Pikes Peak is less than a month away and here I haven't gotten in a good run in almost three weeks. Crap! On a whim, I took off on Saturday morning solo and headed up to Nederland and Eldora with visions of a long, high-altitude trail "run" in much the same vein as our Mt. Audubon run three weeks ago. I drove to the 4th of July Trailhead and then rode my mountain bike down the surprisingly bumpy road back to the Hessie Trailhead 4 miles away (and 1200' downhill). It wasn't exactly an early start, and it was 9:30 before I was sitting on the bridge stretching and applying sunscreen.
First order of business was to run the mile of rough, loose cobbles up to the Lost Lake turn-off. I've been up here many times before including a short run with Chris a month back. It's pretty, but quite steep. There were quite a lot of hikers out already and heavy packs spoke of a variety of over-night plans.
Beyond the Lost Lake turnoff, I was in virgin territory. First came almost a mile of flat running through gorgeous meadows full of flowers and along a rushing, swollen stream. This is when it really hits me, this whole trail running thing is pretty nifty! After a mile of running and various options on destinations, the trail started up a moderately rough, steep incline headed for Jasper Lake. The baseline plan was that I'd diverge from the trail shortly before Jasper Lake and head across Chittenden Mountain to Diamond Lake, thence to the 4th of July TH. But I couldn't resist the extra half mile to Jasper Lake.
Unfortunately, Jasper Lake is pretty dull and uninteresting. A large dam makes it appear artificial as well which is unfortunate. Another mile along lay Devils Thumb Lake, so I hoofed it along there hoping for something better... and wasn't disappointed. Devils Thum Lake is a lovely deep blue pool nestled below the spire of the same name on the Continental Divide. It had taken me 1:35 to get this far (including a couple of stops) and I was feeling pretty good. Not as good, maybe, as if I had run in the past few weeks, but pretty good anyway.
Glorious meadows along the creek.
Devils Thumb and the lake of the same name.
Just above lay the Divide and a nice trail up to it. It didn't look that far, so I resolved to head up there before turning back. Looks were deceiving, however, and it was all I could to to maintain a decent (walking) pace on the steep High Lonesome Trail. In total, it was about a thousand feet of climbing in 3/4 of a mile of trail. At 2:02, I emerged on the Divide along with a hiker named Lisa and her large wolf/dog. We chatted for a bit, had a snack, and talked with two women training for the Boulder Backroads Marathon who had followed me up the trail.
The view from 12,100' of Devils Thumb Lake and the High Lonesome Trail.
Me, on the Divide. Woo!
What followed was about 2.5 miles of infrequently trodden and very difficult to follow trail across some nice tundra. Flowers everywhere, great views, and I was totally bonked. No more running, only a dull trudge. When I finally emerged at Diamond Lake, I was dreading the final 2.5 miles back to the car. But at least it was good trail and I even managed to run a bit. I finally got back to the car, sunburned, dehydrated, and starving, at 2:45 after almost five hours of running. It was seven miles and 3100' to the Divide, about two back to the turn-off, and about five from there. I figure total elevation gain was probably about 4000' and loss about 3000'. Total milage was around 14 miles which would make this by far the longest run I've ever done if I'd actually run the majority of it. Taking such a long break from running definitely didn't do me any favors, but it's good to know I can still put in the effort. Next time: eat breakfast, start earlier, carry more and more palatable calories, and don't bother with the bike shuttle thing.
The Wilderness Journal