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Sunday, January 5, 2020

oak creek trail

I wavered as to whether to wear long johns under my shorts. But, fearing the snow might be over my gator-tops, I gave in to common sense. Good thing I did.

It was a resplendent, sun-saturated morning, on the heels of yet another 12 inch dump of snow. Bobbie and I resolved to get in some cardio by attempting a snow-slog up Oak Creek Trail. Unlikely that anyone had broke trail, we dressed for a deep wade. 

We over prepared, to say the least. Layers for cold, micro-spikes for ice, and for me, my usual overloaded backpack and ski poles with baskets...just to get an upper body workout. Bobbie would soon regret her choice of a single skinny hiking pole with no snow basket.  

The access to Oak Creek Trail is off Ouray's ever-more-popular Perimeter Trail. Thus, our initial route was beat in and for the most part, smooth sailing. The big easy changed a little over a mile from home, at the OCT intersection. 

Oh the beauty...red cliffs and white powder
The Perimeter Trail steepens

A photo-op pause: Lovely Ouray backdropped by the Amphitheater...

No fresh tracks on the OCT
Though there was only about 6 inches of new powder over a packed base, the deep, well-worn groove of our previous trips up OCT was evident. As expected, the snow deepened with every switchback. 

Between nary a breeze, the OTC's south-facing aspect, and breaking an uphill trail, it wasn't long till we overheated and broke into a raging sweat. We stopped to peel off a couple layers. Shoulda left my long-johns at home, I groused. 

The most distant ridge to the right of center marks Imogene Pass. As with last year, it could be mid to late July before snow is cleared up there for Jeepers.

Climbing higher...another look down at Lovely Ouray. Snow was well over a foot here.

Big horn sheep tracks. Those guys love living on the edge...
To me, hiking and/or ski poles are generally a nuisance. But on this day in these conditions they served to take some of the workload off legs. There was a noticeable boost in performance and pace.  

In spite of removing layers, the workload had me drenched in sweat by the time I reached the Forest Service sign that denoted a fork in the trail. Go right for Twin Peaks Trail, hang a left for upper Oak Creek basin and "Overlook." We always go left here since taking a right a few years back that had us clinging to the snowy and icy north face of Oak Creek Canyon. FYI: You really need crampons to go right. 

What a difference a thousand feet of elevation makes. Snow depth around knee deep just beyond the sign...and about to get deeper, at one point nearing waist deep.

Almost waist deep here
That last half mile to our normal turn-around meadow took a good 30 minutes. With breathing and pulse maxed out, clothes soaking wet, I was determined to make it to the meadow below Twin Peaks...all for another photo op.

Following fresh bobcat tracks, I made a big sweeping arc across the meadow through undisturbed snow that reached above gators to knees. The bobcat, I noted, was only sinking a few inches. I saw where he scratched around on a rare patch of snowless ground under the protective shed of a large pine tree...maybe marking his territory. I took a leak too, just to let him know he'd have to share this space with a human being. 

From the meadow:  Twin Peaks left, and Little Sister right.

Time to head down. 

I found Bobbies turn-around tracks back down near the trail sign. I was pretty sure her choice of a single, skinny hiking pole without a basket wasn't serving her well or else she would have kept going on up to the meadow.

I grabbed a few more shots on the way down...never did catch up to Bobbie.

Peace out from Lovely Ouray, where I'm now counting down the days till we can resume hiking in more oppositional desert places, where the weather better suits my wardrobe.  
Mark and Bobbie


  1. I will have to try this trail ... after the snow melts!

  2. Nothing could be finer than following Mark & Bobbie over snow covered trails in the Ouray Basin on this beautiful January day.

    Thanks for sharing those beautiful photos M&B.

    D &A

  3. great pictures of a winter setting, viewed from my camper in Rockport Texas.


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