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Runtrails' Rocky Mountain Journal
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Today's miles: 14.5                                Cumulative miles: 257.8
         Approx. elevation gain: 2,620 feet        Bonus Miles: 0               
"The 'Angel of Shavano' is a distinctive snow formation appearing on the
eastern flank of Mt. Shavano each spring. One legend claims that the
snow represents an Indian princess who, during severe drought,
knelt at the foot of the mountain and prayed for rain. Her tears, in the form
of melting snow, provide valuable moisture to the Arkansas Valley below."
- from a sign at the Angel of Shavano trailhead on the Colorado Trail


Great, you're thinking. Another tall tale from Colorado!

Hey. I like legends. I think they're kinda fun. I'm not gullible enough to believe them, but I was curious about the "angel" bit because the CT guidebook doesn't mention the source of the trailhead name. I didn't know the origin until finishing this section today and reading the colorful sign in the parking lot.

Jim doesn't buy these stories, either.

Today is his birthday and do you know how he spent the morning? Crewing me on the Colorado Trail! What a sweetie. I asked him how he wanted to spend the day and he said, "It's just another day. I don't want anything special made of it."

My suggestion was that he get a relaxing massage and sit in the hot springs at one of the places in Princeton Hot Springs that offers such services. It was close to this morning's trailhead, very convenient. I asked him about it a couple days ago, but he wasn't interested. Rats. Sometimes it's tough coming up with suitable gifts for your spouse! Jim considers dinner out with our friends the other night in Leadville  to be his gift - and that GPS he got a couple months ago . . .

Today's segment traveled through the southern end of the Sawatch Range in the shadow of three 14ers - Antero, Shavano, and Tabegauche. (Mt. Shavano commemorates a chief of the Tabegauche band of Ute Indians.) It's not as rigorous as some other sections, although there are some surprisingly steep, short climbs out of several creek crossings in the southbound direction.

The longest and most difficult ascent of the day came in the first mile, a 900-foot, moderately steep climb from Chalk Creek to an eastern ridge of Mt. Antero. Total elevation gain in this 14+ miles was about 2,620 feet. I estimate loss at 1,400 feet. This section ranges in altitude from 8,390 feet at Chalk Creek to just over 10,000 feet about twelve miles in. All but the first mile is between 9,000 and 10,000 feet - noticeably easier breathing than above tree line!

Segment 14 officially ends at Hwy. 50, another six miles south of the trail head where I stopped today. I plan to start there when I do Segment 15, which is only 14.2 miles. That will make Segment 15 more worth the lengthy drive. It was nice to do a shorter segment today because I'm getting increasingly fatigued at this point. There were several places today with very nice, flat trail that I was simply too tired to run. It was nice to finish before lunch.

I can recommend this as one of the most runnable (or bike-able) sections of the CT I've seen so far. Probably three-quarters of the trail surface was relatively smooth sand, dirt, or pine needles. The rest was moderately to seriously rocky.

There is more downhill going northbound. I was frustrated with all the smooth trail going UP today that I couldn't run going southbound. It would be especially fun to run the switchbacks down to Chalk Cliffs instead of walk up them like I did. Consider running or cycling this section - in either direction - if you're in the area on vacation some time.

I was again impressed with several nice bridges across the larger creeks today. This is a major one at the Chalk Creek trailhead where I began this morning about 7 AM:

The next bridge was built last summer by volunteers to span Brown's Creek:

And even this little one does the job quiet nicely. It has wire mesh tacked down to the surface to reduce slipping as you cross it, the first such feature I've seen in fifteen of the twenty-eight CT segments I've run so far. I saw several of these on the Appalachian Trail last summer, and really appreciated them. Small touch, big advantage.

This is a good section for dogs because of all the creeks (except for one six-mile section at the beginning) and a fair amount of shade. Although there were some open meadows and either burned or logged areas, most of the segment is in pine and aspen forests along the eastern flanks of the mountains. I was grateful for today's mostly-overcast skies because I didn't get nearly as hot on the trail as I did two days ago.

It was very cloudy along the mountain ranges west of the Arkansas Valley on our way to the trailhead this morning. Rain looked imminent from our campsite in the Clear Creek Canyon all the way to Princeton Hot Springs, but I never got into any rain. Jim got some rain while running errands in Salida, though.

I had hopes of seeing the Chalk Cliffs glistening white in the morning sun but it wasn't gonna happen with all the clouds:

This is another one of those sections that seemed to have better views behind me than in front of me. All morning I had to keep turning around to see the Cliffs, Mt. Princeton, Mt. Antero, and other expansive views like this one on the way up the first ridge:

The top of the ridge was a surprise: a meadow-like plateau with a very smooth trail . . .

. . . that dropped down through a lovely aspen grove . . .

. . . hit a rutted, rocky patch, and ended up in a three-mile gently rolling area that has been logged and/or burned previously (I saw a lot of charred tree trunks lying around):

I realize that description doesn't sound very flattering, but I enjoyed this open meadow section because of the nice views and really smooth trail:


And lest you think it was all smooth sailing, er, running today . . . as I neared the Brown/Little Brown creek area, the trail became quite rocky for about half a mile:

There were other rutted and/or rocky spots today, too, but I didn't mind them since most of the trail was really nice.

Although there are several intersecting trails in this creek drainage (and other places), most of the CT was very well-marked in Segment 14 and I didn't need to consult the GPS or directions as much as usual.

I enjoyed the different types of forest again, including stately pines . . .

. . . and several sections with beautiful aspens:


It appeared that a high wind took down these pines lying like matchsticks in one direction:

I don't think an avalanche did that, considering the location. I've seen steep  mountainsides where all the trees were laid down by an avalanche.

Coming down from today's high point, I finally got some good views of Mt. Shavano:

There isn't any snow left to show the "angel" now, however. (Hey, I couldn't even make out an angel figure in the photo on the sign at the trail head.)


Then there were the cows.

Cody and I went through another beautiful aspen grove and crossed a cattle grate between rustic split-rail fencing. That and the huge cow patties should have been a clue . . .

We had entered another mile-long cow zone, only this one didn't have as many hundreds of bovines as the one near Eddiesville a couple weeks ago.

Cody was on his best behavior as we herded numerous cows out of our way, watching carefully where we stepped. Like bears, why do cows have to poop in the middle of the trail when they have many acres of woods so close???

These calves and their mamas were more curious than afraid of Cody and me. They didn't make nearly as much of a to-do when we came through as the Eddiesville herd. In fact, it took some patience and persuasion to get them off the trail so we could pass through!

I figured we were done with cows after the first bunch. Not so. There was another large group of them a few hundred yards beyond, slopping around in the mud next to a tiny stream:

This group simply didn't want to move. The vegetation was too thick to get around them. I tried to remember, from my long-ago childhood farm days, how to persuade them it was in their best interest to get out of our way . . . but my memory failed me. Talking to them in a normal voice eventually worked, and even the coal-black cow that planted herself firmly in the middle of the trail, engaging me in a staring contest, finally moved up the slope and out of our way. (She and Cody did a nose-to-nose for a bit, too. That was cute and happened too fast for a photo.)

After I got past that bunch, several more followed us, probably hoping for some food.

Meanwhile, I'm wondering where all the bulls are? These were all calves and cows.

Finally there were no more cows. We passed through this pretty meadow (still dodging cow pies) . . .

. . . when, HEL-lo!

Around a bend in the next grove of aspens was this big fella about five feet off the trail!! Hi, guy. If you're the only bull out here, you've been very busy, indeed, considering how many calves I've seen in the last mile.

He stood his ground, staring at us. Cody didn't attempt to make contact, fortunately. As with an all-black dog (like Cody), it's hard to make out the bull's expression. Any guesses? He didn't bother us. I think he's used to folks being on the trail this near to the trailheads for Mts. Shavano and Tabegauche.

The long, gradual descent on the mountainside down to the Angel of Shavano parking area/trailhead reminded me a lot of the descent two days ago to the Avalanche trailhead on Cottonwood Pass Road. Deja vu all over again.

We passed through a woods near the bottom, greeting the only people we saw all day on the trail, a young couple with three kids. I commented, "I hope there's a parking area nearby!" They said yes, and I swear Cody took off when he heard that.

There was, indeed, a parking area "nearby," but it was at least another quarter mile away. I ran over the rocks and through a creek to keep up with him, laughing all the way. Soon I saw the truck, Tater, and Jim. Cody was already there, wriggling in delight at finding "Daddy" again!

That dog is something else. He should be a drug dog, cadaver dog, avalanche rescue dog, or something like that so he can put that nose to work for the good of society!

And maybe earn enough to pay for his dog chow.

We had a good day on Segment 14. I hope many of you who are reading this can someday enjoy it, too.

Next up: not sure! I've finally about caught up with these entries so I don't know what the next three will be. Maybe the next segment I run, maybe something about nearby Twin Lakes, who knows? Stay tuned.

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater

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2006 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil