Saturday, May 9, 2009

Hiking to Brainerd Lake without Snow Shoes!

Today Zack and I headed out on our first hike since April1st when we hiked into the Grand Canyon. Instead of sticking to our normal stomping grounds in Jeffco and DougCo I decided that we were going to head to the north a good ways and explore some new terrain for us. The place I chose for today’s hike was a location along the Peak-to-Peak Highway not far from the Indian Peaks Wilderness called Brainerd Lake. This area is a designated recreational area that offers opportunities for hiking, snowmobiling, fishing, camping and many other outdoor activities. To reach the Brainerd Lake trail head, we first journeyed to Boulder and then headed up Boulder Canyon to the town of Nederland. From Nederland we took Colorado Highway 72 towards Estes Park. About 15 miles outside of Nederland we came to the small town of Ward and the turn off to forest road 112. From there it was another 2 miles into the woods along FR 112 before we reached the winter trailhead. The winter trail head is place where the road is closed to further access during the snows of winter. Our drive to the winter gate was uneventful but as we journeyed further along FR 112 it became apparent that there was still a lot of snow to be found at this altitude. The winter trailhead is located at approximately 10,100 feet above sea level in elevation. In years past the trailhead would have been free of snow by this point. However with the large snow storms that occurred in April, the trailhead was covered in snow. As we parked I realized with the sick feeling in my stomach that I should have brought our snow shoes with us. Oh well – it was too late for that! After parking the car we got out and took a look around at the various trails leading off of the trailhead and the various sign post maps. A quick look at all of this convinced me the best thing we could do to reach Brainerd Lake was to follow the road past the winter gate.
(Zack standing on a rock not far from Brainerd Lake.)
We quickly got past the gate and began walking down the road. At this point the road was paved. After about ¼ of mile we saw that the road disappeared into a huge snow drift. Thankfully the drift was pretty hard packed snow, so we were able to scale it without any problems. We didn’t post hole through the snow – which was really good given I was wearing shorts!

(The two of us with the Indian Peaks in the background.)

Our hike to the lake was going to take about 2.25 miles by way of the road. The hike was uneventful but we learned from people hiking out that we would face a challenging section of the road that was covered to a depth of 7 or 8 feet with snow and would go on for about ½ mile that way. Furthermore Brainerd Lake was still frozen solid with no sign of the ice yet breaking up. While we were hiking into Brainerd Lake we continued to gain elevation. Though the hike was uneventful, it was tough as neither one of us is currently acclimated to the 10,000 foot + elevation. When we reached the last ½ mile of the hike in, we came to our biggest challenge – the snow was packed to a depth of at least 7 or 8 feet. The going was tough as we kept on slipping and sliding. Some of the times we would slip and slide, we would post hole through the snow to a depth of a foot or more. This is usually not a big thing when you are wearing winter clothing. But with me in shorts it some time caused me to get a little bit cold shall we say.

(View to the west of the Indian Peaks.) Finally after about 45 minutes of hard hiking we reach the lake. To be honest there was not much to see of the lake except for a large flat spot covered with snow. However, the scenery was beautiful and I can see that in the summertime Brainerd Lake must be heavily used. We spent a bunch of time hanging out at the lake eating snacks before we decided to head back. The hike back was easy as most of it was down hike and we reached the car in a very quick manner. This was a good challenging hike for us to get back into the swing of things as we head into the summer. I think for the next several weekends we will probably stay at lower elevations or we will take our snow shoes with us as the snow at 10,000 feet plus isn’t like to melt too snow. On the way home we stopped and got some lunch at a fun little café in Nederland called the Savory Café. The food was good and it is always interesting to explore a small little café like this. I hope everyone has had a good Saturday and the rest of your weekend is good. Thanks and peace to all! – J.

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