Thursday, November 12, 2015

Ten Flavors of Icing

As 2015 draws ever closer to an end, I thought it might be time to look back on some of my favorite runs from this last year. 2015 was fully about my marriage to my best friend Lyssa and anything else was just icing on the cake. Below are 10 flavors of icing.

Exploring the Little Book Cliffs --
The Little Book Cliffs is a preserve and wilderness study area for wild horses. The trails of this massive, untapped area are just outside of Palisade, CO and get very little traffic. I first "discovered" this area 3 years ago, and have made it a tradition to explore the region each winter. Each time I've visited the Books Cliffs, I've gone along with my good buddy Casey Weaver. We have made 5 or 6 good runs of these trails and have yet to successfully connect a loop. It's always fun to have a herd of wild horses run right by you while navigating 20 creek crossings in a 5 mile stretch.

Casey charging down from a plateau in the Book Cliffs

Perham Trailhead to Lorax Trailhead--
A few years ago I started piecing together an idea of connecting 3 different trail systems just outside of Carbondale into a larger point-to-point run. Starting at the Perham Trailhead 15 minutes up the road from town, a group of us ran the Perham Trail up and into the Thompson Divide area. From there we were able to run an old railroad grade up to rancher roads that eventually allowed us access to the backside of the Lorax Trail system. It was very aesthetic to finally piece together these 3 trail systems.

Following Casey Weaver and Michael Barlow into the Lorax

Marion Gulch to Sunlight (and back)--
This ended up being one of my favorite runs of the year, mostly because I had dreamed about it for so long. Marion Gulch is a trail system that gets the most play from snow-mobile traffic in the winter. These trails supposedly provide a path all the way to the Powderhorn Ski area on the Grand Mesa some 100+ miles away. A few of us had often talked about running Marion over to the Sunlight Ski area in Glenwood Springs and back. A group of us decided to go for it one day and were very pleased once we got onto the deck at the top of the Sunlight Ski hill 90 minutes later.

The Elk Mountain Runners on Top of Sunlight

Trails of Organ Pipe Cactus National Park--
My wife and I try to take one road trip a year. For 2015, we decided to take a spring trip to a very obscure National Park on the border of Arizona and Mexico. We found ourselves in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Park, an extreme landscape littered with signs warning against "illegal" activity in the area. The trails were absolutely amazing and mostly "vacant" of hikers, the air was littered with patrol helicopters, and at one border check we were asked if we were hiding someone in a 2x2 cooler.

Lyssa looking down from one of the trails in the park

Hermit Trail--
The Grand Canyon is a magical place, and also a trail running playground of magnificent scope. Beyond the main corridor exists countless other trails that sit off the radar. I ran one of those trails at the end of our annual road trip this last spring. The Hermit trail runs from the rim of the canyon down to the rapid of the same name at the bottom of the canyon. The reverse experience of running over 4,000 ft down first was unique and painful on the return.

Toward the top of the Hermit Trail

Tabeguache to Shavano--
Enter the bachelor party. Zeke Tiernan, Jeason Murphy and Adam Flatt gave me a great send-off with an epic loop up the backside of the 14'er Tabeguache and then over to Shavano before descending off the front and back to our campsite. All told it was 5 hours of running, 3 great friends, 2 14'ers, 1 massive hangover, and countless fun.

Jeason Murphy, Zeke Tiernan, myself and Adam Flatt on Savano

Alta Via 1 Trail--
The Alta Via 1 trail is a through-hike in the Italian Dolomites near the Austrian border. Lyssa and I decided to hike this route for our honeymoon. Lyssa once again proved her superior intelligence as she brought trekking poles for this amazingly steep trail, while I hiked along sans-poles in envy. 

Lyssa "Honeymooning"

Mount Sopris Ridge--
Finally running the ridge line from Hell Roaring up to Mount Sopris was another marque run for me late this summer. I look up at Mount Sopris every day, and have always dreamed of summiting the mountain from it's non-traditional backside ridge. Finally running from the Haypark Trails parking lot near Capitol Trailhead up Hell Roaring and across to the summit of Sopris was a journey I undertook alone. Descending off the front and returning to my car via the Haypark Trails made for an atheistic outing I hope to repeat with friends next year.

(The Ridge Line up to Sopris. I was camera-less on this run, so I ripped this pic from Zeke's blog)

Conundrum - Triangle Pass - East Maroon--
This was my last big run of the year. This 22-ish mile loop is an absolute must-do classic and a favorite of the locals that frequent the Elk Mountains, and yet I had never run this particular loop. After hearing about this run for years, it was great to finally check it off the list, and great fun to have Casey Weaver as my guide. Even though my body was taxed and aching for a break by this point, I was glad to squeeze in one last major outing before the high country closed up.

Blowing up on Triangle Pass

Elk Mountains Super Loop--
This was the biggie. Every year my wife takes her students on a week-long Outdoor Education backpacking trip. As has become customary, I plan a route to run out to meet her and the kids. This year I decided to make my visit en-route to running the "Super Loop", a 40-ish mile run with 11,000-ish feet of climbing. Ted Mahon coined the phrase for this loop. Read about it at "Stuck in the Rockies". Also read about Zeke Tiernan's outing of the "Super Loop" here. This is one of the greatest tours of the mountains the Roaring Fork Valley has to offer and a loop I will do again. On this particular day, Casey Weaver and I saw every Outdoor Ed group but my wife's, so I left tootsie pops in a heart shape on the trail for her. Hikers would later find the tootsies and tell my wife about them. Casey proved to himself that he could handily run for 40 miles, but that he could also delete all the pictures he took of the run. I proved to myself that I'm a bozo for mis-judging where I would see Lyssa. It was 10 hours of great fun. Maybe we should rename it the "Super Hoot".