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

Monday, July 5, 2010

Head for the Mountains

With nothing pressing keeping us home for the weekend, we made a last minute call up to Winter Park for a room and headed up Friday evening for a little altitude time.  We have not spent nearly enough time up high the last couple summers and it shows in our ability to perform in the super-thin mountain air.  No better place to remedy that situation than Winter Park - a place that has provided many a happy adventure for us over the years.  So we threw a quick bag together after work and headed off to the hills...
Miniature Townsite

A local resident along Vasquez Road has built a miniature townsite in their yard, highlighting some of the landmarks.  It even has a working train line, showcasing Winter Park's prominence at the western exit of the Moffat Tunnel, which bores 6 miles through/under James Peak.  Google it if you are a train/history buff...
Twin Bridges Trail

Who would not want to start their day like this?  After a short trip up Arapahoe Rd and Little Vasquez, we jumped on the Twin Bridges trail and started up into the hills.  Partly cloudy skies, mid 60's temps and thin mountain air - perfect recipe for a good trail run.
Kathleen cruises the old D4 logging road
Starting down the WTB Trail - watch your step!

After climbing a good ways on D4, an abandoned logging road, we headed onto WTB Trail - a gnarled, twisting, steep path full of wonderful foot snares - rocks, roots, logs, stumps,.... you get the picture.  Aside from being a blast to run (or ride), this trail is named for three local mountain bike trail building gurus - Wade, Ted, and Bill, with Wade W. being the owner/genius/maestro of mountain roasted coffee beans at Rocky Mountain Roastery.  Mmmmm, high altitude coffee.... 
WTB with thoughts of coffee brewing...
Pine Tree slalom on WTB
Forest solitude

Over the years, there have been several re-routes on WTB thanks to Denver Water Board political wranglings (much of Denver's water supply ships over the Continental Divide from this basin) and, more recently, due to forest cutting to thin out mountain pine beetle kills.  Nevertheless, it is a sweet little piece of singletrack heaven if you really like to hit the trails.  WTB dumps out onto D2, another abandoned logging road which is sometimes singletrack and sometimes double.  We climbed out D2 to FS road 159 and made a quick duck into the forest on pristine "unmarked" singletrack.  We used to refer to this as the Ho Chi Minh Trail but, after climbing a ways up through the forest, found this unique signage on the Trail, creatively crafted with spent .357 magnum casings - I like it:
Marker for the Pinball Trail

A lot of work has been done on this trail over the years, but it's entrance remains unmarked.  Much of the trail building has been done by freeride mountain bikers and the lack of publicity is in part due to the advanced skills that are required to bike it.  Definitely NOT a trail to lure novice riders onto lest they be combining their mountain bike ride with a little helicopter jaunt to the little mountain hospital in Granby!  
Typical tread on Pinball

Pinball is actually a most appropriate name for this trail, as your feet (or wheels) are bounced around between boulders, stumps, logs, roots, and any other thinkable natural trail obstacle.  Even though HCM had the stealthy, underground, secretive vibe to it, the trail has found a terrain-appropriate moniker!
Running one of the freeride catwalks 

Pinball also provided us an opportunity to spend some time huffing and puffing above 10,000 feet elevation - getting really lean on oxygen up there!  This is a fairly steep trail, too, with the average gradient being above 8%, so we had our work cut out.  Started to get some nice lactic acid buildup in the legs here, just in time to start winding our way down toward town again.
Prepare for final descent onto Vasquez Road....
Vasquez Creek winding up toward the wilderness area

We dumped out onto Vasquez Road, another old 4WD road that leads to the Vasquez Wilderness trailhead. From there, we climbed around to Tunnel Hill and continued on until the switchbacks above the Blue Sky Trail.  We dropped down there and cruised the awesome singletrack Blue Sky trail down into town where we started our run.  The legs were getting sketchy after some fantastic trail exploration but it was definitely a great day!
Waiting for the train to pass - Continental Divide in the distance

As we waited for the train to pass through, we had time to survey the Continental Divide and Indian Peaks Wilderness off in the distance, ponder our immediate re-fueling plans (FOOOOOD!), and begin to think about some savory ribbons of trail for the 4th of July run.  Of course, we had to hit Hernando's Pizza for a tasty Simone Style pie with ham and green chiles - one of our all time favorites and a must stop when in Winter Park.  Their tag line says it all - "Life's too short to eat bad pizza."  Visit their site, watch the video, and then let us know when you plan your road trip - we might meet you there!

15 miles
3000' vertical
More smiles than could be counted :-)
Shoes - K Saucony Xodus
S - LaSportiva Wildcat

Play it Again!
Byers Peak - 12,803'

Woke up again to bluebird skies on the 4th and started our run at the High Country Stampede Rodeo grounds in Fraser, the trailhead for the Givelo Trail.  We decided to run one of our favorite trail loops, combining Givelo, Northwest Passage, Creekside, and Flume - just a lot of fun singletrack.  I must admit, the legs were a tad bit toasty from Saturday's outing and these trails, while fun, are quite a bit more tame than the previous days quad squashers.
Parry Peak (13,391') and the Continental Divide
Wildflowers along Givelo Trail

Givelo follows St Louis Creek road out to the NW Passage trail intersection, where we would head north.  NW Passage is another trail that has been a hotbed for feuding between DWB and local trail advocacy groups.  Both parties lost out big time to the tiny mountain pine beetle.  Previously a frolicking trail through a densely wooded area, NWP is now almost entirely exposed through a barren clear cut - stupid beetles!
Heading onto Creekside
St Louis Creek and the Creekside Trail

Creekside Trail is just plain fun to run or ride as it gently climbs along/above the north side of St Louis Creek. This is a slightly more technical trail with embedded river rock and many exposed roots.  Definitely a need to be a bit attentive with foot placement but still just gobs of fun to run.
Off-camber and rocky ... and a blast!
More Creekside Trail
FS159 with Byers Peak in the background
Start of the Flume Trail

Creekside dumps out onto FS159 briefly and then it's back to trail - the Flume Trail starts here.  Quite possibly the seeds of our "addiction" to trails started many years ago when we first mountain biked the Flume Trail and others in this area.  This is quite possibly on of the most enjoyable sections of trail we know.  While there is nothing enormously challenging, and no unbelievable landmarks, this is just.plain.fun.
Overlook to Byers Peak
Group photo overlooking St Louis Creek

We traded group photo duties with a gathering of bikers at the Byers Peak overlook on Flume trail and then headed down to cross the bridge back over to Creekside.  We had to stop for a moment of silence at Sage's all-time favorite spot to splash in the creek... :-( 
Kathleen coming out of Creekside in bright sunshine
Finishing off another great day of trails!

We had another bodacious day on the trails, topping off a nice little two-day jaunt in the mountains.  With two days and 28+ miles spent above 8900' elevation, it was a nice little getaway from the city and a good block of trail time.  Definitely Happy Trails!

13.5 miles
1500' elevation gain
Shoes - K Asics 2150 Trail
S - LaSportiva Wildcat

In other trail news - Chris from Seriousrunning.com sent this over - check into this in your area to see if there are events to jump in on the 21st of August!  Check out his website and support trail running in your neck of the woods.
2nd Annual National Trail Running Day set for August 21st, 2010
Atlanta, GA - June 28th, 2010 – Trail runners across the country participated in National Trail Running Day last year, having over 5,000 participants run Trail Races, plan Group Trail Runs, and perform Trail Maintenance. 
Trail Running is a relatively new sport that involves runners running on hiking trails, mountain bike trails, deserts, forests, creek beds, rocky terrain, heavily rooted terrain, and everything else that isn’t road.  A recent study conducted by the Outdoor Industry Association reported in 2009 4.8 million Trail Runners in the United States, with 13.1% of them trying it for the first time!  That is why the Trail Running Industry has announced it is coming together to celebrate the Second Annual National Trail Running Day to promote the awesome sport of Trail Running! 
National Trail Running Day will be used to celebrate the benefits of Trail Running with runners taking to the trails of varying difficulties and distances, connecting with nature and the environment, slowing down their lives and getting back to the basics.  For more experienced runners, Trail Running offers a more technical version of road running that allows runners to challenge themselves.  The fact is, everyone can enjoy Trail Running and National Trail Running Day is a great way to increase awareness of the sport!  
National Trail Running Day began in 2009 by a former Army Officer, Chris Barber, who began Trail Running soon after re-deploying and separating from the United States Army.  Chris had trouble dealing with the new decisions he faced in his rapidly changing life and found clarity in Trail Running.  Trail Running provided Chris a way to slow-down and fully comprehend the life decisions that laid ahead of him. These decisions were very different from the ones he faced leading a Platoon of 30 men during combat missions in Iraq.  Those were quick decisions where he considered his soldiers’ well-being first. Now he had to make long-term decisions that only affected him.  Trail Running was familiar and comfortable to Chris; while in the Army he ran on trails every morning with his entire unit.  So Chris decided to start his civilian days with a Trail Run to help ease the transition to a civilian life.  That is why Chris developed the first ever National Trail Running Day and SeriousRunning.com.
Go to the official National Trail Running Day website, www.trailrunningday.org to register your event and see what it’s all about. 
For more information contact, Chris Barber at chris@seriousrunning.com or 404.877.8781.
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