Runtrails' Rocky Mountain Journal
Previous          Journal Topics by Date            Next



"We travel the world over to find the beautiful.
- Emerson


Redcloud Peak is another one of Colorado's fifty-four "14ers," mountains with summits over 14,000 feet. It is located east of Handies Peak, where Jim and about twenty-eight other Hardrock runners and supporters did trail work yesterday. Both peaks are northeast of Silverton and southeast of Ouray in the lofty San Juan mountain range.

Redcloud (elev. 14,034 feet) is NOT on the Hardrock course. Originally, the HRH trail crews were going to work on Handies Peak both yesterday and today. However, there were more pressing concerns about the trail on the northeast flank of Redcloud than what remains to be done on Handies, so the Colorado Trail Initiative (CFI) requested the assistance of the hardy runners to help on Redcloud today.

Not only can these folks hike to 12,000 and 13,000 feet with relative ease, compared to the general public, they still have the energy to WORK up there! Why not take advantage of this elite work force?

It was a win-win for the Hardrock group, the CFI, and the Bureau of Land Management. Runners wanting tickets for next year's race lottery -- or simply to "give back" to help maintain the trails they love-- got what they wanted. And the trail and land management organizations got expert volunteer (free!) help they needed to make trail improvements on Redcloud Peak. It's great when various groups can work together closely like this to accomplish their goals.


Jim got this beautiful shot of Redcloud and nearby Sunshine Peak, yet another 14er, on the way to his fourth (and final) trail work assignment today.

Jim decided to take our truck because the Alpine Loop Road over Cinnamon Pass yesterday wasn't as bad as he'd heard. Of course, he was a passenger then and in a vehicle with a shorter wheel base. Driving an F-250 on that road is a different matter, and having a full passenger load added to the challenge -- especially when one of the front wheels was suddenly in space!

Jim was driving over some large rocks and was teetering on two of them at a very slow speed. The front left tire was in the air. One of the passengers wanted to bail out right then and there (I might have, too). Jim jokes that he wouldn't let her out because she was the one holding the truck down on the other side! Everyone let out a collective sigh of relief when the wheel came back down. Although it was only a few inches off the ground, on that narrow, rocky road high on a mountain, it was nerve-wracking for a few moments.

It took about two hours to get to the trail head at Silver Creek, which is several miles past the turnoff they took yesterday to Handies Peak. In the race, runners do go near this trail head, turning left (west) up Grizzly Gulch and up to the summit of Handies. Today the work group hiked east about four miles along Silver Creek and ascended a ridge on the northeast side of Redcloud Peak to reach their various work sites. 



Jim's group was the "middle" one today but they were still up pretty high -- about 13,100 feet. Another group went higher and worked down toward Jim's group until they met. The main task today was to fill in renegade trails people have made in their haste to descend the mountain -- shortcuts to avoid switchbacks. Instead of switching back and forth, they go straight down between loops of the trail (rarely do they "cheat" going uphill because it's too steep).

This is a big no-no on any trail because of the erosion it causes and the damage it does to fragile mountain plant life, especially in the tundra.  I noticed these tangents more on the Appalachian Trail than any trails out West I've run or hiked, but it's apparently a problem here, too.

The lowest of the three groups dug nearby "sod" to fill in their shortcuts but it was all rock in the location where the two higher groups were working. Jim's group built this retaining wall (below) at the bottom of one shortcut to discourage people from using it, and also filled in the renegade trail with smaller rocks higher up. A sign will also be erected here next week. The volunteers on the left are on the REAL trail.

Jim's group consisted of a guy from the CFI (Kiernan), a fella from the BLM (Jim), Kathy Lang, Jim Ballard, Karen Pate, and Pat Homelvig -- must have been fun with three Jims! After they got done working, they hiked farther up the ridge to about 13,200 feet, where my Jim got the next series of photos.




The group leaders called it a day at 2 PM, an hour earlier than planned, because the sky was getting very hazy. They didn't know if it was smoke from a fire in Utah or an approaching storm.

Even though he was very tired and not in the mood to take as many photos today (these eleven were it!), Jim still appreciated the beauty around him and noticed details like these delicate blue columbines, Colorado's state flower. He always enjoys seeing them on our runs and hikes. We have some red and yellow columbines at home in Virginia, but they don't compare with the clear blue ones out here.

That's the end of Jim's four trail work days. There are some more trail marking days, but we don't plan to go on those. There just isn't time, with the race starting in only five days. Our focus now is on gathering supplies and equipment for our aid station, corresponding with our volunteers, driving down to Durango to find things we can't get in Silverton, setting up our aid station tent tomorrow morning, attending various race events, getting in some training runs, and setting up the aid station on Thursday.

Next entries: an update on our ultra running nutrition strategy, photos of wildflowers common in the San Juan Range, and pre-race activities.

Finally caught up on this journal,

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

Previous       Next

2007 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil