On this early January day, my husband and I visit Mueller State Park from Colorado Springs to snowshoe. The park’s spectacular location affords views of the saw-toothed, white-capped western mountain ranges and, with the turn of the head, of Pikes Peak’s northern and western faces, directly from the parking lot next to the Visitor Center. The crest along the horizon is highlighted by a blue ribbon of sky, whereas grey clouds shroud the canopy overhead. In typical Colorado fashion, this celestial canvas changes color and appearance constantly, alternating sunny moments with the dance of graceful crystalline stars through the air which add yet another layer to the white blanket of snow.
As long as Mother Nature provides enough of the requisite marvelous white substance, all of Mueller’s many miles of hiking trails can be trodden on snowshoes at this time of year. They wind through forests of green conifers, interspersed with aspen trees devoid of leaves, whose branches are ermined in layers of snow. The dark green of the former, and cream-colored trunks and twigs of the latter provide a fetching contrast whenever patches of azure sky appear between the clouds. The landscape accommodates beginning snowshoers, but steeper and longer trails can be combined for more challenging excursions.
We meet no other humans on this day, only peace and quietude. The silence is broken by our crunching footsteps and the wingbeats and calls of an occasional raven, crow, Clark’s nutcracker or flocks of chickadees which enliven the greyness with their jaunty behavior and cheerful melodies. A rabbit huddles under a tree, squirrels leap from branch to branch and a group of deer browse the vegetation. We can only guess at the identities and activities of the other denizens who have left their tracks impressed in the fresh sheet of snow. Our own impressions, on the other hand, don’t conceal many mysteries.
In the waning light of this short winter day, the animals direct their attention to finding a safe shelter for the approaching night. We follow their lead and return to the parking lot with rosy cheeks and chilled fingers and toes, having worked our bodies and nourished our souls.