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

Saturday, May 7, 2011

We Desert(-ed) the Mountains... Part One

 Vail Pass - our weekend weather last Sunday - we're outta here!
 I-70 through Glenwood Canyon - a highway masterpiece

We generally take our "Spring" getaway a little earlier than this, but with the rude interruption of Grave's Disease, we had been stalling to let the meds get Kathleen back on track.  We were itching to get out for some time on new trails and Kathleen was wanting to "draw a line in the sand" for a fresh start on rebuilding her fitness. This week was that line.  With some good labs under her belt, we took off for some desert relief from the fussy weather we had been having, driving through a snow storm to get to the western slope of Colorado.  We were waffling on going to Moab, but perched ourselves in Fruita, Colorado simply for the fact that it has far better trails than Moab.  Don't tell anyone, but it's true ;-)
 Arrived in Fruita and "stretched our legs" with a nice 5 mile loop on Rustler's.  The Line is Drawn...
 The storm pushed through to the east, just where we wanted it to go.  The Colorado River is running high, stealing all our water sending water downstream to Vegas, Phoenix, and other places that can't get their own...
 Kathleen enjoying the desert trails and knocking off the cobwebs from 5 hours in the car
 Enjoying the last stretches of sweet singletrack - got to save some legs for Monday...

 The Promised Land - Overlooking trail nirvana from the Kokopelli Trailhead on Monday morning
 Getting it rolling on Mary's Loop - the start of Monday's long run.
 Climbing Mary's Loop, overlooking Rustler's, which we ran Sunday.  Mary's Loop is the "official" start of the Kokopelli Trail - 142 miles of desert rambling from Loma, Colorado to Moab, Utah.
 Heading up the double-track climb on Mary's - caution needed as the jaw dropping scenery does not lend well to the technical trails ahead!!!  The views are so big that photos struggle to capture the landscapes.  We took boatloads of pix, so follow along!
 Dropped off of Mary's onto Horsethief Bench - one of our favorites.  We have biked and run this trail numerous times.
 Stopped for a group shot on Lunch Rock.  You can sit on the front of the rock, dangle your legs over into free space, and watch the Colorado River flow far below your shoes while you eat your snacks!
 Climbing well above the river on Horsethief Bench.  The distant canyons are part of Black Canyons Wilderness which flanks the other bank of the Colorado.  The water looks calm from up high, but it is really moving with the late snow melt in the high country.
 Kathleen enjoying the trail - and her health.  This day was a big test.
 This is the "cattle chute" that you go down to enter Horsethief Bench, and then climb out to return to Mary's Loop.  For perspective, Kathleen is about 40% of the way up.  We have heard of mountain bikers cleaning this but never witnessed it ... until Wednesday when we would see 3 clean it and one faceplant on the very last drop!   Can you pick a good line through that???
 One of many canyon rims that you run along on Mary's Loop
 A lot of cliffside exposure on these trails - probably less jello leg running it than biking it!!
 Kathleen climbs away from the river on Mary's, nearing the junction of Steve's Loop - what a cool name for a trail...
 Trail marker for my namesake loop - Steve's Loop is a sweet singletrack that follows the rim around two large canyons and then winds its way up toward the major intersection with Lion's Loop, Mary's Loop, Mack Ridge, and the Moore Fun trail.
 Running on the ledge - watching your step is advised.
 Such awesome trails - really hard to not run these multiple times in a row
 Dropping in through some large boulders - remember the part about not watching the scenery???
 Eagle's view of one of the benches on Steve's Loop - love seeing those ribbons of trail
 The desert was in full bloom - good timing because the scorching heat that is coming to this area leaves the landscape fairly parched by summer.
 We don't often run with cows but all the area we would run while in Fruita is open range - good thing they are vegetarians!!!  This intersection connects traffic for 5 trails going off in different directions.  Kathleen chose to drop down to the doubletrack off of Mack Ridge and run back in to the trail head, finishing with 15 miles - more on that in a minute...
 From Mack Ridge, I headed up the Moore Fun trail - we had never been on it.  It was good but not fun, if you know what I mean!  Up many rocky switchbacks and ledges I climbed, with about 5 false summits, until I reached this perch looking over Mary's and Horsethief - sweet!  Moore Fun is extremely technical and I would guess that I would be lucky to ride 25% of it if I had been on my bike.  Some of it was even difficult to run but I enjoyed the views and the new experience.
 Descending now on Moore Fun, looking east over the trails to the start of the loop, with the massive Grand Mesa in the distance, partially cloud covered.
Finally reached the end of Moore Fun - a fitting sign post to mark the end of an unbelievable run.  Desert runs are different, as there are not many extended climbs with large gains like there are in the mountains.  This 18 mile run had just under 2800' of elevation gain, fairly tame by mountain standards.  However, the constant undulations of the trail, exposure, and pesky technical footwork required leave you in a similar state of overall fatigue.  As for Kathleen's run, this was the first 15 miler she has done in many months and she was very excited to finish well.  We were anxiously awaiting what the following days would allow.  More to come...
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