Leader: Scott Farquhar
Co-Leader: Diane Quinn
Elevation gain: 1190
Time on-trail: 5 hours
There was great powder snow in the woods and NO WIND, well ok the entire day was cloudy and overcast but as the song goes, “……but don’t be sad, cause two out of three ain’t bad”.
Even though the weather had been warm in Fort Collins, I knew from trips in the Cameron Pass area earlier in the week that snow covered the trails and there was deep powder in the woods near Cameron Pass. This information stoked the excitement level of all the participants who were eager for the winter “play season” to begin. Highway CO-14 was clear so the group quickly made their way to the Lake Agnes trailhead in Colorado State Park State Forest. The sky was cloudy, but the temperature was in the mid 20s as we put on our snowshoes and donned our packs at the “winter trailhead” on CO-14. The thing everyone noticed as we readied for the hike was that there was no wind!!! I told the group the “Wind Gods” were just trying to lure us in, so I reminded everyone to stuff their face protection and goggles into their packs for the wind that we would surely experience on the lake. With those words of advice, we started down the snow packed road towards the Lake Agnes “summer trailhead”.
As we hiked down the trail I pointed out the views of Flat Iron and Iron Mountain to the east. At approximately 0.6 miles we made the right turn which took us over a bridge across the Michigan River and started are uphill climb on the snow-covered road towards Lake Agnes. We followed this road for up 650 ft and another 1.3 miles to the “summer trailhead”.
After quickly checking out the “historic cabin” at the trailhead, we started on the “real trail” towards the lake. Although no one was ahead of us that day, others had been up the trail recently so it was not too hard to follow. Every now and then the tracks went off in a strange direction, but we were able to break trail for short distances following the “blue diamonds” attached to trees. Onward the group went and slowly “ate up” the 420 ft, 0.8 mile climb to the lake.
At the lake, we were rewarded with spectacular views of Mount Mahler and Mount Richthofen. The lighting was a bit strange, but wonderful and as one participant later noted “it was an Ansel Adams kind of day”. Folks in the group also noticed we had a fine view of the Nokhu Craigs to the east.
The lake ice looked a bit “iffy” so we did not walk out to the island in the middle of the lake. However, the “Wind Gods” continued to smile upon us so we stopped for a while to eat lunch on the lake shore. With the calm winds, there was a bit of grumbling about having to carry facemasks and goggles up the hill and there was talk of having me carry them all back downhill. However, I quickly left the group to check out the shoreline before things got ugly.
After lunch, we carefully made our way along the shoreline to an inlet on the west side of the lake. From here the group made our way off trail into the woods, and this is when the REAL fun began. We followed a relatively flat drainage for a bit through powder 8-12” deep then made our way south to where the slope increased significantly. We found a relatively wide area clear of rocks to make our decent. Hardy souls in the group had fun making their way straight down the slope in the 12-14” of powder while I led the others in a “zig-zag” path down the steep slope (many of you KNOW how I hate to run down a steep powdery slope in snowshoes). Near the bottom, I encouraged many of the others to “try out” a bit of “tele-shoeing” straight down the slope much to their enjoyment.
However, just as the east-bound I-70 signs say “You’re not down yet!”, we still had a bit of downhill off-trail fun through the dense trees before we reached the headwaters of the creek that flows to the south. As we approached the creek, we contoured a bit to the north-east then made our way directly south to the “summer trailhead”. From here the group took a leisurely jaunt back down the road to the cars (it is amazing how much easier it was to take the road downhill).
All in all, another great day in the powder snow near Cameron Pass. With the lack of snow in Fort Collins many folks would not have guessed how wonderful it was up the Poudre Canyon ….… .hmmm, maybe I should have kept that a secret.