The Art of Exploration · a diary of day trips, natural places, and miscellaneous adventures

Finding Winter

Sunday, April 19th, 2015 in Colorado
Finding Winter

This past week, a large, slow-moving storm system passed through the Front Range. At lower elevations it started out as snow, but the temperatures warmed and the snow gave way to copious amounts of rain. Higher up though, the snow remained snow for the duration. By the end of the storm, there was a fresh blanket of white stuff several feet deep in places.

One of those places happened to be Bear Lake. The storm dumped 36 inches of new snow at Bear Lake, bringing the total depth of snow in the area to an impressive 51 inches. Snow like that means it’s time to forget about spring. Yes, you heard me right: forget about spring—it’s time to find some serious winter.

Trail to Nymph Lake

Now, lest you think I’ve lost my mind, I will acknowledge that when I lived in Chicago, even the slightest hint of snow in April would have hurled me headlong into a state of unmitigated despair. But I have discovered that here in Colorado, snow in April is a very different thing—it is magical, it is transient, it stays mostly in the mountains. And it’s worth seeking out because more than anything else it’s breathtaking.

Trail to Nymph Lake

A covering of snow on a mountain landscape muffles sound in an already quiet place. As hikers pass by, their voices sound close and soft—as if you’re all politely wandering around in one big, white-carpeted living room. Hiking in such conditions has the rare ability to slow time and entices you to be hyper-aware. You can hear the snow, first as it slips from tree branches and then again as it hits the powdery ground below. If you accidentally step off the carefully groomed trail, you sink fast: you’re ankle-deep, knee-deep, waist-deep. You’ve postholed. But you don’t mind because it’s the lightest, driest, most cotton-like snow you’ve ever encountered.

Of course, you should use snowshoes in such conditions. I was poorly prepared today because I never thought I would get this far—I didn’t think the roads would be clear up to Bear Lake. I didn’t check the avalanche conditions. I failed to bring my snowshoes and hiking poles. Consequently, I made a short, careful hike from Bear Lake to Nymph Lake in my bare-naked Merrell Moab Ventilators. Had I know better, I would have been properly-equipped and ready to hike all the way to Dream Lake. Ah well, next time.

Trail to Nymph Lake
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Assortment

Fiery Furnace
Fiery Furnace
In what amounts to another illustration of the fact that I should never be allowed to name a national landmark or monument, I thought “Fiery Furnace” looked more like “Box of Melted Crayons”. All red crayons of course, but still.
Jackson Lake Lodge
Crossing Wyoming
We drove into Grand Teton National Park along Highway 26, a ribbon of pavement that bisects the Teton National Forest from east to west. This quiet road winds its way through the pass between Mount Leidy and Mount Randolph.
White Pass
White Pass
Today we rode the White Pass and Yukon Route railway from Skagway, Alaska to the summit of White Pass.