North Through the Jaws of Snowmass Canyon on the Rio Grande Nordic Trail

North Through the Jaws of Snowmass Canyon

on the

Rio Grande Nordic Trail

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Mt Sopris, CO

Mt. Sopris

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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Today’s tour glides 100 percent downhill from the old whistle-stop of ‘Gerbaz’ and funnels us through the towering gates of majestic Snowmass Canyon.

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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The Great January Drought has certainly taken its toll since our last visit of January 15th, twelve days prior.

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Rio Grande Rail-Bed Trail, Nordic, Woody Creek CO by MARTIN COONEY

Thursday, January 15, 2015

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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A few dozen feet beyond the rail-cars things begin to look markedly better. Amazingly so. For one thing, no one seems to have stepped foot on the track since it was groomed the previous day, as witnessed on my previous blog. And so, wow… “how lovely”. Here we go !

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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Not a hundred yards down the tracks however… what’s all this ?

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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Tufts of hair, embedded in the snow. No footprints. Not much evidence of anything in actual fact. Just this hair strewn about and the obvious impressions of beasts having lain upon the frozen snow. So, they were obviously here at night. Last night to be precise.

In Part Two of this tour these innocent looking tufts are to serve as crucial evidence as to just exactly what did transpire, right here, during the frozen pitch dark dead of night. And the results I’m afraid are definitely NOT for the squeamish.

However with daylight burning and miles of gorgeous track ahead there’s no time at this point to waste dwelling on such matters.

Onwards, and downwards !

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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Day old first tracks.

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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Down, down, down we go. At times barely perceptible it is indeed however all reliably, steadily, sublimely, gently downhill.

A glide, a slide, and an all-around luxuriant ride.

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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Top, top-notch grooming !

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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As we enter the mouth of the gorge one or two driveways appear, but each is >just< passable without having to de-ski.

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 Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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In through the eye of the needle we thread.

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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Around the old raised track bed.

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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We hop over the deserted road…

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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…and push off into another world.

Not a mark is there to be found in the immaculately groomed snow.

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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I love to find these little paw prints accompanying me along the way. I always picture a little fox, as there are so many around these parts, running along, grateful as am I for the simple ease of it all.

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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An incredible variety of people share the neighborhood, from all walks of life, and all manner of incomes. A credit to all concerned in my opinion.

Along its entire length through the canyon the trail glides side-by-side with the old highway; which could of course prove problematic, but in this particular case ‘Lower River Road’, due to its 35 mph limit, is usually found as languid, tame and deserted as to be practically devoid of vehicular traffic.

These days 99.99 percent of traffic is corralled along the Highway’s 82’s concrete corridor perched along the shady left hand edge of the canyon, as pictured in the photo above. If indeed you can’t see it then its because for most of its length it lays hidden behind a broad belt of mature trees. We still hear the noise though, but as pointed out in my previous post, if ever there was a Nordic ski run to get your playlist just right this is it. With it’s many long stretches of blissful driveway-free skiing, its views, the river, the mountains, the simple plain rugged Western beauty of it all,  I can’t think of a place I would rather be (and we haven’t even mentioned the eagles yet), on a Colorado ‘Bluebird’ Deep Winter’s Day.

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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And now, on through the gates, and we’re in. In for a treat that is.

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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The canyon opens up as the Wild West puts on a show as we merrily glide along – eyes fixed upwards as the jagged peaks loom ever closer.

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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And then, just like that… oh no, into the shadow of the valley I will surely not go. It was the same story at the other end yesterday when I skied south up the valley and ran headlong into the same pocket of darkness:

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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Its not far, I’m sure, from my turn around point yesterday, pictured above, and its equivalent today, but with it’s super-early-afternoon shadow keeping temperatures no doubt pretty chilly in there I’m more curious than ever to discover the frozen ice-scapes held within.

As mentioned previously I really am very familiar with the canyon, including this little section, but taking to Nordic skis has cast an entire new light upon a valley I have called home now for over eleven years.

If you wold like to follow my Cross-Country exploits so far simply click on the Rogue Carver on Skis category in the Travel drop down tab at the top of the page, or simply click right here.

I’ll be back to see what lies within the Snowmass Canyon’s frozen belt. And so will you should you, if you haven’t already, chose to click the ‘follow’ button. wink 

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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The sun as it disappears behind the imposing, near vertical Western Wall.

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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Most certainly time to flip the skis around and retrace our tracks.

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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I’ll be back with Part Two, ‘Escape From the Jaws of Snowmass Canyon’ very shortly. One pertinent reminder though – and I kid you not, the conclusion of Part Two is most certainly NOT recommended for the squeamish. Yep, the facts of life bite hard tomorrow here on martincooney.com.

While I see no evidence of harmony I can testify to having witnessed many examples of nature’s innate balance, and tomorrow’s episode appears to me as further evidence of the sheer brutality of it all, as we will discover when the mystery of the tufted fur is well and truly resolved.

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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And now

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Here’s the slideshow

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Until next time, thanks for stopping by. See you soon.

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Lord Byrom in Albanian Dress

Μ ∀ ℜ † i ∩

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