On the trail: Taste of spring on Avalanche Creek
November 2, 2009
CARBONDALE – Winter is a season, and a frame of mind, I need to ease into slowly.
Snow and cold are conditions I’m the least likely to embrace gracefully, unlike, say, an unexpected balmy day in early spring.
So, I headed up the Avalanche Creek Trail south of Carbondale last weekend for a dose of winter wonderland. The landscape was picturesque – the creek still gurgling but snow frosting the trees and a few inches of soft snow covering the trail.
I might add that I was hesitant to drive down the snow-packed, slick road to the trailhead. I wasn’t sure what kind of shape it would be in by the time I returned, and I wasn’t anxious to get stuck way down at what I figured would be an empty Avalanche Campground in my snow tire-less car. The trail begins at the far end of the campground.
I walked the length of the road, which was longer than I remembered. It took me 50 minutes just to reach the trailhead, including a tricky crossing of Bulldog Creek on the way. I stepped on a frozen pillow of slush, sitting atop what I presumed was an unseen boulder in the rushing creek, to get across. The prospect of getting back across on my return trip gave me only slight hesitation.
There was one vacant, hunting base camp at the campground and I didn’t encounter a soul on the trail.
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A beautiful hike under bluebird skies did little to induce winterlust, though. The day warmed up so quickly, the trees were raining down melted snow and occasional splats of slush landed on my baseball cap. By the time I turned to head back, the snow was giving way to occasional patches of mud on the trail and, elsewhere, my footprints were filling with water.
The snowy road of that morning had turned to slush and mud. My crossing point at the creek was looking seriously iffy. I put a foot down on what I hoped was a solid spot and lunged for the far bank just before the entire pile of slush (which turned out to be overhanging mostly air), sloughed down the creek.
All in all, if felt more like the onset of spring than winter.