A semi-recent snowshoe trip gave me a bit of perspective.

No one goes there anymore, it’s too popular

I’ve not been a big fan of popular trails. You won’t see me in a fourteener conga line (no one needs to be above 13,7 anyway) or parked illegally at a packed trailhead. I don’t feel this compelling pull to enter permit lotteries though I shamelessly and happily join when someone else gets a win. No, my outside time generally means finding solitude and the places lesser explored, if only somewhat.

That solitude-seeking also means I hike solo or with one or two friends who share a similar pace and mindset. It’s nice to meet new people on the trail, share a few words, and move on, but actually hiking in larger groups always comes with challenges - usually pace, conversation modes (chatty or quiet) or even basic stuff like what you find acceptable trail behavior. My past experiences with group hikes were usually something like:

Hey, April! You hike a lot, will you organize a hike for me and some friends?


we’re three miles and a couple thousand feet up “Gosh, I’m tired, I didn’t sleep great last night, does anyone have spare water? I’m thirsty! I haven’t been at this elevation before!”

And so I end up with feeling the responsibility to ensure folks not only enjoy themselves, but also watch out for their safety.

But this hike was a pleasant surprise

Andy and I both got snowshoes in the past couple years, but neither of us made good use of them - so when we were invited for a snowshoe this past January, we of course said yes! I was a bit nervous, finding out it’d be a group of at least six people on a popular trail outside of Leadville - Mayflower Gulch. But I’ve also wanted to try and say yes to things, especially things I enjoy doing, so we set the time and met up at the trailhead.

For starters, everyone was really pleasant, especially the requisite dog. Kinda without saying, I could feel the vibe of the group was to “hike your own hike.” I think that single shared mentality let me ease up and just enjoy the time spent. We all had a different pace on the way up. Some people wanted to explore the ruins, others wanted to get pictures, but there was no shepherding to be done outside of making sure everyone had enough sunscreen for the bluebird day.

The downhike was great, we chatted about other favorite hikes, long trips, philosophy, all that stuff - and then Ethan made hot dogs in the parking lot for late lunch!

So what did we learn

I don’t think it hit me until a few days after when everyone had shared their photos just how much fun it had been, not only hiking together but on this very popular trail. I came away with a couple new thoughts:

  • If you want to hike a popular trail, go in the off-season (winter or shoulder season)
    • this, honestly, should be so obvious already, just be prepared
  • Hike in a group, but only if you’re not going to be responsible for their enjoyment
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April Elizabeth

Sometimes writer, always hungry.

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