COALBANK PASS, COLO. -- The crunching tromp of my snowshoes features a sort of reggae backbeat. The loose back of the snowshoe scrunches an echo through the utterly quiet pines and snow. I parked my rental Jeep on the top of Coalbank Pass, just over 10,000 feet between Durango and Silverton.
Snowshoes are like tennis raquets. No longer big wooden contraptions. I strap the light aluminum snowshoes around my boots, throw on a packback with some food and water and tromp off. I soon confront a huge dropoff and, despite the snowshoe tracks that seems to scale this cliff, I double back and take a less steep route, tromping and crunching through snow-dusted pines, grabbing views of peaks and valleys balnketed with thick, fresh snow.
After about an hour, I throw down my jacket and just sit in a snowbank and take the photo on the right. The clouds dance and a few chickadees flit past. I tromp back to the rent-a-Jeep and drive north to Molas Pass, pull over again and head toward little Molas Lake. I run into my first human contact -- an old guy who hiked up Bear Mountain with his golden retreiver and his downhill skis. As I pet the dog, Boddie, I ask how far to the lake. He tells me I went the wrong way. I thank him and trudge on, a steady uphill climb that has me sweating and breathing hard. Heck, it's 11,000 feet. But jaw-dropping gorgeous.
In just over two hours, I see five people, including Karen and David Jensen of Grand Junction. They drove down through the San Juan Mountain Range, through Ouray and beneath lucious robin egg's blue skies, to visit their son at Fort Lewis College.It's his birthday and they'll take him downhill skiing tomorrow. But first, they will cross-country ski through this valley. Enjoy the day, Karen and David.