South From the Jaws of Snowmass Canyon

South from the Jaws of Snowmass Canyon

on the

Rio Grande Nordic Trail

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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Yesterday’s abrupt about turn as the sun dipped behind the great Western Wall of Snowmass Canyon’s southern portal triggered the reverse, and it must be said, uphill, journey back to the car – legally and safely parked at a small trail-head parking lot a short step from the retro rail-cars and rusting locomotive shed of the former Gerbaz whistle-stop ↓

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

Gerbaz

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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From the previous post’s somewhat abrupt turn around point we head south out of the gorge and up valley towards Woody Creek and the City of Aspen.

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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However lovely it was to glide all the way downhill on the first leg of our tour it really doesn’t seem very uphill going the other way.

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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It does, as always, give a different perspective on things when heading in the reverse direction.

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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At last I meet another human being in the form of a jogger… who left his calling card in the form of newly laid footsteps in the corduroy. Nice chap, wearing smile as wide as my own, I assume.

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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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It’s a shame in a way that we have to bypass the old raised track-bed, but when seen without its blanket of snow this little section serves (at least to my mind) as a sort of living museum to the men who lived and died building this and the many thousands of railroads stretching around the globe. The thin grey, straight line in the above picture indicates the rail laying just below the snow’s crusty surface, and really doesn’t take much imagination to see a thunderous great steam engine rumbling down the track.

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

X Crossing

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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At the far end of the raised section when regaining our coveted position directly upon the rail-bed the point is marked by the 30.5 mile marker from Glenwood Springs at the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Colorado Rivers.

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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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It’s a bit sticky in places, but hey, we’re in no rush.

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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OK, so its really sticky in places, but really, its no big deal.

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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Who could be in a hurry at a time, and in a place such as this?

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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Eventually I found myself back at the scene of the outward journey’s great mystery, as covered in my previous post – that of the thick tufts, or clumps, of animal hair pressed into the snow.

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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Once again I found my curiosity piqued. No footprints, and so the pack were here in the frozen dead of night – coyotes presumably. Stepping out of my skis once again I tried to take an objective view of the scene in order to get a picture of just what might have occurred. It was only then that I noticed the gaping evidence I had missed on the outward leg.

Now, at this point it may be well for those who are squeamish about such things to avert their eyes as the scene becomes gruesome indeed. Just why were these wild dogs lounging so lazily upon the carpet of freshly groomed snow ? Well, you can’t say that you haven’t been warned !

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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As I stepped back to view the situation I caught a glimpse over my shoulder of a scene of utter cruel and barbaric carnage..

Not a drop of blood was to be seen, not a bone or scrap of meat, just the harrowing remains of what appears to be a mother deer and her young offspring. Clearly they had been ambushed and devoured on the spot. The carcasses were so new and so secluded in fact that their presence had not announced itself felt to the valley’s vast population of crows, buzzards and assorted scavenger birds for there was no sign of their attendant droppings.

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Deer remains, Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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Deer remains, Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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I know, ‘life feeds on life’, but all the same, it’s a pretty sorry scene when stumbled upon in such a manner, particularly when the victims have most likely at one point strolled through the Colorado Rocky Mountain Sculpture Garden.

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Deer Family Passing Through the Sculpture Garden, Sunday December 28, 2014, 3:04 to 3:17 PM

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Deer Family Passing Through the Sculpture Garden, Sunday December 28, 2014, 3:04 to 3:17 PM

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Deer Family Passing Through the Sculpture Garden, Sunday December 28, 2014, 3:04 to 3:17 PM

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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Its all very sad, its also all very necessary. Life may feed on life, but life… goes on. The coyote pack will howl a good deal less for a while, the flighted deer pack will reassemble, and I will keep vigil for my dear little deer family. I’ll let you know how that works out.

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Rio Grande Railbed Trail, Snowmass Canyon, CO

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A dramatic ending to the day’s tour but a poignant one all the same. For lest we forget just how wild, ferocious and unforgiving nature is we owe it to ourselves to get to the places whereby the reminders are far from subtle.

I have hiked, biked and ran my way across countless miles of wilderness, field and farmland, marsh and mountain, but I have to say that I have found nothing to compare with the experience of gliding through the landscape clipped into a pair of Nordic skis. The freedom to examine the world as it glides by has come as something of a revelation these past few weeks. Never during the decade I have just spent downhilling had I imagined it would be so fun to ski the flat land. But now I am a fervent advocate of the sport.

If you haven’t already, and you are in a position to, I strongly suggest you give Nordic skiing a try, particularly if you should find yourself in this neck of the woods. Pitkin County boasts 150 kilometers of Nordic trails and the majority of them connect various points within the upper Roaring Fork Valley, Woody Creek, Aspen and Snowmass amongst them, and so I intend to ski every metric mile of the system before the winter is through. Should you decide to come along you can do so simply by clicking one of my follow buttons – you should find them located near the top of your page.

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time now for the slideshow

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Thanks for taking the time to read this. I realize artist bios are conventionally written in the third person but I simply cannot bring myself to do it. As this is my blog, and not a gallery, I feel it more appropriate to use my own voice when writing, and just as it would be odd if I referred to myself in the third person when in conversation, I simply feel more at ease writing my bio using my own voice; it is after all me writing this, not a third person. I hope you will understand and appreciate the reasoning for my decision. Cheers! Martin

“Thanks, and bye until next time.”

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