Guess what? There's a big sign on the gate to the ranch
property now that says after September 1, the CT will no longer be going through
Clear Creek Ranch but will be re-routed through the forest service campground 1.4
miles down the road where we are camping right now.
It's all about "safety and liability." We live in a
Bummer. It was a nice run/hike through the 8/10ths of a
mile that currently bisects the ranch. They have a very nice bridge over the
wide creek, too. There isn't one at the campground, and I don't see any work
being done to make a trail near there, either.
Hmmm. . . . if you do this segment of the CT after
September 1, just follow the new signs, I guess. And you might get your feet wet
going through Clear Creek. Near our camp site it's about twenty feet wide and
knee-deep right now.
Yesterday Jim did another double crossing over Hope Pass as
he continues to make Hope his friend, not his enemy, for the Leadville race. He
plans to do several more climbs there while we are camped nearby. Previously we
haven't been able to come out here to train on the course as long as we can this
year. Those runs over the pass were limited to one or two so we didn't wear
ourselves out too much right before the race. But since it's still four weeks
until the race, Jim can safely train on Hope for another week or two this time.
Oh, and we found out from a local resident how many miles
Steve Peterson, the former winner, did this weekend on the course: 60
miles Saturday (when we both saw him) from Leadville to Winfield and back to
Twin Lakes, and 60 miles on Sunday from Twin Lakes to Winfield and back to
Yikes! We already know elite runners are in another
category than we are, but now it's really apparent! "Doubles" to us are
half that distance or less.
Jim was taking today to rest, so it was my turn to do
another run on the CT. I chose the next section south, Segment 12, since the
trail head was so convenient to our campground.
I almost didn't get started, though. My legs were still tired from
my run on Saturday and ached during the night. I also laid awake trying to
figure out how to do the next eight segments south of here in five runs instead
of six. Sometimes the brain just won't shut off!
When the alarm went
off at 5 AM, I told Jim I needed to either sleep longer or bag it for today. I
woke up around 8 and decided to go for it. In retrospect, I probably shoulda
stayed in bed!
VALLEY OF THE GIANTS
Jim graciously drove me up the road 1.4 miles to the start
at the ranch gate and Cody and I were on the trail at 9 AM. I crossed my fingers
that no storms would hit while I was at the higher elevations today.
I was quite happy that this segment gets up to two high
points of 11,655 feet and 11,870 feet. They didn't look or feel exactly like
"tundra," but they were definitely higher than I got on Saturday. And yes,
storms did hit during the afternoon, but not when I was on the ridge
tops. More about that later . . .
Most of today's section went through the Collegiate Peaks
Wilderness/Sawatch Range as the trail continued south along the eastern flanks
of Mounts Oxford, Harvard, and Columbia, all fourteeners. The Arkansas River
valley ("Valley of the Giants") was on my left to the east, the imposing barrier
mountains on my right toward the west.
Fifteen of Colorado's highest peaks cluster near the
Arkansas River. For ninety miles, the CT undulates over their flanks from the
north, at Mt. Massive (Segment 10) to the south, Mt. Shavano (Segment 14).
Segment 12 is a beautiful area with more views than in
Segment 11. Cody had plenty of water in all the big and little streams we
crossed, and we had lots of shade through the spruce, fir, and aspen forests. I
There was considerably more elevation change than two days
ago, too. Total gain going southbound is about 4,520 feet and total loss is
The first mile through Clear Creek Ranch is relatively
I saw this sign soon after re-entering forest service land:
Then the trail gets serious as it gains almost 2,700 feet
in the next four miles and tops out in a stand of bristlecone pine trees:
I enjoy going through the various eco-zones on long climbs
or descents. In this area, the aspens are around 11,000 feet. The trees thinned
out as I got higher.
I noticed more pretty quartz-type rocks on this segment
than any of the CT segments I've done so far. This is one of them:
I had to put on my jacket near the top of this ridge when
some sleet started to fall, but it didn't last long. I took the jacket back off
in a few minutes and continued on across the top. I believe that's Mt.
Oxford in the background in t he photo below.
I enjoyed a moderately-steep descent on the south side of
the first ridge, going from 11,655 feet down to Pine Creek at 10,430 feet in a
little over a mile. There were several tents along this beautiful creek and an
trail that goes to the popular Missouri Basin. Most of today's creeks had sturdy
bridges spanning them.
The second major ascent began from the creek, up 1,440 feet
in about two miles. I topped out in a short tundra area with good views of Mt.
Oxford. These two photos are near the top, looking south toward intense blue sky:
I could see storm clouds over the nearby mountains to the
north and west and
could heard thunder, but I didn't get wet until the descent from this ridge on
the flank of Mt. Harvard or Mt. Columbia:
Once again, the trees thinned out as we
climbed higher to the little bit of tundra that we crossed:
After Cody and I got down mostly into trees again, the
thunder and lightning got a little closer and it started hailing. No sleet or
rain to start, just pea-sized hail that began suddenly. It stung my bare legs
and jacket-clad arms. Ouch! This time we had large pines to use as shields,
however. Cody and I stood under trees twice for a few minutes to avoid the worst
of the hail until the storms let up.
An odd thing happened as we were running in the sleet a
little after this.
Something hit the side of my head. It felt like getting hit
with a snowball. I thought maybe it was a big pinecone that blew down or
something. I was glad I had my jacket hood on, or else my glasses would have
come all the way off and maybe broken.
Then I saw a medium-sized gray bird fall to the trail
and realized he'd smacked me in the head!
Cody was quite interested in putting the bird in his mouth
(he's a retriever, after all)
but he obeyed my command to "leave it!" The bird wasn't able to get up and fly. I
couldn't see what was wrong with it. I gently laid it in some grass off the
trail so no one would step on it. I hope it was just stunned and not seriously
That was pretty weird! The only reason I didn't photograph
the bird was because it was raining steadily and I didn't want to get the camera
We continued on downhill for about nine glorious miles. The
trail was mostly smooth and runnable, although there were the usual gnarly,
rocky spots here and there. While it was still raining, the trail sometimes
looked like a creek:
We crossed a few more real creeks . . .
. . . and went by scenic Harvard Lake:
Too bad I couldn't take advantage of all the downhill
running, though. My left knee got progressively sore on today's run and I was
only able to shuffle by the last mile. My left heel also developed a whopper of
a blister, the first one I've had this summer. I believe it was caused by the
different stride I developed to protect my knee.
<sigh> It's always something! Now I'll have to rest a few
more days before hitting the trail again. Eighty-eight miles last week was
than my body could handle without developing an over-use injury.
Since it was a weekday, I didn't see as many trail users today
as I did on Saturday. Near the end of the run two northbound hikers passed by. We
just said hi. Later, Jim told me they were probably the guys he picked up on the
way to the trail head at North Cottonwood Creek west of Buena Vista. The last two miles of dirt road are very
rough, and several folks left their cars at the end of the smoother part of the
road and walked up to the trail head. We also gave a ride to two southbound
runners we know who finished when I did; they'd also left their vehicle a couple
miles down the road. That's the roughest access road we've encountered since Bolam Pass Road in the San Juans. Jim will have to negotiate it again when I do
Since most of this segment goes through a wilderness area,
there were no cyclists on the trail today. And I still haven't seen any
equestrians after completing thirteen of the twenty-eight CT segments. There are
trails near the south end of this segment that are heavily used by horseback
This photo is from the last descent to the North Cottonwood
Creek trail head. It started raining again lightly just as I finished the run.
Cody did his usual run-on-ahead-of-mom at the
end, sensing that Jim was close. One of the runners who was with me even noticed
his behavior and was impressed!
I'm not sure how many days I'll take off now to let my
knee(s) and blister heal. It depends on Jim's schedule. He's been busy planning
different training routes, mostly on the LT100 course, and splits for the aid stations
during the race. He has results for the last five years or more with everyone's
splits, including his own for the four times he's run the race. He's been
analyzing times to see when the finishers around his speed (28-30 hours) get to
Twin Lakes at 40 miles and Winfield at 50 miles. He doesn't know whether to push
the pace the first forty miles to give himself more time over Hope Pass, or run
closer to the cut-offs to conserve energy for the mountain. There are advantages
to either ploy.
One thing's for sure: he's gonna climb that
pass enough times from both directions to increase his strength and confidence
as much as he can!
Hope Pass is my friend . . . Hope Pass is my friend . . .
Next up: some interesting 19th Century history from
Clear Creek Canyon, our current "home."
Cheers from the gypsies,