Tuesday, February 24, 2009

XC Skiing: RMNP East Glacier Creek Trail

Today was 62 degrees in Fort Collins and it was pretty warm in the mountains as well. The plan was to go cross-country skiing at Rocky Mountain National Park. My friend Rita and I have never been on cross-country skis before and we wanted to check it out. We had tried to get in to some classes earlier this winter but they filled up before we had a chance to register. Now being late in the season, there were no lessons offered so we just decided to rent the gear and do it.

My rented xc skis and boots

In the morning we met in Estes Park at the Mountain Shop on highway 34. They rent snowshoes and cross-country skis and almost anything else that you might think of. The prices were good. $10 - all day - skis, poles and boots.

Rita getting her stuff out of the car as the snow starts to fall

We got our stuff and headed to the park. I did a bit of searching on the internet beforehand to find out where newbie’s like us should go xc skiing and since we’ve already done the Bear Lake loop on our snowshoes and wanted something a bit longer, we headed for the Sprague Lake Trailhead on Bear Lake Road in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Rita crossing the creek

Rita ahead of me on the trail

It was a bit windy in the mountains today, and really windy in Estes Park. When we arrived at the Sprague Lake Trailhead located at 8,720 feet in elevation it started snowing all the sudden, but the one snow cloud quickly moved off and the sunshine returned again.

A curve with a boulder in the trail (left), rocks in the trail (right)

East Glacier Creek Trail

We got our skis on and took off. It was a weird feeling to have these long things connected to my feet. It took me a while to figure out how to propel myself forward. Rita must have figured it out early on because she pulled away from me and for a while there was no catching her. We only saw one guy on the trail and it was right at the beginning of the trail. He was cross country skiing as well.

That boulder in the trail was hard to go around on the skis

A dry section of the trail

About half a mile from the Sprague Lake Trailhead we arrived at this huge intersection of many trails and we looked on our map to see where we should go. To the east was the East Glacier Creek Trail which would bring us back to the Sprague Lake and the Trailhead where we started from. The loop was approximately 2.5 -3 miles so we decided to try it out. At first the trail was level and traveled in between the trees where the snow was still soft and deep. But after a while we started climbing at bit in elevation and the trail got narrow and steep in places. Since we didn’t know how to steer or stop very well yet, at times when the trail was kind of twisty and steep, with a nasty drop off the side, we would take our skis off and walk those sections.

Getting ready to put my skis back on after walking through a difficult section

Sprague Lake was behing this hill

Sprague Lake (looking to the west)

Some of the signs we saw on the trail and a squirrel

Rita got some great shots of me, yes - we were both wearing purple today, no - we didn’t plan it that way

The parts of the trail that were level or had small not so steep hills were awesome, and allowed us to coast for a few minutes continuously. There was not a lot of snow toward the top of the trail, where the trees opened up. Here we had to make a left and head back to Sprague Lake. Again we carried our skis through those sections where there was no snow and further down we carried the skis again through some sections were there were many rocks protruding from beneath the snow. The section around Sprague Lake had no snow on it at all and it was very windy here so we had to carry our skis all the way to the car.

Rita at Sprague Lake

I'm getting pushed by the wind at Sprague Lake

After completing the loop and putting the skis back in the car we took a break and ate the sandwiches we brought with, then headed back to Estes Park to return our skis.

Map of the area

I enjoyed cross country skiing a lot and noticed that I was exercising new parts of my legs, different parts from snowshoeing and hiking. Toward the end of the loop got faster and I got a bit more confidence on the downhill section. The steering was much easier but I never did fully figure out the stopping. This is something I think I’d like to do more often even though it is way harder than snowshoeing.

No comments: