McGregor Mountain Blog

Hidden Valley Skiing!

March 20, 2016

We just got a nice little spring dump here in the High Country around the lodge. About a foot, give or take. I’ve been telling myself that I’m going to get out ‘this week’ to get my first turns of the season in. Well, I’ve been saying this for about 5 months… I just kept running, which is my pastime of choice here in the mountains. The trails have been in incredible shape for most of the winter so have managed  to keep running in the park since the snow started flying. Plus, training for a 100k trail race that was in January made it easy to choose time on the trail over time on the sticks.

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Cruising on up…

I finally made it out with my skis last Friday! I just couldn’t stay away… a fresh foot of snow and a very rare ‘free’ Friday morning! The perfect recipe! I planned on getting up pretty early to be able to get back and get some work done, but a wee hours visit from our youngest daughter made the early alarm pretty easy to shut off and drift back into a deep sleep!

I did eventually get up, enjoy some coffee by a crackling fire, and round up my dust covered ski gear. In short order I was clicking into my bindings and skiing uphill into the heart of Hidden Valley. I quickly realized how running shape doesn’t translate into skiing shape! Whoa! I was expecting to move a bit quicker, but I’m used to running shoes and a small bottle of water. The skis, boots, bindings, liter of water, extra layers, etc, were definitely weighing me down and my weak legs were protesting pretty hard! I just pushed through, got a good sweat going and cranked my way up!

I made it up to Trail Ridge Road in about 35 minutes and the pushed to the top of the bowl in another 27 minutes. I was pretty proud of myself! “Ok, that wasn’t too bad!” “Just over an hour… hey, I may be a skier after all!” Well, the one and only Tommy Caldwell sure burst my bubble! (click on his name – he’s kind of a big deal).

Standing shin deep in the kiddie pool for a birthday party at the Estes Park Aquatic Center, watching our kiddos play, we swapped stories about our day in Hidden Valley (Tommy had been up earlier that morning). He told me that he can go from door to door, yes, of his house in Estes, in 1:20! And the record for the ascent on Hidden Valley is like 25 minutes! Well dang. Ok… so I guess I need to do this more!

I caught my breath with some grand views of the valley below. Ripped off my skins, tightened up my boots, and started the descent. This is the fun part! It was like floating down the mountain… wonderful conditions and a true joy! The good thing about Hidden Valley, for not-so-talented skiers like myself, is that the terrain is pretty moderate… Easy Black if you were at a resort. I took my time, enjoyed the views and the freedom of those sweet turns.

Up, up, up!

It took maybe 15 minutes to get back to the car and I was taking it quite easy. After all, I worked so hard to get up there I wasn’t just going to race back down… I was there to enjoy it! I saw dear friend, and local infamous photographer, Erik Stensland, about a quarter mile from the parking lot, so we stopped a few minutes for a nice little chat. Then it was back to the car and back to the lodge, feeling good and satisfied!

Being that it was so much harder for me than expected, it gave me a bit of resolve to get back out there more often. It can only make me stronger and each time will get even more enjoyable as my ski fitness gets better and I get my systems dialed in!

If you want to give it a shot here are a couple of great resources:

Alpine Touring Ski Rentals: Estes Park Mountain Shop
Guided Ski Trips in RMNP: Colorado Mountain School – Guide Mike Lewis

Happy Trails!

Michael

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Snow Day at McGregor!

February 2, 2016

Sitting here on this Tuesday afternoon I can’t help but be thankful for this special little corner of Colorado’s Northern Mountains. We got a huge dumping of snow over the past 24 hours and it’s still lightly coming down. The morning was spent plowing and shoveling for our few midweek guests. Brat and Sven, our resident elk, have been down all day napping in front of the Columbine Cottages and the birds have been active in search of anything not covered in almost 2 feet of fresh snow. I even spotted a woodpecker trying to break open an exposed pine cone around lunch time.

The fire is roaring in the lobby and I just finished going through some of the pics I took this morning trying to figure out which ones to share. It’s always nice to show the scenes here at the lodge to those who don’t have the good fortune to be here. We hope you enjoy and we hope to see you soon!

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elk-1Click on photos to make them larger.

One of the most special times of year is upon us here in the high country! Estes Park is known for the massive numbers of elk that call the valley home. They wonder around among the residents and tourist and remind us that they called this magnificent place home well before we did as they take ownership of the land and let us know that they rule! Every autumn the large bulls gather their harems and put on quite the display of bugling and sparing with rival bulls. It’s a yearly ritual for beast and man alike. When the elk get going we like to flock to our preferred viewing spots to watch this spectacular show unfold.

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This past Sunday I took the family along and we drove through Rocky Mountain National Park to see where the elk were gathered. It didn’t take long and we found several harems in Beaver Meadows and in Moraine Park. We took our time and enjoyed the sights and sound stopping near Moraine Park Campground to get out and watch a couple of large bulls bugle back and forth warning the other of their dominance and stature in the presence of their many lady friends. It was awesome!

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We enjoyed the cool and dramatic evening for about an hour before heading back to the car and making our way back into town for a good meal and some good ole family time. It was a prefect fall evening and one we plan to enjoy over and over again before this magical season winds down.

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Brat enjoying the summer tundra

Brat enjoying the summer tundra

We get asked often during these summer months if Brat is around the property. We normally don’t see too many elk here during the summer season as they love being up in the alpine when the weather is nice and the grass is green. It’s no wonder as we do the same thing! As the trails and the tundra open up in the higher elevations of Rocky Mountain National Park with the melting of the previous winter’s snow, we get up there as often as we can to enjoy the cool weather, the grand vistas, the wildflower, and to simply take advantage of being in such a special and unique landscape.

In order to find the elk herds we send folks up for a drive along Trail Ridge Road and it seldom disappoints. We had some friends in town from Texas and decided to take them up the iconic road to see what we could see! We poked along, stopping at all of the sites, made it to the Alpine Visitor Center, and as we were heading back we noticed a crowd around a huge bull laying in the tundra grasses near Rock Cut. As we were driving by the bull turned his head and Brat’s unmistakable left ear revealed itself so I found a spot to park and went up to say hello!

He was just hanging out and didn’t mind the crowds he was garnering. Every few minutes he’d reach his neck out and snip off a few flowers for a nice snack. He must of wanted a bit more of a feed so stood up and ambled around the gentle tundra slopes filling his belly on the fresh mountain goodness up there. We watched him for about 15 minutes and then made our way back towards town for some grub ourselves.

Crowds enjoying Brat.

Crowds enjoying Brat.

So when you’re up there taking in the views and watching with wildlife, keep an eye out for Brat! He’s certainly around! Soon Autumn will set in up high and the tundra foliage will turn a rusty gold as the elk start to move down to lower elevations in preparation of breeding season. Summer is fleeting in the high country, so get up there and enjoy every second of it! Brat sure seems to be.

Brat

Brat

Grazing on some tasty flowers.

Grazing on some tasty flowers.

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The New Hire

October 31, 2014

The other day, Chris was filming a little blurb about what a nice day we were having, talking about the elk, etc… when he noticed something moving up on the mountainside above the lodge. Turns out it was a Sasquatch. After the shock wore off and we were able to asses the situation, we came to find out that Sammy, as he calls himself, was simply looking for a job. We know times are hard for these guys as Squatch discrimination is at an all time high. We decided to give him a chance… let us know if you think he’ll work out or if we should cut ties and let him go.

 

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