Friday, March 5, 2010

Gold Dust Snowshoe (Central Section)

Distance: 5 miles roundtrip
Elevation: 10, 333 ft - 10,700 ft
Elevation Gain: 267 ft
Dogs: Off Leash

The deep trench and shelf-like aspect of the Gold Dust Trail.(Photo by Cratch)

The central portion of the Gold Dust Trail (County Road 50 to Forest Road 801) out of Como is a serene and easy traverse along a long forgotten flume that once diverted water from North Tarryall Creek to mining operations in the upper Tarryall Drainage. This nearly flat trail weaves lazily through a mixed Lodgepole and Ponderosa Pine Forest with only a few "peak-a-boos" to the east. It exudes solitude and is a great trail for novices or those that like to feel the hush of winter.

The trailhead off of Country Road 50. Note the sign says 698. The map lists this trail as 653 (Cratch).

(On the left: A rare photo of the author who is usually behind the camera. On this trip she ignominiously forgot it. All photos are credited to Suzanne Cratch or another anonymous participant. Thanks Ya'll!)

On this trip the snow was at least 3 feet deep and piled in soft, rolling drifts. Not a pine needle stirred and the gray skies hung over the area like a comforting blanket. Some group had broken trail before us, which made the going much easier. Their passage resulted in a hip-width trench with 1.5 to 2 ft sides that had more curves to it than a bobsled run.
All of the elevation gain on this trail occurs in the first quarter mile of the trail. This trail is very well marked. Blue blazes dot the trees almost every few feet or so it seemed. There are even blue arrows at strategic intersections.

As we were sloshing along, I could not figure out how this trail could be so flat and so continuously curvy until I returned home and read about the flume. My instincts had been right. There was something not quite natural about our route. The labors of long dead miners had created an artificial topography. I am sure they never envisioned the flume being used by under exercised suburbanites looking to escape the city. Burning calories was not a problem for those hearty pioneers.

A less deep trail segment (Cratch)

One of the infrequent "peek-a-boos" (Cratch)

To get to this trail, take 285 to Como (9 miles west of Fairplay). Follow Boreas Pass Road (County Road 33) until it turns sharply right at the Peabody Trailhead (Robert's Cabin). This is the junction with County Road 50, which continues straight for several miles until it dead ends at a gate. 1.0 miles up CR 50 is a small vertical Forest Service sign near a trail register and large wooden home. Both are on the right hand side of the road. Parking is just along the side of the road. This trail is well marked on National Geographic Map 109. In the winter, Como is totally shut down, so don't expect any coffee shops or bathrooms nearby. The closest are in Fairplay.

The sign for the Tarryall Creek (Cratch). Road 801 is another 800ft beyond.

Suzanne and Laura play in the deep snow near our turn around point.


Como is probably not your list of places to visit this winter, but this trail should not be overlooked by those seeking an outdoor adventure unmarred by exessive panting. I rarely recommend trails totally in the trees, but this trail touched me. Its soft lines, and quiet aspect have a meditative quality that is worth experiencing.

Just before the road is an open meadow with a nice view of Boreas Mountain (13,082 ft).

Our lunch in the snow. What you can't see is that I am sitting on an inflatable butt pad and sipping hot coffee from a thermos. We outdoor divas like our creature comforts!

1 comment:

Linda said...

Outdoor exercise without excessive panting is my idea of bliss. And an inflatable butt pad? I don't think they sell them here - calvinist attitudes probably prevail.