Runtrails' Rocky Mountain Journal
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"You don't stop exploring because you get old, you get old because you stop exploring."
- unknown 


It's always tough to leave the Bighorn Mountains, even when we lived only 90 minutes away in Billings. Now that we can get there only once every year (or less) from our home in Virginia, it's even harder. The mountains are so beautiful, the people so friendly, and the race so special that we will continue to return there -- maybe not every year, but frequently.

Yesterday morning we packed up and headed south for a series of overnight stays on our way to Silverton for Part 2 of this year's odyssey -- playing in the San Juan Mountains near Silverton, CO and running Cunningham Aid Station again during the Hardrock Hundred. It's much easier to camp in one place for several days or weeks than to move every day! It'll be nice to hunker down for a longer period of time in Silverton.

However, there are a few things to do on the way to Silverton . . . such as running some of the remaining segments of the Colorado Trail.

The weather was great on  Tuesday as we headed south through Wyoming on I-90 and I-25. Our first stop was the Fort Collins, Colorado REI store, where we got a few small items and our 2007 CORSAR cards, which are very important for outdoor adventurers to have. Our cards from 2006 have expired. You can get a one-year or a five-year card.

CORSAR stands for Colorado Outdoor Recreation Search and Rescue. For a mere $3 a year or $12 for five, you protect yourself against huge search and rescue fees if you get lost in the wilderness.

The day before we got ours, we heard news reports of a man who had to be rescued in the mountains and was billed about $5,000 for it. That's how it should be. There is no reason local citizens should have to foot the bill when someone gets lost or injured -- it's called personal responsibility. The fella at REI who sold me my card asked me if that's why I got mine, as several people had come in before Jim and me for their cards after hearing the news.

Nope. We just knew we needed the cards for our further adventures in Colorado this summer. We should have gotten ours before I hit the CT a couple weeks ago, in fact, but inadvertently let it slip.

I take notes when we travel so we also knew from last year's trip that Ft. Collins has a city ordinance prohibiting overnight stays at Wal-Mart. We headed a few miles south to Longmont and stayed in the same nice shady spot at Sam's Club where we "camped" last year. The manager was fine with that -- and he didn't even know we'd just spent about $100 in his store. Most folks go a bit down the street to the Wal-Mart to park. We prefer Sam's because it's farther off the noisy street. (Oh, man, do you know how LOUD those machines that clean the parking lot at 6 AM are???)


So Thanks to the street cleaner this morning we got up earlier than planned and drove down the street to get more groceries at Wal-Mart on our way back to the freeway. Those stores are pure chaos early in the morning when they are stocking the shelves! That's the second time on this trip that we've gone in to one around 7 AM. We found everything we wanted -- and more -- and piled back into the truck.

On to Denver. Goody -- just in time for the morning  rush hour traffic!

Lo and behold, it wasn't all that bad except in one construction area. [Stupid rhetorical question: why do they do construction during rush hours? and summer vacation time?? Just kidding.]

There are several ways to get to the Salida/Poncha Springs area, tomorrow's destination. The next two segments of the Colorado Trail I plan to run are in that vicinity. We're on about Plan E for finishing the five segments I have left. The plan keeps changing as I come up with new ideas and as we assess the levels of snow, which are higher than last year and therefore a major consideration that I didn't have to worry about in 2006.

Anyway, instead of driving down Hwy.285 and 24 west of Denver to Salida/Poncha Springs on US 50 like we did last year, one of us (Jim says it was me) got the bright idea of going through Leadville instead to visit our NC buddy, Joe Lugiano. He's spending most of the summer there visiting friends and training for the Leadville Trail 100-miler. It appeared to be just as fast to travel west on I-70 to Hwy 91 and south through Leadville as the other way, and it would be a good motivator for Jim re: the Leadville race.

There are some long climbs out of Denver going west on I-70, including the one up to the long, double Eisenhower tunnel at Loveland Pass (elev. 11,312 feet):


(Those are more "Windshield Series" shots.) We had to stop just before the tunnel because the truck engine was overheating going up the long grade to the pass. This concerns us because it's the first time we've had this problem since we got the truck six years ago.

We could see the snow levels at the higher elevations were higher than last year. That had me nervous about my tentative CT plans, as four of the remaining five segments are over 10,000 feet. I took the photo on I-70 below not long after we'd left Denver:

I love the drive down Hwy. 91 to Leadville, especially when you can begin to see the 14ers north and west of town. I took this shot when we stopped again for engine over-heating on the long climb to Freemont Pass (also over 11,300 feet):

It was obvious, too, that both Mts. Elbert and Massive had more snow on them than we've seen previously in June, July, or August. This view of Massive is from Leadvillle:

Here's a closer view of Massive from our campground :

As soon as we got to town, we called Joe to let him know we'd arrived. We had already planned on meeting for lunch. We had a great visit and decent meal at the Golden Burro Cafe (Jim and I hadn't eaten there before).

Ultra runner Don Adolf also stays in town during the summer. Joe called him, and he dropped by to visit for a few minutes (Joe is in the middle, Don on the right):

Driving through the western part of Leadville we noticed this cool mining sculpture in someone's yard:

Next we went by Jack Saunder's home construction office at the end of 6th Street. For several years we've "camped" behind his office for the two weeks between Boom Days and LT100. He assured us it's OK to stay there again this year. We'll boondock at Clear Creek Reservoir any time before that, as we did last year.

Then we had to find a place to stay for the night. We drove out the dirt road past Sugarloafin' Campground to a nice free Forest Service camping area we found last year nestled in the tall pine trees. Below, Jim is checking the lay of the land before pulling in the camper.

We not only had it all to ourselves, we enjoyed fantastic views of Mts. Massive and Elbert, a beautiful sunset, and a gazillion bright stars peaking through the clouds after dark.

Next entry: back on the Colorado Trail -- hooray!

Pleasant dreams,

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

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2007 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil