Winter Hiking in the Southern Rockies

Winter in the Southern Rockies can be cold and snowy at times, but I have found that winter weather rarely gets in the way of getting out for a hike here.  I still try to get a hike in every day during the winter and I find it to have its own unique attributes, benefits, and considerations.
Leaving the house you quickly notice that it is quieter in the winter.  There are fewer people out-and-about to be making noise I guess.  Or maybe it has something to do with the earmuffs.  My favorite kind of winter day is when I head down a trail and it is so quiet and still that I could swear I can hear the snowflakes touching down as they fall.  The quiet can be glorious.

Other winter mornings the sun is streaming through the trees, the surface of the fallen snow is glittering, and the birds are chirping.  Depending on the angle of the sun, the trees can appear as black vertical shadows or alternately as richly colored cinnamon sticks in contrast with the pure white snow.
The air is crisp and clean.  The pathway is pure and white if you have the good fortune to be the first person down the trail after a snowfall.  In the Southern Rockies, the air temperature is typically quite pleasant even in the depth of the winter.

I have collected up several bits of poetry and prose related to hiking in the winter that ring with me and they follow below interspersed with photos from some of my hikes through the winter.  But first, a few words about practicalities.  I always carry what I generically refer to as “yak-tracs” during the winter.  These are inexpensive traction enhancers that stretch over the boots and come in a variety of brands and formats.  A few times each winter, I’m glad I have snow shoes to use in deeper snow.

Yak Traks are traction devices that stretch over the hiking boots. I always carry a pair in the winter just in case.

Snowshoes can be another useful aid after a big snow

“There is a privacy about it which no other season gives you …..
In spring, summer and fall people sort of have an open season on each other;
only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself.”

– Ruth Stout

Hiking Through The Beautiful Scenes

I hope to go hiking today
To behold all the beautiful scenes
The emerald trees
The sparkling water
And the evergreens
As the lifeless trees die
Seedlings grow in their places
Developing fresh growth becomes
Tall narrow trees
Sparkling water shimmers in streams
Beautiful trees sway in the wind
Hiking to the summit
Breathtaking scenery surrounds me

– Emelia Lamie

“No snowflake ever falls in the wrong place.” — Zen proverb

Velvet Shoes

Let us walk in the white snow
In a soundless space;
With footsteps quiet and slow,
At a tranquil pace,
Under veils of white lace.

I shall go shod in silk,
And you in wool,
White as white cow’s milk,
More beautiful
Than the breast of a gull.

We shall walk through the still town
In a windless peace;
We shall step upon white down,
Upon silver fleece,
Upon softer than these.

We shall walk in velvet shoes:
Wherever we go
Silence will fall like dews
On white silence below.
We shall walk in the snow.

— Elinor Wylie

Elk come down from the high mountains in the Winter to graze at lower altitudes … here at about 7500 feet

The silence of walking in a gentle snowfall is particularly beguiling
An artifact of homesteader times … the homesteaders generally lived here just during summers

Shadows of winter weave through the sleeping sentinels.
A tapestry of light painting trails and illuminating those leaves yet to succumb to the gravity of autumn.
I feel the hope of spring within the silent slumber of my forest friends.
Their beauty forever etched on my Heart in the embrace of winter’s Love.

Lee Hiller

Two ravens contemplate the snowy landscape


Winter Warmth

Piles of snow beneath my boots
chilly winds blowing everywhere
snow keeps mounting on the posts
on the windows and on the roads
shovels outside,
soups inside
hot and rich,
chicken and corn
coming back from all the work
this is what I look for
the warm chestnuts,
the cracking fire
this is my winter warmth

By “Sam” 

“The cold was our pride, the snow was our beauty. It fell and fell, lacing day and night together in a milky haze, making everything quieter as it fell, so that winter seemed to partake of religion in a way no other season did, hushed, solemn.”
– Patricia Hampl

Mountains

I see snow-capped tops that rise from the clouds,
I see green pine trees that blow in the wind,
This is what it’s like when you’re on a mountain.

The cold snow that freezes you at touch,
The rough rock side that makes it whole,
This is what it’s like when you’re on a mountain.

Hear the birds chirping as you make your way to the top,
Hear the shaking of the tree branches as you pass by,
This is what it’s like to be on a mountain.

Taste the sweet berries that grow in the bushes,
If the bears and birds don’t get them first,
This is what it’s like to be on a mountain.

Smell the fresh air as you climb up the sides,
Smell the pine needles that rise overhead,
That’s what it’s like when you’re on a mountain.

Ben Mathias

“The rhythm of walking generates a kind of rhythm of thinking, and the passage through a landscape echoes or stimulates the passage through a series of thoughts. The creates an odd consonance between internal and external passage, one that suggests that the mind is also a landscape of sorts and that walking is one way to traverse it. A new thought often seems like a feature of the landscape that was there all along, as though thinking were traveling rather than making.”
Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

The author on a show shoe hike
Winter sunset on the Sangre de Cristo mountains

 

 

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One thought on “Winter Hiking in the Southern Rockies”

  1. Next thing will be you writing poetry because of the magnificent scenery and hiking through the winter. I still love winter despite my age. best wishes kevin. Great work Chet

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