Hiking at NCAR, Boulder, CO

Scouting - Hiking at NCAR, Boulder, CO

It was a chilly morning, with frost on the foothills and crystal blue skies. To enjoy the beautiful day, we decided to explore the trails accessed via NCAR. The morning began cold enough for winter coats and gloves but quickly warmed up and provided some new terrain and elements for discovery.

The Adventure!


9:08 AM

A combination of the cold and wanting to enjoy a leisurely breakfast (Dutch baby pancakes oh yeah!) made for a later than usual start. We pick up Poppy and make our way up to NCAR. The road up to NCAR affords gorgeous views. The Flatirons look to be topped with frosting. We see herds of deer grazing in the adjacent fields, that shimmer in the shifting morning light. In the distance we catch a glimpse of Devil’s Thumb.

Hiking at NCAR, Boulder, CO


9:21 AM

Once on the trial, we discover the frosty look is from glaze ice. Glaze ice hints at the magic of the Universe – clear, smooth, uniform ice forms on blades of grass, leaves, stems, needles, cactus, boughs, everything. It conjures up fantasies of crystal palaces, winter sorcerers, and super powers. It flickers into reality for a brief flash, until temperatures rise and it’s structure fails.

Frozen Grass - Hiking at NCAR, Boulder, CO

Frozen Pine Needles -Hiking at NCAR, Boulder, CO

For my daughter, it’s nice to eat.

Behind her stands the architecturally stunning I. M. Pei designed NCAR (the National Center for Atmospheric Research) Mesa Lab. Designed in the 60’s, the modern aesthetic of the Mesa Lab has held its marvel to this day.

Eating Glaze Ice - Hiking at NCAR, Boulder, CO


9:50 AM

As the morning wears on the iced pine needles and grasses melt, transforming the mystical glassy landscape into puddles of mud. Making our way along the trail we come to a spot where the mud is so thick it builds up in ridiculous quantities on our sneakers. My daughter falls on her back. I slip off the trail entirely.

Muddy Trail - Hiking at NCAR, Boulder, CO


10:22 AM

“I’m on top of the world,” my daughter yells at the top of her lungs. We’re standing on rock about a 100 yards West of NCAR now, on the return to the trailhead. There’s a magnificent echo chamber up here, made by the pillars that form the exterior of the Mesa Lab. She yells again, over and over. “I’m on top of the world.”

Decades earlier, I’m told by Poppy, my brother and I were approached by security guards for a similar incident in this same place but during the week while staff were trying to work.

We make our way to another rock. Another echo chamber. And then discover a puddle to wash off our muddy shoes.

Shoe Bath - Hiking at NCAR, Boulder, CO


My GPS app stuttered for the first half of the hike, so the route appears a little odd. The unusual ice forms and mud made for a lot of new things to explore for my daughter, slowing our movement to a crawl.

Route - Hiking at NCAR, Boulder, CO


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