Many people I know…well, maybe just me…don’t ski. I know — that’s crazy considering I live in Colorado, right? Well as crazy at it sounds, it’s true. But that does not mean I don’t like doing things in the snow in Colorado. I actually love to explore Colorado no matter what time of year. Last weekend, it was on one of my Byway tours in what seemed like a blizzard and this weekend, the blue sky over Colorado seemed never-ending, no matter how far we drove.
With that said, I wanted to share my high country adventure in the snow.
What brought me up to the high country was a promise I had made to a friend and that promise will bring me up to this particular part of Colorado 2 more times. This part of Colorado is actually really close to Aspen, which many people around the world have heard of. It’s home to many stars and home to some absolutely gorgeous scenery; the Maroon Bells.
We did not go to the Maroon Bells on this trip, though. The Bells are hard to visit at any time of year, mostly because this area is way over-traveled. On this trip, my chosen destination was Ashcroft and beyond. Ashcroft is actually just outside of Aspen along Castle Creek Road. This town is considered a ghost town and is part of the Aspen Historic Society.
The drive from home was about a four-hour drive. When we arrived at Ashcroft, I was surprised to see that the road heading to the Pine Creek Cookhouse was closed to auto traffic, although it was open to foot, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. During spring, summer and fall, this road is open all the way to the cook house and beyond. At the end of the paved road, it splits off to a 4-wheel drive road which takes you up to Pearl Pass and Montezuma Basin. Because my hubby had recently undergone a full knee replacement (four weeks ago), he opted to hang out in the parking and ski hut area of the Ashcroft Ski Touring King Hut. I made sure the hike was easy enough for me to make by stopping at the King Hut and speaking with one of the ski trainers there. He said that the hike to the Pine Creek Cookhouse was 1.6 miles and about another half-mile to where the road splits off. One thing he warned me about was that the last half-mile is prone to avalanches…so he cautioned me, but I was determined to get as far as I could go.
Like I said, the day was an amazing sun-filled day…I ended up shedding my jacket and tying it around my waist about a half-mile along my hike. The views were spectacular…obviously…and the well-groomed road up to the cook house was easy to traverse. After the cook house, the trail is no longer groomed, but it was still quite nicely packed, because snow mobiles tend to take this route along with cross-country skiers. I kept looking up the side of the mountain at this point, since it was also the avalanche area.
When I finally reached my destination, there was one particular spot I wanted to get to, but leaving the snow-packed trail meant sinking into anywhere from one foot to about three feet (about butt-level) of powdery snow. Because I tend to have a stubborn streak, I forged on until I could not go any further…basically, until the snow was about butt-level. At this point, I finally realized why so many people in the high country wear snow pants even when aren’t skiing. When I finally came out of the powder and onto the packed trail again, my jeans were soaked up to my thighs. And to be honest…I was glad for my stubbornness.
On the way back to my hubby and the warmth of his truck, I passed a slew of folks either skiing, or snowshoeing along the trail. As I passed the cook house, a horse-drawn sleigh packed full of a hungry lunch crowd had arrived. And every person who passed me on the trail had the same expression…a huge smile. It was truly an amazing day.