Thursday, June 27, 2013

Crag Crest Trail

Well, after thinking I was going to be lacking on adventures this past weekend, it actually ended up being quite the opposite! Scott had to work both Saturday and Sunday, so I was surpised when I ended up with plans both days! Saturday I met up with some fellow runners in Ouray for an Imogene Pass Training Run, and then on Sunday I hiked Crag Crest Trail with a co-worker. It ended up being a different, but fun, adventure filled weekend!

Saturday's training run was mostly the same route as what I did the previous week, but ended up being a loop instead of an out-and-back. Camp Bird Road forks at Lower Camp Bird, and where I went right last week, we went left this week. On race day, I will end up going left - which I didn't know until last weekend. While the run was of course great training, I really felt like getting tips, advice, and stories of past Imogene Runs, was even more beneficial! It also helped to know I was able to keep up with almost all of the other runners! I was a little nervous going running with 5 other people, who had ALL done the IPR multiple times! So overall, I had a great run - I'm just hoping losing the next 2 weekends won't set me back too much (I'm headed on vacation to Missouri and Alaska on Saturday morning).

On Sunday, my co-worker, Sunny, and I decided it would be fun to go hiking up on Crag Crest Trail - a trail on top of the Grand Mesa. The Grand Mesa, is said to be the "world's largest flat-topped mountain" and sits between Delta and Grand Junction. I heard of this trail back when we first moved to Western Colorado, but didn't get a chance to hike it last summer - so I knew it was a "must" for this year!

Hike: Crag Crest Trail (West Trailhead - out and back)
Location: Grand Junction, Colorado
Date: June 22, 2013
Round Trip Distance: 6.16 Miles (that we did - it is also a 10 mile loop, or you can hike from one end to the other - if you have a car on the other side - for 6.6 Miles) 
Starting Elevation: 10,446 Feet
Ending Elevation: 11,155 Feet
Total Elevation Gain: 709 Feet
(Elevation according to my Garmin)
Overall this was a great hike! Very enjoyable, and I definitely think it would be a great one to take friends & family on (if we ever get anyone out here to visit long enough!). It was scenic, fairly close, and not too strenous. Sunny and I both took our dogs, and they just loved it! I had been debating taking Argie because I know he can get intimidated by other dogs, but I'm glad I did because he had a blast! I was also happy to get him out of the house before we have to board him this coming week!

The hike varies between wooded areas, open meadows, and steep, rocky terrain. Of course, the best part of the hike is when you get to the top - or the "crest". It's very similar to "bridge of heaven" from last week - you're on a fairly narrow bidge-like area where you feel like you're on top of the world. You've got views to the north all the way out to Battlement Mesa, and views to the South of the San Juan Mountains. Unfortunately, it was a little hazy, so the views aren't too clear in my photos, but it was gorgeous! Definitely one I recommend!

Pictures from the day:

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Bridge of Heaven (again)

Some of you may remember, but I actually already have a post titled bridge of heaven from last summer. The thing is - I didn't get to do it! My husband and cousin, Matt did a 2 day backpacking trip which ended with the Bridge of Heaven hike. But, I had already been eyeing this hike before they had even gone on their trip - which is where today's post comes into play! 

Hike: Bridge of Heaven from Old Horsethief Trailhead
Location: Ouray, Colorado
Date: June 16, 2013
Round Trip Distance: 10.2 Miles
Starting Elevation: 7,748 Feet
Ending Elevation: 12,265 Feet
Total Elevation Gain: 4,739 Feet

I knew I wanted to go for a hike today, but somehow Saturday night managed to roll around with no plans yet as to where to go. So we settled on Bridge of Heaven. As I mentioned, I had wanted to do it, plus it was close, and Scott knew the route, so we figured it would be a good "last minute" hike.

We woke up nice and early and were on the road by 4:30, for a 5:30am start. This hike actually has 2 starting options. One of them being "New Horsethief Trail" and the other, "Old Horsetheif Trail." The old trail starts from in town, while the new trail starts from a dirt road several miles from town. The new route is also a lot less steep. But, we had been on the dirt road leading to the new trail last summer and new it wasn't the smoothest of roads, and since we've been driving the low clearance Impreza everywhere lately (better gas mileage), we settled on the old trail. And man was it tough! And steep! It was switchback after switchback after switchback. Needless to say I was getting my workout in (and some nice IPR training too)! The first 2 miles were just constant uphill with no break, and on a very rocky, slippery terrain. It wasn't terrible, but it definitely wasn't my ideal trail conditions! But luckily Scott had been on it before and assured me it was only about 2/3rds of the hike that would be on this terrain (but made sure I knew it would still be constant uphill the entire route).

About 2 1/2 miles in (which felt a lot longer than that at the pace we were going) the old trail finally meets up with the new trail. At this point the terrain became more forested and grassy and less rocky. But the uphill didn't stop, it kept up for the remaining 2 1/2 miles until we finally made it to the top! It was a relief to finally give my legs a break! And what a great place to take a break! The views were phenomenal. We had made it above tree line by this point which I always love (although it wasn't quite as "green" as I would've hoped) so there were 360 degrees worth of views! I took a nice little video to try and show them:

After 4700+ feet of elevation gain, we decided a fairly long break was in order, so we sat down right at the end of the bridge and enjoyed some snacks while the sun shone down on us! It was wonderful and so peaceful - we were the only ones on the trail!

About a half hour later we decided to get on our way and were off back down the hillside. About a mile or so into our descent, we encountered some "lovely" hail! And of course the hail starts when we were right in an open area with no trees for cover. So we picked up our pace a bit (okay a lot) until we finally made it to some trees where we quickly got out our rain jackets. Once we were all geared up for the rain we were on our way again. Luckily the hail didn't end up lasting too long - maybe 10 more minutes. After that, it was mostly clear skies with the exception of a few light raindrops here and there.

We kept on our way and eventually made it back down 4700 feet to Ouray!

Overall it was a great hike that, not going to lie, definitely kicked my butt a little bit! But I know that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger and with Imogene Pass Run coming up, I need as much preparation as I can get (it was also nice to know that this was 4700 feet of gain in 5 miles, and Imogene will be 5500 feet in 10 miles - so not quite as bad - which is good considering I don't think I could ever do that hike at the kind of pace I'll need to be at for Imogene)!

Photos from the day:

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Imogene Pass Run - Training Run #1 Recap

Todays post is going to be an overview of my first official IPR training run. I don't know how often I will post about simple training runs, but I wanted to at the start of my training, to hopefully help me keep track of my progress over the next few months as I get ready (and hopefully improve) for Imogene Pass Run. 

That's right - I never did update the blog world to the fact that I did decide to sign up for the IPR. I'm definitely nervous but I knew I would regret it if I didn't do it. I really wanted something hard to train for and keep my butt moving this summer. After today's first training run, I can safely say this race is definitely going to accomplish that! I think the word "Imogene" is just going to be constantly repeating in the back of my head for the entire summer!

I had a variety of choices on what and where to run today, but I ended up settling on running part of the course itself -  just barely short of the first 7 miles, and then back down for about 13.75 miles total. I'm not 100% positive that the distance is right because my Garmin was dead (still upset about that - I swore it was charging all day on Thursday and I hadn't touched it since, but ohwell) so I had to just kind of wing it while running (and then when I got home I plugged it into google, as I could remember). I decided on running the course (as opposed to other trails in the area) because I honestly didn't know what I had gotten myself into signing up for this and I wanted to get a good feel for what I was going to be facing come September. It ended up being a great run (definitely difficult as I will account) and I definitely hope to do it a couple more times this summer, and maybe even go to the top of the pass at some point (although if I do this, it'll hopefully be with some other runners - I know a few out of Delta who'd like to do it). 

I left Montrose around 7am this morning, aiming to start running around 8. I had heard from some experienced IPR runners that there's a nice place to park at the Thistledown campground - a couple miles up Camp Bird Road. Well as I was driving up, it seemed a bit further than I wanted (I kind of wanted to start close to the bottom) so I ended up parking about a mile earlier, at another camping area -Angel Creek Campground. It had a nice parking lot and a great map showing Ouray, Camp Bird Road, Imogene Pass Road, and all the way to Telluride!  

Once I was parked, I quickly got on my way. Not even a couple hundred feet in and I was already dying. It was steep! I was hoping that since I'd been running the Black Canyon Ascent route, I wouldn't have to walk very much - especially at the beginning, but unfortunately I was mistaken! I tried not to let it bother me, after all most everyone walks parts of Imogene. But I just kept thinking, well yes people walk, but this is the beginning, it's supposed to be the easier part! But, as Jillian Michaels says (I might have a love/hate relationship with Jilllian Michaels workout DVD's), "we start where we start and there's no shame in that", so I decided I would just do the best I could, after all this is my first attempt at it and I still have 2 1/2 months to get ready! Plus I figured if I'm going to be waking, I might as well enjoy the scenery! And enjoy it I did! It was beautiful out! There weren't too many cars out yet and the weather was just perfect!

Not quite a mile in and I reached Thistledown campground (where I had originally planned on parking). There was a restroom there so I made a quick stop and then headed on my way again. Shortly after, I reached this part of the road:

I vaguely remember this from when Scott and I drove to the trailhead for Mt. Sneffles last summer. It's just crazy to see from afar! Luckily the road is plenty wide, so not too scary once you're on it. I continued on a ways, doing a kind of steady run/walk routine which was working out pretty nicely. Every once in awhile a car would pass me and so I used that as a little motivator to start running again so they didn't judge me walking (not that they would since they're sitting in a car, but it still worked for self motivation).

Eventually I finally made it to the "c" - an area I really remember well from driving to Mt. Sneffles. I kept wondering when I would get there all morning, so it was a relief to finally make it. The road is pretty narrow at this point, but luckily no cars where coming so I ran right under it (it's hard to tell from this picture, but the rock goes over the road, creating almost a "c" tunnel, which is why I called it that).

After that, it wasn't too much longer when I reached the junction of Camp Bird Road and Imogene Pass Road. I need to read the course description again because the map where I parked made it look like there may be a shortcut to cut over onto Imogene Pass Road at an earlier point, but I didn't ever see it. Anyways, I wasn't too sure I wanted to actually go up Imogene Pass Road too much, just because I figured there wouldn't be many, if any, people on it, and I was by myself. I did decide to go a short ways onto it just to get a feel for it. I made it to the below picture before turning back (maybe 1/4 mile in).

After I got back to the junction I decided I would try to run up to Yankee Boy Basin (where the Mt. Sneffles trail head is), just to get a little more distance in (I was guessing that I was at 4-5 miles at this point). This road is more public, and I had been on it before, so I thought it was the best decision. Well the decision was a little short lived because only a couple minutes later and I heard some really loud thunder. Seeing that I was 4-5 miles away from my car at 11,000 something feet altitude, I decided to turn back.

I never did get rained on, but I'm still glad I didn't risk it. The downhill section went by fairly quickly, and although it was moderately steep it didn't feel too bad on my knees. By this point in the day, the road was getting much more crowded which meant it was getting pretty dusty. Most of the time is was okay, except for those darn ATVers that zoomed past! 

I finally made it back to my car, had some Gatorade and the decided that since it never did start raining, I still wanted to get a few more miles in. So I left my car where it was and ran downhill some more back towards Ouray. I ran almost all the way down Camp Bird Road, turned around, and run/walked back to my car!

So overall, I did go well, but, I definitely have my work cut out for me! I need to work on pushing through and not stopping to walk unless I really need to. And when I do need to, I need to work on my power walking and not leisurely walking. There are time cut offs, and I want to make sure I'm not anywhere close to getting sent back to Ouray come race day! I know I can do this!

A few more photos:

Friday, June 14, 2013

Home Sweet Home

"Oh how I miss Boulder..."

I'm not sure I would've believed myself had I said that three years ago. Don't get me wrong I've always thought of Boulder as pretty...but I could never get over the whole hippie, "Boulderite" thing. Or the fact that its home to CU...just kidding, I actually probably would've gone to CU had they had an Interior Design Program - but thats neither here nor there - my point is, I never truly appreciated where I lived and worked, until I started running. Actually there's a lot of things I never appreciated until I started running. 

I seriously took Colorado for granted almost my entire life. People from all over the world come here to see the Rocky Mountains and it wasn't until the summer of 2011 that I started really appreciating what we have here! Yes I would go up to Estes Park and I loved spending time there, but actually getting into the mountains, places untouched by cars and sometimes even other people - it's a whole other world. And getting above tree line - don't even get me started on that - I'm craving a hike above tree line SO bad (we may try one on Sunday, I'm just not sure how much snow is still up there). My point is there is so much in this amazing state I never even knew about until a few years ago. And the cool thing is - we've gone on so many hikes in the past two years and yet we've barely scratched the surface of what's out there! I've got too many hikes I want to do and not enough weekends!

But back to Boulder. Yes, it unfortunately still has those pot smoking hippies, but you know what else it has? Dozens, no probably hundreds of trails right out your back door. I mean that literally - hikes with NO commuting involved whatsoever. I keep thinking about how I could've gone hiking in the evenings when I worked in downtown Boulder. I could've gone for trail runs just like I go for road runs here. And of course, the views are incredible. The Flatirons are seriously amazing. 

So basically it took me moving away to realize all that the amazing city of Boulder has to offer. I still wouldn't want to commute into it again, but man to live there...maybe someday, in my dreams, if I could ever afford it!

So what brought me to all of this pondering about Boulder? Well my high school friend Carly got married in Louisville this past weekend so I made the trek back over the mountains. My weekend was fairly full catching up with people, but I did have both Saturday and Sunday mornings free, so I made some plans to go enjoy the city I once dreaded driving into. I did a little research and decided to check out Marshall Mesa Trail for my run on Saturday morning. I picked it because it was a bit more flat (and by flat - it definitely still had incline, it just wasn't going up a mountain) than most of the other trails and I knew I wanted to get somewhere between 10 & 15 miles in. 

Well it ended up being everything I imagined. It was a beautiful day, not too hot. I got there early enough so it wasn't too crowded yet, but there were definitely some people around (which honesty I kind of like when I'm by myself - I get kind of nervous on some of the routes I do around here - often times there is literally no one out at all). Marshall Mesa Trail wasn't that long of a trail but it connected with several others so I was able to get 12.5 miles in. I was hoping for more, but I honestly was just lacking energy after about 10 miles (I think I need to eat more before and during, as I've felt this way on my last couple runs). Overall though it was a wonderful run. This is the kind of run I run for (if that makes any sense). Runs like this just made me so appreciative of the fact that I'm healthy and able to run and experience this beautiful world God created for us. Runs like this are why I run. It's hard to explain, but it's an amazing feeling.

My photos will try to do it justice, but as usual they only try...they will never surpass experiencing it first hand:

On Sunday, I planned to spend the morning with my oldest and best friend Amy! We didn't really have plans but ended up at Chataqua Park in Boulder and spent a 3 mile hike to the first Flatiron catching up and talking about life. It was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it! We've decided that each time I come visit we're going to hike a different Flatiron! 

This hike also helped me see what an amazing transformation I've gone through. I believe it was sometime in the spring of 2011, Scott and I hiked part of this trail (I honestly can't remember where we hiked to, other than that we started at the same place. The two hikes (this past weekend and the one two years ago), shared the same starting point, which is a moderate incline, maybe 6-10% grade (I'm not very good at judging that). When I hiked it two years ago, I just remember huffing and puffing to get up the hill, when I hiked it on Sunday it was honestly almost a breeze. I made me think of a quote I've seen a few times: "It doesn't get easier, you just get stronger." It's still weird for me to think about how much I've changed in the past few years, I kind of see it in the mirror, but not totally, so this helped seal it in. I really am a whole new person with a whole new body! It's amazing what can happen when you set your mind to something!

In addition to some more photos, I am also going to leave you with a few quotes. Amy and I were just talking on our hike about how we liked inspirational quotes when a Facebook running group posted a link of the top 100 inspirational quotes - so I felt like it was a sign to share some of our favorites:

"Challenges are what make life interesting and overcoming them is what makes life meaningful." –Joshua J. Marine

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do, so throw off the bowlines, sail away from safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore, Dream, Discover." –Mark Twain

"You can’t fall if you don’t climb.  But there’s no joy in living your whole life on the ground." –Unknown

"Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears." –Les Brown

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Exploring the Cimmaron Range

Wow, gorgeous, stunning, and perfect are the words that I would use to sum up my weekend!

Glad I brought the tripod so we could get a great family photo of us all!
It really was spectacular! Hubby and I loaded up the Subaru and headed into the mountains for a night of camping and exploring the Cimmaron Range of the San Juan Mountains. I've seen a bit of the Cimmaron Range just driving through Ridgway, Colorado, but to really get into the heart of them was incredible. I seriously think they may give the Tetons a run for their money!

It wasn't until the middle of last week when I told Scott that I wanted to go camping this weekend. So I did some quick Googling and found the "Silverjack Campground" in an article listing the top 5 campsites of southwest Colorado. It seemed fairly close, and obviously was recommended, so we settled on it and got planning. On Saturday afternoon we drove into the Cimmaron Range from the east side, as you're heading towards Gunnison. Once you turn off of Highway 50, the entire route is dirt road. But it's worth it! I can officially say we've now broken in the new Subaru:

On our drive in we saw a few other small campsites, both empty, which was a good sign. I know this part of Colorado doesn't get nearly as crowded as the Front Range, but it still makes me nervous when campsites don't allow for reservations. Luckily, we got to Silverjack and it was wide open. There were 2 open loops (3 loops total, but they don't open the last until they reach capacity). The first loop we drove had several RV's and campers, probably one about every 3 or so spaces. The second loop, which was a little more tent friendly was completely free except for the host! I was amazed! We picked a gorgeous spot on the opposite end of the host's site, and basically had the entire campground to ourselves! 

After we payed for the campsite, we took off and did some exploring. We were planning to do a little hiking on Sunday morning, so we decided to check out the road leading up to the trail head. Well I'm glad we checked it out beforehand because we're still getting used to having a low clearance vehicle and the route was a bit to rough (no worries on the hiking though - there was another easier accessed trail we decided to do instead). However, we did make it far enough to go check out a waterfall, just a short ways off of the road.

After that, my wonderful hubby humored me while I took a bazillion pictures of the seriously gorgeous views. I never realized how incredibly beautiful aspen trees are in the late spring. They were a brilliant, bright green and when the sun shone down on them, they just lit up the mountainside - it almost looked like fall! I did my best to capture them, but I'm not sure I did well enough! They really were stunning!

Once we got back, we quickly set up camp and made a fire. Our menu consisted of Grilled Cheese and S'mores! It was a lovely evening enjoying the company of my husband and dog!

Stunning views from our campsite!
Making Grilled Cheese!
Now this is some seriously "grilled" cheese!
The perks of being married to an Eagle Scout!

In the morning we packed up and headed to the East Fork Trail Head. The hike we did went through forested areas with a few open valleys until we decided to turn around. The trail went on for many more miles, but due to time, and the fact that it's our first hike with the dog this year, we decided to keep it fairly short. It offered some lovely views and was a great chance to get some exercise!

After making it back to the car we stopped at a few more pullouts so I could get some more pictures, and then we were on our way home! The views, weather, and timing just made this such a perfect weekend, I'm so glad we did it! Here are a several more photos:

This dog seriously has my heart <3

On our way back home!
Instagram Photos from my iPhone :)

Flattop Mountain & Hallett Peak

I've been wanting to hike to the top of Hallett Peak ever since I found out it was the gorgeous mountain towering above Dream and Emera...