Ann, my dad, Jezze, and I head up to Echo Lake under bluebird skies for a ski and snowshoe outing. We’re in a good mood, optimistic about the day. Ours is only second car in the Echo Lake Lodge parking area, and we soon have the Chicago Lakes trail to ourselves. The trail, after skirting Echo Lake, descends several hundred feet into the Chicago Valley on a slightly rocky trail on a steep hillside. It’s a great snowshoe trail, slightly less ideal for touring skis, but still fun. Once in the valley we climb along a forest road to the Idaho Springs Reservoir, where we stop for lunch. The sky is now starting to cloud over, but it’s still calm and pleasant out.
Ann elects to get a head start down the hill with Jezze while Dad and I explore a bit further up the trail. The snowshoe tracks we’ve been following ended by the reservoir, so we have to break trail from here. The trailhead is clearly marked, but I haven’t gone far before we’re clearly off the trail. A gentle but steady snowfall now surrounds us. We explore down to the creek, and struggle up it a ways in wet, unstable snow. We soon give up on this and plow a wide loop back to the trailhead with no sign of trail. The puzzle seems solved when Dad finds a sign up the hill a ways, and we start again. Things look good for a while, but we end up in the thickets once more. This time we give up and remove our skins for the run back down. On the way we see a switchback we might have missed – it seems the key to this trail is to stay high.
We fly back down the road, then labor back up to Echo Lake where Ann is waiting. We’re all pleasantly tired and happy to head back to Dad’s for a short nap.
- We passed the recently opened Echo Mountain Park – a 100% terrain park ski area. It didn’t appear busy, but hard to tell from the road. From the NPR story I heard it sounds like it will be the site of lots of kids getting big air…
- On the climb back up to Echo Lake we passed a couple in jeans hiking the trail without snowshoes. Later I thought I should have given them a little reality check. Not only is it bad etiquette to hike without snowshoes on a nicely packed snow trail, but if the snowfall increased much it could easily cover the trail before you could get back to the trailhead, and losing the trail clad in cotton could get very bad. I hate lecturing people, but I think I should have told them my opinion just so they would know the risk they were taking.