This was my last day on the Colorado Trail for 2006.
Although I'm seven segments short of a thru-run "finish" and I'm not ready
psychologically to leave these beautiful mountains yet, I'm not crying about it.
It's time to say farewell to the West for a while.
I feel very fortunate to have been able to enjoy three
glorious months in the Rocky Mountains this summer, including twenty-one
segments of the CT. It gives me more to look forward to next year, in fact -
finishing the remaining segments, and doing some of my favorites over again. Oh,
and getting Jim out there on them, too! I think it's more fun to share something
beautiful than to experience it alone.
So instead of being sad as I ran today's segment, I smiled
(most of the way) as I focused on the beauty surrounding me in this particular section and
reminisced about some of the awesome days I've had on the trail this summer.
What a joy it has been!
Segment 5 is relatively short, just 14.4 miles officially, but I did
three-tenths of it yesterday so it was even shorter today. I thought it would be
an "easy" run, but yesterday's 33-miler left me more tired than I realized. I
was dragging the last few miles, especially in the non-shaded areas through
Jim wanted to run, too, so we decided to go opposite
directions and "crew" each other. He started from the camper near Kenosha Pass
and went "north" (which is actually southeast in this section!) to Long Gulch. I
drove to the other end at Long Gulch and went "south" (it was really northwest),
ending at the camper. Jim drove the truck back to the camper, getting there
first but not by much. He was struggling, too, only three days after his tough
run at Leadville.
Compared to most of the CT sections, this one was tame.
SOBOs have only about 1,540 feet of gain and 1,640 feet of loss. The Long Gulch
trail head is 100 feet higher than the Kenosha Pass trail head. There are no
significant climbs, just long gradual ones that neither of us could run up today
because of our fatigue. If we'd been more rested, we could have done the section
much faster. Most of the trail was pretty smooth, although the old stock "driveway"
a couple miles out from Kenosha Pass was rocky.
We lucked out with the weather, considering our late
starts. Jim began at 9 AM, me at 9:45. In fact, it got quite warm in the early
afternoon sun before I finished around 2 PM. We could hear a storm in the
distance but the sky above us remained mostly clear.
Tater got to run with us today. We thought Cody needed a
rest day after his extra-long run yesterday (although you couldn't tell by his
behavior that he was the least little bit tired!). Tater started with me and
ended with Jim. I met him about 5½ miles in
from Long Gulch and Tater went back to the truck with him - she got to run about
eleven miles. We knew there were no
streams in the last six miles at the other end of the segment near Kenosha Pass. There was less
shade there, too. It was better to keep Tater on the wetter, shadier side of the
section, especially as warm as it got for me in the last third of the run.
[You know, we're going to really miss the cooler days and
nights we've been enjoying all summer! We're used to 40s in the mornings and 60s
in the afternoon at 10,000 feet. Now 70°
feels "hot," and that's in a relatively dry climate. In a few short
hours, we're going to be dropping down to much lower altitudes, possibly much
higher temperatures, and definitely higher humidity.
I'm dreading it. Neither of us (especially me) acclimates
very fast or well to heat. That was obvious in May and June when we encountered
hot races. We adapted quickly to cooler temperatures and lower humidity. The
reverse is much trickier! All we're acclimated to now is high altitude, and that
won't do us a bit of good when we get back home to Virginia.]
The first six miles of this segment, going SOBO from Long
Gulch, are mostly in the Lost Creek Wilderness, which has a fascinating history
of lost gold, vanished dreams, and hidden places. It is named for a creek that
disappears nine times under boulders and earthen tunnels, re-emerging as Goose
Creek. That in itself is interesting to me (the disappearing act as well as the
But there's more. This area is not far from South Park, the
huge, fertile valley I described in
journal entry. Back in the 1800s, the notorious Reynolds Gang used to raid gold
from the stagecoaches and riders passing through South Park on their way to
Denver from the mining towns. Legend has it that lost caches of gold remain in
the gulches or large granite rock outcroppings of Lost Park, where the gang
frequently hid out.
Prospectors also vanished in the wilderness, looking for
gold that may never have been there. According to the CT guidebook, both the
Lost Jackman Mine and the Indian Mine were supposed to be fabulously rich, but it's not clear if they ever existed or were just the figment of
There are still some hidden, unexplored places in Lost
Creek Wilderness, even though it it heavily used by hikers, runners, and
equestrians (cyclists aren't allowed to ride in established wildernesses). Jim
and I stuck to the established Colorado Trail, but enjoyed all the interesting
rock formation as we passed through this section.
I loved the open meadows full of summer flowers in the
last eight miles of this segment, stopping to take more flower photos than I've
gotten in several weeks. Here are a few:
There was a pretty valley with an old ranch on private land
in the middle of all the public lands . . .
. . . and lovely aspen groves here and there:
I noticed that some of the aspen leaves are already turning
gold, a harbinger of autumn in the Rockies.
I have read that the odd graffiti-like markings on aspens
are caused by elks rubbing their antlers on the bark:
Shortly after the valley with the ranch, I opened a forest
service gate and found this love note in the dirt, left by my favorite fella for
me to find:
That left an even bigger smile on my face than
did the beautiful flowers and views!
As I climbed higher through the meadows I got better views
of the mountain ranges in every direction:
The next view is looking down to the scenic
valley toward Lost Park Road, which provides access to the Long Gulch trail head
where I started my run today:
About ten miles into the section I began to get great views
of South Park and the range of mountains to the west that includes Mt. Guyot,
territory I covered yesterday in
Segment 6. Mt. Guyot is the pointed
mountain on the right:
I zoomed in a little closer here.
Georgia Pass is to the right of Mt. Guyot:
The next photo shows more of South Park, the large valley
west of Kenosha Pass:
I enjoyed running on ridges-with-a-view one last time
before descending through fir and aspen forests to Kenosha Pass.
We didn't see many people on this summer weekday: two day
hikers, a thru-hiking couple with their dog, and one cyclist going up the
rocky stock "driveway" near Kenosha Pass (not part of the wilderness area).
It was great to end my run at the camper in the early
Jim and Tater had just returned. We spent about an hour getting
showered, eating lunch, and preparing to leave the area. We got through Denver's
rush "hour" without much delay and headed east on I-70, spending the night
boon-docking in western Kansas at a Cabella's parking lot next to a grassy,
treed area that was nice for the dogs and a late picnic supper.
It was plenty hot, as we expected, even though we didn't
stop until almost sunset. At least we weren't in muggy territory yet . . . that
would come the next day.
<sigh> We already miss the cool weather at 10,000 feet.
Next entry: More Mushroom Madness - cool new fungi photos from the last two segments.
Then two more entries about Leadville (colorful characters from history, and
interesting mining remnants) and "Eastward, Ho!" my final thoughts on the