Saturday, January 8, 2011

Placer Trail Snowshoe

Distance: 3 mile loop
Elevation: 9,083 ft - 9,466 ft
Elevation Gain: 514 ft (cumulative)
Dogs: Off leash (Forest Service)

Sun glints through the high clouds in the clear area between Ryan Gulch Road and I-70.

On the slopes of Buffalo mountain between Ryan Gulch Road and I-70 is a swath of Forest Service land filled with social trails that interconnect in a million different ways. Since I frequent the area, this zone has become my place for after work or mid-day doggie outings.

Standing in the meadow near the trailhead and looking south towards I-70 and the Eisenhower tunnel

Mt. Guyot (13,370 ft) is usually visible from the meadow.

This post covers one route through this maze. It it not meant to be a guide to a particular trail but a taste of the area, particularly since there is no parking any where near our starting point.

Crossing the second meadow with Peak 1 in the distance

The right turn to cross the creek and stay on the Placer Trail

My route started at the trailhead due south of the Silver Queen West Condominiums and headed straight across a large "meadow" that is really a clear cut area. At the far end of the meadow, the trail splits. I took the left fork and headed down the hillside to another junction in a large meadow. The junction is marked by a large wooden sign that says Placer to the right and Columbine to the left. I took the right fork.

The flat zone of the Placer Trail

Looking down on I-70

The Placer Trail at this point heads down to the creek and around a bend. In the summer, I cross here and head north towards the Salt Lick Trail. In winter, the trail forks again with one route heading due east and the other crossing the creek at small pumping station. Both routes were well tracked. I crossed the creek.

Heading east again after descending from I-70

From this point, the route stays in the trees and follows a level path that might be an old flume or a irrigation ditch. It heads steadily towards I-70 and eventually comes out right below it. I took a quick jaunt up the hill to look 0ut on the zooming traffic. Directly across from this ascent the trails heads back down hill to small valley and then heads west.

The trail eventually heads north again across a small valley. The Salt Lick Trail is ahead in the trees.

Before long, the trail veered north across another valley and crosses the Salt Lick Trail. The Salt Lick is the one official trail in the area. The trail head is located at the first switchback of Wildernest Hill and the trail goes straight up the valley until it intersects the trail to Lilly Pad Lake.

Coming out at the Salt Lick Condominiums

Heading straight north up the center of the clear cut area towards Buffalo Mountain

After crossing the Salt Lick, my route headed uphill through a small gully filled with interesting rock formations and came out right at the Salt Lick Condominiums. From here the trail forked in many directions, but it was obvious which trail headed west towards Buffalo Mountain and our starting point. I followed this trail as it veered southwest and eventually ended up at the Columbine/Placer sign. From there I turned north again and retraced my steps across the clear cut area to the trailhead.

The sun begins to set

If you live in or visit Wildernest, these trails are a treat any time of year. There are golden Aspens in the fall, fields of Fireweed in the summer, and fluffy snow in winter. I have taken great great sunrise photos from this area and hope one day to capture one of the resident Moose. Don't be afraid to enter the maze. With views of Buffelo Mountain, Peak 1, and I-70 it is difficult to get lost.

Mt. Guyot (13,370 ft) and Bald Mountain (13,684 ft) through the clouds

1 comment:

Linda said...

There you go again, Sylvia, tantalizing me with snowshoe dreams.