I wanted to do something local and learn some more about the town's trails -- sort of like I do at home -- so I tried running from my lodging in town to the trail and onward.
A house in town with an undeveloped lot next door
After coffee and a breakfast sandwich at Clint's, I headed out from the lodge. My effort was frustrated somewhat by the fact that Cucumber Gulch was closed for wildlife, so instead I ran a big loop uphill on Ski Hill Road, which added a somewhat less exciting 2.5 miles to each end of the run. I still learned a little about the area, and ran by the Nordic Center (closed) and stopped for a minute to look.
After getting on the Peaks Trail, for several miles I traded places with a group of 5 guys on bikes who rode narrow rocky trails effortlessly, like they were flat bike paths. I finally passed them when they stopped for a snack at 7 miles.
Later I saw what I thought was a dog running on the path towards me, and mentally braced for a toothy confrontation. But it was an elk calf, galloping along the trail. When it finally came to its senses and realized I was not its parent (or whatever), it veered into the woods. Evidently it was running from the mellow family bikers I saw a short distance later.
At mile 6 on the Peaks Trail (mile 9 altogether) I turned left on the Miner's Creek trail, which is part of the CO Trail, and headed uphill. There is a particular spot on this trail at about 11,100 feet where the forest opens up and you can see the peaks above, a stream with wildflowers, and views back down into the valley. Before the upper trail clears of snow, this is my usual goal and turnaround point:
The trail on the other side of this ravine was covered with snow, and this is where the post-holing begins. Never fails, it's like that every year.
At one point on the Miner's Creek trail -- and I don't know exactly where -- there is a ravine with a creek lined by green ground cover on sculpted surfaces, that is so perfect it's like from a dream. A crystal creek runs through the middle. Further uphill at a bend, the same creek flows through a ravine full of Spanish Moss-covered trees and mossy, fungal ground cover. It must be very damp, and it is utterly surreal and unlike any other forest area on the trail:
The trees are warped into strange shapes, and the ground is covered with moss. Tiny creeks flow through the ground oddly, out of nowhere. Did the crew from Avatar use this as a model for their forests?
By late afternoon, snow flurries had faded away and the sun shone into the woods again, lighting trees and forest ground cover.
A cathedral of lodgepole pines on the Peaks Trail:
Distance was 19.55 miles, time 5:14 (moving 4:05), elevation gain/loss 2,548 feet.