Sunday, July 5, 2009

Pawnee Pass Trail Run

Last Sunday's run was from from Brainard Lake to Pawnee Pass, in Colorado's Indian Peaks Wilderness.

I had not really paid much attention to the name "Indian Peaks" until I moved here, even though it part of the same range of mountains whose northern end passes through Rocky Mountain National Park, which I had visited many times. Each time I'm out in these peaks I appreciate them more; they are rugged, interesting and scenic, and contain a wide variety of terrain.

The low point on this run was 10,350 ft, the high point 12,600 ft, with a total mileage of about 9.4 miles.

About 2/3 of the way up is Lake Isabelle. The pass that was my destination is the ridge on the upper right. You can see this lake in the Google Earth track in the back, at the base of the peaks.

One of the cool things about this run, if you'll pardon the pun, was the snow. Although I'd been deterred a couple of times recently by deep and/or risky snow, I decided to press on this time in my rather too-well-ventilated Brooks Cascadias. I'm glad I did, soggy feet and all. Here's one of the snow fields I encountered:

When it was steep, I walked up with my feet sideways, and down on my heels, following existing tracks. Even though my feet got a bit damp, it wasn't bad because it was a beautiful sunny day, and the sensation of walking on surreal "dunes" of snow was fun.

Here is the view over the other side of Pawnee Pass, to Pawnee Lake:

For perspective, Pawnee Lake below is about 500 feet higher my starting point. Luckily, because of the number of switchbacks, few segments of the trail were steep, so much of it felt like running on flat land. Aside from the typical Indian Peaks rocks (which seem to be round and small and designed to make running difficult) the trail was actually very good for running.

Other local areas have different "running geography": for example, the Pikes Peak area has pink granite rock that reduces to soft fine gravel, whereas the hogbacks west of Denver have sharp-edged angled sandstone that breaks off in chunks and eventually dissolves into pockets of beach sand.

The summer running season is off to a good start. Hopefully there will be longer and higher runs ahead :)

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