First day of snowshoeing for the season. 2 feet of pristine powder. Picturesque, wintry views. A rotting elk carcass. Dog vomit.
This captures the essence of our Sunday afternoon snowshoeing trudge around the West Mamm Trailhead about 20 minutes southeast of Rifle. It’s an interesting drive to the trailhead as you pass old ranches, beautiful mesas and mountains in the distance, and see a landscape dotted with natural gas well/drilling areas. A controversial part of what drives the economy in many regions like Garfield County.
Lately, it’s been bitter cold so the motivation to stop hunkering under a blanket and our small furnace known as Petey has been lower than usual. Fortunately, Sunday was sunny and clear, making a prime opportunity for snowshoeing. Nathan hiked this trail to North Mamm Peak over the summer and we visited in the fall for some gorgeous foliage thanks to all the Aspen tree stands. We’ve never visited in the winter and were welcomed with a plowed in entrance to the trailhead (3 feet of snow). It appeared a jeep had traversed the area semi-recently, but this made for difficult hiking (but a great cardio workout!) Backcountry snowshoes might be a useful investment.
In the non-snowy months, this is a steep hike that lacks signage in some spots, but provides for some amazing views in a low usage area. “North Mamm Peak is the highest point on Battlement Mesa. It rises about ten miles southwest of Rifle, and is located in the White River National Forest. North Mamm Peak itself is really nothing more than a steep rocky outcropping rising about 300’ above the surrounding terrain. Boulder fields encircle the peak. It has a prominence of 2,451’, and an isolation of 21.2 miles.” Full details at SummitPost. There’s another route accessible from the Battlement Mesa side that we hear people skin up, so we might try exploring that area in the coming weeks.
Unfortunately, Petey was not gracefully built with the legs of a gazelle, so his experience was less than ideal. He enjoyed tromping through the deep parts for awhile, but quickly ran out of steam. We gave up on snowshoeing and turned around as soon as we came across (read: smelled) rotting elk parts left behind by hunters not far from the trailhead. Ack! Petey was ready to hurl his little body through the snow so he could have his way with the carcass, but we nabbed him in time. I don’t want to imagine how horrifying it would have been attempting to retrieve our dog from the elk parts.
The (silent but deadly) dog vomiting episode in the car on the ride back was the cherry on top of the fail sundae. On a positive note, we spent time in the outdoors romping together. Better days ahead!