Emerald Lake Snowshoe

Small band of hearty adventurers

Excited to venture into Rocky Mountain National Park for the first time on snowshoes, we try not to let the weather forecast for cold, snow, and wind get us down. The low avalanche danger is reason enough for optimism. Ann and I meet Sean, cousin Doug, and his friend Bill on a blustery morning for our excursion.

Sure enough, Bear Lake trailhead is getting some heavy snow. It doesn’t feel too cold, though, and we set out in good spirits. Trails are not really marked, so we follow one of a few meandering snowshoe tracks to Nymph Lake, then up to Dream Lake. We get our first real taste of a ripping wind there, and those who have them dig out the goggles and neck gaiters. The trees are far more hospitable, but the wind buffets Emerald Lake as well. Doug, Sean, and I run (or something like it – snowshoes give one a clown- or flipper-like gait) on to the lake anyway, while Ann catches a chill while trying to find a sheltered spot to put on more warm gear. It’s not long before we all retreat back into the trees for lunch.

There’s a debate about whether to try a loop back to the trailhead or not. Ann is concerned that one of her hands is too chilled, but after borrowing some heavier gloves from me agrees to give the extension to Lake Haiyaha a try. From Dream Lake we climb a steep ridge. Not far beyond it we encounter an avalanche safety class digging a snow pit. They made the track we followed, and it ends there. After a bit of futile searching for any sign of Haiyaha, we turn back, thanking the class for their trailbreaking.

Once again we pass people in jeans and no snowshoes on the way back, but this time they are within a quarter mile of the trailhead, so we let them be. It’s probably unavoidable in a national park.

We all finish the outing with smiles, cute enough to make Doug gag when Ann and I make him take our picture.

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6 responses to “Emerald Lake Snowshoe”

  1. What kind of snowshoes does Ann have? I’ve been thinking of getting some, but I don’t know what features to look for. I’ve been borrowing Walter’s which has been superbly nice of him-but they are very long and quite wide. I feel like I have to walk bow legged to not step on my own feet!

    Any comments would be helpful.


  2. I have small Atlas snowshoes, and I think Ann’s are a longer, but still narrow, model of the same brand. Doug & Bill had the big boats like you’ve described, and Doug went down every mile or so on them. On prepacked trails, smaller seems to be better to me. Many people on these trails had really small, light plastic snowshoes. If you want to be able to break trail, though, that’s when a little more surface area is a requirement if you want more forward motion than downward.

  3. Thanks, my front hip region gets really sore after about 3 hours of hiking with the large ones I was using. I’ll check out the Atlas ones-maybe I’ll be able to hike for a longer time with a smaller shoe and the whole experience will be even better. Oh, I just finished “No Picnic on Mt. Kenya”. Good read from the Ann&Dylan Mystery Box Set!


  4. So now you know – if you’re ever in a prison camp and need a pair of crampons, just blacksmith ’em from old cans and nails! You could probly make snowshoes too…

  5. Speaking of Estes and Rocky Mtn Natl Park, in the Denver Post this morning there is an unusually strong voice for saving parts of it from being sold off by Bush’s Dept of Exploitation. I hope its OK to paste into this column. These kind of mainsteam voices of outrage and sanity are indeed endangered species in themselves!–Artdobber

    “Are we out of the woods on forest sale?
    By Jim Spencer
    Denver Post Staff Columnist

    On a Mountain Near Estes Park

    This land is your land. This land is my land.

    But maybe not for long.

    Overcast skies and the haze of an approaching snowstorm knocked the views down to nearly nothing on the walk up Noel’s Draw. It didn’t matter. Whether you can see for 20 miles or 2, you know when you’re looking at irreplaceable pristine scenes.

    That’s what Denver Post reporter Dave Olinger and I saw recently. We hiked on hundreds of acres of national forest that the Bush administration might auction to the highest private bidder to raise $800 million for rural schools.

    In sunlight, the land we scoured includes overlooks of Rocky Mountain National Park. They would doubtless be the stuff of postcards. But even in a heavy mist, you understood that stealing this beauty from Americans is criminal.

    A rocky ridgeline ran to a naked, rounded stone peak. It was Mother Nature’s version of Mount Rushmore, where on clear day, a naturally sculpted bald head surveyed hundreds of square miles, ranging from the Thompson River Canyon to Long’s Peak to Mount Olympus. Stands of pine and mountaintop meadows offered a respite to quietly contemplate what is at stake in the plan to sell national forests.

    Olinger and I found a couple of cabins on tiny slivers of private land just below the crest of public parcels listed among 21,000 acres in Colorado that the U.S. Forest Service might sell. A Forest Service map listed the 3.5-mile road we hiked as the access to a defunct quarry. The first mile had been private, which meant we had trespassed
    Slide show with audio

    Columnist Jim Spencer shows you some of the public land the government is threatening to sell.

    briefly to get to “our” land. But the one-lane road, which passed a private shooting area that adjoined federal property, also exposed the lie that the Forest Service will sell only remote, inaccessible parcels of no public use.

    What Olinger and I walked on could as easily be a national recreation trail as an access to a gated community. The hundreds of acres surrounding it are a national treasure. The thought of giving those acres up at any price makes no sense.

    Aside from the two cabins and the road, the only things we saw, the only sounds we heard for miles were natural. Fresh animal tracks dotted the snow. Birds chirped. Wind rustled the evergreens in a soothing mantra.

    The idea that the public has no use for this property is as absurd as the idea that you can cut taxes

    and fight a war simultaneously without burdening future generations and creating a ruinous budget deficit.
    The other absurdity is thinking that anyone besides the wealthy will get a piece of this action if auctions occur.

    I called the Forest Service about the bidding process. I fully intended to follow the rules and try to buy back some of “my land” if the administration insists on selling it. No one knows which, if any, listed Forest Service land will be sold, an agency official told me. Nothing in the auction process is set.

    Sure it is. The government identifies the land I hiked on in potential sale parcels measuring hundreds of acres each. Rest assured: If Uncle Sam sells any of them, almost none of us will be able to afford individually what we now share.

    I’m not sure I see the political upside of selling national forests. Maybe it’s just a bluff to make Congress, not the president, take the hit for not helping to balance the budget.

    As I was taking comfort that this insanity might merely be a Bush administration ruse to bolster claims of deficit reduction, Agriculture Undersecretary Mark Rey, who oversees the Forest Service, appeared to be pushing ahead with the plan to sell national forests. Even if Rey succeeds in getting a member of Congress to introduce legislation, Idaho Sen. Larry Craig just promised that he will bury any such bill in a subcommittee.

    The rest of us can only hope it never comes to that.

    Woody Guthrie was right. This land is your land. This land is my land.

    It needs to stay that way.

    To see a musical slide show of some of “your land” that might be sold, go to DenverPost.com/Spencer

    Jim Spencer’s column appears Monday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at 303-820-1771 or jspencer@denverpost.com.

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