Rocky Mountain Rambling

I spent the last week in CO, attending the 4th International Congress on Medicine and Science in Ultra Endurance Sports early in the week, and then celebrating the incredible life of my step-mom, Meredith Spear, later in the week. As you might imagine, it was a week of highs and lows.

One of the highs was the fantastic conference, which included some great speakers and very interesting topics. For those that are interested, a selection of published abstracts can be found here. I had a great time geeking out about it on Facebook with all my nerdy ultra friends afterwards (Or is that ultra nerdy? Haaa.)

Even though the conference was great, it was still a long day spent sitting inside, and left me eager for some trail time. So the next day I headed for Rocky Mountain National Park. Sad but true: despite having parents who’ve lived in CO for 12 years, until yesterday I’d never spent any significant time in the RMNP. Time to fix that.

Unfortunately, Colorado received a late season dump of snow, and roads and trails that were usually open by May were still covered in snow, making avalanche danger a real consideration. In addition, the usual summer thunderstorms were predicted to roll through in the afternoon. I hadn’t brought any avy gear or flotation with me, so I planned a route that stuck to lower elevations and had a couple easy bail-out options in case the weather got really nasty. (Fun fact: lower elevation trails in RMNP means my route ranged from 8000 to 10,000 ft above sea level.)

As it turned out, all of the trails were snow-free – including one trail that a ranger warned me would “definitely be snow covered.” Some dark clouds rolled in, but no thunder, lightning, or significant rain. Part of me wishes I’d planned a route just a bit further afield… on the other hand, it’d be ridiculous to complain about snow-free trails and good weather!

In addition to being snow-free, all of the trails along my route were in excellent condition, without any blowdowns or other obstacles.  This includes Deer Mountain, Moraine Park, Cub Lake, Cub-Pool, Fern Lake, and Beaver Meadows. Water was readily accessible. Total for the day was approx 21 miles and 3500 ft of gain – map below, GPX file here.

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Elk in the early morning light
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Big guy
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Trail running in CO isn’t so bad (Longs Peak in the back)
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I did a little bit of cross-country travel to avoid some roads. Compared to bushwhacking through alder in the Cascades, this was easy peasy!
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Came across a bad-ass fly-fishing lady
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Clouds exploding over Stones Peak (on right)

 

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Horseshoe Valley and the Mummy Range (taken from NW side of Deer Mountain)
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Close up of Longs Peak and Meeker
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Random trail-running guy
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Ball Cactus
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Ball cactus in the sun. Shimmery!
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Gang of wild turkeys
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Dark clouds gathering over Moraine Park and Spruce Canyon
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There were elk everywhere
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Nothing ominous to see here. Just a darkening sky and a pile of bones.
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An hour later, the sun was back. Loved this little grove of Aspens on the way to Cub Lake.
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Cub Lake – still recovering from the fire
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The Pool? Sounds great!
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Descending towards the Pool through the Cub Lake Burn with Stones Peak in the back
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The Pool – don’t think I want to go swimming here after all
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A little bit of road running: well-packed gravel road lined with aspen trees.
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One last look up Spruce Canyon
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Deer Mountain (where I started my day) in the distance, during the final push back to the car.
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Farewell RMNP! (Last look at the Mummy Range from Deer Ridge Junction)

 

 

 

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