Friday, November 25, 2011

Ouzel Falls in Winter.

This past week marked my first ever time snowshoeing. I was just a little over ambitious as I was thinking I could get to Cony Lake. That sure didn't happen, but I did have a fun time anyway.
I started bright and early at the winter trail head for Wild Basin. The dirt road will be closed about a mile or more from the normal trail head, which will add some difficulty to any adventures you plan here.
I parked just as then sun was rising. I strapped on my snowshoes at the gate and started off for the Finch Lake trail head.
In winter with snow.
By the looks of things, only one other person had hiked on this trail recently, only in boots, and it was not broken in for snowshoes, which made the going pretty hard.
One of the beautiful 'glens' you pass through once you summit the moraine.
I was following the persons tracks, and eventually I came to a place where they must have camped for the night. From there on, they used snowshoes, but the going didn't get any easier. There were a ton of trees down, and navigating those in waist deep powder with snowshoes strapped on was pretty difficult. Even the act of walking was hard, as the shoes would still sink in to around mid-shin to knee depth, requiring a hard pull up to get your foot out.
Mount Meeker as kind of seen from the trail.
Eventually I reached part of the forest fire area and discovered that whomever I had been following decided to turn around at a pile of downed trees. I decided to press on.
The going got even more difficult, with even more trees down over the path, harder wind, and deeper snow. I have to say, that of all the physical activities I have done, this has been the hardest so far. Just having each step sink in and having to pull your foot up and out was so tiring and strenuous. Eventually I got to more and more dead fall and finally decided to turn back and take the trail to join the Thunder Lake trail and head to Ouzel Falls.
As far as I got on this day.
Stopped for a quick snack on the way back.
The trail between Finch Lake and Thunder Lake trails was totally unbroken, save for the person whom I was behind. It was hard going, even generally headed down. But when I got to Thunder Lake trail, it was pretty well broken and the going got alot easier.
I stopped at the familiar sight of Calypso Cascades, made unfamiliar by being draped in a blanket of snow.
Looking up the cascades. Quite a difference a few months makes.
From here it was pretty easy going up. The packed snow really takes all of the steps and rocks out of the trail and greatly smooths things out. Downed trees were still an issue though, and it seemed to take a long time to get to the falls. I think my fatigue from the earlier trail was setting in.
Ouzel Falls.
Thick ice.
The great lookout slightly above Ouzel Falls.
Looking up from the bridge to the falls.
Still a little bit of water flowing, can't be much longer until it's all ice.
It has been pretty neat to see Ouzel Falls at different times of the year this season. From the early spring light flow, to the early summer torrent of water, back to a more moderate flow in the fall, and down to almost nothing now.
Ouzel Creek on the way down.
The first crossing of Ouzel Creek, below Calypso cascades.
Near the bottom.
Back at the Wild Basin trail head. Phew!
Snowshoeing was tons of fun! It is pretty awesome to see the same terrain I have been looking at the whole summer in a much different way. And it is great exercise. I would highly recommend to any fans of hiking in RMNP that you find some snowshoes and try a winter hike.

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