Today I ran from my doorstep (always my number one preference) to the Bear Creek Canyon area here in southwestern Colorado Springs. The start of the true uphill (read: mountains) is only 2 miles away, and the singletrack starts only 3 miles away. I actually prefer this because I usually spend the first 20-30 minutes of a run moving slowly and awkwardly as the sleep and stiffness leaves my bones.
The main reason I've been biking to Manitou for the past week or so is because Barr Trail offers a highly-trafficked route into higher altitudes when there is abundant (un-packed) snow on most other trails. With the last few days of warm weather, though, that is no longer the case, and today I was excited to get back to my more favored stomping grounds of the next-major-drainage-to-the-south-of-Ruxton/Englemann: Bear Creek.
Today I took 666, the most direct ascending trail route in the area (also known somewhat affectionately as Balls-to-the-Wall and/0r El Diablo among Colorado College XC alums because of the 2000' of gain in three miles that kicks off the climb). This beautiful little singletrack ascends quickly along the southern (north-facing) wall of Bear Creek Canyon until it crosses over at about 8500' and flattens slightly over the next 1.5 miles where it deposits a runner in a beautiful opening in the valley at 9100', Jones Park. The trail passes waterfalls. It has inspiring views back out to the city. It offers several springs from which to drink. It is home to several groves of aspen. I love it.
There are two things I love about running to Jones Park: 1) I very rarely see anyone. 2) Even though it is at 9100' (and only 8 miles from my doorstep), the network of trails up there has only begun and within another 5-10 miles of running I can be as high as 12,300'. I understand that Pikes Peak's Barr Trail has all the history and fame--and this certain race that is contested on it every August--but for me it's hardly worth it to run over there regularly in the summertime because of the literal crowds that are on the trail. Granted, it is badass to run to the top of a 14,000+' mountain. But, most of the time, a 12,300' mountain or two (Almagre and Baldy) and 11,500' Rosa will do for me. I look forward to getting back there consistently in the coming weeks and months.
And, finally, a little sumin' sumin' to keep the foot tapping: