If you’re lucky enough to be in the mountains, you’re lucky enough!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Rocky Mountain High

Dropped in to Estes Park mid-week for a little battery recharge at the eastern portal to Rocky Mountain National Park. We were not sure what we would find on the trails here after last week's storm, even though they received a bit less snow than the Denver foothills. Above 7500', there is always a good chance that snow in November will last until June. We were, however, continuing with our weather bonanza as the remainder of the week was forecast in the 60's with sun - unbelievable Indian Summer for this late in the fall.
The signature park wildlife - BIG Elk!
Another of the park's frequently seen residents - Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep.
We were eyeballing a couple routes that are a bit lower in the park - Lumpy Ridge Loop was our first pick. On the northeastern corner of RMNP, Lumpy Ridge sits at the base of the Mummy Range and is made up of a bunch off odd granite ridges, giving it a "lumpy" appearance. These granite walls are popular climbing routes and we saw several folks hiking in to climb. The loop is formed by the Black Canyon, Cow Creek, and Gem Lake trails. We headed out on Black Canyon trail to ascend the west rim of the loop.
The front side of Black Canyon is south-facing, so it was clear sailing (or running!). As we ascended the western saddle, snow became intermittent along and in the trail but was passable. With steep pitches of 15% and higher, you quickly find yourself 1500' above the canyon floor and the snow takes a more stubborn hold on the trails. I always enjoy climbing through the snow in shorts!
After gaining the western saddle and dropping into the Cow Creek drainage, it quickly became apparent that the northern side of Lumpy would have to wait for another day. Steep descending and shin deep snow with no traction devices put an end to the thought of doing the whole loop. We'll be back...
One good thing about the back-track - 2.2 mile descent with1500' drop - bomb those quads! Kathleen slaloms through the pines, rocks, and roots on the way down.
A little snow time.
Western end of Lumpy Ridge.
Running out through the Black Canyon trail, much of which passes through the MacGregor Ranch. These folks had the foresight to deed the ranch (or large portions of it) to RMNP to spare it from development. We are thankful for that as it would be a drag to run this 10 years from now, lined with condos! Kudos to the MacGregor family.
The Book Area - climbing hotspot.

Kathleen running under the Twin Owls, near the junction with the Gem Lake trail.
A relatively short run with high scenic value, we finished with 8 miles and big smiles! Running under brilliant sunshine in the late fall, we had a fantastic day on the trails. We can't wait to come back and run the entire loop.

Shoes - Asics Trabuco


Slomohusky said...

Fun shots. Been so long since I have been to Rocky Mt. National. Really need to visit Co. again soon.

I am sure your quads and/or knees were feeling that 2.2 mile downhill the next day as well.

Great to have you back sharing your pix from the Happy Trails!

Danni said...

That looks fantastic! Funny how bighorn sheep seem to enjoy blocking roads. Must be bred in them :p

T Z said...

My gosh, you've been busy bloggers! Cool shot of the big horns!

Notice you have been putting a lot of miles on the Trabucos. Same pair, or are you rotating a couple of pair?

HappyTrails said...


I have two of the gray pairs, and the one brown pair. The weird thing is that the brown pair is not wearing well compared to the gray ones? And that Cascadia 4 got sent back to Brooks under their True Blue guarantee, so I have the Trabucos and that one Nike in my rotation. Yes - borderline shoe fetish!!!

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