Presidents Day Weekend: when the ski resorts of Colorado are flooded by out-of-staters coming to spend their long weekend cautiously sliding down the snowy slopes. But for us, it was a 20-hour Wilderness First Aid and CPR Certification class, wrapped up with a winter hike up to Loch Lomen on Monday.
We woke up on Presidents Day Monday to a bunch of snow falling in Boulder. It was one of those weird weather patterns that, instead of coming from the mountains, started from the east. So as we drove west to get to the trailhead, we drove out of the snowfall and had a few hours of sunshine before the snowstorm was due to hit the St. Mary’s area, about 2:00 pm. The trail is 4.6 miles of out and back with 807 feet of steady elevation gain.
The trailhead starts out as wide as a road – and part of it can probably be used as such in the summer. It was blocked off by a tall pile of plowed snow when we came by. For the first 2/3 of the trail, I just wore my microspikes, as the snow was packed down pretty well. And there were a few areas of trail where the wind had blown the snow away and it was just exposed dirt and rock with a few icy patches. As we continued on, the trail begins to thin out, especially after a few motor vehicle barriers.
Once we came to a metal road barrier, the snow was markedly deeper and not as packed, so we strapped on our snow shoes to avoid post-holing the rest of the way. It was fun to detour through the trees that lined the trail with snowshoes on – and Freya loved pouncing through the plentiful snow.
As we neared the top, and started to rise above tree line, the wind picked up. I think either the top isn’t trafficked as much as the lower part of the trail or the wind has erased evidence of any traffic – as the trail was harder to see. But by then, we could see the large rock peaks that make up the picturesque backdrop to the lake and easily kept our course.
When we reached the top (approx. 11,200 ft), we stopped for a few minutes to snap some pictures and for a quick snack. But with the snow storm clouds looming nearby, and the biting wind stinging any exposed fingers, we didn’t waste any time starting on the descent.
As if we planned it perfectly, the snow started falling about 5 minutes after we got into the car and started toward Westbound and Down Brewery in Idaho Springs. We selected Westbound and Down specifically because they allow dogs, but I would – and will – go back because of their delicious beer and food. With or without Freya.
I ordered their “Don’t Hassle the Hef” Hefeweizen and Jalapeño Cheddar Buns with beer cheese to start while Freya delighted in her peanut-butter filled kong that we brought from home. In hindsight, for only $3.50 and how hungry we were, we should have ordered two servings of the Jalapeño Cheddar Buns.
For my entree, I ordered the Fried Chicken Sandwich with fries. It is described on the menu as “fried chicken breast, house hot rub, melted white cheddar, creamy coleslaw, lettuce, tomato and pickles”. And I ate it ALL. My only complaint is that the coleslaw was hard to keep on the sandwich – much of it eventually slid out.
After spending 20 hours over 2 1/2 days in a classroom getting our WFA and CPR certifications, this hike was the perfect way to stretch our legs and inhale that crisp Colorado winter air. The views are pretty great, too… like we need another reminder why we love it here so much. I’m looking forward to going back to see what it’s like in the summer. I’m also looking forward to trying more menu items at Westbound & Down next time, too.
Know of a good dog-friendly hike and post-beer location? Let me know in the comments!
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