integrated gaiter for deep snow, but who Nordic Walks through powder anyway? That’s when we switch to snowshoes.
From the review, it sounds like a good solution for the conditions I encountered last weekend and might later today, depending on where I go. I haven’t tried them myself, so take this is information, not as a recommendation from me. Some of the comments to Regenold’s post were critical of their durability, as well as the gaiter design. Some users felt that they didn’t hold up as anticipated, but these hard-core, year-round off-road runners most likely are much harder on footwear than most of us Nordic Walkers. The ProGrid Razor comes in men’s and women’s sizes. Although it is warm, it is pretty cool looking. The shoes retail for $135 per pair. If anyone has used them for Nordic Walking, let the rest of us know.
No, not the entire 165-mile recreational trail around Lake Tahoe, but a 3-mile segment
Snowshoers are invited to experience a section the Tahoe Rim Trail on a free guided, on pre-Valentine excursion on Saturday, February 13 beginning at 10:00 a.m. This easy hike at Page Meadows, just outside of Tahoe City on Lake Tahoe’s North Shore, will be approximately three miles. Page Meadows comprise a series of interconnecting meadows that offer splendid views of the high peaks along the eastern edge of the Granite Chief Wilderness — unless it’s snowing and there are no views at all. The TRTA also offers a sunset snowshoe hike of about the same distance at Tahoe Meadows beginning at 4:00 p.m. that afternoon. If you want to join either, an RSVP to the Tahoe Rim Trail Association (775-298-0231) or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org is strongly recommended recommended.
For a schedule of winterlong snowshoe hikes, click here. The last one this winter is a full-moon tour on March 29. Snowshoe rentals are available at Alpenglow Sports in Tahoe City, REI in Reno or the Sports Exchange in Truckee.
My feature story on snowshoeing options appears in the new snowshoemag.com
Earlier this winter, I visited Banff and Lake Louise to research snowshoeing possibilities in Banff National Park. They are leggion. Snowshoers cross the pancake-flat surface of Lake Louise or circumnavigate it on the fringe of the forest. They follow unplowed summer roads and hiking paths. They snowshoe on their own or with informative guides. The highlights of the these offerings appear as a photo-filled feature called “Exploring the Vastness of Banff National Park” in the new issue of snowshoemag.com.