Thursday, April 5, 2012

Sunday Gold Hill Outing

Sunday I based some running at the Gold Hill trailhead off Highway 9 near Breckenridge, which is a stop on the Colorado Trail.

I would call this more of a "session" than one run, since it involved a lot of hiking, and I ran 3 separate loops of varying size to and from the car. There were at least two 1/2 hours of hiking around mud, water, and through snow.

Although I knew this is mud season, this was still one of the more frustrating runs since that windy bastard I did in Golden. If the mud is occasional, and if the snow is soft enough to run on, it's slow but it works.

But if the mud is never-ending and the snow is knee-deep post-holing with shin-scraping ice on top, it gets a bit tiring. And that's the way it was.

However, one of the side effects of the snow was I took a couple of detours into the pine woods to bypass some of it. And along the way, I noticed that almost the entire forest floor was covered with a thin, spider-web-like film. It turns out it's snow mold, which I'd never noticed before:

There was a lot of beetle-kill logging going on, to cut down dead trees, and those trees were scattered all over the place including right over the trail.

Because of the snow I got lost and ended up running around on logging roads for a while looking for the Gold Hill trail. I had a printed map, but what really saved me was my iPhone satellite map. I realized I was only 50 feet from the trail I wanted to be on! So don't discount your phone when you're meandering in national forest.

And even the crappiest, lostest run in the mountains is still a good time. The lodgepole pine forests and the great weather kept things going.

That was CO trail segment 7. I ran back to my car, and decided I'd try segment 6, which is across the highway and seemed like it might be on the west slopes of the hills and therefore drier. It was.

I hesitate to show this photo, but it is what it is. Mountain lions are out there (the print was frozen and glossy, at least several days old). Yet in almost six years this is the only print I've seen even though I'm constantly on the lookout; they are quite secretive, almost ghost-like. I caught a glimpse of a live specimen near Boulder, but that's another story.

Images can't even begin to describe the light I saw on this run; the golden glow filtering into the lodgepole forests, beaming across meadows. It was so dreamlike, you had to experience it to believe it. I kept stopping every couple of minutes because I had to try in vain to capture it.

Distance was 15.39 miles, time 5:41 (2:30 "stopped", i.e. sinking into deep snow, climbing over logs, etc.), elevation gain/loss 2,227 feet, avg. pace 22:13, and best pace 7:09.

I also somehow managed to do this run on fumes. I ate a frozen croissant sandwich thingie at 10:30 AM at home, drove the trail, started around 1:40 PM (stomach already growling) and was out until 7:20 PM eating only 6 Clif Shot Bloks and drinking a lot of water. I ate dinner at 8:30 (Backcountry Brewery in Frisco) and didn't even feel it. No nausea, nothing. I think it's a combination of metabolism, hydration, and eating a Blok whenever I felt hungry. That, and maybe some conditioning from doing longer runs all week.


  1. Lots of cool stuff, thanks.
    1. Been seeing snow mold all over this year (also for the first time) and had no idea what it was -- thanks!
    Incredible how dry and "May-like" it is up there already.
    2. 5 or 6 years ago, I mt. bike-camped on Gold Hill, less than a mile from the trailhead -- because there USED TO BE TREES all over there. Amazing, and sad, difference.
    3. Segment 6 to Kenosha Pass is awesome on a mt. bike, as is Kenosha Pass on the other side, which are 4+ hour rides by themselves...but people like Alex have done it as one-day *runs* with a shuttle.
    4. You might dig the Peaks Trail from Breck down to Frisco -- nice rolling, gradual, not overly technical trail, and it's also nice to take the paved path back uphill to save time/effort and see different stuff.

  2. Mike - I've been on parts of the Peaks Trail, but I'm usually cutting along the CO trail instead. But that's been on my radar. I'd go back and run around on some of those fire roads I was on, too... in drier times.

    That's a nice paved path from Frisco to Breck. I saw a lot of it when I ran over the Tenmile Range on the CO trail and used the bike path to get back from Copper (instead of running back over the range -- I was whipped at that point!).

  3. Interesting snow mold. Looks like a day well spent! Nice pics.

  4. Chris - Thanks. Pays to look down when running... in more ways than one. Never know what you'll see no matter where you look.