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Runtrails' Rocky Mountain Journal
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Today's miles:  14.1                                Cumulative miles: 369.9
         Approx. elevation gain: 1,540 feet        Bonus Miles:  0                
"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."
- Theodor Seuss Geisel


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 meadows.

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 5 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 name change).

But there's more. This area is not far from South Park, the huge, fertile valley I described in yesterday's 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 someone's imagination.

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 afternoon.

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 summer's adventures.


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

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2006 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil