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TRAIL TIPS


by larry rice


If the Snowshoe Fits


Then check out our good reasons to hit the trails around Buena Vista, Colo.


I TROMP UP A SNOW-COVERED moun- tain trail in central Colorado in a loose line of four friends. The only sounds we hear are the rhythmic crunch, crunch, crunch of our snow- shoes and our steady breathing at two miles above sea level. As we shuffle deeper into this stellar high country, we encounter a snow- covered lake, along with a picture-per- fect panoramic view. To the east, Mount Yale, towering at 14,196 feet, shows off a treeless, alpine summit cloaked in the whitest of whites. We are knee-deep in fresh, untracked


powder, yet only hours ago we were in snow-free Buena Vista. Located 125 miles southwest of Denver in the rural Upper Arkansas River Valley, Buena Vista (perched at an elevation of 8,000 feet and adjacent to the Sawatch Range) sits just a short drive from some of the best snowshoe country the Centennial State has to offer. Two of my favorite snowshoe hikes


(from a list of 10 or more in the area) ascend different mountain drainages,


each with its own unique character and eye-popping views. The first begins in St. Elmo, a deserted town just 20 miles southwest of Buena Vista. You can reach it via County Road 162, which is plowed throughout the winter months. From the Poplar Gulch trailhead, set off along the trail into the winter wonderland. The climb is steady. Your


objective, if all are on board, is to reach the head of a large subalpine meadow at 11,448 feet, situated just below treeline about two winding miles from the parking area. On the drive back to


Buena Vista, treat yourself to a soothing soak in one of two 104-degree outdoor pools at the Mount Princeton Hot Springs Resort. The next day, head 12 miles west from Buena


38 SCOUTING ¿  


Vista’s only traffic light to the Denny Creek trailhead. From here, go north on the Browns Pass Trail into the vast Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area. Denny Creek’s extremely scenic, 10-mile out-and-back snowshoe route gently climbs 2,200 feet to a high pass on the picturesque Continental Divide. If a 10-mile trek seems too daunt-


ing, you can shorten the hike to a six-mile out-and-back (with a mere 1,525 foot elevation gain) by veering off Browns Pass Trail on the Hartenstein Lake Trail. Meander for a half-mile through lodgepole pines before reach- ing the subalpine basin of the lake. All around, you’ll see soaring,


white-mantled peaks that will beg for you to return. ¿


Colorado outdoors writer LARRY RICE is the author of Gathering Paradise: Alaska Wilderness Journeys and Baja to Patagonia: Latin American Adventures (Fulcrum).


SERGIO BALLIVIAN PHOTOGRAPHY


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