We had a bit of fresh snowfall in Colorado last week, so I headed up to the mountains again on my every-other-Friday-off to give my new snowshoes another chance to show me their stuff. This time there was plenty of snow, no rocky spots along the way, and I even got to blaze a trail in fresh powder for a bit… a first for me.
Friday’s destination was Mayflower Gulch, which I last visited in the winter a little over two years ago and in the summer in 2009. It’s one of my favorite Colorado hikes in either season.
As I pulled into the parking lot at the trailhead, I was a bit dismayed to see a very large group of very enthusiastic teenagers heading up the trail on what looked to be a school cross-country skiing field trip. Moments later, while I was taking my time getting my gear together to give the group a big head start, a truck pulled into the lot hauling a trailer with four snowmobiles. So much for quiet and solitude, two of the reasons why I go to the mountains on Fridays instead of on weekends.
I started thinking that maybe I should consider an alternate destination, but I soon discovered that the snowmobiles were part of a Mountain Rescue team that was setting up for a training exercise on Saturday. Knowing that a Mountain Rescue team was heading to the same place I was going was quite comforting, so I let it slide. And one of the guys actually approached me to forewarn me that they would be passing me on the trail in a little bit and apologized ahead of time for the noise. Sweet.
The route up Mayflower Gulch follows an old wagon road that gradually ascends from 10, 980 feet at the parking lot to 11,560 feet at the first set of cabins. Views along the trail for much of the way are somewhat limited to snow-covered Engleman spruce and subalpine fir trees, with only occasional glimpses of ridges and peaks to the east and south. The ruins of a log building and an ore chute at approximately the 1-mile mark offer some diversion.
After about 2 miles, the trail emerges from the trees and the impressive cirque at the head of Mayflower Gulch appears. The remnants of a mining camp and the old Boston Mine can be found in the area, with a few peaks of the Ten Mile Range towering above it all. From what I’ve read, the Boston Mine was a not-terribly-productive gold mine and was abandoned in the early 1900s. The remaining structures and other relics are slowly succumbing to the ravages of time, nature, and human visitors.
Once I arrived at the mining camp site, the aforementioned teenagers were swarming around the ruins of the cabins, so I opted to take a detour up the ridge to the west toward Gold Hill. I was apparently the first person to take that route since the last snowfall, which was really cool.
The views from up higher were stunning.
I took the panorama above with my iPhone. Not bad, eh?
The small dark object in the bottom left of the photo above is the lower terminus of a tramway that was used to haul miners up to the entrance of the Boston Mine halfway up the mountain. Amazingly enough, the cable for the tram, which is clearly visible in the photo below, is still intact 100 years later.
Soon enough, I saw that the frolicking group of teenagers was starting to leave, so I headed back down the hill to get some photos of the cabins.
By this time, it was starting to snow and my feet were getting cold, so it seemed like a good time to head back.
If you would like to see additional photos plus a couple of videos from my Mayflower Gulch snowshoe trek, click HERE.
Snowshoe Performance Report: I love love love my new MSR Evo snowshoes!! The bindings, in particular, are stellar. Unlike with my previous pair of snowshoes, I never once had to stop to tighten the bindings and I never once worried that my snowshoes were going to fall off. They’re absolutely perfect for packed trails and even handled breaking a trail in the soft, new snow quite well (although if I’m going to do much more of that, I think I’ll spring for some flotation tails).