Saturday, May 28, 2011

A Two-Part Run for a Four-Day Weekend

I knew I'd need to get in some time on my feet before the Bighorn 50-miler, so I decided to take a day off from work the Friday before Memorial Day weekend and get some running in, launching a "four-day weekend" on the trail. I started part 1 of my run at 6 am at the Round Mountain trailhead, in the Big Thompson Canyon. It had been a couple months since my last run on this trail, and I figured it would be a good way to get in some elevation gain as well, as it's a 2700-foot climb in a little under five miles.

Round Mountain is one trail where one can fairly reliably see bears, but speedy Yonder Mountain Trail Runner (aka Rob) must've cleared the trail of them; I didn't see any yesterday. Thanks, Rob! We crossed paths as he was descending from the summit and agreed it was a gorgeous morning for a run. The views up the path were great.
This is a great trail for cool rock formations, especially after the 2nd mile.

A view looking across the Big Thompson Canyon.

More cool-looking rocks.

The power of water, ice and time carved out this basin just past mile 2.

There was a pretty good variety of wildflowers blooming.

The trail cuts through a number of interesting rock formations.

Great view!

The Round Mountain trail is maintained by volunteers and the City of Loveland, and one thing you can say about Lovelanders: they sure have a thing for cairn-building! That, or perhaps they're into a stone-worshiping cult hitherto unknown to civilization. I kid you not: there are about 15 cairns in the final 0.2 miles to the summit. These nine represent but a small selection:
But hey -- at least you won't get lost, right?

Actually, I think I may be onto something with this stone-worshiping hypothesis, because when you reach the summit of Round Mountain, what do you find? A massive cairn, of course!
No views from the summit, but the cairn is pretty huge.
On the descent, there were lots of birds: western tanagers, grosbeaks, and dusky grouse, just to name a few. Though I didn't see any bears, I did see lots of deer, chipmunks and squirrels.

I wasn't quite able to get two full summits in, but logged almost 18 miles before I had to head back to Fort Collins and attend to a few things before starting part 2 of the day's long run: a mellow, sunny run with Sarah and Roo on part of our HURT training loop, where an interesting nature encounter was a highlight of the day. Sarah and Roo were moving at a good pace, ahead of me on the trail, when out of the corner of my eye I saw something move:
It's amazing how close we all came to stepping on this beauty, despite his/her size.
Apparently, it being 30-some minutes into our run, Sarah, Roo and I were too relaxed into our "trail zen" to notice this fairly large snake, dozing in the sun along the side of the trail. We all came really close to stepping on it, but I jumped (and likely squealed like a little girl) when I noticed the motion, so Sarah and Roo ended up on one end of the snake, while I was on the other. Once we determined the snake wasn't a rattler, I moved past it and after snapping another photo we moved on. (The snake made it clear that was his/her preferred plan for us too):

After that encounter, Roo continued to flinch at anything in the trail that remotely resembled a snake: curvy sticks, shadows... he was not going to be surprised like that again!

It was a gorgeous day: sunny, but not too hot. The trails are still soft from recent rains, and in good company, the miles passed quickly. By the end of the day, I'd logged a little over 50k in two segments, and my four-day weekend was off to an awesome start.

See you on the trail!
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Blogger Rob said...

When you asked if I was doing ladders, I should have responded more emphatically "HELL NO!". Great job almost bagging 2 summits! Have fun at Bighorn. Hopefully you won't need to race in snowshoes.

4:08 PM  

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