Although Jim didn't have the opportunity to "bag" this 14er, his
trail work crew did get to go up to the saddle between Handies Peak and
Whitecross Mountain while working with the "high" group today.
About thirty runners showed up to work today, most wanting the ticket
that two days of trail work this weekend will net them for use in next
year's race lottery. The work is hard manual labor clearing and
rebuilding damaged sections of trail, but the scenery and camaraderie
with fellow ultra running souls is as rewarding as the lottery tickets
Runners piled into several 4WD vehicles for the drive on rough jeep
roads over Cinnamon Pass to the closest parking area to the work sites
on the southwestern slopes of Handies Peak, shown below from the road:
Jim and three other close friends (!) shared the back seat of one
truck on the bumpy ride out and back. Jim didn't want to take our truck
until he saw what the road was like. He determined that he could take
ours tomorrow, although some of the switchbacks would require backing up
to make the turns. Those switchbacks are much easier in vehicles with
shorter wheelbases than ours!
The HRH group was led today by four trail builders from the Colorado
Fourteeners Initiative (CFI). Crew members had to sign waivers/releases
and wear hard hats. They also received instructions in the proper use of
each tool they carried to the work sites and explanations of the types
of trail work they'd be doing (how and why). This information
should be useful for future work days with our local Appalachian Trail
The runners split up into three work groups today, each with at least
one CFI leader. Jim was in the "high" group that would build rock steps
near a ravine where the trail was damaged by spring runoff from melting
snow. Also in his group were Liz Walker, Scott Brockmeier, Robert
Andrulis, Paul Ralyea, Howie Stern, and two or three other people (if
you know who they were, please let me know).
Jim took these photos of the work crews, scenery, and other
interesting things that
caught his eye as he climbed through American Basin to his work site:
During the race this year, runners will approach Handies Peak in a
CCW direction from the Sherman aid station and Burrows Park. After
summitting Handies, they drop down into American Basin and pass
beautiful Sloan Lake. They will be going the opposite direction
as most of these photos but they will be running on the same trail.
Backward glances at the trail workers coming up behind Jim:
We've seen a lot of rock cairns marking trails above
tree line, but this one was special:
Why? There was a baby cairn on top of the big cairn! I love
this kind of humor.
The little begger-squirrel below followed Jim's group for a
while, probably hoping for a snack. There were lots of hikers on the
trail today heading up to the summit, and I'm sure this fella's been fed
before (not a good idea to feed wildlife, but it was cute that he
Jim took photos of the ravine where his group would install new steps
as he hiked up and down from the work site:
That was the big picture. Here's a close-up:
The trail is a faint line going mostly horizontally.
It's hard to see even in
the close-up above. From this distance it looks mighty narrow to me,
with a significant drop-off, but it is wider when you're on it.
Jim's work group posed for this photo on the way up.
Notice that each person is carrying a tool or other equipment for the
job they will be doing:
That job involved moving 200-pound rocks they found on the
mountainside to use as "check" steps! They hauled them in a special net:
Here are two of the steps they built. It's important
that the rocks be set into the dirt at the correct angle to prevent as
much erosion as possible and make the footing more stable.
The "middle" trail work group is somewhere in the next photo,
far down below where Jim was working. I cropped it as best as I could in
the second photo below, but you can't identify the people. Jim was using
our old 4-megapixel camera and the result is pixel-y if I blow it up any
bigger. That's why we got a 7-megapixel camera. Anyway, I liked the
patterns of snow in the first photo, and it does show some perspective
as to how much higher Jim was working:
He also took photos up toward the saddle, including this one of tiny
people on the horizon (also showing how far away they were):
Jim's group got to walk up to the saddle (pass) far
above their work site. Here they are at 13,480 feet, the highest Jim's
been on our trip this summer.
Too bad they didn't have time to go on up to Handies Peak. The trail to
the peak is shown below. Runners come down that in this year's race.
It doesn't look like they will have much snow to deal with on this side of
Jim took these photos at of near the saddle:
This is beautiful Sloan Lake, below, mentioned in the course
description at the beginning of this entry. It was partly covered in
ice. The next three photos show it from high up, then closer and
closer to the trail:
Jim took the next photos on the way down the mountain at
the end of the day:
See how the trail snakes through the snow and tundra
Catching up the "middle" work group on the way
Jim was pretty tired when he called me to come get him
in Silverton about 5:30 PM. The long, bumpy ride to and from the work
site was almost as tiring as hauling rock at nearly 13,000 feet.
I think I know (without asking) why Jim chose to work at
the highest of the three levels -- and I'd make the same choice!
Next entry: one more trail work day to go . . .
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and
© 2007 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil