There was a fair number of cars at the winter gate when we arrived, mostly cyclists heading up the car-free road. We started along the trail and the good news was that it wasn't as muddy as expected because the wet ground areas were still mostly frozen, however we were introduced to the theme of the early part of the trip- lots of ice patches which prompted some to put on their traction devices. When the trail started to climb and was more open amongst the aspens it was mostly just dry trail. Time for a picture of the shining mountains to the west:
Blue sky and mountain views to start
After ascending the west end of Long Prairie Ridge we were back in the evergreen forest and the ice reasserted itself, especially on the northerly aspect descents:
icy trail / luge run on Death Valley trail
Those without traction devices had to parallel the trail through the snowy forest and there were still a trio of slip-falls; none were incident-worthy. Once in the open meadows there was little snow and we went some distance before deciding to cut the loop short and head cross country to the Windy Point Trail. This resulted in that Rambler specialty, a longer than expected bushwhack including a section of blowdown and some milling about which I'll call "routefinding". When we did reach the trail it turned out to be a nice sunny lunch spot with no wind, occasionally serenaded by a grouse. From there the trail was mostly snowy, not icy, so we made good time up to the Foran Grade junction:
At the Foran Grade Jct., still sunny
The climb up to the ridge was mostly ice-free and we had time for an extensive snack/nap/view break where a mini-thermometer measured +16C and felt positively summery with the warm sun:
Lolling Ramblers along Foran Grade trail
We did start seeing other hikers along this section of trail and could see lots of cyclists on the road below. The descent was a more slushy than icy, and dry in the open areas. The walk back along the closed highway had lots of walkers and bike riders returning to the rather busy gate area where there were many cars parked along the highway and side roads. A GPS measured 13.8 km & ~420m e-gain.
Thanks to everybody for joining me on such a fine day to visit the mountains, participants were: Rosanne, Philip, Ron C/S/P, Barbara, Photini, Douglas, Brenda, Douglas, David.
Fauna report... along Hwy 546: 2 redtail hawks, 1 northern harrier, 1 rogue cow (outside the barbed wire), one herd of mule deer crossing the road
On the trail: 1 white tail deer abounding, 1 ruffed grouse, many robins, a bluebird, a wren heard and seen from afar, a few romantically-inclined grouse heard a'drumming. Butterflies were about and not a tick was seen- maybe focussing on the sheep?.
Flora report: not a flower to be seen yet.