Sunday, February 21, 2021

A Snowy Hike to St. Mary's Glacier!

 Hey guys!

I wanted to share this really amazing day hike with you!  The location is near Idaho Springs, Colorado (about an hour outside of Denver) and you should totally add this to your "Must Do" list when visiting Colorado.  I present to you (drum roll please...and can you add one of those shaker eggs...tsss tsst tsss)...ST. MARY'S GLACIER!

I recently read this idea for a novel about a chef/blogger who was a killer.  And, she confessed to all her killings in the first couple of paragraphs of her blog, but nobody read it because they skipped right down to the recipe.  So, I shall give you the nitty gritty first, and if you want to read on about all the fluff and my personal opinions, you can.  Shall we?

First, this trailhead is about 1.5 hour or less from where I live...a glacier, guys!  A slowly sliding slab of ancient ice. How cool is that?  Second, along with water and a snack (and perhaps some other incidentals), it only costs $5 for parking.  This is what I can guarantee:

  • A thigh burning, but short spurt to the top - very rewarding
  • Panoramic views from the top - breathtaking
  • Dog-friendly venture
  • Snowboarding, sledding, and snow shoeing are totally a thing!
  • Safe-to-do solo (you will encounter other hikers frequently)
Some neat facts about St. Mary's Glacier:

  • This is not a state or national public park; it's actually privately owned land.  However, the owners seem to be pretty cool about people hiking this private area.
  • There are two amazing points of interest on this hike: St. Mary's Lake and the glacier itself.
  • St. Mary's Glacier is located at Southeast James Peak in the Arapaho National Forest.

I trekked this hike in early January of this year (in fact it was my first hike of 2021), and one thing I wish I had brought was micro-spikes.  A lot of Coloradans sport the Yak-tracks, but I've been told these do not last from season to season and it's best to get a pair of micro spikes.  On Amazon, they range from $16-60.  Simply put, these are spikes you can strap on to the bottom of your hiking boots and they prevent you busting your ass.  Any questions?

The wind was pretty fierce in January.  I have ceiling to floor windows in my domicile, and there were a few nights in January where the winds off the Rocky Mountains pounded the glass all night long.  This day was no different.  When the wind gusts started up, the powdery snow from the ground rose into a mini-blizzard.  I was so fortunate to have worn a head covering and glasses!  I have a few pics of what it looked like when the wind got going.

At the top, the vantage point increased tremendously as you gain magnificent views of the Rockies all around.  There is a gorgeous lake that was frozen solid.  Anyone with spikes or "yaks" could walk out onto the ice.  

To the lake and back is a quick 1 mile trip.  However, in Colorado, and especially if you have not yet acclimated to the thinner air at high altitudes, short distances do not always equate to easy hikes.  The elevation gain is significant - +420 feet from the trailhead to the base of the glacier (which is at the top of the mountain).  You would think you would descend to a glacier, but in fact, you're climbing up a mountain to a glacier.  If you do decide to climb the glacier - which stays frozen YEAR round, it's a 1.5 mile round-trip hike.  I did not realize you could hike the glacier and so I didn't come prepared to do that.  I plan to come back in the Summer to cool off at St. Mary's Lake and Glacier and will adventure/hike onto the glacier then with the grace of Nancy Kerrigan and the unadulterated veracity of Tonya Harding.

The landscape looks like a tundra.  Seriously, I forgot I was in Colorado!  Just look at the pics to see for yourself:

While I didn't eat snow, I did find myself side stepping on the way down because I didn't bring my poles, or my friend from Warsaw...just kidding, my hiking stability poles (again, micro spikes are effective here) .  I love snow hikes so much!  So, I'm thinking of taking up snow shoeing or cross country in the near future!  After the hike, I planned on jumping in on a retired gold mine tour in Idaho Springs.  Seriously they let you pan for gold at the end of the tour.  However, due to COVID, the tours could only take 25% capacity (because science has shown COVID is more likely to attack in dark subterranean isolated retired mines).  So, I took advantage of the rest of the afternoon's sunlight to drive around Berthoud (still have no idea how this is pronounced) and see what all this back country skiing was about.  Wow, what a beautiful drive through Colorado ski country and my all-wheel Subaru (Japanese Saab) tore it up.  Coloradans literally tail gate and cook hamburgers and ski down these mountains.  Why?  Because a seasonal ski pass costs upwards of $700!  Here you can just hike up the mountain and go down at your leisure.  The downsides:  Avalanches and, of course, no ski lifts, or $10 beers at the bar.  It's the novelty!

Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you enjoy this last bit of winter with perhaps a good book and some hot chocolate.  Speaking of, has anyone seen these new bougie hot chocolate bombs?  Apparently they're like bath bombs but for your hot cocoa.  And, they explode into marshmallow goodness?  Another, "WHYYYYY didn't I think of that?" moment!

FYI, all pictures are completely untouched and from my iPhone.  When I got to the St. Mary's Glacier trailhead, I realized I left my memory card to my Canon digital camera at home.  So, what you see is what you'll actually see if you decide to visit...(always keepin' it real).

Be good, but don't take any shit off anyone.


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