On Sunday, my 37th birthday, Christy and I ran a trail linkup that started at Maroon Lake and finished with a beer and pizza at the Snowmass Mall. Rather than find ourselves in yet another grand birthday outing that’s both physically strenuous and technically elaborate, involving multiple summits and excessive vertical gains, we opted for something a little more chill. It’s been busy lately and we’re tired. After all, as a kid I recall considering a 37 year old adult to be officially “old” so according to me (at age 10 or so), I’m now over the hill and should take it easy.
The one-way trip can be done in either direction and requires some car shuttling, but if you want to sleep in and not deal with the hassle you can take a bus to the start and another one back home from the finish. We opted for the ‘sleep in’ option so with our coffee and breakfast burritos in hand, we hopped on the tourist bus to Maroon Lake. The ride is nice, so long as you’re OK listening to the driver try to deliver value in the $6 bus ticket by sharing everything he knows about the Maroon Creek Valley. Avalanches, marmots, forests, beavers, Aspen, glaciers, flash floods, wildflowers– you name it, he covered it– with the tone of a certified expert and all in the time it takes to make the short seven mile drive.
Once through the tour, we headed up the busy trail with all of our newly gleaned knowledge of all things Maroon Creek, jogging up towards Buckskin Pass and taking the right fork off the trail(signed) up around treeline to Willow Pass. The ‘Sunday drivers’ disappear at this point. From Willow Pass, descend towards Willow Lake, and search for a faint, unsigned left hand fork which goes up to East Snowmass Pass. Many unsuspecting hikers miss this turn and wander down Willow Creek only to find themselves in heavy timber and ultimately on the private property of the T Lazy 7 Ranch. If it isn’t bad enough to spent the night out lost, you’ll also be in a mess of trouble as the ranch owner forbids anyone to be there, mistaken or not, and is often waiting with someone from the Sheriff’s department when you finally get out. Don’t miss the turn.
After finding the left turn, a short switchbacking hike uphill took us up to the pass and revealed the expansive East Snowmass Creek valley on the other side. The trail descended for 7 miles or so and lead us through meadows, wildflowers and stands of trees and with hardly another person encountered. Eventually, we came up on a sign for the Snowmass Ditch Trail which, after crossing the creek on a good log bridge, took us back to the Snowmass ski area. After finishing what we estimated to be 17 miles, the beer and slice– but particularly the beer– hit the spot.
Check it out, it’s a cool linkup.