You know you're in a REALLY small town when the librarian trusts you
to "mind the store" while she steps out to run some errands -- and she
met you only an hour ago!
This is the first time we've used the library in Silverton to get
on-line. We hadn't yet discovered where we could find WiFi in town and
the Verizon phone connection at our campground is iffy (only one or two
bars, which is a weak signal). So Jim decided to use one of the
library's high-speed connections to catch up on e-mail and other
Before he had a chance to find out exactly what it was that he was
supposed to do if someone came in while the librarian was out, another
employee came back and Jim was off the hook.
Welcome to Silverton, Colorado. We're happy to be back. We spent
three great weeks here last summer, and plan to do a repeat this year.
We wouldn't want to live here year-round, but it's a great place for
snow-phobes like us to visit for a few days, weeks, or months in the
summer and fall. (You should see the aspens here in the fall.) We
arrived yesterday and felt like we were "at home" right away.
GETTIN' HIGHER AND HOTTER
The trip here was not without its drama, of course. Trouble seems to
follow us everywhere! There were no more flat tires, thank goodness, but
we had to haul the camper over another 11,300+ foot pass (Red Mountain)
between Ouray and Silverton. That road is a white-knuckle ride even if
you're not in a camper or semi, but my concern this year was less "are
we going over this huge cliff?" than "I sure hope the engine doesn't
We had to stop three times on the way up to Red Mountain Pass to let
the engine cool off. Fortunately, there were plenty of places TO pull
off. We spent about ten minutes each time with the engine running (do
not turn off a diesel engine when it's red-lining or you'll make the
problem worse!), AC off, heater on to dissipate the heat, and hood up to
let the breezes hasten the cooling process. That's the drill.
The first time we pulled over, a sympathetic trucker stopped to see
if he could help. I took this picture of the road we'd just traveled as
Jim and the other guy talked:
Jim and the semi driver had the same thought: maybe
it's the thermostat. Once we got to Silverton, Jim consulted with
another mechanically-minded camper, two mechanics in town, and four
mechanics in Durango (by phone). Two other possible causes of the engine
over-heating that were mentioned involved the coolant (flushing and
replacing it) or a malfunctioning fan clutch.
At home, Jim could do these repairs himself. On the road, they are
either difficult or impossible.
The repair estimates ranged from $75 for a new thermostat up to $450 to
replace the fan clutch. Ouch! Based on his maintenance schedule and
other factors, Jim's ruled out the thermostat and coolant as problems
and he now knows what to look for as indicators if it's the fan
clutch. Instead of replacing it now at great cost, we'll wait until the
engine overheats again -- we'll be going back over both Red Mountain and
Monarch passes after Hardrock -- and see what the fan is doing. Jim
knows what to look for now in that regard.
Hopefully, this won't be the wrong decision and we get stuck going up
a pass in the middle of nowhere!
Each time we stopped, I let the dogs out to run around, stay cool,
and drink water. I thought this picture was cute because they don't
usually stick their heads in the water bucket at the same time:
Thirsty puppies. I also took these photos of scenic Red Mountain
while I was killing time waiting for the engine to cool down the
I was looking forward to the drive between Gunnison and Montrose on
US 50 because of the gorgeous scenery I remembered from last year (see
photos from our 2006 journal, June 27, link at left). Lots of folks in
boats were enjoying the Blue Mesa Reservoir, below, and Black Canyon of
the Gunnison. Here are a couple more photos from this year's "Windshield Series."
These are from my side window, which doesn't work as well
as frontal shots because there is more blurring:
Makes you want to get out on a boat, doesn't it?
We stopped in Montrose for supplies before heading south on CO 550 to
Silverton, where shopping opportunities are, um, limited. This
road is also drop-dead scenic with the snow-capped 14ers looming closer
and closer until you're simply enveloped by them near Ouray.
We were pumped, despite all the snow we could see. How will the snow
affect our training runs, course marking, and the Hardrock Hundred in
just over two weeks? Since I like snow more than Jim does, I was filled more with
anticipation and excitement than dread.
Upon arrival in the Silverton area, we immediately went to our
favorite national forest campground a couple miles back Mineral Creek
Road in hopes of getting the same site we occupied last year. Rats! A
tent was set up there (the spot is visible in the lower right corner in photo below
after the tent folks left).
That's OK, we thought. We'll just wait till they leave and move into
it. Meanwhile, there were only about five camp sites taken and several others
were available that were suitable for our rig.
As we eyed a spot just down from "ours," a man named Jim came out of
his camper to greet us and stake his claim. His three offspring were
coming in soon with three big campers in this corner of
the campground. Would we mind leaving room for them? Sure, no problem.
We parked temporarily between "their" corner and the tent, conveniently
near the bathroom (blue roof, below). We'll use the bathroom except in the middle of the night -- we
have no acceptable way to dump black water here except to take the
camper to town, and that's a major pain.
This morning the tenters moved on. Like vultures, we walked over to
inspect our old spot, but quickly decided to stay where we were, to the
right of the folks in the van camper, above. Jim
remembered the problems we had last year with mud every afternoon when the
monsoons hit (muddy dogs, muddy shoes, muddy camper rugs) and we
realized our current site was much cleaner with just rocks and grass.
We're happy tucked next to some trees (generator side) at the edge of
the campground, with plenty of sun overhead to keep the solar panel
batteries charged during the day.
And that large extended three-generation family? They and their
doggies are great neighbors.
LET'S GO SEE OUR AID STATION!
Today we drove about five miles out of town to
Cunningham Gulch, location of "our" aid station during the Hardrock
Hundred on July 13-15. It helped us to visualize where we want to put
the tent and see how the runners will approach and leave the aid station
Last year Jim was co-captain of this aid station with
David Coblentz. Dave's in the race this year, so Jim volunteered to
captain the AS by himself. Each time, I've been de facto "assistant
captain." You know how that works: i.e., by marriage. Folks who captain
an HRH aid station, not just work at one, receive an extra "ticket" if they
want to enter the race lottery. Jim's still toying with the idea of
running the race next year, so any tickets he earns captaining aid
stations and doing serious trail work in 2006 and 2007 increase his odds
of getting into the race.
Each year the race reverses direction on its circular
course. In even years runners go clockwise and Cunningham is the last aid
station. Last year we were open nearly 24 hours. The pace was relatively
slow (yawn!) and it was a very long day for those of us who were there
the entire time. Half the runners had already dropped by the time they
reached us at 91 miles, although some had pacers who also needed our
This year our job will be fast and furious as the
runners go CCW and hit our aid station at just 9.2 miles into the race.
We expect 130 runners in about 90 minutes. There could be 60-70 runners
in a half-hour span in the middle "bubble." That's a whole different
ball game than how they trickled in last year, so we have a learning
curve of sorts. We're trying to anticipate the problems now, such as
with crew parking, filling runners' water bottles and pack bladders
quickly, and getting accurate runner times in and out of the
aid station. Eye-balling the site today helps us with our planning.
Runners will run down a steep trail to Cunningham Gulch
from a pass on Little Giant Mountain, below, zig-zagging to the right of
They'll ford Cunningham Creek and come into our aid
That's one of the easier creeks they have to
cross on this difficult course. Many are rocky, deeper, and running a lot higher and faster this
year because of late spring snows.
After re-fueling, they'll head south on the little dirt
road in front of the aid station for about 100 yards and find the marked
trail going east up and over Green Mountain toward Maggie Gulch. I took
these photos in various directions when Jim and I climbed part way up
the trail today for the runners' perspective:
This is a faint trail, but better than some on the HRH
Runners' brains shouldn't be fried yet, so they may notice the beautiful flowers
The trail continues on up Green Mountain:
Next is the view looking back at Cunningham Gulch from the trail in the
photo above. The aid station will be where those campers are. The
waterfall on the left is the one in the first photo of this series.
The entire race goes like this -- up a mountain (as high as 14,000+ feet
on Handies Peak), over a pass, down into
a gulch. Repeat a dozen times or more. There aren't many flat spots o
this course. Many of the climbs and descents are tougher and higher than
these, and some of the aid stations have to be packed in. Remind me to
tell you some day about Kroger's Canteen at 13,100 feet on Virginius
Pass . .
. There are different management challenges with each particular aid
station, whether it's in one of the towns or on a remote mountain pass.
We'll have a great crew of experienced aid station volunteers helping
us at Cunningham Gulch. Jim's been corresponding with them the last few weeks. At least two
are ultra runners who are friends of ours (Joe Lugiano and Lynn DiFiore).
Some of the others we worked with last year (Steve Hayes and two of his
friends from the Los Alamos Mountaineering Club and radio experts Jim
and Carol Hewitt). Several others we haven't met yet but they have
worked other aid stations.
With all these great folks and last year's experience at this race,
I'm less nervous about helping to run the aid station this year. We'll be done
a lot faster and be able to follow the runners as the race progresses.
Jim may offer to pace someone this year, too.
Before heading back to our current camp, we checked out a BLM
campground a few miles northeast of Cunningham on the popular Alpine
Loop road, just in case we decide to move there closer to race time. I
couldn't resist stopping to talk to these llamas. I wonder if they are
used as pack animals in these mountains? They couldn't tell me. Llamas are wonderful trail
Next entry: a fun hike up to Clear Lake and running back down.
Does it look any different than last year?
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and
© 2007 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil