The situation was dire. If I didn’t get out into the mountains, I was going to go stark, gibbering mad. This semester has been busy to say the least and any family with an active three-year-old doesn’t have a lot of spare sanity to begin with. Every time I think I’m running at 100% capacity, life turns up the volume another notch. I’ll spare you the details, but during the second week of February, life was a particularly loud.
Fortunately for everyone, I managed to find a half-day with nothing that had to be taken care of instantly, so I snuck out for some backcountry time. In the grand scheme of things, a backcountry ski trip from Eldora (the ski area) to Yankee Doodle (the lake) and back via Jenny Creek (the creek) would rate as a footnote at best in a season of bigger adventures. But these are not normal times and I’ve learned to appreciate the little things.
It really wasn’t anything all that exciting, but it was still 100% glorious and therapeutic. The Jenny Creek trail starts somewhat ambiguously just outside the ski area boundary and proceeds up and over the low ridge at the east end of the ridge on which the ski runs reside. I’d brought my mid-weight skis (leather boots, mid-fat-but-light touring skis), not really knowing what I’d find. I plodded past some skate skiers feeling very out of place, then skinned directly up the left edge of the bunny slope past a couple dozen moppets on the magic carpet (ditto). Leaving the in-bounds terrain, I ascended a bit more through sunny woods, then dropped down a long, south-facing traverse into the Jenny Creek valley itself.
Back here, there was ample snow and it was just steep enough that wax wasn’t really cutting it for traction. After a couple iterations of waxing during which my skis ended up coated from tip to tail in a good coat of Extra Blue, I finally gave up and slapped my skins back on for the long climb. A single set of tracks made the going easy, but didn’t spoil the sense of wilderness. The trail climbed steadily through peaceful forest until I eventually broke into some open glades with cloud-and-snow obscured views of the minor peaks around Rollins Pass.
Knowing I must be close, to the Rollins Pass Road (a nice, definite destination which would further help in the psychotherapy), I pressed on for half an hour past my turn-around time. Here the weather was definitely worse with wind and blowing snow. I skinned up some mellow bowls searching for the road and Yankee Doodle Lake. Eventually, the road appeared (or at least a couple of road signs buried up to their necks in blown powder and I found a broad depression hemmed in by steep walls that I took to be the lake.
A brief break to switch to downhill mode and have lunch and I was on the way back down. Ah, now this was more like it! The climb up was steady aerobic work (which has its own charms), but the trip down was pure effortless bliss! The slope was steep enough that I didn’t have to expend much energy, but gentle enough I could scoot along without having to check myself.
Too soon I reached the effective bottom of Jenny Creek and had to climb back up to the ski area. The first half of the slope proved not too bad with just wax, and I just booted the final four tenths of a mile. One final schuss down to the groomed runs and I was making some half-hearted tele turns amongst the moppets in the bright mountain sun.
Mission accomplished! Jenny Creek was a very nice ski, though hardly spectacular. But it was exactly what I needed after six weeks of nose-to-multiple-grindstones. Sometimes you need to take a break from the work to make the work not break you.