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Medium Dawn Felagund of the Fountain

I Snowshoed 10K So You Don't Have To!

The (Cyber) Bag of Weasels

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"About as much fun as a bag of weasels"...when I first saw this Irish adage, it made me think of the life of a writer: sometimes perilous, sometimes painful, certainly interesting. My paper journal has always been called "The Bag of Weasels." This is the Bag of Weasels' online home.

I Snowshoed 10K So You Don't Have To!

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First of all, before I post the beautiful pictures garnered from that 10K of snowshoeing, to all who have been asking about Lancie: He is home! He was released last night from the vet hospital but spent the day with my inlaws so that he could be monitored all day today. He is about a foot away from me now. He is doing much better: the vomiting and diarrhea are gone, and he has his appetite back. We need to get his weight back up, which means extra canned dog food, which I don't think he's going to protest.

Okay, now as to the reason I am writing this post!

Bobby has been pestering me for some years now to learn to snowboard. And I'm going to! But I want to wait till after my thesis is done. In any case, we have both snowshoed casually for some years now. But, between my hike halfway up the mountain at Stratton and two glorious days at the Breckenridge Nordic Center, I think I can say that I have Found My Thing, at least as far as snow sports go. (And, yes Bobby, when you read this, I will still let you teach me to snowboard.)

I did 10K (6 miles) over the course of 6.5 hours spread over two days, including (on the second day) part of a black diamond trail.

The first day, I was meeting Bobby for lunch and so only had about 2.5 hours, so the woman in the Nordic Center recommended the Pence Miller trail (intermediate), which linked into the Willow trail (beginner), and I set off. It was about 16F/-9C that day. Within a short while, I was hot and eventually removed my scarf and tied it around my waist.

So we begin on Pence Miller ...

Overlooking Breckenridge. The tops of the mountains are obscured by clouds. It snowed basically nonstop until the day we went home, which was bluebird. This view would have been exceptional then!

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However, I think it is still pretty spectacular, even with the clouds and the gray!

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Setting out on Pence Miller across a bridge that crosses the roadway.

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The gondola that leads up from town to the base of Peaks 7 and 8.

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The trails were groomed, and you followed these little colored snowshoers to keep to the correct trail.

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Colorado's famed aspen trees.

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I loved the vivid color of this lichen on the rocks.

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Pence Miller was pretty easy for an intermediate trail. But it was utterly deserted and so beautiful.

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One of the things I love about snowshoeing is that it is very meditative. It is you and your footsteps and the sound of your poles stabbing the snow and your breath and your blood. It is rare when my mind is not churning over something or other, but I fell into this sense of mental quiet that made me keenly aware of the natural world around me. The only word I can use to describe it is numinous.

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I loved this little guy, growing strong despite the snow.

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Here, I fell down and the snow made me turn invisible, so I had to take a picture to prove it.

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This is where Bobby was while I was trudging through the snow!

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I became visible again!

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If Bobby and I believed in an afterlife, his heaven would look a lot like this: a seemingly endless march of mountains with trails to ride! (Breck had five peaks open for skiing and riding.)

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Looking along the gondola toward one of the peaks.

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By now I am on the Willow Trail, which circumvents the rare and delicate wetland fen ecosystem called Cucumber Gulch.

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It is open land (and flat!) rather than forest.

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Being a beginner trail, this area was much more heavily traveled. I actually saw other people--lots of them!

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There were a couple of lookout spots over the wetland. The cross-country ski trails ran beneath them. While I was gazing out over this one, a skier asked if I was looking out for the moose. Moose? She'd seen tracks nearby. I didn't see the moose ... today, anyway.

It was snowing pretty hard by this point, which explains the blurriness of the photo.

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My means of conveyance.

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A partly frozen creek. (The creeks here, unlike at Stratton, actually had bridges built across them so I didn't have to lunge across them in my snowshoes! Fancy fancy!)

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Detail of the ice.

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I had such a good time that I decided to go back the next day. Bobby had avalanche training for Ski Patrol, so I had the whole day to myself. I scoped out the trail map and decided, why the hell not, I'll try the Nordic Center's one black diamond snowshoe trail.

It snowed quite a bit overnight, so the trees were dressed in white, and it looked completely different from the day before. It was a perfect calm, so everything stood alabaster and serene.

I had to start out on the Willow Trail to reach the intermediate trail that I'd use to access Robin's Nest, the black diamond. Since I'd walked this trail the day before, I was honestly mostly interested in getting through it quickly to new terrain! I was about two minutes from the Nordic Center and moving at a good clip when I noticed a couple of guys with a camera taking photos. One of them waved me over and asked, "Did you see the moose?"

I would have walked right past it and been none the wiser!

My first moose!

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It was a beautiful day and a chilly 10F/-12C. I did not get overwarm this day, despite walking uphill for about 2.5 hours!

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Here I turned off Willow and onto the Engleman trail, another intermediate but quite a bit more challenging than Pence Miller had been the day before.

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The trees in places were so thick that it was almost impossible to see through them.

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The terrain was quite different than the previous day's: much steeper and rockier with a low, constant uphill climb.

A cabin in the woods.

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And the entrance to the black diamond trail! I loved how the black diamond icon was bisected by a fierce zigzag that managed to simultaneously suggest rupture, heart attacks, and lightning strike--so many ways to die! Notice also that, since the fresh snowfall, no one has walked this trail.

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The sign at the beginning stated that it had an 876 foot/267 meter climb. I was quite a bit higher than I'd been the previous day and really felt it. The climb was rough! But the hardest part about the trail was actually all that unspoiled powdery snow.

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In places, the trail was barely visible, and a foot of snow covered my snowshoes. That was quite a lot to lift with each step. I had to stop often for breaks and made friends with quite a few trees that were located on the groomed trail.

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There was a beautiful view of the mountains from this point.

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With the elevation, it was also starting to get windy. Those beautiful white-draped boughs began to toss large snowballs at me. At 1:30, I turned back because the Nordic Center closed at 4, and I had at least an hour-and-a-half walk back. I was also beginning to get hungry! Using the map and my compass, I figure I did about a quarter of the trail. Next time, I'll leave earlier, pack some hot tea and an energy bar, and I'll finish the thing!

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It's getting late ...

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This little guy was so intent on pecking bugs out of the tree that he let me walk right up to him to take his picture.

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And, nearly back to the Nordic Center. Civilization returns!

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It was an absolutely beautiful, incredible experience. My legs hurt so bad the next day after 2.5 hours of uphill in snowshoes, but it was worth it! I can't wait to do it again.

And that may be sooner rather than later. It seems we brought it back with us. Maybe the Ullr Fest worked! We are due to get as much as three feet (a meter or so) of snow over the weekend and are presently under a blizzard warning for Friday night into Sunday morning. Schools are already closed for tomorrow.

This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!

  • Great news about Lance! :)

    The pics are so cool! I love Colorado!

    I'm glad to know your school decided to cancel tomorrow. I've been following weather reports and it sound like this will be *nasty*.
    • Thank you! :)

      Because Maryland is very much a southern state where snow is concerned, our schools tend to be conservative--almost laughably so if you've ever lived or stayed in a place (like Colorado) where snowfall is routine! But every now and then, one of them decides to play chicken with the weather and sends the kids to school when winter weather is predicted. That very often does not end well. We just don't have the infrastructure down here to deal with even minor winter weather in a way that is at all efficient. I had visions of the storm coming in a little early and stranded buses and blizzard conditions ...
  • From your photos and description, I now want to try snowshoeing.
    • I absolutely recommend it. There's no learning curve when you first start out--if you can walk, you can showshoe!--and you get access to all of these beautiful places that most people never see. I like the slowness of it and the immersion of it: not riding up a hill so you can zip back down again but spending hours alone in nature.
      • That definitely sounds like my style. Now I just need access to some snow! :)
  • Beautiful photos, Dawn, especially those from your second hike.

    One of the things I love about snowshoeing is that it is very meditative. It is you and your footsteps and the sound of your poles stabbing the snow and your breath and your blood. It is rare when my mind is not churning over something or other, but I fell into this sense of mental quiet that made me keenly aware of the natural world around me. The only word I can use to describe it is numinous.

    That very closely resembles my experiences of cross-country skiing back in the day (Wisconsin). Part of it is the influence of endorphins on your brain (equivalent to the "runner's high" which is a real thing), but there is more to it than that: the white and perilous beauty of winter, the quality of sound and light, and a sense of connection.

    You must have burned a LOT of kcals during those hikes, and at altitude, too! Holy moly. I'm practically wheezing thinking of it!

    Yep, looks like Ullr is sending his love your way (loved the Ullr Fest photos, btw - looked like great fun AND PIRATES). Heh. Earlier in the week, when the track of the storm was less clear, there was a lot of angst in Boston about the storm. The local psychologists opined that it was "anticipatory anxiety" from our horrendous winter last year. But you're bearing the brunt. So THANK YOU not only for hiking those 10K on snowshoes, but also for accepting 3 feet of snow so Boston doesn't have to. :^D

    Glad to hear Lancie is out of the woods! Always nerve-wracking when a kid gets sick while you're away on vacation.
    • Oh endophins are wonderful! :D I have vivid memories of having an infected tooth when I was in college--one of the most intense pains I've ever had--going to my skating class despite, and coming out and thinking, "Oh the infection must be going away because it doesn't hurt anymore!" Ha. Not. About a half-hour later, those endorphins started to wear off and ...

      I definitely pushed myself pretty hard on the second outing. The next day, my feet and legs let me know!

      but there is more to it than that: the white and perilous beauty of winter, the quality of sound and light, and a sense of connection.

      Oh yes there is!

      I plan to learn cross-country skiing too. It just looks like it has a bit more of a learning curve than snowshoeing, and I can never bring myself to want to work on learning something new rather than just setting out into the snow.

      You must have burned a LOT of kcals during those hikes, and at altitude, too!

      I just looked it up, and "hilly" terrain in powder with poles for my body weight is edging up on 900 cal/hr without considering the altitude. Which I definitely felt toward the end there. I had become accustomed to Breck's baseline 9000 ft, but I think I went quite a bit above that on the second day, going by the change in the wind and how much I was sucking air! :D

      So THANK YOU not only for hiking those 10K on snowshoes, but also for accepting 3 feet of snow so Boston doesn't have to. :^D

      Oh you're most welcome. The days off I will get out of this will be a huge boon to my thesis!

      Glad to hear Lancie is out of the woods! Always nerve-wracking when a kid gets sick while you're away on vacation.

      It was. My inlaws were great in taking care of him and making all those trips back and forth to the vet. He's outside now, exploring his yard to see what's changed in the last week.
  • I'm so glad to hear Lancelot is doing better!

    Those are gorgeous pictures. I love the mountains covered in clouds, the snow on the ground and trees, and the one with the sun shining through the trees.

    I'm glad your school district had the sense to cancel last night. Louisville had Wednesday (due to snow) and yesterday off (due to road conditions in neighborhoods)… and decided that, looking at the forecast, to wait until 4 am to make the decision to close or not today. They, of course, closed. Every school district around us was sensible and declared that last night.
    • Thank you!

      We had a two-hour delay on Thursday, and of course, this pending mess today. Carroll County ended up just dismissing early, but Bobby and I both teach at schools that follow Baltimore County's closures, and thankfully, they closed.

      Usually our schools wait too. There have been instances where they've waited so long that kids have been on their buses already! I never understand that. I know making up the days is a pain, but if you think it's not going to be safe, then just close already! (Of course, I have a vested interest in those extra days off but still ... ;)
      • I have no idea why they waited. The forecast said anywhere between 4-8" starting at 8 am (and that on top of what did not melt from Wednesday. Hint: nothing melted.). In what world does that translate to waiting?

        The excuse I heard on TV for the wait was, "[Taking another day off] is depriving the children of a needed day of education." There are snow days built into the schedule and they make up the excess at the end of the school year. Not quite getting the deprivation… (It's more of a deprivation when they close at noon but serve the kids lunch so it can count as a full day.)

        Kids already on buses… How in the world do the administrators think it's okay to cancel that late?! (Rhetorical question. They don't think. I think they've forgotten what it means to be a parent or guardian of students who take the bus.)
  • Welcome back home. I'm so glad you and Bobby had fun in Colorado, my home state and the place I truly love. It was a joy to see the mountains again through your photos, and I loved the moose. We, of course, get moose all over the upper part of our state here in Minnesota. They love our wetlands. I'm more used to elk in Colorado and had forgotten that moose also frequent the heights.

    Hope you ride out the blizzard in good style, and I'm so happy Lance is back home and feeling better again.

    - Erulisse (one L)
    • I did say hi to your mountains for you btw. :)

      Three trips to Vermont and NH and we never saw a moose! So I'm glad I finally checked that one off the list. ;) I was looking out for elk too, but that will have to wait till next time, I suppose.

      We are very ready for the storm. Having the woodstove means that we are warm and well-fed, even if we lose power.
  • So many pretty pics! I love that little tree.

    Echoing everyone else, I'm so glad your school decided to cancel! I'm a little north of Indy (not enough to make a real difference), and what she said about Louisville schools was even worse here. The last one didn't cancel until a quarter to six. The first bus in that district reaches people a little after six.

    ...and they did not base this in any real prediction of us not getting a lot of snow. I've been outside this morning to feed animals, it's a mess.
    • I always feel affectionate toward little conifers! They always look so self-assured, like, "Hell yeah, I'm going to make it to 150 feet tall!" :D

      Maryland districts routinely do that as well. We've had instances where they've canceled after kids have already been picked up! I don't get it. If it seems it's not going to be safe, just cancel the damn schools (or at least delay them and wait and see). And, yes, it's minimal courtesy to think of families who have to make childcare arrangements and not close fifteen minutes before pickup time. Here in Maryland, our buses are not equipped to drive in snow and ice, and I never understand how the districts are so cavalier about putting the kids' safety in jeopardy.
  • My afterlife tends to be warmer but the experience is truly wonderful.
    As I said, with 34/36° here, cold weather looks definitely appealing ;)

    Good news about Lancelot, poor baby dog!
    • Mine would be too! Although not quite 34-36C ...

      If I'm doing something outside, I'll take the below-freezing temperatures over the kind of heat you're enduring now. I was out for hours in it and was never uncomfortable aside from getting a little too warm on a couple of occasions! (Part of that is that I was layered very well by my ski-patroler-for-a-husband! :)

      Lance's biggest issue at the moment is Gwen! As in, she exists! And he'd rather she not! :D But that's a welcome change over the pooping and puking.
      • A short time after we got Benito, Jabón's belly turned red as a tomatoe and the vet tried to blame it on some change in the floor detegents (nonexistent) or grass (none) and would look at me like I was crazy when I said he was somatizando the puppy's presence - showing in his body how upset he was! It took him some time until he realized that his position as topdog was unchallenged and never had any more skin problems!
  • Oooooh that looks wonderful! I'm so jealous. I would have cross country skied all over that. I just love the snowy landscapes, the silence, everything. It is magical!
    • They had many more cross-country ski trails than snowshoe trails! You would have loved it. I definitely want to learn cross-country; it just seems a steeper learning curve than snowshoeing and I can never quite resist that instant gratification! :D But as you know, I will have a use for both soon. (And Bobby just found out that all the towns in Vermont are connected by cross-country ski trails, so you and Hubfaxe will definitely have to come visit us when, just saying' ... ;)
      • Like you could keep us away! :D

        Mr. Faxe is a very bad cross country skier, but he is awesome and fearless on the downhill slopes! Maybe Bobby can teach him snowboard and then I will teach you cross country. There is some technique to it, but the hardest to learn is when/if you want to go really fast, and that was never my goal. I only want to go far. Ah, to sit on a mountaintop in Norway and enjoy a well earned lunch under a pale blue sky.
        • Sounds like a plan! :D

          I've downhill skied before (once!) so I have a basic idea of moving on them. I just saw a lot of people struggling up hills! :D And I in my snowshoes would just trot right up!

          Speed is never an objective for me. I just love being outside.
          • Yes the uphill bit is the hardest - the trick is to wax the skis according to the snow temperature. ;) You might keep the same pace going up on snowshoes but straight and downhill are bliss on cross country.
  • What amazing pictures! You are such a talented photographer.

    All that snow--and such pretty snow, not all mushy and slushy. I'm glad you are having such a good time!
    • You're very kind! I'm going to credit the beautiful scenery for most of it. All of the pictures were taken with my iPhone! :D

      The snow in Colorado is so different from our eastern snow. You hear about "powder" but it's hard to appreciate it until you've experienced it. The only time I saw mush or slush was in front of the rare establishment that salted their sidewalks.
  • Greetings from us, covered by a warm blanket! Thank you for going snowshoeing for us :D My only experience (besides ice skating which almost every Dutchlander learns) is a one time launglaufing in Winterberg, Sauerland (Germany) and yeah, no talent for that. We're longing for Spring... :D

    And yay Lancy! Now if he could just start to love Gwen...

    • Oh no! It just started snowing here, although our blizzard warning doesn't start for another three hours, and it's not supposed to get really intense for another five.

      I will make a snowman for Susie, though, and take a picture and send it to you. Maybe that will make Ullr say, oh yeah, they exist over there too. ;)

      I think Alex is the only other dog Lancie will ever love. :( But it would be nice if he stopped growling at her for just existing! (At least she's big enough now that he's stopped biting her. She's about as big as he is now since he lost all that weight with his illness.)
      • Yeah the news here is covering your blizzard :) Finally a lot of snow for Bobby :D

        Here the snow is gone, we're back to 9C temps, so no more sleet and icy roads! But we will be looking forward to your snowman pic :D

        And as for Phil... tolerating her presence would be quite something then huh :( It makes you wonder about dog's psychiatry: how do they mourn, are they also going through or states of grieving and such. But Gwen is still the happy bouncy girl?
  • Absolutely stunning!!! Thank you so much for sharing!!!
  • Oh, awesome photos! And thank you for going snowshoeing so I don't have to! Even though I find the scenery so beautiful I no longer like being outside in winter unless the temperature is hovering around freezing.

    Today Sean was supposed to go with his older cousin to learn snowboarding at Dagmar, one of the local ski resorts. However, he has come down with a cold and probably won't be able to go this weekend. At least here we are not experiencing the blizzard you guys are stuck in.
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