Friday, February 26, 2010

Lilly Pad Lake Snowshoe (via the Ryan Gulch Trailhead)

Distance: 3.4 miles round trip
Elevation: 9,619 ft - 9,915 ft (high pt is 10,003 ft)
Elevation gain: 314 ft (net), 900 ft (cumulative)
Dogs: Technically on leash (wilderness), but nobody does

Lilly Pad Lake

The winter trail to Lilly Pad Lake in Silverthorne is a short and serene winter outing. It is great for an afternoon dog walk or a post-death march must-I-really-get-off-couch excursion. The trail winds through an open Lodgepole forest, that is admittedly mostly beetle kill. Covered in snow, however, the stark brown trees lose their funereal aspect. There are at least two pleasant meadows en route and the lake, while surrounded by trees, is a pleasant if uninspiring destination.

The trailhead

The storage tank (covered in snow)

There are several routes to Lilly Pad Lake. This post profiles the route from the Ryan Gulch Road Trailhead, which also serves Buffalo Cabin. The Lilly Pad Lake trailhead is at the far end of the parking area and is marked by a large trail kiosk. The trail heads sharply upwards for a 300 ft elevation gain in only 0.17 miles. At the top of this lung buster is a small storage tank and metal tower. The best views on the trail occur in this short stint. Grays and Torreys, Lake Dillon, Square Top Mountain, and the booming Starbucks up highway 6 are all visible on a clear day.

Intersection with the Salt Lick Trail

One of the more scenic meadows

Other milestones along the trail include a nice meadow at 0.82 miles (9,846 ft), the junction with the Salt Lick Trail at 1.2 miles (10,003 ft), a very large meadow at 1.64 miles (9,927 ft), and finally the lake at 1.7 miles (9,915 ft). You may be able to tell by the list elevations, that this trail goes up and down quite a bit. If one is fresh, the hilly terrain features will provid a welcome cardio vascular boost. If one is recovering from a 14er, the small hills will cause unwelcome quad burn and impolite cursing in a foreign language.

Snow splattered Lodgepole Pines. This tree gets its name from Indians who used the narrow trunks as the center pole of their homes.

On this trip, Silverthorne had just woken up from a nice winter storm. Each narrow Lodgepole tree trunk was splattered with snow reminiscent of a girls-gone-wild whipped cream frat house initiation. Only the north sides of the trees were so decorated. Considering that I did this trail on Valentines Day, I was feeling very left out of Mother Nature's coed frivolity. The large heart that someone had stomped in an adjacent pond, made up for it however.

The lake was covered with 6 inches of snow. I was not brave enough to walk all the way out, but others had.

A Lilly Pad Lake snowshoe is not a stunner, but it is short, easy, and accessible. These are three things that should not be discounted. Sooner or later you'll be looking for a trail just like this.

Peak 1 (12,933 ft) of the Tenmile Range is just visible above the trees. On this snowy day we hardly saw it.

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