Ouzel Trail - Mid-March - Snowshoeing
March 14, 2020 · Rocky Mountain National Park
The snowshoeing trek along the Ouzel Trail in the Wild Basin area of Rocky Mountain National Park was breathtaking. The weather was perfect, a light breeze and at times, no breeze at all along the ridge just below Lower Ouzel Lake. The sky was a big blue with large white clouds racing by. This snowshoeing trek was supposed to be along the trail to Thunder Lake. However, when I got to the split along the Ouzel trail to go to Thunder Lake, I decided that today would be a great day to take in the views along the ridge just below Lower Ouzel Lake.
What a great treat this was, I only came across six people on the trail. How's that for the social distancing encouraged right now? It's not surprising to see only a small number of people along the trail in the Wild Basin area of RMNP. It's not an area people associate with RMNP and is often passed over, which makes this area that more special.
There was a light snow the night before and left about three inches of new snow on the trail. When I got to the Winter trailhead, the road in and the trail where covered in snow. However, when I got back to the trailhead, the first part of the trail was either slush or mud. The entire trek was very warm, and there are obvious sings that Spring is here. On the way in, you could tell it was warm as the snow was heavy and would stick to the bottom of traction spikes and snowshoes. Between the big bright blue skies and the wet heavy snow, it makes the snow seem extra white, almost like salt.
The bridges over the North Saint Vrain Creek are full up with snow to the upper handrails, which in the Summer are almost mid-chest-level. So there plenty of snow. The first signs of the slow beginnings of the Spring Runoff are visible. There are patches of moving water along the river and you can hear the water moving under the snow; a sure sign the volume and speed of the water in the river is picking up. The other sign of Spring was mosquitoes, at this time of the year there are not that many, but they are big and surprisingly nimble for this time of the year.
At the first stop for lunch at an overlook that looks down the valley there are two mountains to the north that are easy to recognize, they are Mt Meeker and Longs Peak. Mt Meeker has a similar diamond face on the south but not as big as the iconic diamond face that everybody sees when driving along I-25. It was so clear, that the outline of the Notch on Longs Peak was very easy to make out. Though there was next to no breeze along this trek, it was interesting to watch the clouds race over Longs peak and evaporate before reaching Mt. Meeker.
Very few people had pushed on past this overlook and up onto the ridge in a wide valley just below Ouzel Lake. The views from this ridge on a clear day, like this day are spectacular. Add to that some large white, high clouds to add texture to the mountains make this a very special place. This section of the trail, weather it is covered in snow in Winter or covered in shades of green in the Summer is special. This ridge can easily be the destination. The high, snow-covered gaged peaks ringing this valley, in combination with a huge blue sky make this area feel like a cathedral.
This valley is ringed with a lot of peaks, starting from the south and going clockwise, the valley is ringed with Copeland Mountain, Ouzel Peak, Mahana Peak, Isolation Peak, Tanima Peak, Mt Allice, Chiefs Head Peak, Pagoda Mountain, Mt Orton, Longs Peak and Mt Meeker. It was a busy place for glacial activity.
The snow covering Copeland Mountain, Ouzel Peak and Mahana Peak was simply amazing, looking like they were covered in soft white blanket of snow. The rock strata peeking through the peaks of Mt. Allice, Chiefs Head Peak and Pagoda Mountain set against a deep blue sky and a few high thick white clouds looked like a postcard. I spent a lot of time here just walking around on this ridge taking in the views and watching the clouds race over the Continental Divide, only to evaporate shortly after they crossed over the Divide.
As I was leaving the ridge, the clouds were beginning to build in strength and get a little darker, maybe to leave a new dusting of snow for the next day's travelers along the trail. I hope to be able to pick up the pace and get a few more snowshoeing treks in before the Summer season begins. Thunder Lake is still on the list, but I will need to start about two hours earlier than I did for snowshoeing trek that came in at 11.4 miles roundtrip. Not bad for snowshoeing, and perfect weather for mid-March.