Early November was unbelievably warm. It almost felt as if Fall would never end, which no one really complained about. The days were warm and invited all to explore another hill or trail, which might not have been so inviting in other circumstances. However, there is always that voice in the back of our heads, wondering where the snow is....
Then at last, Mother Nature sighed, and covered the entire state in a blanket of fresh, white snow. The beautiful thing about Colorado is that it will snow for a day or two, altering the landscape dramatically, then the sun will return to glisten on the fresh new world of winter. The urge to be out, in this fresh new world is almost overwhelming at times, and finally I was able to escape for a few hours to stretch my ski legs and taste the beauty of winter in the San Juan Mountains.
Before heading out, I went online and checked the weather, and trail conditions in Ironton Park. The weather promised a beautiful late morning adventure.
I checked the Ouray Nordic Council website and Facebook page to confirm what friends had already told me: the trails had not yet been groomed, however a lot of folks had been out already, so I wouldn't have to actually break trail.
I then headed down to Ouray Mountain Sports to rent some skis. As always, they were extremely friendly and helpful. Once again, I was informed the trails were not groomed, but in excellent condition. I love to call or visit this shop for the most up to date information on trails and safety. After confirming where I planned to ski both at the shop and at the Box Canyon Lodge, it was time to drive nine miles up Red Mountain Pass to the entrance of Ironton Park. It never ceases to amaze me what a beautiful drive this is!
Because I had not been out yet this year, and I am not a great skier to begin with, I chose the Townsite Loop. This trail gently follows the hillside into the old Ironton Townsite, then travels back along the highway to the parking area. Ironton is filled with a variety of trails both for cross country skiing and snow shoeing, and today, as I slowly regained confidence in my skis, I followed both tracks into the woods.
The silence of the world, marred only by a slight swoosh as my skis slid through the tracks, and the distant calls of animals or the occasional whisper of snow falling from the upper branches of trees, enveloped me in a sense of peace as I took my time, stopping to snap a picture, or just gaze at the mountains around me.
The first glimpse of Ironton is always a surprise. Of course, all along the trail, there are signs of what was once a relatively large community, but, skiing into the section with homes still standing, some look as if they are only waiting for their people to light a fire and stay. Trails lead to the doorways, and it is only natural to peer inside, and wonder what it must have been like to live here, imagining the place with men, women and children - working and playing on the paths between buildings. It is fascinating to stand in the center of town, and imagine all of the wonderful terrible adventures that must have happened here.
Returning to my car, I was met by some of the volunteer members of the Nordic Council, as they began the process of grooming the trails. The silence was cut by the sound of snowmobiles, and friendly greetings, as they drove up and down, packing the snow for a smoother journey. I had to laugh at their smiling faces, as they sped through the park, seems like a pretty awesome job, if you ask me! When I got back to town, it seemed only fitting to relax fro a few minutes in one of our all natural hot spring tubs....the best way to ensure you aren't too sore after the first ski of the year!