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

Sunday, December 26, 2010

White Christmas!

Well, in Colorado Springs - Not so much!  Dry as a bone, with forecast for 50 and sun on Christmas.  We have had highs between 15 degrees and 60 degrees and everywhere in between!  But we had other plans.  We were headed for the mountains to get in another cross country ski session.  The shores of Lake Dillon would be our destination - the Frisco Nordic Center is one of our all-time favorites.  With 45k of groomed trails, mostly intermediate, it gives us a lot of room to roam!
On the road - Wilkerson Pass looking over South Park to the Sawatch Range
 Blue River - bottom of Hoosier Pass

We had brilliant blue skies the whole day - hardly a cloud touched the sky, even in the mountains - BONUS.  Driving along Blue River after coming off Hoosier Pass brought back memories of Christmas Vacation - the classic scene with the rednecks playing bumper tag with the Griswolds was shot along this highway.  Actually, most of the outdoor parts of that movie were filmed in and around Breckenridge, CO, which we drove through to get to Frisco!
Cheesy pic of the Nordic center sign stolen borrowed from the net
 Frisco Nordic Center - wish they had a nicer backdrop, eh?

We arrived at Frisco and found the conditions to be exactly what we hoped for - lots of good snow and mid-20's temperatures.  Combine that with bright, sunny skies and it is a great mix for an outstanding XC Ski day!  Our mountains have been getting great snow, it simply has not made it down to the Front Range where we live - so we'll go to the snow to play and come home to dry trails ;-)  Plus, we are getting in some altitude training.  This would be our sixth training day above 8500' in the past month - and it does help.  Frisco Nordic sits at 9100 feet, which helps with the snow conditions.  The Nordic center had previously been densely forested so we weren't sure what to expect as the Mountain Pine Beetle kill has stripped most of the lodgepoles from the ski area since we were last there.  Turns out it was still a beautiful setting, despite the deforestation, as there were grand views that we've not had before.
 Getting started on the Freeway near the lodge

When we went skiing a few weeks back, we had a bit of a glitch with our gear and just decided to rent equipment at Snow Mountain Ranch.  This time, we brought our own equipment and felt much better on the snow - always good to have familiar kit when you hit the track!  We took a few minutes to ski a starter loop near the lodge to gauge the conditions, get a feel for the skis and then headed out onto the trail system.  Simply put, the snow is stellar right now - prime conditions all day and, with the temps never getting above 30, the sun never had a chance to degrade the surface.  Yet the sun is so strong up high, we quickly warmed and headed to the truck for a lighter outer layer before getting too far out.
 Great views on Crown Point
 Heading out M'Rezy with breathtaking views
 Crown Point - stopped for a breather!
 Looking out over Frisco, Colorado
Heading in after an awesome day

We had a splendid day out on the snow - what a great way to spend Christmas!  We ran out of leg and upper body endurance before we ran out of sunshine, unfortunately!  We were able to get in about 20 km before we pooped out and it was quite a great workout.  Since my folks' flight was one of over 500 cancelled out of Atlanta due to a whopping 1.5" of snow (WHAT???), we had a wide open schedule.  Consequently, we decided to head into Breckenridge for dinner at Mi Casa, one of our favorite Mexican restaurants.  It is amazing what an appetite skiing builds - we were ravenous!  We had an amazing day and are glad we were able to capitalize on the great conditions for a wonderful ski/play day on Christmas!  We are looking forward to a few more ski days this season!

Happy Trails to everyone this week!

"Shoes" - K Fischer Revolution Skate
S Rossignol Venture AR

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Hit the Trail

After our foray into the colder side of sport for several days, we got back to running by hitting the trails at Pueblo Reservoir last Friday.  Forecast was for 62 degrees and windy, which was all right after a week of cold activities.  It has been quite a while since we ran at Pueblo - it is a lot of desert out there and you must take it in small doses.  So we headed south on I-25 for some warm singletrack.
 Bright sunshine on Cuatro Sinko trail
 Outer Limits Trail

The sunshine and warm temperatures were over the top for this late in the year and we just couldn't pass on the chance to get in some great trails in December in such great conditions.  The weather has been all over the charts lately, which is normal for our area, but you grab the window of opportunity while it is open!  As was forecast, the wind really kicked up off the lake and probably reached 40 mph by the time we reached the intersection of Outer Limits and Pedro's Point.  Grin and bear it - penance for the 62 degree temps maybe???  But I thought we paid our dues on the skis and snowshoes....
 Rolling the Outer Limits

We worked in a great 15 mile run on a phenomenal, sunny December day and had a great time.  This trail system is really quite a winter oasis and we rarely see runners there - too bad for everyone else, I guess.

Shoes - K Columbia Ravenous
S Pearl Izumi SyncroFuel XC 

 Cheyenne Mountain

Following our sweet run on Friday, we took Saturday off and then last Sunday headed out to Cheyenne Mountain State Park.  Though it was 20 degrees cooler, it was still really great conditions and the day started off with a sunny blue sky.  We got in some great early work on the Talons, which we have not visited on our last couple trips there.  With some of the closest and best vistas to the frontside of the mountain, Talon North has some great photo spots, as seen in these pics.  We saw a couple groups of bikes up here enjoying the same views!
 Fantastic Day
 Heading off to Talon South

We made a large loop coming down off the Talons, out around Sundance Trail's prairie dog communities, and then back up onto Blackmer.  As has been our weather pattern of late, the early brilliant sunshine gave way to some filtered cloud cover.  Combined with the low trajectory of the sun at this point in the equinox, it cooled dramatically over the next hour and we went from comfortable to borderline underdressed - this can happen so quickly in the mountains, so we normally err on the side of too warm.  Easier to remove than it is to add something you don't have with you!   But we still had another great run of 15 miles, rounding out our week with a nice mix of activities and a great block of winter training.

Shoes - K Columbia Ravenous
S Pearl Izumi SyncroFuel XC

Back to the Future?
Jumping ahead a week, today we did a run from home. After an early morning run yesterday that started at 13 degrees, we were headed for 50 and sunny today - gotta love our weather patterns!  We started out over Flying W and down into the Garden of the Gods.  Once in the Garden, we did a great outer loop of trails.
 30th street - heading to the Garden - only Partial Peak today...
 It was fabulous - Palmer Trail
 More Palmer Trail

It was quite simply one of those days that is hard to beat in winter.  Since we get a few of those here and there, the opportunity to take advantage of the warmth helps maintain when the single digit temps hang out for a while.  We ran around the Palmer Trail out to the Siamese Twins, over the Cabin Canyon trail, and then did some new trails that I learned on the CRUD run a while back.  It was a lot of fun to get in some new scenery.
 Columbia Trail
Stopped for a pic at Siamese Twins
Outstanding views from Niobrara Trail

After making the outer loop, we headed back over to 30th street to catch the trail up and over Flying W and back home. Though tired, it was hard to cut off a run on such a spectacular day. It was 54 degrees and sunny when we finished up - very awesome and we'll take all we can get of that action. After 15.5 miles, the tired legs were a nice reminder of some good effort out on the trails. We're hoping to possibly spend Christmas day doing some Norwegian style activity (aka, skinny skis). Since my folks fly in late in the evening on the 25th, we have all day to play!!!  Merry Christmas, Happy Trails, and safe travels to those who are on the road for the holidays.

Shoes - K Asics 2150 Trail
S Pearl Izumi SyncroFuel XC

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Time for snowshoeing

We headed out to the Bear Lake Trailhead on Wednesday morning (as in, LAST Wednesday morning - I know, we're BEHIND) with mostly gray skies with brief peeks of blue, fiercely gusty winds (try gusts up to 50mph) and brisk temps buffeting us.  Our hope was that we would gain some shelter from the wind once we trekked into the trees.  So we threw on the snowshoes and warm clothes and left the Bear Lake parking area and headed into the trees hoping for respite from the howling wind.
Kathleen at the trailhead

The plan for the day was to trek out past Bear Lake, around Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and end at the basin below Hallet Peak and Flattop Mountain where Emerald Lake sits.  Base snowpack at Bear was 20", so we knew we would have reasonably good conditions the whole way.  Pretty amazing, considering that the Beaver Meadows entrance station into Rocky Mountain National Park was virtually snow-free.  You would not think that "extra" 1700' of elevation would make that big a difference, but combine that with the ring of peaks along that basin, and the snow holds pretty well.
Heading up the windblown area below Nymph Lake
Dream Lake - supposedly the most photographed spot in RMNP

So we made our way up past Nymph Lake and next was Dream Lake.  The view here was breathtaking and it is no wonder this shows up in so many of the summer photos from the park.   Even frozen and covered in wind-scorched snow, it was stunning.  
Looking back from the far end of Dream Lake
Some deep snow between Dream and Emerald Lakes

We made our way up to Emerald, basically the end of the "trail" unless you are into winter mountaineering.   We're not.   We did run into some hardcore backcountry snowboarders that hiked up one of the couloirs above Emerald Lake and were carving their way down to Bear Lake - gnarly!  It was a nice snowshoe trip - 6 miles and plenty of snow.

"Shoes" - Crescent Moon Silver
The Alluvial Fan - Horseshoe Park

On the way out of the park, we stopped to check out the Alluvial Fan - remnants of a huge flood in 1982 which you can read about here
Ubiquitous Elk


Quiet walk in the park

Thursday morning, we headed back up toward Bear Lake but stopped this time at the Glacier Gorge trailhead in order to snowshoe out to Mills Lake - highly recommended by one of the park rangers.  This was a bit longer destination and was back in a ways from the trailhead.  Once again the temperature was in the upper 20's at the 9500' trailhead and winds were 35 to 50 mph.  Unlike the previous day, there were a couple stretches of completely wind parched trail in the middle, more exposed section of trail, where we came close to unhitching the snowshoes for a bit.  Really odd when other sections were knee deep with the shoes.  It would snow off and on for much of this trip.
Mills Lake - look cold?
Mountain grandeur
That's a lot of ice....
One last look before heading back down

Stopped by the falls on the way down
Wind twisted spruce tree

For whatever reason, the twisted spruce trees, shaped by the howling winds coming down the mountains, reminded us of the Cypress trees along the coast of Monterey, California - different climate, but a kindred weather  intensity that hones the landscape into surreal forms.  We had another great day on the snowshoes - 7 miles and lots of "dermabrasion therapy" compliments of the wind and snow!!!  Happy Trails!

 "Shoes" - Crescent Moon Silver

Saturday, December 11, 2010

"Welcome to Winter" Getaway

For the last month or so we have been trying to figure out a way to use some vacation time - Kathleen had some "Use it or Lose it" time looming, so we certainly didn't want to waste any of those days.  While we have not been huge winter sports enthusiasts the last few years, we have had some desire for a little change of pace - maybe a short break from running.  So we decided to get away for a while and partake of a few "cold" activities.
Last Sunday morning we were up early and headed off to Winter Park, Colorado - one of our favorite summer time areas - and cruised out to Snow Mountain Ranch Nordic Center for some cross country skiing.  Snow Mountain Ranch is a YMCA facility with several large lodges and campsites that cater to summer and winter activities.  Their Nordic center is nationally known and, when the snow season is in full swing, they generally groom about 100 km of trails for Classic and Skate skiing.  Even this early in the season, they had between 50 and 60 km groomed when we rolled into town.
It was very gray and spitting snow off and on when we arrived on Sunday.  With the temp around 30 and no sun to "soften" the track, it was perfect conditions for XC ski.  In the distance, you can barely make out part of the Continental Divide through the clouds.
Kathleen concentrates on her skate ski technique ... and staying upright!
I like the grooves - track skiing suits my un-coordination just fine!

As near as we can remember, it has been 7 or 8 years since we last did some cross country skiing. There is a reason that the skinny ski crowd are anaerobic wonders - this is hard work.  Bjorn, Sven, and all their Nordic buddies grow up on these skis and have lungs the size of hot air balloons!  Kathleen enjoys the grace of skate skiing, while I prefer the classic "in-track" method - it keeps me out of the hospital!
Camp Chief Ouray Livery
"Snowy" Trails - taking a break on the Blue Ridge
The Trapper's Cabin on the Homestead Trail

We were able to ski about 17 km on Sunday - yeah, that doesn't sound like much until you go try it...  Needless to say, the legs were quite tired but it was a great change of pace and helped us develop more layers on our "winter skin"!
Shoes - (Well, sort of...)  K Madshus Ultrasonic Skate
S Rossignol Evo Action

We got to check out some Christmas lights in Winter Park Sunday evening.  They were out hanging lights in Cooper Creek Square, pictured above, when we got back from a feeding frenzy at Hernando's Pizza.  The XC Ski action builds quite an appetite ;-)
Clear view of the Divide - Awesome!

Monday morning dawned bright and sunny - and a chilly 14 degrees.  Actually, considering that the Fraser Valley is usually one of the colder spots in the nation, that was pretty balmy.  We decided that we had not endured enough punishment, and would swing out to SMR again for some more torture recreation.
Frosty and his dog...
Going track today

Kathleen's legs were a little wobbly after the many years' hiatus from skate skiing, so she joined me on the classic tracks on Monday.  While we were enjoying the brilliant sunshine start to the day, our legs were weeping from pretty early on as a result of Sunday's beatdown - discovering all those muscles we don't use much when trail running or cycling!  There is no way we could waste a day like this, so we took our time and enjoyed great trails and fresh scenery.
Heading out Blue Ridge - some clouds rolling back in
Track along Blue Ridge Rd
We made another 10 km of trails before calling it a day.  We were pretty tired but really enjoyed refreshing our cross country ski "skills" and doing some totally different workouts.  We said goodbye to SMR and the Fraser Valley and headed off to Estes Park to spend a little time at Rocky Mountain National Park ... Stay Tuned!

Shoes - (or skis...)  K Rossignol Evo Action
S Rossignol Evo Action
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