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(seven miles of the GGDT 50K course)


" . . . At mile 1.95 start a steady climb up the cool, lush valley as you cross the stream 11 times.
At mile 3.4 you leave the stream to start a .4 mile lung burner climb. This section is steep,
but it is short . . . Take a moment to enjoy the great view of Mt. Evans to the south . . ."
~ from the 50K course description on the Dirty Thirty race website 
I guess the climb up the north slope of Windy Peak in the fourth mile of the Golden Gate Dirty Thirty races is a lung burner if you're racing, but it's not that hard if you're only out for a brisk hike:

I'll show you the views from the top in a little bit . . .

After Jim and the other 50K runners began their race at 6 AM I walked back up to our truck to get Cody and me ready for a hike on the first part of the course. I figured a couple miles out and a couple miles back on the Mountain Lion Trail would give me plenty of time to enjoy part of the course and be back before the next wave of runners began the 12-mile race at 9 AM. I didn't want to be out on the single-track trail in that section and interfere with anyone's race.

But I was enjoying myself so much through the varied terrain -- and so curious about what was around the next bend and over the next hill -- that I kept on going and completed a 7-mile loop!

The seven miles I hiked are highlighted in blue. The 50K runners ran that and all the trails
marked in red. The arrow marks the start/finish area.

Within the first couple miles I remembered two things that enabled me to have a most enjoyable hike without having to do any back-tracking:

  • The 7-mile race (which began at 10 AM) was one big loop. Since the runners in all three races covered the same first five miles of the course, the finish had to be only two miles beyond the aid station located at five miles. That was my "ah-ha" moment. The volunteers could tell me how to get to the finish. I really hadn't studied the course maps much before hitting the trail; turns out, all I had to do was follow the mountain lion footprints on the park's trail signs -- or the markers for the 7-mile race!
  • I also realized that even at a moderate walk I had plenty of time to stay ahead of the runners in both of the shorter races.

I felt so good -- and there was enough water for Cody in the streams -- that I just kept on moving forward. Despite all the photos I took, all the times I stopped to let Cody play in the creeks, and the time I spent talking with Karen Pate at the aid station, I stayed ahead of all the fast 12-milers and got back to the parking lot a quarter mile from the start/finish area as the 7-milers were beginning their race:

The GGDT 7-milers start up the first hill just after 10AM.

The rest of the photos in this entry are ones I took going counter-clockwise on the Mountain Lion Trail. Runners in all three races ran (and walked) these miles.

So can you, any time you visit Golden Gate Canyon State Park! The Mountain Lion Trail is rated "difficult" but it doesn't require as much rock scrambling as the Black Bear and Coyote trails, both rated "most difficult" (see photos in last entry). Mountain Lion is a multi-use trail that is also open to cyclists and equestrians. I saw only one cyclist while I was out there. Jim saw more in the race.

Climbing the trail above the parking area

There are  lots of flowers blooming in late spring.

Trails vary from smooth like this to rocky.

Single-track morphs into double-track through the pines and meadows.


With a scenic view around every bend, how could I resist forward motion?

The trail follows creeks in the second and third miles.

The last smooth trail before the rockier climb through a cool, lush valley along Deer Creek

I know there's an ultra running joke here somewhere . . .

There are several back-country campsites and a shelter in this shady area.


Now the trail gets rougher and passes some cliffs and large rock formations:






After passing through a small green meadow, the trail climbs steadily for half a mile through a dry pine forest on the north side of Windy Peak:


At the top of this section of trail and down the other side there are great views of Mt. Evans, nearby mountains, and Forgotten Valley:







After the intersection with the Buffalo Trail (the location of AS #1/4 in the 50K race), the Mountain Lion Trail continues south on double-track past the picturesque Tallman Ranch. Four generations of Swedish-Americans lived and farmed in this idyllic setting:

Colorado State Parks purchased the ranch in 1970 in order to preserve it and prevent development. The property was added to the State Register of Historic Places in 1995.

The rest of the images in this entry are from the last 2 miles of the Mountain Lion Trail loop. Most of these shots are looking backwards (counter-clockwise), opposite the direction the runners were going.

Why? There were more mountains and blue sky in that direction!





There are some burned or damaged trees after the intersection with the Burro Trail (the loop trail leading to the summit of Windy Peak late in the race). Rather than looking ugly, I thought they added some additional color to the landscape! This was a nice downhill section to the trailhead and finish of the races.









That's the grand tour of the Mountain Lion Trail. I really enjoyed hiking it and would like to return to the park someday to hike on some of the other trails.

Next entry: now we're headed to the Bighorn Mountains in northern Wyoming . . .

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, and Cody the Ultra Lab

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2010 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil