Ouzel Lake - Snowshoeing
December 30, 2019 · Rocky Mountain National Park
The trek along the Ouzel Lake trail was a nice sunny day for snowshoeing. Though the original plan was to make it to Ouzel Lake, I decided to take my sweet time along the trail, and I got something of a late start. Even with the late start, there were very people on the trail, that always makes a day of snowshoeing under clear blue skies all the more special.
I chose this trail for the last trail of the year, in the hopes of clear weather, which I got, but again the late start put the lake just out of reach. Also, the last part of the trail leading up to the lake has an incredible view of a wide valley with Isolation Peak and Ouzel Peak in the background. However, there is a tricky part of the trail just before the lake. In the summer it is not a big deal, the trail is thin painted line along the edge of steep ridge. In the winter though, this small stretch just before the lake is prime avalanche territory.
It was a beautiful day along the trail, this area can get a lot of wind barreling down off Isolation Peak, and it had made the surface of the snow nice and smooth. For most of the morning on the way in, the trail is in tall stands of conifers. However, the canopy is not too thick so you can almost always see the crystal-clear blue sky. There are several bridges along the trail and are almost filled to the top rails with snow. It is a bit different at this time of the year when compared to last year. There is a good amount of snow on the trails this year, but nothing compared to the epic snows from the previous year.
It's a good trail to take your time along, and along the side of the trail some people had made two snowmen, or based on their snow-hair, I would say they were snowwomen; they kind of looked like greeters or guardians of the trail. It was a nice touch for a lazy, slow day on the trail.
I stopped for lunch at an outcrop that is the turning point to head up to the ridge to get the first glimpse of the wide valley looking up towards Ouzel Lake and Isolation Peak. While I was having lunch, a couple came down from the ridge. They were not in snowshoes and one of the first things they said to each other when they saw me was that they wished they had brought their snowshoes. They told me they had to turn back because they ended up trailblazing and postholing up to above their knees.
I decided to push on to at least as far as they went. I really wish I started about one hour earlier. I feel I could have comfortably made to at least the beginning of the avalanche zone. As it turned out I made it just about the middle of the ridge and while not the absolute best view of the valley at this point it is an incredible sight. There was a strong wind blowing over Isolation Peak and a snow cloud was developing. It's an incredible sight to watch, and with a clear blue sky it was fascinating to watch it form.
I would have loved to keep going, and certainly could have gone further. This trek turned out to be just shy of ten miles. This was a great way to wrap of an amazing year on the trail, starting in snowshoes, then switching to an amazing summer of hiking, then wrapping up the year on a pleasant day in snowshoes on a high ridge with a gentle breeze and crystal-clear blue skies.