Thursday, July 17, 2014

Surrounded by mountains

"As mountains surround Jerusalem, the Lord surrounds his people both now and forever." - Psalm 125: 2

From a run along Bear Creek in Lakewood, Colorado.

Signs of Fidelity, A Catholic Photo Challenge.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Chicago Lakes Trail to Mt. Spaulding

On early Saturday morning, June 28th, I left the suburbs of Denver and drove West to Echo Lake. Echo Lake is near Idaho Springs, on the road up Mt. Evans. My plan was to "run" up the Chicago Lakes trail to Summit Lake at 12,830 feet and turn back.

The forecast was for clear skies all day, but, in typical mountain fashion, it was actually snowing (lightly) when I reached the trailhead at 5 a.m. The clouds soon blew off though, and the rising sun set the sky on fire.

I soon reached what I thought was the first Chicago Lake but found out later to be the Idaho Springs Reservoir. My camera's battery died around here so all of these photos are from the i-phone.

The trail ascended mostly at what trail runners call "douche grade", runnable grade for those well adapted to the altitude. I ran very little of it, saving energy for what I knew was going to be a grueling climb up the headwall of the valley.

In this photo you can see two ridge lines. Mt Evans is in the background and the closer ridge is Mount Spaulding.

Looking back down on the lower Chicago Lake.

It was at the second Chicago Lake that I began to be hounded by bitterly cold winds. I was wearing a cheap pair of thin fleece gloves, not very well suited to this kind of cold, but managed to keep my hands warm inside my jacket pockets.

From the upper Chicago Lake, the trail ascended straight up the headwall up to Summit Lake at the base of Evans. A recent avalanche had obliterated part of the trail here and had me scrambling a bit.

The photo below was taken at the top of that wall, close to summit Lake. This was where I had originally planned to turn around, but, despite the cold, I had that itch to keep going up. I mean, how often am I going have the chance to do something like this again? I wondered if I could make it up Mt. Evans and summit my first 14er. I spoke with a hiker who had come up the same route, familiar with the area. He advised that I hike up to Mt Spaulding (13,480 ft.) first. From there I could take the connecting ridge over to Evans, or simply turn around.

Looking back down from where I had come.

Another view looking down the Chicago Lakes basin. The trailhead is somewhere near the small mountain that rises above where the valley turns to the left. I had come about six miles at this point.

The connecting ridge to Evans

The following pictures were taken just below the top of Spaulding, before my fingers stared to go numb from the cold. As much as I would have liked to hike the connecting ridge over to Evans peak, it was too cold to stay up there a minute longer without more adequate gear. One hiker commented on my wearing running shorts in such cold conditions, but the exposed legs were not a problem at all. A better pair of gloves hat was what I really needed to forge onward toward Mt. Evans.

While I did very little actual running on the way up, it was a blast going back down. Much of the trail below the second Chicago Lake was runnable, and I returned in a third of the time that it took me to go out.

Words and pictures fail to illustrate the beauty of the Colorado high country. I'm still drawing inspiration from my memories of this adventure, and will be for some time.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Mesa Trail

On Monday morning (the 23rd), I dove out to the South Mesa trailhead near Eldorado Springs. The Mesa Trail is a classic run that skirts the Flatirons all the way to Chautauchua park in Boulder. Unlike most trails in the area, it never climbs very high into the mountains. Don't let that fool you, though. This beast of a trail that crosses several creek drainages and mesas, reminding me a bit of the Flatrock 25k. Out and back, the official length is just about 13 miles, but I manged to do a little extra with a wrong turn on the return trip. I think it took me around 3.5 hours to complete this run.

Climbing South Mesa

Also near the beginning, on the top of South Mesa looking North.

The highlight of the run had to be the aptly named Enchanted Mesa, close to the Northern end of the trail. Picture a gentle slope with towering Ponderosa pines and nothing but lush grass and flowers on the forest floor. Through the trees one can see the great plains stretching out for miles beyond the trees. Gigantic dandelion seed heads highlighted by the morning sun added to the dreamlike feel of the place. Unfortunately, I was getting anxious about returning to the car at a reasonable time and opted not to stop for photos.

It was a good morning to be alive, breathing, and using my legs.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Run at Belmar Park, Lakewood

I went out for a short run this morning to adjust to the altitude. It sure is nice to be back in Colorado! Many adventures ahead!

Photos taken from my iphone

Monday, June 16, 2014

Lipbuster 2014

The elite race

I was up early on Sunday, riding my bike in the rain in order to run repeats on a muddy hill. I mean, can you think of a better way to kick off Father's day? The Lipbuster Challenge is simple: run up and down the trail that parallels Elwood Ave. as many times as you can in one hour. Its around of 140 feet of climb and descent in a half-mile lap. The weather did not cooperate this year; it rained enough in the early hours to make a muddy mess of things. The rain finished just before 8:15 elite race, but at that point the damage had been done; the clay dirt trails were as slick as a greased sumo wrestler. 

I ran the 9:30 heat, hoping to best my ten lap PR from last year. It turns out there is a huge difference between ten and eleven laps in a race like this. 

I finished the tenth lap with about five minutes left on the clock. There was a good chance I could pull it off, but it would be close. Sure enough, reaching the bottom of the hill for the eleventh time, I see that there are twenty five seconds left to run several hundred more feet. Pretty soon the race director is shouting in the megaphone and people at the finish line are cheering me on and I'm sprinting for the finish. Alas, it was not meant to be. Five seconds short!

While the first ten laps were mostly a blur, I can still remember details from the last climb and descent. Details that could have made the difference of five seconds... maybe. Its funny how you second guess yourself when you come up just short of meeting a race goal. 

Don't get me wrong though; it was thrilling to be that close. And I did improve my time from last year and got some conditioning in for our upcoming trip to Colorado.

Saturday, June 14, 2014


This morning I was defeated by the trails I've been running for years. Turkey Mountain is a different world on a mountain bike.

I recently found a 2008 Marin East Peak on Craig's List for a price well below the blue book value. Overall, its in very good condition, although I think the derailleurs and breaks need some adjusting. The original plan was to find a hardtail 29er, but this deal was too good to pass up. As it turns out, I really need the dual suspension on the trails around here.

It turns out that mountain biking is harder than trail running. I spent most of my time on Turkey this morning walking this heavy bike through the steeper sections. My legs are strong, but I have absolutely no control on these rock infested trails. And where did all these rocks and roots come from, anyway? I sure haven't noticed them on my runs. Anything remotely technical on a downhill is as scary as my first ride on the big kids roller coaster. There's a steep learning curve here, which is both frustrating and exciting.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Light and dark

This photo was taken last August after a spell of heavy rains. I love the way the tree appears to be consumed by the great big fiery ball. It calls to mind that eerie Pink Floyd song "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun."

Notice how, from the vantage-point of the camera, everything in front of the sun is in darkness. Yet we know that the people, the ducks, and the trees were engulfed in the same in light that hit the camera lens.

This got me thinking about perspective.We have dark moments in our lives; tragedy, loss, disappointment with ourselves or others. The light that gives us strength and hope seems diminished, or even absent. But here's the funny thing: when I've climbed out of those valleys and looked back, I have been able to see that light was present and active even in the darkest of moments.

What explains this lack of perspective in dark times? I don't have a good answer. Maybe its just an inescapable part of being human. But I have found something that can help me weather those storms better: curiosity. Engagement with the world. The more I explore, the more I reach out to others, the easier it to see things from other perspectives. Then, maybe, it will become easier to see the light at work in the midst of dark moments. Perhaps this is what the Jesuits mean by "finding God in all things."

Isaiah 9:1, A Catholic Photo Challenge Catholic Photo Challenge.