I had a midterm exam to deal with on Saturday but Sunday was supposed to be really nice in the weather department and we decided to take our new snowshoes and head for the Continental Divide. Wanted to get an early start but hooey….bad timing on the spring forward thing. Still, we managed to get headed out by 7:30 or so and were eating breakfast in Buena Vista, CO a few hours later.
After a hearty breakfast at the Roosters Crow we headed up towards Cottonwood Pass to find the Denny Creek Trailhead. What we found was around thirty or so trucks with trailers and snowmobiles all over the place. They were having a blast roaring up the road to the pass which is closed for the winter. Nevertheless, we did find a parking space and got our gear on and headed up the trail. The snowmobiles were quickly forgotten as we headed up through the forest, around the bend, and entered the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness.
The trail was nicely snowpacked and we were able to make good time as we worked our way up the valley. When we did venture off trail we found the drifts were quite deep but were able to stay on top of them for the most part. Abby quickly decided the trail was a better choice for her. A little over a mile or so up the trail we found the sign pointing the way to the Mt Yale summit (14,196 ft) but did not think we were in good enough shape to tackle that. We continued up the trail towards Browns Pass taking in the awe-inspiring beauty of the Rocky Mountains in winter. We were surrounded on all sides by the Collegiate Peaks.
The sky was that deep blue color and there was not a cloud to be seen. The temps were climbing along with us and the layers started coming off so we did not overheat. After another mile of trekking we made it up to the junction of Hartenstein Lake trail which is in a large meadow-like area and rested for a while. Our goal was to make it to the top of Browns Pass. So far we had gained about 1,200 ft in elevation and my leg was starting to complain. We decided to push on anyway and see how far we could make it. The trail shortly disappeared and we found ourselves breaking trail as we went. In about a half a mile it became apparent that my leg was not going to make it and we were forced to turn around. We were at 11,250 ft elevation and still had another mile to go topping out at 12,000ft.
The trip back down went quickly and was much easier on my leg. Back in the Jeep and stop at Cottonwood Hot Springs on the way down. Aaahhhhhhhh! Geothermal hot springs. What a way to finish off a wilderness adventure. There are three outdoor pools ranging in temp from Too Hot, Hot, and Warm. We stayed for an hour then drove back into Buena Vista, stopping by Bongo Billy’s coffeehouse for some nourishment and then headed for home.