Greeley guide to winter: Moffat Tunnel offers place to go for first time snowshoers | MyWindsorNow.com

Greeley guide to winter: Moffat Tunnel offers place to go for first time snowshoers

I've been drawn to outdoor sports and adventure my entire life, but it was never the thrill of it all that attracted me.

Sure, adrenaline plays a part but not the biggest part.

For me, there's something about sharing an incredible experience with others that makes the early mornings, the cold days and the hundred-mile drives worth all the effort.

Some are past and present roommates. Others are friends of friends who've become dear to me.

I didn't know any of the six women before I moved to Greeley about a year-and-a-half ago, but now they feel like family.

Even though some of us have scattered to Fort Collins, Arvada, Texas and, soon, Italy, they're the people I want on my adventures.

Recommended Stories For You

So we planned a snowshoeing trip.

I'd never been snowshoeing, partly because I felt guilty for not using my ski pass every possible weekend and partly because I didn't know how and never asked anyone to teach me.

I'd been looking for a chance to try it after some readers told me to write about it. Those same readers said they'd try cross-country skiing out if I tried snowshoeing, so I hope to hold them to it.

We hit the road and headed toward Moffat Tunnel, Gilpin County Road 16, Rollinsville. We started at the Moffat Tunnel trailhead, also known as the East Portal Trailhead.

Maud Darger, the most experienced snowshoer in our group, picked the place. She'd been there before and she told us it was a popular trail but not too crowded. It's free to park too.

That sounded good to us.

We started at the trailhead and strapped on our snowshoes. It was much easier than I expected. It's better to go in tall, waterproof boots, but I did just fine in my regular hiking boots strapped into the snowshoes.

The parking lot is deceptively windy. It's known for being blustery most the time. As much as I love winter sports, I hate being uncomfortably cold. Those who rode in my car, including myself, agreed we'd be fine with trying it another day if it didn't let up.

Almost as soon as we hit the trail, we found respite from the wind in the trees.

We followed the main trail for a while, getting a feel for how to walk.

I needed the practice.

I clumsily crashed through fresh powder tripped over myself a couple times. The snowshoes made my feet feel huge, and it took some practice to make the proper stride. I felt like a puppy with those too-big paws.

I wasn't alone, though. Each of us took some kind of embarrassing fall into the fluffy powder, but we shrugged it off by laughing at each other.

Every now and then, someone would get pegged with a snowball after cracking a joke or singing with too much gusto.

We spent a couple hours in the trees exploring. It was sunny and warm that day, but globs of snow still clung to branches from a recent dusting. The branches sagged under the weight.

We started on the trail. There were people there, but it wasn't packed. Once we got started, the traffic thinned out. We didn't stick to the trail. We broke off and went our own way, hiking up into the trees and through the powder.

Once we did, we were alone.

It was safe to go off trail. We had a general sense of how to connect back up to the main trail and if there had been an issue, people around us would have heard us holler.

We crossed a small, frozen river and a couple clearings. We crouched down to pass low hanging branches. It was more challenging to break through the fresh powder than it was to follow the stomped down trail in the beginning, but it added to the feeling of adventure.

We didn't have a destination in mind when we set out and didn't end up at any official stopping point. We hiked until we got tired and decided to head down.

Part of the fun was exploring a new place without a designated stopping point. By carving out our own path, we weren't following anyone else's. It felt like we were the first to ever see such a place, since our tracks were the only ones around. Of course, that's not true. It's a well-traveled area but it's possible to find yourself alone, carving out your own adventure.

There were peaceful quiet moments where each of us stood marveling at the pristine, untouched beauty we witnessed. There were moments, too, where we connected back with another trail and said hello to cross-country skiers and their dogs.

By the end of the hike, I'd figured out how to walk properly. I had to remember to keep a little wider of a stance so I didn't kick myself. It helped to walk normally, which was weird since a big contraption was attached to my foot, but overthinking it made it worse. If I started slipping, I dug in with the little metal claws at the front of the snowshoe. Eventually I figured it out by just going and seeing what worked.

It might have gone better if I brought poles along for balance, but I didn't know about that and managed without them just fine.

Now that I have a better grasp of how shoeshoeing works, I'd like to return and take on some longer, more difficult trails that branch of from the East Portal Trailhead, like the South Boulder Creek Trail and the Forest Lakes Trail. Both are popular for ski and snowshoe treks to alpine lakes. Both are about four miles one-way and get more difficult as you go.

This time, we had a blast exploring with no destination in mind. We had a good laugh and got to catch up. We may not have summited any mountains to finished an intense trail, but we had fun.

For me, that's what it's all about.

— Kelly Ragan writes on adventure for The Greeley Tribune. Have a tip? Want to share your story? Call (970) 392-4424, email kragan@greeleytribune.com or connect on Instagram @kelly_raygun.

Path of the month

What is it: Snowshoeing

Where is it: Moffat Tunnel, Co Rd 16, Rollinsville near Nederland at the East Portal Trailhead.

How long is it?: Trail lengths vary. Hikes can last anywhere from 2 hours to all day.

Is there a fee?: No

For more information on conditions: Go to http://bit.ly/2ksUHuO

Hiking tip of the month: Get your friends together, go on an adventure and reconnect