Oh, boy, and I missed it! I usually don't have much of a fear of
heights, but I do have a fear of narrow ledges above deep chasms because
I'm the Queen of Klutz. I can just see me sliding off the trail in one
of Jim's graphic photos below.
This was Jim's second trail work day. Completing it along with
Tuesday's work day on Mendota Ridge gives him one ticket into the
Hardrock lottery for entrance into next year's race, if he decides to
enter. It also gave him the opportunity to see another gnarly section of
the course. I'm convinced that familiarity with this course is almost
mandatory for a successful finish in the race. The more you know about
it, the more respect you have for it and the better mental and physical
preparations you can make.
There are at least three Bear Creeks on or near the Hardrock course,
which makes for some confusion. Or is it just me?? There's the Bear
Creek that Jim followed in the KT to Mineral Creek section, another Bear
Creek running down to Telluride from Wasatch Mountain, and the Bear Creek that runs down from Engineer Mountain east
of Ouray to the Umcompahgre River near the Hwy. 550 tunnel. That's the
one Jim worked near today.
We drove to Charlie Thorn's house (race HQ) this morning so Jim could
catch a ride to the 550 tunnel parking lot with Robert Andrulis. The
work group had some of the same crew members as Tuesday: Robert, my Jim, John Cappis,
Jim Ballard, Kathy Lang, James Varner, and Paul Ralyea.
In additon, Scott Jurek (yes, THAT Scott Jurek!) and three members of a
Ouray trail building club were also present. Their main task today was to climb three miles up toward the Yellow
Jacket Mine, going backwards from the course directions this year, and
to rebuild sections of trail that were washed out over the spring.
For the squeamish and/or clumsy, this is probably the most dangerous
section of the Hardrock course with its sheer drops and no rocks or
trees to stop you on the way down the canyon. Jim said he wasn't afraid
today. That's a very good sign for someone contemplating running the
race! I've heard some runners say it's better to do this section in the
dark so you can't see the drop offs.
Jim carried metal rebar posts today. Others carried shovels, axes,
picks, McLeod rakes, and saws to cut out several downed trees and
repair washed-out sections of trail. Kathy ("Lopper Lady") clipped her way up and back, trimming
Note that these photos are going in the opposite direction in which
the runners go this year. In most of the photos, Bear Creek is on the
Starting out from the tunnel and going up (eastbound):
Note the two workers dwarfed by the canyon (and I
cropped this one down):
Looking back toward the Million Dollar Highway (550)
south of Ouray:
Looking back down the trail at crew members
inspecting a previous job:
This was hard labor -- more trail work that's been done:
Here's your basic "exposure, acrophobia!" Jim said he
couldn't show the perspective very well without a wide-angle lens to
illustrate how deep the drop-offs are, but I think his photos show it
quite well. See the narrow trail winding around the rock face below? Do
you think you could break your fall if you went overboard?
Here's a view to the creek in the canyon bottom:
Imagine the front-runners actually running this
section . . .
Jim took the next shot from a switchback. The second
picture is a close-up from it showing tiny work crew members to the left
Just looking at these photos makes me nervous!! And I've
never consider taking a dog up there, even a non-impulsive one like
This is better:
Today's major worksite, in a safer location just above the
creek, involved cutting and carrying logs, pounding in rebar posts to
hold the logs, and filling in the trail with debris and rocks:
I imagine the crew felt like real "hardrockers" after
all that physical labor! In the photo above, they're carrying a large
piece of solid piece of tree to use as fill material in the
Putting on the finishing touches -- job well done,
folks! Thank you. Even if I never hike or run that section, I know the
HRH runners will appreciate all your work.
Speaking of the original hardrockers, Jim found these
relics from the Grizzly Mine right along the trail:
I've seen mining equipment and buildings in all sorts of
precarious mountainside locations in Colorado, and it never ceases to
amaze me the conditions under which the miners worked and lived. There
are all kinds of reasons so many of them died, one of which was falling
down cliffs like these.
The next photos are ones Jim took on the way back down
to Hwy. 550, the same direction in which this year's runners will
travel. Now Bear Creek is on your left:
Now those aren't nearly as scary as the ones
going up, are they?? (wink, wink)
The work crew members got back to their vehicles about two hours earlier this
time since they didn't have so far to hike. I was expecting a call from
Jim to pick him up at the end of Mineral Creek Road, but Robert was kind
enough to deposit him at our camper. As a reward, I offered them both a
big bowl of mint chocolate chip ice cream, which they ate
appreciatively. Sure beats energy bars!
Read the next entry to see how I amused myself today . . .
Always up to something,
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and
© 2007 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil