Sandstone Ranch Fishing Report

A quick note about fishing at Sandstone Ranch. Recently I was talking to the guy behind the counter at Longmont Indoor Soccer when he mentioned he caught a nice pound or so bass at Sandstone Ranch. He even whipped out a picture on his phone. Since Josh practices and plays his home soccer games at Sandstone Ranch, I’m there pretty often. There is one small pond on the South side of the soccer fields, which I’ve fished before with only mild success (a few sunfish and very, very small bass).

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Bass caught at Sandstone Ranch, March 2016

So a couple days later I’m at one of Josh’s soccer games and wander over to the pond to try my luck. The pond is very small, maybe a hundred yards long and twenty yards wide. On the Southwest end of the pond are some reeds, and after about 10 minutes I pulled out what was probably the same fish the other guy caught and photographed. Weather was fairly warm for Spring in Colorado, and I caught the bass on a little crankbait by the reeds. I had a couple other bites in the same area, but nothing elsewhere, and didn’t land anything else in the 20 minutes I wet a line. I’ve only had success on the west bank, and never caught anything on the east bank, for whatever that’s worth in a pond that size.

Anywho, the sad part is that’s probably the nicest bass I’ve caught in the Boulder area since we moved here three years ago (Sandstone is actually in Weld County, East of Longmont).

Happy Fishing.

Colorado Weekend: Fishing, Snowboarding, Snowshoeing

This past weekend was a “why doesn’t everyone live in Colorado” weekend.

Started out Friday evening with birding for Jessica and fishing at Sawhill Ponds and Walden Ponds for me. I only caught a tiny bass, but I never catch much at Walden or Sawhill, and this trip was no exception, but as usual it’s always great to be out there.

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Fishing at Sawhill Ponds/Walden Ponds

Saturday Elijah, Jessica and I went to Eldora Mountain Resort for some snowboarding and snowshoeing. Eldora has an extensive Nordic trail system, but Jessica recently found the Jenny Creek Trail, the public snowshoe trail, so she and Elijah spent the day shoeing in the snow and the trees while I spent a couple hours snowboarding. The sky was stunning, the air was crisp, and while it wasn’t my best day, and the snow wasn’t great, I love any chance to get in the mountains.

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Clouds above Eldora Ski Resort while Snowboarding/Snowshoeing

Finally, on Sunday Jessica and I trekked up to Wild Basin in Rocky Mountain National Park. We intended to snowshoe deeper into the park, but we forgot our park pass, so we went to Wild Basin which is one of the “free” entrances to the park with no pay station (at least during Winter). The trailhead is around 8500 feet, and with the warm 2016 Winter we’ve had (it was 50 degrees Sunday), there wasn’t enough snow on the trail to snowshoe so we headed off for a snowy hike. The trail heads to Copeland Falls, Calypso Cascades and Ouzel Falls (which we hiked a couple of summers ago), but in Winter you have to hike a mile or so up the road to get to the trailhead, and in the end we only went out 2.5 miles where we snacked and headed back. Still, any day in the mountains is a beautiful day.

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St. Vrain Creek in Wild Basin in Rocky Mountain National Park

If anyone ever asks, this is why we moved to Colorado.

Ski Day at Eldora Mountain Resort

Nine members of the extended Family Vance family trekked to Eldora Mountain Resort the day after Christmas, and of course we caught the highlights on video. Cousins Lauren, Lindsay, Elijah and Josh hit the slopes, Aunt Lela and Jessica went snowshoeing, and the rest of us just drank egg nog with the elves (really!) in the lodge.

Elijah created this cray-cray fast-motion video, a nice capturing of our excellent day.

New Year’s Day Hike at Flatirons Vista Trail in Boulder

This past New Year’s Day we succeeded in finding, and hiking, a great, “new-to-us” trail called Flatirons Vista. After three years living in Boulder, it’s difficult to find new trails to hike that offer something different for everyone, but Flatiron Vista delivered a nice change, and we even managed to get the boys to come along which made for a memorable family outing under blazing blue sky.

Familyvance at Flatirons Vista Trail in Boulder
Familyvance at Flatirons Vista Trail in Boulder

The Flatirons Vista Trailhead is located off Highway 93 a couple miles South of Boulder, across from the NREL campus. It’s probably due the distance from our house (25 minutes or so) that we had never hiked this trail before. It’s a popular trail judging by the nearly full parking lot, and allows for hikers, bikers and horses.

We chose to hike the main loop that encompasses the Flatirons Vista North and South trails. There was ice and snow on the ground, but the trail conditions were good. The beginning of the hike is slightly uphill through open prairie, with cows meandering across the trail. Scooter’s a good dog though, and even off-leash he knew not to mess with the bovine.

The boys and Scooter at Flatirons Trail in Boulder
The boys and Scooter at Flatirons Trail in Boulder

After cresting the small hill, the trail moves through some pine trees, and then approaches a fork that connects with the Dowdy Draw trail. Keeping on the Flatirons Vista trail took us into a denser pine forrest with more snow, birds, and deer bones laid bare. Turning East, the trail goes along a barbed wire fence, comes out of the pine trees, then heads back downhill through a cow pasture and around a stock tank (frozen at this time of year).

True to it’s name, Flatirons Vista trail offers excellent views of the Flatirons, and even a little window of the snow-covered Indian Peaks mountains through the foothills. Total distance is a little over three miles, and the trail gives everyone a little different feature: open pasture, expansive views, alpine forrest, single track trail, and more. Everyone agreed Flatirons Vista is an excellent trail, and if you visit, it’ll be on your destination list.

Snowshoeing From Bear Lake to Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

We recently snowshoed from Bear Lake to Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park on Christmas Eve day. It’s a beautiful trek, slightly uphill, through silent, snow-covered forest, with views of majestic peaks towering above. On the way, we crossed two frozen lakes: Nymph Lake and Dream Lake, both of them lovely in their own right. Dream Lake especially nestles in grandeur.

Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park
Snowshoeing across Dream Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park

My sister Valerie and her family were visiting from Texas, and after a day of skiing and snowboarding at Eldora we thought a quiet respite of snowshoeing would be a nice change. The kids didn’t want to go, so it was just Valerie, her husband Scott, Jessica and myself. We already own three pair of snowshoes, so we stopped at Estes Park Mountain Shop to rent the fourth pair. While their snowshoes are a bit beaten, they do the job, and at only $5/day, it’s a great bargain.

Bear Lake is one of the most popular spots in Rocky Mountain National Park, but when we arrived around noon the parking lot was less than half full. That probably had to do with the fact that the temperature was a balmy eight (yes, 8) degrees Fahrenheit. We bundled up, prepared ourselves for the cold, but in the end it really wasn’t that cold. There was no wind, and once you start stepping through the snow, you warm up pretty quickly. It’s only when you stop for photos or snowmen that your fingers and toes might get a little frozen. So just keep moving.

Jessica, David, Scott and Valerie snowshoe in Rocky Mountain National Park
Jessica, David, Scott and Valerie snowshoe in Rocky Mountain National Park

The snow on the trail was pretty packed down so there were some people not wearing snowshoes, but there are some pretty good inclines/declines along the way where snowshoes really help. Also, it’s fun to go off trail and find deep snow to trek through. On one excursion into the trees I was up to my waist. It’s a popular trail, so we were never long without other hikers nearby, but there were moments where it’s just you and your thoughts and nature, and that’s pretty special.

Logistically, the hike is about 2.75 miles round trip, with an elevation gain of just over 600 feet, with Bear Lake residing at 9475 feet elevation and Emerald Lake sitting at 10,080 feet. The trail isn’t marked as far as we could tell, but it’s impossible to miss and hard to go the wrong way. As mentioned, you cross Nymph Lake and Dream Lake, both frozen over, and the stretch after Dream Lake has the most elevation gain, but it’s nothing too hard (except for the guy from Georgia we talked to who said his heart was racing). The leg out to Emerald Lake took about 1 hour and 15 minutes (with stops for photos and water), and the trek back took about 55 minutes (downhill with less stops).

In the end, my sister and brother-in-law loved the trip and the walk through the snow. The beauty is overwhelming at times and the pleasure of warm exertion in a cold environment gives you a nice glow the rest of the day.