Sunday, December 15, 2013

Snowshoeing Calypso Cascades

My husband and I stayed in Estes Park, Colorado for a few nights last week in a cabin on Fall River. On our way to Estes, we saw a lot of damage to the homes in Lyons from the flooding in September. It is really amazing, as damaged as the roads were, that highway 36 to Estes Park was repaired so quickly.  We usually visit Estes Park in the summer when the streets are full of tourists.  In winter, the town is quiet and many of the shops are closed. Fortunately for us, the cabin we stayed in was not damaged by the floods. 

Lyons, Colorado

Tuesday morning, we drove to the Sandbeach Lake and Wild Basin trailheads to snowshoe. Sandbeach Lake trailhead is located about 13 miles south of Estes Park on Colorado 7; it is just a little further to Wild Basin. It had been really windy Monday night and the winds were still howling - my guess is about 50 miles per hour. When we got out of the car and walked a little ways, we decided not to snowshoe. The wind was so bad, it would not have been fun.

Instead of snowshoeing, we walked downtown and visited a few shops. As we approached one of the intersections, I thought I saw a statue on the corner and then realized it was real - a real elk. By the time we finished shopping, he had made his way down the street and was grazing close to our car.

Wednesday morning, we headed back to the Wild Basin trail head to snowshoe the Calypso Cascades trail. According to the weather forecast, the winds were only supposed to get up to 20 mph that day.  We got out and walked a bit again and decided it might be doable.

According to our Snowshoeing Colorado book, to get to the Cascades, you snowshoe "from the winter parking area to the summer parking area at the Wild Basin picnic area and ranger station" and continue on from there. Well we weren't exactly sure where our trail was supposed to start. The book said we would begin by crossing the "Hunters Creek" bridge and head south on Thunder Lake Trail. After parking at the Wild Basin parking area, we followed the road across a frozen creek. The road took us to another parking area but we didn't see a trail sign. So we headed back to the creek and looked around. Kent saw what looked like a trail next to the creek so that's the way we went. It took us right back to the second parking area. That time, we saw a trail sign for a horse trail and followed it. Eventually, the horse trail took us back to Wild Basin Road, which is where we were supposed to go in the first place!

To get to the summer parking area and the Calypso Cascades/Ouzel Falls trail, you snowshoe on Wild Basin Road for one mile. It was an easy mile with only 180 feet of elevation gain. As we hiked along Wild Basin Road, we saw several piles of brush in the forest. On Monday evening as we drove on US 36 to Estes Park, we saw a prescribed burn in progress next to the highway.  I was curious about whether a prescribed burn was planned in the Wild Basin area and found an article that describes the plans for winter pile burning at Rocky Mountain National Park.

As our book noted, the summer parking area for Wild Basin is well marked. The elevation is about 8,500 feet at the ranger station. From there, the trail climbs gently to an elevation of 9,200 feet at Calypso Cascades. We saw a lot of animal footprints in the snow but did not see any wildlife. (We only saw a couple of humans, cross country skiers.) The trail was primarily in a forested area protected from the wind. 

This link shows what Calypso Cascades look like in the summer.

1 comment:

  1. Snowshoeing sounds like fun, but I think I'd be worried about walking out there if the trail weren't well marked. I'd have visions of being stuck out the elements with nothing to eat or drink but snow! I'm glad you were able to complete your adventure safely :)