Saint Vrain Middle Creek - Snowshoeing

January 2, 2022 · Roosevelt National Forest

The snowshoeing trek along the Middle Saint Vrain Creek was the first snowshoeing trek of the 2022 season and marks the beginning of the tenth season I have been keeping track of my backcountry treks. This was a Front Range trek, meaning the trail is on the east side of the Continental Divide, so I was not sure how much snow to expect. However, it had snowed over the course of the previous few days, and this was the first day of clear sky. The trailhead is just south of Allenspark and just north of the Brainard Recreational Park.

There were very few people at the trailhead, just two couples of two, though I was able to step onto the trail shortly before them, so I had the trail to myself up to the summer trailhead for Buchanan Pass. There are two ways to get to the summer trailhead. One is to follow the snow-covered paved road to the trailhead. The second option is more interesting and jumps up into the trees where the road is out of sight. The snow was surprisingly deep and heavy, and at this hour only a pair of cross-country skis had been along the trail. There are two campgrounds along the paved road and along the trail in the trees in-between these two campgrounds there are several aspen trees that have been used regularly by bears as scratching posts.

Several thoughts raced through my mind once I realized what these scratches were on the aspens. The first was, wow, that is a lot of scratches on a lot of trees, am I really that deep into bear country? The next thought that came to mind was, what would it be like camping in either of the campgrounds on the opposite side of the trees? For a four-legged animal, that trek to the campgrounds in the middle of the night is just a couple of minutes from where I was. Midnight bear encounters in those campgrounds must be a common occurrence. The next thought that came to mind was, are there any bears close by? There were no animal tracks close enough to the scratched aspens to show any recent bear activity. However, when I moved along the trail into a small meadow, there were massive wallows in the snow along the treeline. The wallows in the snow were new and too big for a dog and the strides through the snow were too wide for a moose.

Bears do hibernate in the winter in Colorado. However, the previous weeks leading up to this snow have been very warm and the snow fall up until very recently has been minimal. The odds of encountering zombie bears where high; a zombie bear is a bear that should be hibernating, but due to the weather being so warm, they just can’t get into a deep sleep. Thankfully, I did not see any bears, just very recent activity of them in the snow.

The backcountry ski tracks along the trail were at least an hour old, as the wind had started to soften the ski edges in the snow. The next set of animal tracks I came across on the snow-covered trail were that of moose, and they tend to zig-zag across the trail and disappear into the dense undergrowth. No moose sightings on this trek though.

The forest is very thick along this trail and with the snow on the conifers, sounds are muffled, making for a peaceful trek through the snow, where the only sounds are the snowshoes crushing through the snow. It was surprisingly quiet given that it was windy on this day. However, given how dense the forest was along this trail, the wind rarely made it down through the canopy onto the trail, which made this a very pleasant trek.

Shortly before lunch, I came upon a sharp bend in the trail and a nearly snow-covered sign to the right of the trail for a horse trail. Nobody had been on the horse trail yet. I decided to do some trail blazing along the horse trail. The snow was very deep. As soon as I stepped off the trail and onto the horse trail, I sank up to my waist in heavy snow. As I was slowly sinking in the snow, I panicked a little bit, not knowing when I would hit the bottom. Once I hit the bottom, I started the short but steep climb along the horse trail. Trail blazing takes a lot of energy, especially when the snow is waist deep. It took close to fifteen minutes to go what would take a minute or two in the summer.

I stopped just before reaching the high point of the horse trail and looked up to my right. Just above me was a huge cornice. I quickly moved past this cornice, thinking that would be my luck to get buried by a six-foot wide avalanche that would run about twenty feet. I began my way down the horse trail to the snow trail just below. That was fun, you sink up to your chest in the snow on the way down to the trail. Uneventful, but fun; the cornice held its ground.

Back on the trail, I took stock of where I was, this was the last leg of the flat ground then there was a jump up to the next plateau on the trail. I decided to go a bit further, to make sure that the roundtrip of the trek would come in close to six miles.

As luck would have it, I came into a nice wide meadow and decided to stop here and have lunch, with the sun glaring off the snow in the meadow. This was a perfect spot for lunch. I stepped off the trail and made my way to a large snow-covered downed tree along the edge of the meadow and settled in for lunch.

After I finished lunch, I desperately wanted to push on to the next plateau along the trail, but I talked myself out of it, as the sun would be setting in a couple of hours, and I had a long drive back home. Even though it was not even 1pm, I had to turn back, as the sun would set by 4:45pm that day.

On the way out, there were several people on their way in, including a large group of snow-mountain bikers. This trek was in National Forest, not in Wilderness area, so bicycles are allowed in this area. I am reminded why I normally opt for trails in Wilderness areas when this happens. Thankfully, the snow-mountain bikers were nice, and everybody shared the trail evenly and fairly.

While I am a little bummed that this snowshoeing trek only came in at a roundtrip total of six miles. I am very glad I was able to get this trek in over the holiday break, and in fresh snow.


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AREAS HIKED

Collegiate Peaks Wilderness10
Eagles Nest Wilderness11
Fossil Ridge Wilderness1
Fraser Experimental Forest1
Gunnison National Forest1
Holy Cross Wilderness14
Hunter-Fryingpan Wilderness3
Indian Peaks Wilderness15
James Peak Wilderness5
Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness2
Mount Evans Wilderness2
Mount Massive Wilderness3
Pike National Forest1
Raggeds Wilderness1
Rocky Mountain National Park42
Roosevelt National Forest1
San Isabel National Forest7
Sangre de Cristo Wilderness3
White River National Forest10
Zirkel Wilderness1

TRAILS BY MONTH

January4
February3
March3
April3
May5
June18
July26
August29
September29
October6
November5
December3

SEASONS ON THE TRAIL

2022

The 2022 season has started. This season marks the tenth season I have been keeping track of my backcountry tracks. Hoping this will be a landmark year.

2021

The 2021 Season has started. Though the pandemic created a challenging 2020 season, I am looking forward to building on the 2020 season to create an incredible 2021 season. The pandemic has taught me a few things about when and where to go hiking. As such planning for the 2021 se...

2020

The 2020 hiking season has been incredible, even in the face of adversity. The pandemic has made for a logistically challenging season. Somehow, I was still able to piece together an incredible 230+ miles on the trail this season and able to see some truly spectacular places. Enj...

2019

The 2019 hiking season was an interesting season, this was the first season that I started and ended the season snowshoeing and a full summer of hiking for a total of just under 225 miles on the trail. What this season has taught me is that it's winter in the mountains for a long...

2018

The 2018 Summer Hiking Season has come to an end. What a season, incredible views and just over 230 miles on the trail. Even with 230 miles, this season seems short to me, perhaps I'll add something to it during the winter season - snowshoeing perhaps. In the meantime, I hope you...

2017

The 2017 hiking season was interesting, I was able to explorer more of Colorado's National Forests and get in some camping, not as much camping as I would have liked, but hopefully next year I'll able to get in more multi-day hikes. This season came in just under 129 miles roundt...

2016

The 2016 hiking season was about spreading out and exploring more of Eagles Nest Wilderness, Indian Peaks Wilderness and touching on White River National Forest - and of course a few trips into Rocky Mountain National Park. These are amazing National treasures. This season came i...

2015

The 2015 hiking season was a big hiking season, I decided to do a fundraiser for The Red Cross (I learned a lot about fundraising - it was very interesting) with my pledge to hike over 200 miles for this season, I came in at 217 miles for the season; what a great time out on the ...

2014

The 2014 hiking season was almost all about exploring Rocky Mountain National Park, it really is a beautiful park. What I learned during the course of this hiking season is, although people may roll their eyes when you say you're going on a hike in RMNP, it really is spectacular ...

2013

2013 is the year this all started. The hike to Pitkin Lake started it all. Although it was a difficult trail, I was hooked immediately. However, I didn't have the right gear and the seasons were changing quickly. So, even though this season only brought two hikes, I new this was ...