I had never been to the Indian Creek trailhead south of the Colorado Trail (this was the eastern terminus of the Trail when Waterton Canyon was closed), and I was feeling decent on Sunday, so I gave it a try.
Originally I was going to check out Sharptail Ridge, which I saw in one or more of Woody's posts, but it was too muddy.
It was a dreary day, but trail conditions seemed pretty good at first, maybe a bit of packed snow. I grabbed my map, pack, and ran downhill on the west leg of trail #800, Indian Creek. I'd try to make a modest loop out of it on a few different segments.
The route was essentially to descend a ravine for a few miles, turn right and come up another ravine. I was descending pretty far, and knew little about the conditions of the uphill on snow.
At a point where #800 goes left, I went right to descend into Stevens Gulch. The trail downhill was untracked snow, with very faint steps underneath. I bombed down it. Down, down, down.
I was about 4 miles out, with nobody around, there were only animal tracks at this point, and the footing was sketchy. I hoped I'd be able to find the correct turn back. It didn't help that on the remotest sections I mistook animal tracks as feline, then realized my pepper spray seemed frozen solid. I tucked it under my arms to warms it up.
Since there are a limited number of ravines and I had exact mileage from the map, I hung a right at an unmarked turn, which was the only break in the hillside. It also had one pair each of human and dog tracks, which helped ease my mind about the choice. Then began a long, snowy trudge uphill. Two miles up barely-used snow like this:
Eventually I popped out of Stevens Gulch on a ridge with several trail well-marked choices, including the return leg of #800, which at this point was a road.
Shortly after that there was another major junction with some nice views, where I split onto the singletrack shadow version of #800, which goes roughly the same way as the road, just on the other side of a ravine. A zoom shot of Thunder Butte:
The woods looked deep and black from the trail:
Distance was 7.92 miles, time 2:13 (moving 1:43), elevation gain/loss 1,570 feet, avg. pace 16:48 (moving 13:04), and best pace 7:02.
Definitely harder than the numbers indicate.
Also rather a safety FAIL: running alone goes without saying, but: didn't notify anyone I was there (and forgot about mobile until it was too late), too late in the day, on unfamiliar trails, not sure about the pepper spray. Maybe I'd better test it under winter conditions.