Exploring Geneva Basin

Like everyone else on the planet I tend to overuse the “life gets in the way” excuse.

Why didn’t I change the oil in my Forester before it hit the 9K-since-last-change mark? Life got in the way.
Why do I have way too many flagged emails that need my attention? Life got in the way.
Why is there a 7 year gap in my dental history? Life got in the way. And I hate the dentist.
Why is the teeny, tiny apartment we moved into over a month ago still not unpacked? Well, this time the mountains were calling, but you get my point.

How the heck does life get in the way? How do the things we choose to do every day get in the way? Obviously we mean life got busy and priorities got shuffled. In reality, “life got in the way” is really just a nice-ish way of saying “something more important came up”, because, no, my life did not actually get in the way of…me truly living my life. Unless it did. In which case we should meet for a cup of coffee to talk the philosophy of life. I’ll buy…all six cups it’ll take use to get through the first half of that discussion!

All the hubble bubble about life started out as my excuse for being two weeks behind in posting about the exciting things in my life. Sure, life got in the way – the boring responsibilities sucked up a good portion of my time and all of my free time was wasted on fun things like trail running, snowboarding and brunching. Sorry blog, something more important came up! But I’m paying attention to you now, so here’s what went down two weekends ago…

Winter Camping + Backcountry Snowboarding at Geneva Basin

Just over two weekends ago we headed west to Georgetown for a weekend in the backcountry. The more manly half of Just a Colorado Gal had Powder Ghost Towns, a book detailing the history of Colorado’s abandoned ski resorts, and was lonely enough to invite us along to explore while Heather was off #tryingstuffinJordan. After our last experience winter camping I jumped at the chance to borrow gear, no way was I going to freeze again! Luckily gear testers tend to have a lot of gear to…well, test. So we helped test it, or at least use it.

We all flipped through the book for a bit then settled on Geneva Basin, just south of Georgetown. I knew the area fairly well from previous hikes – my first 14er was Bierstadt and I hiked Square Top and Mt Wilcox with Sierra Trading Post. We’d also driven over Guanella Pass multiple times so our chances of getting lost were slim.

Check out the history of Geneva Basin here – look at those lift prices! And then read into why it was shut down…glad I wasn’t on that lift!

On Saturday afternoon we packed up the Forester and started our drive into the mountains. We took the road up Guanella Pass as far as we could – just past the Guanella Pass Campground – then skinned up and were on our way!

Backcountry Trip to Geneva Basin - Abandoned Ski Resort near Georgetown, COBackcountry Trip to Geneva Basin - Abandoned Ski Resort near Georgetown, CO

The entire trip would be along the Guanella Pass Road, which was also the winter route for Bierstadt and Mt Evans. This meant we got to follow skin/snowshoe tracks up to the summit of the pass. I’ve driven this road many, many times…if you are ever concerned that you may be losing appreciation for your car try hiking or skinning up a mountain road! Luckily the road was buried under lots of snow so it wasn’t completely demoralizing!

Backcountry Trip to Geneva Basin - Abandoned Ski Resort near Georgetown, COBackcountry Trip to Geneva Basin - Abandoned Ski Resort near Georgetown, CO
That’s Bierstadt and the Sawtooth off to the left, Mt Evans is hidden in the clouds.

Soon after we reached the Guanella Pass summit snow laden clouds rolled in and fluffy white flakes started falling. It was calming and beautiful. Plus, who doesn’t want a little fresh snow when you’re headed to a ski resort, abandoned or not!

Backcountry Trip to Geneva Basin - Abandoned Ski Resort near Georgetown, CO

A few miles in we rounded the bend to see a jumble of buildings nestled in the trees. Could it be our destination? It didn’t quite fit the description but we were not about to skin right past only to backtrack later so we went exploring. Turns out it was a few summer rental cabins, not the ski resort we were after so back to the road we went.

Backcountry Trip to Geneva Basin - Abandoned Ski Resort near Georgetown, COSee the cabins buried under the plethora of snow?

About a mile later I recognized a bend in the road – this had to be it! And it was. We veered off the road and into Geneva Basin just as the darkness was falling. We managed to put up the tent and get everything pulled together as the snow piled up around us. Headlamps were eventually pulled out, hot chocolate was cooked up and down layers were added. By 10pm we were all fast asleep…and relatively warm!

Backcountry Trip to Geneva Basin - Abandoned Ski Resort near Georgetown, COBackcountry Trip to Geneva Basin - Abandoned Ski Resort near Georgetown, CO

Morning dawned slowly, partly because I kept burying my head back into my sleeping bag determined to avoid the cold until the sun was fully available to warm me. Somehow we managed to sleep a solid 9 hours – apparently skinning with packs is a lot of work and wears a person out! Slowly we emerged from the tent and set up our gear for some mountain exploration.

Backcountry Trip to Geneva Basin - Abandoned Ski Resort near Georgetown, COBackcountry Trip to Geneva Basin - Abandoned Ski Resort near Georgetown, COBackcountry Trip to Geneva Basin - Abandoned Ski Resort near Georgetown, CO

We studied the trail map of the Geneva Basin resort, picked a route and headed upward. We quickly learned that riding down a “blue square” is far more fun than skinning up one! It was a rather slow climb but we kept moving – the book said there was a cabin at the top that was open year round. It needed to be found and explored!

Backcountry Trip to Geneva Basin - Abandoned Ski Resort near Georgetown, CO

When we came upon the cabin all the misery of the skin up was forgotten – the setting was gorgeous and the cabin was perfect! And by “perfect” I mean full of mountain character! It was like a miniature hut, but with more personalization by every visitor! Since it’s just open to whoever shows up there were some interesting finds in the cabin – like a multiple half full bottles of rum/bourbon/whiskey, a whole slew of board/card games, ramen noodles + canned tuna, dog food, a hammock, instant eggs and a well tuned guitar!

Backcountry Trip to Geneva Basin - Abandoned Ski Resort near Georgetown, COBackcountry Trip to Geneva Basin - Abandoned Ski Resort near Georgetown, COBackcountry Trip to Geneva Basin - Abandoned Ski Resort near Georgetown, CO

The little cabin had a kitchen area, a table + chairs and a back room with a wood stove and bunks for sleeping. It was definitely “well used” but I kind of loved that part of it! Everyone that had been there left behind something from their visit, adding to the character of the place! The best part was the book full of stories from past visitors and the huge map of the Geneva Basin resort!

Backcountry Trip to Geneva Basin - Abandoned Ski Resort near Georgetown, CO
Backcountry Trip to Geneva Basin - Abandoned Ski Resort near Georgetown, COBackcountry Trip to Geneva Basin - Abandoned Ski Resort near Georgetown, CO
There was a run named after me! I will be back to ride it, some day!

After a fair bit of exploring we headed back down the mountain. The snow had warmed up a lot in the bright sunshine so riding was…interesting. The snow that fell overnight turned into sticky mashed potatoes. Making turns was nearly impossible and there were many, many comical, slow motion crashes!

Backcountry Trip to Geneva Basin - Abandoned Ski Resort near Georgetown, COBackcountry Trip to Geneva Basin - Abandoned Ski Resort near Georgetown, CO

By the time we got back down to our campsite clouds had moved in and the snow started again, only to move out before we were finished packing up. The weather was weird all weekend – very sporadic. I kinda liked it, we had no time to get tired of whatever was happening before it changed gears!

The hike out was…a little daunting. We knew we had a lot of uphill and it seemed to just drag on and on. There were no promise of fresh snow or beautiful wilderness mornings motivating us, just a boring drive home to real life responsibilities. We trudged on with Will taking quite the beating from the sticky snow as he pulled the sled. He was kind enough to carry the tent + cook stove in since he had the sled so we did what we could to do some stellar trail breaking. It was still a long, slow hike and we were all ecstatic to see the Guanella summit…it was all downhill from there!

Backcountry Trip to Geneva Basin - Abandoned Ski Resort near Georgetown, CO
Backcountry Trip to Geneva Basin - Abandoned Ski Resort near Georgetown, COBackcountry Trip to Geneva Basin - Abandoned Ski Resort near Georgetown, CO

Eventually the cleared road came into view and we knew we were back. We haphazardly piled everything into the car and headed back toward Denver. Reality was waiting for us…and it was not going to be kind! The car was unloaded by 8pm, laundry was started and workweek lunches were finished by 9pm, showers may or may not have happened before we crashed into bed at 10pm. Monday’s alarms were not even kind of welcome at 5am!

But…winter camping did not suck! I mean, I think I still prefer camping through summer storms, but I’m glad I gave it another shot. With the proper gear [borrowed or purchased] I’d go again…I’m a sucker for misery if it promises gorgeous mountain views and a little solitude.

For anyone in search of specific stats – the mileage from the parking lot just above the Guanella Pass Campground was about 4.75 miles one way to Geneva Basin. We gained about 750ft on our way in and roughly 1,000ft on the way out.

A Miserable Reality Check

Just a heads up – this post is going to be whiney. I had a rough run this weekend and I want to talk about it. However, there is a pretty good chance you don’t actually care about the running part…so I’ll give you a little mountain eye candy.

On Saturday morning we headed west to Buena Vista to run a chunk of the Collegiate Peaks Trail Run 25M course that Chris will be running on next month. He wanted to get a feel for what he would be racing on and I needed hilly miles on single track…done and done! Turns out I was also about to get a miserable dose of reality…and, now that it’s all over, I’m incredibly glad that Saturday’s run sucked. Because I needed a bad run to make me appreciate the good ones…and I needed this craptastic run to go down before race day on a different course.

Collegiate Peaks Trail Run Race Course - Buena Vista - Trail RunningCollegiate Peaks Trail Run Race Course - Buena Vista - Trail Running

A few weekends ago I pulled off a solid 48 miles in just over 36 hours. I was feeling good about my body’s ability to run and got to thinking that maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t completely hate life at the Quad Rock 50M. I was still prepared to chase cutoffs but got a little boost in my confidence to finish with at least half of a smile. Then Saturday happened.

It turns out that running is about more than just the miles you put on your favorite shoes. Who knew?! When you have numbers staring at you, especially when comparison is an option [ahem, thanks Strava], it’s really easy to think everything else will fall into place. If you’re a skilled wizard, it might. If you’re a boring human, it probably won’t.

Collegiate Peaks Trail Run Race Course - Buena Vista - Trail RunningCollegiate Peaks Trail Run Race Course - Buena Vista - Trail Running

On Saturday I realized just how miserable an “easy, attainable” 20 mile run can become. Looking back I did a LOT of things wrong…and 90% of those things went wrong during the week, not on Saturday. Apparently things like nutrition and hydration and sleep and stretching and fun stuff like that are important to pay attention to BEFORE you go running.

Yea, yea. Of course. Duh. We all know this. But sometimes we forget to actually practice what we preach. Sometimes the tap water in Cheyenne gets rusty and unappealing. Sometimes work gets really busy and lunches become all-day-snacking-kinda-sorta-meals. Sometimes sleep is skipped while bags gather under your eyes the important duffle bags never get packed properly and long run nutrition is left behind.

Collegiate Peaks Trail Run Race Course - Buena Vista - Trail RunningCollegiate Peaks Trail Run Race Course - Buena Vista - Trail Running

Sometimes all of that happens in the same week…and then your long run that was supposed to be the easy half of a double-long-run-weekend becomes 20 miles of painful whining and thoughts of why-am-I-doing-this-to-myself and how-the-heck-am-I-going-to-cover-twice-the-miles.

That pretty much sums up the latter half of my week + last Saturday. I made a lot of stupid mistakes leading up to the weekend. Mistakes I probably wouldn’t have made years, or even months ago. Mistakes that I let happen because I was feeling confident about my ability to knock out miles…and totally forgot about the prep work required to keep my body happy.

Collegiate Peaks Trail Run Race Course - Buena Vista - Trail RunningCollegiate Peaks Trail Run Race Course - Buena Vista - Trail Running

It kind of sucked to be out on unfamiliar trails miles away from the car [and real food + cold water] but I’ve decided I’m okay with that. I really did need a bad run. I needed the reminder that drinking water all the time is important and that eating actual nutritional food makes a big difference when it comes to energy and that not thinking through on-the-trail food is just plain stupid.

I’m glad I survived Saturday’s run, I’m glad I’m forcing myself to learn from it and most importantly I’m glad I was able to get out of my own head and enjoy the area I was in. I mean, look at the photo! It was gorgeous. The weather was perfect, the mountains were incredible models and the trails were all runnable.

Collegiate Peaks Trail Run Race Course - Buena Vista - Trail Running

However, I’m not glad I let that run suck the confidence out of my Sunday run…my Sunday run that never happened because of [insert lame excuse such as weather, brunch, unpacking, or I-am-scared-it-will-suck-again syndrome]. Actually, I haven’t run since Saturday’s bad run… I just realized that and that needs to change! I also need to go drink a bottle of water and find a pudding cup [still working on my definition of “nutritional food”] before I completely sabotage this coming weekend’s long run!