We got a last-minute reprieve on having to work the weekend, so I had to scramble to come up with plans I didn't have. I decided to try to work on the Searle Pass run I've done a couple of times and see if I could make it farther.
This run is on the Colorado Trail, and starts at Copper Mountain:
There are a lot of switchbacks through the ski area, then some running out of bounds. You pass the ruins of an old cabin. This time I noticed that one corner of the structure is supported by a large pine tree (right corner). A view inside:
Looks about like my spare bedroom.
After crossing Guller Creek in a meadow, a long ascent of the valley ensues.
The terrain is pretty and the running is easy -- for the mountains (10k feet plus).
After a few stretches along meadow, the trail cuts through the woods to treeline.
In the back is the north end of the Tenmile Range. The flat area in the center is part of the ridge I was playing around on, at the top of this run.
Below is Janet's Cabin.
Amazingly, the trail remains gently graded and runnable nearly the entire way to Searle Pass. I surprised myself by continuing to run (jog?) somewhat continuously to the pass. The view on the other side is to the mountains along CO 91 near Fremont Pass:
I was checking time obsessively at this point, because I wanted to get back to Copper around sunset. I figured I had some extra time so I set out on about 5 miles of running above 12,000 feet, which I don't get to do much.
I almost made it over to Kokomo Pass. What remained to that pass was a long descent on somewhat featureless terrain that would have required a slog back uphill with little time to spare. I decided to head back. Some other time.
I topped out on Searle again with around 1:50 left of daylight (and around 8 miles to go), so I pressed onward. I still needed to stop to filter some water, too.
Downhill progress was uncomfortable (sore legs) but steady on the long section of meadows, willows and beaver ponds. There was nobody around and towards dusk my attention always focuses on the slightest sound: a pine cone hitting a branch, a mouse in the grass, wind and the shifting of my pack. I stopped and listened every so often.
Then I noticed movement in the willows across the valley.
Three felines were hunting along the willows; an adult and two young. Crap. At first I thought they were mountain lions, and thought "I'm out in the open and they're downhill, and they had to have seen me". I didn't really want to become a hunting lesson for some lion cubs. But they didn't appear to notice me, and I realized they were fluffier and smaller than lions and had bobbed tails. I think they were bobcats (or lynxes based on comments below and some further study of pictures: grey-ish fur, long legs). I crouched and watched as they bounded and hunted and made cat-like snarling sounds in the bushes. This blurry photo is all I got. A cat is about to cross the log in the middle:
Then they crept out of sight in some trees, maybe to eat what they found. I waited for a while but had to get moving again. It was getting late.
And yeah, that's why I carry a large can of whoop-ass, as Mike put it.
Nearer to the resort, last light lit up the Tenmile Range:
Distance was 22.07 miles, time 6:20 (moving 5:09), elevation gain/loss 3,431 feet, avg. pace 17:09 (moving 14:01). Including a walking cool-down (in a hooded jacket; it was chilly after dark).
Recovery was at Peppino's in Frisco: a Dale's Pale Ale and a pepperoni, bacon and Kalamata olive pizza. Damn that tasted good.