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

Sunday, November 8, 2009

More of the Rockies ... then Back Home!

Thursday Run at Fort Collins

We have been wanting to check out the Blue Sky Half Marathon course near Fort Collins, Colorado to see if we would be interested in running it next year, so we took a little drive down Big Thompson Canyon from Estes Park Thursday morning - might as well run it since we were in that neck of the woods.  We have not done any exploring near Fort Collins but know that there are hundreds of miles of trail waiting for our feet to cross them!

The Blue Sky course starts in Horsetooth Mountain Open Space and follows the Inlet Bay trail down to the intersection with the Blue Sky trail.  Blue Sky marks the transition into Devil's Backbone Open Space, where most of the race course lies.  Kathleen is ascending the ridge up onto the Blue Sky trail.

  Wide open spaces on Blue Sky!

After dropping from the ridge on Blue Sky, there is a steep descent into and across a drainage.  From the rise on the other side of the drainage, the course peels off onto the Indian Summer trail - quite aptly named on today's November run in the low 60's!  Most of the course is more desert than mountain, however, the Indian Summer loop reminded us a lot of the Hartmans Rocks area in Gunnison, Colorado - sagebrush landscape and lots of embedded and loose fist-sized rocks.  Don't wear racing flats to this event unless you like bruised metatarsals!  Here Steve is ascending Indian Summer.  This is the longest climb on the half course.

Kathleen rolling out on the Indian Summer climb!

At the base of Indian Summer, we caught on to Blue Sky farther down the drainage from where we peeled off to start climbing.  The marathon course deviates to the south here, but we started the trek back to the north.  At the trail junction, we crossed over and up the steep rise to gain the ridge on Blue Sky again and then headed back the way we started.  Steve is happy to be starting the gradual descent back toward Horsetooth.  We had a great time and think this was a nice course.  The scenery is a bit on the "bleak" side but it is sweet, narrow singletrack of high quality.  We can tell why they limit the racer count - there are maybe two spots where passes can easily be made once you enter the Blue Sky trail.  The course measured out at 13.27 miles - pretty good for laying out a half on all trails.  There was about 2000' of accumulated vertical, mellow by Colorado standards.

Shoes - Nike Structure Triax ESC

Friday Run at RMNP

We headed out to the Lower Beaver Meadows trailhead on Friday morning to grab one last run at Rocky Mountain National Park before heading home.  We were aiming to loop Beaver Meadows and Moraine Park but were not sure what to expect.  After the short clip out to Lower Beaver Meadows, we started ascending the ridge up and over into Moraine Park.  Kathleen is climbing in the pines here - from what we saw, elk use this trail as much as humans!

From the ridge, looking out to the Cub Lake drainage, above Moraine Park.

Steve cruising the Moraine Park trail, above the campground area.  There were long stretches of tight singletrack as seen here, combined with technical sections with lots of embedded boulders.  The Moraine was formed from glacial movement which was the cause for the large dumps of rocks in certain areas.  Once again, stellar weather for November - jackpot!

Kathleen cresting the ridge between Moraine Park and Upper Beaver Meadows.

Several of the 12'ers and 13'ers just to the west of Long's Peak - the wind was howling on the peaks!
Upper Beaver Meadows.  It was interesting to learn some of the natural history of this section.  The beavers are almost nonexistent here now.  The elk have all but de-forested the aspen in this valley, leaving nothing for the beavers.  The parks service is now fencing off remaining aspen stands to keep the elk out and eventually bring the beaver activity back to this area.   The elk are at approximately 180% capacity for what the herd should be here - definite population problem.
 Upper Beaver Meadows trail.
Steep climb over the ridge to Moraine Park.

Back down from Moraine Park, we caught the Lower Beaver Meadows trail and headed in for the day.  We were able to run an awesome 10.5 mile loop in spectacular scenery and once again take advantage of premium weather conditions for our run.  We fueled up on some great burritos at Ed's Cantina in Estes Park, got some go-juice at Starbucks, and headed for home with some great memories of our visit.

Shoes - Asics Trabuco

Back Home - Some Comfy Trails Sunday at Ute Valley

We're always in a little lag coming back home after a trip - kind of that "back to reality" funk.  However, we have such great trails to comfort ourselves with, we'll be just fine!  We hit the trails at Ute Valley Park Sunday to stretch the legs out after the travel and some great runs.  With trails like this, how could one tire of such a great urban gem of a park?
Our old friend - Pikes Peak - making an appearance through the pines!
Cruising through the rocky trails and enjoying the emerging sunshine after a cloudy, gray morning.  We had a blast getting back on the local trails after a week away - it was also fun reminiscing of the week behind and all the great memories we stored.  We called it a day after 9.5 miles and kicked up the feet for most of the day.  Happy Trails this week!!!

Shoes - K Brooks Cascadia
S - Asics Trabuco
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