Ski to the Divide & Merry Wanderers of the night

What makes for a good trip? Beautiful scenery? Good company? Perfect conditions? An unidentifiable “something”?

A “good trip” can be hard to define. But you know it when it happens. At the end of the trip, you have a grin on your face, a sense of happiness, a feeling that it really could not have been any better of a time.

A ski trip up the Waldorf mine road was a good trip. We had wonderful snow once past the first mile, an excellent group of people, beautiful scenery and the perfect post-trip meal at a nearby watering hole. By the time night rolled around, nothing could have been better.

The planned trip was the site of a trip this past Fall. Rather than drive up the road, my friends and I would ski up it. The destination was also directly over from the other side of the divide from a ski trip earlier this season.

We drove up Guanella Pass Rd and made our way to the start of the Waldorf Mine rd.

Even when it is not winter, it is a low use place. No easy access to 14ers…it “only” offers dramatic views up on the Continental Divide. In the winter? We would briefly see one truck driving out and pass a lone snowshoer (who was surprised to see anyone else that day).

The first mile was tracked out and a bit icy. But once we skied past the initial mile, their was deep, untracked and fresh powder. Though on a jeep road, the lack of many people, the views of the mountains and the wide open spaces truly made it feel like a backcountry experience.

 

We broke trail and just wanted to go further and further. What would be around the next bend of the trail? How much better could the snow get? What else awaits us?

It became very windy and we could see a storm moving in from west of the divide. We decided to call it good and ski down.

And what a wonderful ski down! Gliding along on fresh powder has to be on the best feelings out there. The subtle schwoosh sound. The elegance of making a turn just right and going down the mountain. The feel of the wind in your face. What could be better?

The last mile was a bit..interesting. Some icy, tracked out snow and rocks. But not as bad as it could be. The last stretch just made us appreciate what we saw above.

 

We made it the cars. Packed up and drove to nearby Idaho Springs for that most wonderful of post ski-rituals: FOOD AND BEER!

 

Thou speak’st aright;
I am that merry wanderer of the night.

–Puck, MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM

The following evening was an (almost) full moon. Night skiing is that oft-used cliche’ of “magical”. But to anyone who has had the pleasure of being outside on a winter’s, moonlit night…you know it is no exaggeration.

A silver glow washes over the landscape and everything is brightly lit.

And on a snowy night? There is a silence you just do not get in the rest of the year.

A stillness is over the landscape. A quiet that permeates. Being out in a winter’s night feels a bit atavistic. And since the full moon in January is called “The Wolf Moon”, the feeling is perhaps entirely appropriate.

The chosen trip was one I do every January: A Full Moon ski to Lost Lake.

In Boulder, the night sky was clear. The moon had not quite risen yet. We felt confident that the moonlight would be perfect for when we started.

But about 20 miles up the canyon, (and 3000′ higher at the trailhead), there was a much different view.

The snow did indeed have a faint silver glow. But there was also softly falling snow. The light powder muffled the footsteps of the snowshoers and the gliding of the skiers.

As skied along, we came to a split and took a quick side trip to an old miners cabin. The site of a haunted camping trip many moons ago….

We continued to gain the ridge and then climbed the switchbacks to the lake. We were about 4000′ higher than where we met in Boulder. We could barely see the lake and it was windy. No matter. We were all grinning. We were actually enjoying the absurdity of being out in the weather.

And it was beautiful. A quiet and peacefulness that can only be experienced when the snow is softly falling, the branches are heavy with powder and there is only a small group of friends enjoying it all.

The ski down was quick. The snow came down even quicker. The winds were whipping. But it did not matter…we were having fun. Rejoicing in the elemental feel of the winter night.

We made it back to the cars, quickly go out of the wind and made our way back to Boulder.

Another trip that adds to sheer joy of life.

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