Thursday, July 2, 2015

Goin' Out West - Week 1

Tuesday (6/16)

            After spending the night with friends outside Taos, NM (very different town than I had envisioned), I drove to the Taos Ski Valley to make an attempt to summit Wheeler Peak, New Mexico’s tallest mountain at just over 13,000’.  I had summited the previous year from the other (Red River) side, but I wanted to see the Bull of the Woods Trail and its beautiful ridges from the Taos side.  The same storms that have brought devastating flooding to Texas dumped massive amounts of spring snow in the mountains, so I had my work cut out for me.  Sure enough, after only 3.5 miles, I hit impassable (for me) amounts of snow, still 5 miles from the summit.  Disappointed, I turned and headed back down the mountain, unsure how I would get my 15 miles in for the day.  Once at the Ski Valley again, I explored and found another trailhead (Williams Lake) and followed it up to the lake at 11,000’.  I encountered a good bit of snow along the way in the woods, forcing me to follow the blue blazes on the tress since the trail was buried much of the time.  I passed several groups of people who were coming down from the lake, and they warned me that there was a bear and her cub roaming around the lake.  Much to my dismay, the bears were nowhere to be found when I arrived at the lake, which was beautiful and ringed by high snow-covered peaks.  With a storm approaching, I quickly made my way back down through the snow to my car, hit the local brewery for a burger and beer, and made the drive to Rico, CO, where I had managed to find a hostel run by a guy who went to my high school in Memphis. 

Mileage – 14.8
Time – 4:36
Ascent – 3967’
Descent – 3967’
Total Vertical - 7934'
Waking HR/Pulse Ox – N/A

(Lots of Snow)

(Williams Lake)

 (Rio Grande Gorge)

Wednesday (6/17)

            I chose Rico in part because the hostel was cheap and owned by a guy from Memphis, but also because it offered quick access to the trails in the Lizard Head Wilderness.  I have been coming to the San Juans for 7 summers, but I have yet to explore this area around Lizard Head Peak.  I decided I would try to make it to the pass (12,600’) but knew I might not be able to due to the snowpack.  I set out under a clear blue sky and cool temps, and sure enough, I turned back after 2.5 miles and headed down to my car due to the snow.  I drove a few miles to another trailhead, hoping for better luck.  I made it another couple miles before I had to cross several snowfields in which the snow came up to my waist at times.  After 30 minutes of this (and seeing no break in the snow ahead), I again turned back and headed to the car.  Although I only logged 10 miles, my legs were worked.  It isn’t easy (at least not for me) to work your way up the mountain through deep snow, and the run back down was no picnic either as the melting snow created rivers of mud and cold water.  My stabilizer muscles got quite a workout.  After my run I drove to Trout Lake and soaked my feet in the water while soaking up some Rocky Mountain sun.  It was a beautiful day, and I was headed to Telluride for the Telluride Bluegrass Festival, my annual journey into the San Juans.  To see how well I was acclimating to the altitude, I brought a pulse oximeter and would be measuring my waking heart rate and oxygen saturation in my blood.

Mileage – 10.3
Time – 3:34
Ascent – 2234’
Descent – 2234’
Total Vertical - 4468'
Waking HR/Pulse Ox – 66/90

(Theme For the Trip)

(Love the San Juans)

(Lizard Head Peak)

 (Trout Lake)

Thursday (6/18)

Telluride, what more can I say.  I was hooked the first time I saw that box canyon.  If you’ve ever been, you get it.  Waking up early a bit tired and stiff after late night of music, I looked out the window to see bright blue skies and snow-covered peaks inviting me to come play.  My goal was to log about 4 hours of running/hiking, so I took the gondola down into town and headed for Tomboy Road in hopes of making it up to Imogene Pass at 13,100’.  The road is fairly tame by CO jeep road standards in terms of footing, but it gets steep.  I made it all the way to the abandoned mining town of Tomboy (roughly 11,400’) before running into a snowplow that was clearing the road.  The snow drifts on either side were well above my head.  This road is popular with jeep enthusiasts in the summer, as it links the towns of Telluride and Ouray.  I turned around and headed back down, then hopped on the Jud Wiebe trail for a couple more hours of fun.  All in all it was a good first day in Telluride.

Mileage – 15.2
Time – 4:14
Ascent – 4334’
Descent – 4334’
Total Vertical – 8668’
Waking HR/Pulse Ox – 80/89

(Probably the Only Property In Telluride I Could Afford)

(Looking Up Towards Imogene Pass)

(Almost To the Snowplow)

 (Looking Down On the Festival)

Friday (6/19)

            Friday’s workout was just that – a workout.  There was nothing “fun” about this one, just a quad-pounding downhill-focused couple hours.  The shortest “trail” from the top of the gondola (10,500’) down into Telluride (8,750’) drops roughly 1800’ in 2.6 miles.  My day would consist of running down and taking the gondola back up, a total of 5 times.  My legs felt surprisingly good, and I even managed to get faster on the 3rd rep and maintain a decent pace.  This is definitely something I couldn’t have done in San Antonio. 

Mileage – 13.1
Time – 1:43
Ascent - 0
Descent – 8264’
Waking HR/Pulse Ox – 79/90

(Headed Down There x5)

Saturday (6/20)
            I took today off.  My quads were screaming, and the lineup of good bluegrass music was long.  I’d spend my day baking in the sun listening to good music.

Mileage – 0
Time – 0
Ascent - 0
Descent – 0
Waking HR/Pulse Ox – 73/90

(Beautiful Festival Weather)

 (Hard To Beat Telluride Sunsets)

Sunday (6/21)

            Today was scheduled as a longer (8 hour) day.  My friend Eric drove over from Durango (he lives in SA) to meet me and see the San Juans.  It was his first time here, and I was eager to show him around some of my favorite trails.   We started from the St. Sophia gondola station at 10,500’ and headed up a service road aiming to hit the top of the Gold Hill ski life (just under 12,000’) and then head down to town.  We were close to the top when I noticed a deer (maybe an elk) atop the hill.  There was some snow to cross, but we decided to follow the hoofprints to the top.  When we got there, much to our surprise we saw a figure standing on a mound of snow, staring off into the distance.  It turned out to be local runner Ricky Denesik, who knows the trail around Telluride better than anyone.  He showed us around and led us on a rather scary scramble up some loose rock (we had to down climb using cables on the return trip), but the view from the top of Gold Hill (over 12,500’) was incredible.  Snow surrounded us, and the perfectly blue sky provided the perfect backdrop to the towering San Juan peaks.  Ricky told us about his race that he is putting on in August and then led us down the mountain towards a trail that would take us to Bear Creek.  We said goodbye, and Eric and I headed up to view the falls at Bear Creek.  Mostly because it’s relatively easy and convenient to access from town, this trail was full of people wanting to catch a glimpse of the impressive falls.  We took a few pictures and cooled off in the spray of the falls, then headed to the other side of town and up Tomboy Rd.  We made it a few miles before Eric and I both decided that we were ready to turn around.  We cruised back to town and grabbed fries and a beer at the local pub.  Afterwards, Eric got on the gondola to head back to his car and drive to Durango, while I took the trail up and did a fee more hours of hiking/running.  All in all, it was a very productive training day for me.

Mileage – 26.8
Time – 7:56
Ascent – 7956’
Descent – 8917’
Total Vertical – 16,873’
Waking HR/Pulse Ox – 76/90

A great kickoff to my mountain training.  Totals for the week…

Mileage – 80.2
Time – 21:53
Ascent – 18,491’
Descent – 27,716’
Total Vertical – 46,207’

 (Another Great Sunset)

 (Top of Gold Hill)

(Running Down With Eric and Ricky)