Monday, January 10, 2011

Snowshoeing in Clear Creek County, Hermans Gulch, Rocky Mountains of Colorado

Views of I-70 below, looking west

All last week, I had been planning our next snowshoeing hike; the weather is supposed to get bad today, Sunday, so we had to hike on Saturday.   Then Saturday morning came and instead of getting up early and getting our day started, we managed to sleep in past 9am, and then made a leisurely breakfast, making it out the door by 12 noon!  I still wanted to snowshoe, even though it was nearly 60 degrees in Golden and we could have hiked on a beautiful January day.  The weather was still warm and nice in the mountains, said our SUV's gauge, until we hit Georgetown, the sun was hidden by ominous clouds, and the temperature dropped 20 degrees; it's snowshoe time!
Getting there: We decided to hike at Herman's Gulch Trailhead, this is just off I-70, past Silver Plume going west and very easy to find.  Exit #218 off I-70; turn right (north) into the parking lot.  That's it!  No curvy mountain roads without names, just I-70, exit, hike!   It took about 40 minutes to reach the trail from our house in the Golden area.
Specs: This trailhead does have a bathroom; the parking lot is fairly large, but this is a very popular area and even on weekdays the parking lot can be busy.  This trailhead gives access to several trails in Arapaho National Forest .  Click here for google map.

Trail map; click to enlarge

Our Journey: Since we didn't leave the house until noon, I knew this wouldn't be a very long hike.  The weather was supposed to get bad in the mountains Saturday afternoon/evening, and the ski traffic would make I-70 crowded and slow going; so I knew we'd try to leave by 3pm.  I was really excited to be at the trailhead, this is an area I have passed many times on I-70 going out to bigger mountains and I always made a mental note to hike here sometime.  After we got all of our gear, the dogs, and used the restroom; I checked out the trail map.  There are several different trails that start at Hermans Gulch; I have included the photo of the map above, click it to enlarge and see all of the available routes.
We started snowshoeing up the main trail behind the sign, which takes you through the pine forest, the snow was very deep off the main path and even with snowshoes I sunk right in, so did the dogs.  Belle was pretty sure there were deer below us, that we couldn't see, but she could smell; and she made a few attempts into the deep snow only to get stuck 2 feet off the trail!  It was pretty funny to watch; Rock, however, a seasoned snow dog, ran back and forth on the trail, clearly upset with our slow human pace. 

Old Growth Aspen Grove

Josh was a bit slower than me today, even with the 1 remaining hiking pole; each time I look at the single pole my stomach drops and I feel so badly about loosing the other one.  I still cannot figure out exactly where or how I lost it, but it's gone.  I did post a sign at Cub Creek in hopes that someone might have found it and will call me about it.  But I am not hopeful.
Shortly we came to a trail split, with a sign and we chose to continue up the Watrous trail to the east.  The trail continued to climb through the forest, then an old growth aspen grove, before breaking out above the trees to provide awesome views of the surrounding mountains and I-70 below.  The trail continued heading east, and climbing, we'd go into the forest, then come out to see great views, then back in again.  The entire time we hiked the clouds continued to roll in, any blue sky we saw in the distance to the east was now gone; and it had started snowing slightly.  We pushed on up the trail, which was very steep in some places and I was glad that my snowshoes had really good grip that helped me cling to the trail.  After we made it to the top of a particularly steep section, we stopped to enjoy the view, take some photos and then started back down the trail, after just an hour of hiking.  Josh wasn't feeling great, and I didn't want to push it, knowing the ski traffic would be miserable, so we started back down the trail.

Josh immediately fell down on the steep section of the trail and rolled a little due to the steepness; and it was pretty funny when I found out that he was okay.   After that, I hiked much slower and wished I had skis for the trek back.  It only took about 30 minutes to reach the lot, and already I-70 was getting crowded, so we jumped in the SUV and hit the road.

I'll definitely be back to snowshoe here again; this also looked like a great trail in the summertime that I'd like to explore.  One of the trails is a 5 mile round trip hike to Herman's Lake in a valley filled with wildflowers.  I am ready for spring to come already, even though I do enjoy the winter activities.
I am also looking for snowshoe recommendations; if you shoe often, I'd love to hear what shoes you have and what the pros and cons are.  My shoes kick a lot of snow up onto me when I walk, which I do-not like at all!  What can I do to fix this?  Any suggestions are appreciated!

Here is a google map, click it to input your personal directions.

View Larger Map

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