Sometimes solitude is only accessible through travel
My husband and I are both Christmas babies, he’s a few days after, I’m a few before. Over the years he has convinced me to not make a big deal out of our birthdays since we’re typically too busy with work or family visiting. But this year mom and dad stayed home and I thought maybe, if I played my cards right, I could sweet-talk Jeffrey into a overnighter.I know that my best chance of winning him over is to make sure all his needs are met. This means suggesting a destination where we won’t know anyone and to keep the drive under two hours. No ski resorts, no hot springs, the more redneck the better. (Jeffrey likes their no-nonsense attitude, and their good greasy diners.)
I narrowed it down to either Buena Vista or Granby. We wanted to cross country ski either near Mt. Harvard or on the other side of Ute Pass. Jeffrey picked Granby. I think it’s the drive that he likes; once you turn onto Ute Pass Road, a desolate snow-packed dirt road, you’ve entered new territory. Every now and then way off in the distance a house will come into view, but mostly it is open mountain country. All that space is relaxing, a nice change of pace during the holidays. If you’ve ever hiked to the top of Ptarmigan Pass out of Silverthorne and looked a few thousand feet down the other side, this is close to where we were heading. The trail I had my eye on is the South Fork of Williams Fork. This is snowmobile country and I was fully prepared to be skiing on their tracks, but much to my relief, the trail, which starts from the South Fork Campground, appeared to be non-motorized. In fact, it didn’t look like anyone had been here in a week or so.
We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect beginning to our birthday getaway. There were six or seven inches of new snow, but it was easy to push through. It was quiet and peaceful, old elk tracks had helped compact the trail, and all we could hear was our own breathing. The ski back down was as good as it gets. After the ski, we were ready for a hot shower, a beer and a burger. Our last hotel experience was a stinky room with a lumpy bed right next to a busy truck route in northern Wyoming. This time we wanted to step it up a notch, so we first stopped at the Hot Sulphur Springs Hotel – which offers some sweet rooms, but no T.V. We don’t have TV at home and to me, half the fun is snuggling under the covers and channel surfing. Onward to Granby.Well, we got the TV, but we’re still hotel losers. If only I had looked out the bathroom window, because in spitting distance were the train tracks. Once an hour a train rumbled right through my brain.
From Granby, the skiing possibilities are so diverse. You can head for Devils Thumb or Snow Mountain Ranch for some of the best groomed Nordic skiing in Colorado, or try Rocky Mountain National Park for more great ski touring. I needed a vertical fix, so we returned to a past ski destination – Parkview Mountain on Willow Creek Pass. This can be an awesome peak for multiple turns, but we were a little too early and the snowpack was still a bit weak. Still, it didn’t matter. Sometimes backcountry skiing is more about the uphill than the down. It is funny how a change of scenery can make an average day special. If this tour had been in our own backyard we might have been a little frustrated, but the fact that we were in new terrain on a day totally free of obligations made a difference. It was indeed a happy birthday for both of us.Breckenridge resident Ellen Hollinshead writes a biweekly column on the outdoors.
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