August 29, 2013

Gray Copper to Corkscrew Gulch from Ironton

Dirt with so much iron that eating it cures anemia on the spot!
I wasn't sure where to hike today (but you can't really go wrong anywhere in the San Juans), and wanted to check out the Ironton ghost town, so I figured I could link together a hiking trail and some jeep roads in that area and create a small loop. 

I parked right off highway 550 and started from there... went up Gray Copper Gulch to the Vernon mine, then connected with the jeeps roads that wrap around the backside of Red Mountain #1, and back down Corkscrew Gulch. According to the GPS, it was 9 miles, but that's probably an overestimation. Total elevation gain was probably a little under 3000 feet. 

A pretty nice loop and other than a few jeepers, I didn't see a single person out there.

Cool RZR
I didn't eat this
Gray Copper Gulch

Cement Creek basin and the road heading towards Hurricane Pass
Silverton Mountain Ski Area

Corkscrew Gulch and the other Red Mountains
The approximate route with help from our friends at Microsoft Paint

August 28, 2013

Bear Creek Trail to Engineer Pass

Looking down into the Bear Creek basin from Engineer Pass

Today I hiked up to Engineer Pass from Highway 550 via the Bear Creek National Recreation Trail. The trail is a little over 7 miles to the pass and gains 4400 feet (starting at 8,400 and ending at 12,800). I really enjoyed this hike, as it gives you a great feel for the beauty of the San Juans and also an immense appreciation for how tough the old miners in this region were. The description on Summitpost sums it up best:
The Bear Creek Trail is a very spectacular trail just off Highway 550, south of Ouray, Colorado. The Bear Creek Trail now stands as a monument to the determination and perseverance of Colorado's nineteenth century miners. It was originally built in the mid 1870s, and rerouted to its present location 20 years later. The old trail follows an unlikely route up Bear Creek, through a canyon that is so rugged it is often impossible to reach the water without ropes. Miners were forced to dynamite horizontal shelves into the rock in order to traverse the vertical walls. The trail passes by the remains of two hundred year old mining camps along the creek.
The first couple miles climb steeply from the road, and then the trail is essentially blasted directly into the cliffs. I have no idea how they were able to pull this off over a century ago. After passing a few old mining camps (again, the amount of stuff they lugged up there is incredible) you follow the creek more closely. I love the color of the water in the San Juans (chalky blue, due to the abundance of minerals in the ground). Once above treeline, you hike the last few miles across an open tundra in the upper basin, eventually landing you at Engineer Pass.

Once you're within a half mile of the pass, you start to hear cars again. Since Engineer Pass is one of the main passes on the Alpine Loop, its very popular for people with tricked-out jeeps. I stopped for a bit at the top to talk with some of the jeepers... both crews were from Upstate/Western NY (Rochester and Syracuse!).

To start, here's a shot of Ouray in the morning. Easy to see why this town rocks.

Ruins of the Grizzly Bear mining camp
Mines all over the place if you keep your eyes open
Along the creek
Remains of the Yellow Jacket mining camp

Classic San Juans
Up to the tundra

I would NOT trust that road. Man, they would mine anywhere and everywhere.
Engineer Pass
I did my best ultra-runner impression and brought out all of my gear

Now heading back down...

Perfect ski slope
As I said above, the early miles of the trail cut right into the cliff...
I'll give props to the runners in the Hardrock 100 who run through
here without falling to their death

August 27, 2013

Courthouse Mountain

West Fork of the Cimarron River from Courthouse Mountain
On my way down to the heart of the San Juans (Ouray, Silverton) I took a quick detour out to Owl Creek Pass and hiked up Courthouse Mountain. Clouds were covering a lot of the sky, so it wasn't a spectacular day for photos, but it was a nice (steep) hike. 

You get this view of Courthouse along the trail... luckily you wind around and summit via the backside.

Looking towards the Uncompahgre Wilderness from the top

Clouds building, time to get out of here!

August 26, 2013

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Views from the North rim at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

I'm currently on a Colorado road trip aka living the dream.

After getting rained out yesterday (seriously did nothing), this afternoon the weather broke and I checked out the north rim at Black Canyon NP. I've driven down to the San Juans several times, but always blew right past this area. Its actually quite a cool place; probably not worth planning a trip around, but definitely worth visiting if you're in the region.

The north rim of the part isn't very hard to get to, but it feels remote because there is NO ONE there. I saw two other people the entire afternoon. After driving in via Fruitvale Mesa (filled with small organic farms and neat little towns like Hotchkiss), I hiked out to Exclamation Point and then up to Green Mountain to check out the views.

Park entrance at the North Rim
The Black Canyon in B&W
And a similar photo in color
Looking down into the canyon from Green Mountain

The West Elks

Views from CO-92

August 25, 2013

2013 Top of Utah Half Marathon

I had one goal today - cross the finish line first and defend my 2012 title. So while I fell short of that (by a landslide), it wasn't due to a poor performance on my part... major tip of the cap to Riley Cook, who ran a fantastic race (1:05:16, narrowly missing the course record). In my opinion, the most impressive race anyone in Utah has run this year.

And speaking of impressive performances, I need to give a shout out to the firefighters who got the Millville Wildfire under control. A week ago, it looked like this race might not even happen. Their efforts saved a lot of homes, and gave us the opportunity to go out and compete today.

The field was pretty stacked (normal for this race now). The primary competition was Riley, Bryant Jensen, and John Coyle. I told myself I wasn't going to take the lead in the canyon, but the pace was slow in the first quarter mile and I felt uncomfortable running so close to everyone, so I took off - just over a minute into the race and put a small gap on everyone. It wasn't exactly a break for the tape, just an effort to string it out a little, and footsteps started to slowly come back to me. I led the first three miles and then Riley evened up to me and took the lead shortly after that. No one else was there, and I felt like we had a pretty good gap on everyone else. The run down the canyon for the first seven miles was the same as always - focus on running good tangents, feel that small headwind just after 5 miles, which turns into a tailwind a quarter mile later, etc. We were moving pretty quick (29:21 at 6 miles).

From the Herald-Journal
On Hollow Road (after 7 miles) we were still pretty close. I think it was somewhere around 8-9 miles where I just started to feel a little tired, and Riley put a gap on me after 9 miles (2011 deja vu, swapping Riley in for Paul). Once we got to the Millville hill I was probably a good 10+ seconds back and didn't feel like I had a chance to rally and win. I started doing the math in my head to figure out what I would need to run to break my best time on the course (never a good sign when you resort to that!)... and ended up losing a lot of time on mile 12 - his lead doubled from what I could tell. Finished just fast enough to beat my 2011 time by 1 second (1:05:39, full splits below). When I said I wanted to beat these times this fall, I didn't mean by only a second each, but its still better than not beating them at all.

Full Results. Four guys under 1:07, which I don't think has ever happened before. Says a lot about how deep and competitive this race is getting. I love it.

I'm happy with the fact that this is my fastest time on the course, but I'm never going to be completely satisfied with a second place finish. Keeps the fire burning...

If I had run low 1:05s today, I'd be looking to get in a flat half pretty soon to take a crack at the OT standard. I'm in the ballpark, but not quite in striking distance yet... moving in that direction, though. I feel like I've been making consistent progress all summer, and just need to keep plugging away. First things first - a short break from anything intense (~10 days with no faster running, just low intensity... and high altitude). Then I'll get going again with some races the weekend after Labor Day. Keeping my options open for the fall... Oct/Nov seems like the right time to attack the half-marathon again. My speed has improved, but I need to some re-incorporate some of the longer tempo runs so I can put the whole package together for 13.1 miles.

Splits from the last 3 years. Probably a little too quick down the canyon. Oh well, that's racing.
Also - I suck at mile 12 of this course, now that I've seen this.