The highlight of all this was a 50ish mile long run on Saturday (that we had intended to be 40ish miles). Scott and I planned a "Super-Loop" of sorts up in the Indian Peaks Wilderness just west of Boulder. Neither of us had much, if any, experience with these trails, so we were both eager to see as much as we could in a single day. With that in mind, I devised the following admittedly ambitious route:
(Starting and finishing at Long Lake in the Brainard Lake Recreation Area.)
The start would be at the Brainard Lake Recreation Area at ~10,400'. From there we would head up and over 12,550' Pawnee Pass down to Monarch Lake at 8400'. Next would be a hump up to the Strawberry Bench and the High Lonesome Trail/CDT, which would take us to Junco Lake. From there we would continue climbing up to Caribou and Arapahoe Passes back at 12,000', drop briefly to 11,200' and then climb again to the day's high point of 12,800' at the Arapahoe Glacier Overlook. An enormously long descent would deposit us down at the University of Colorado's Mountain Research Station before we made our final 2000' climb of the day up and over 11,500' Niwot Ridge to drop back down to our starting point near Long Lake. On the map it looked bold, but doable. Of course, none of this was even remotely appropriate as a "taper" before this past weekend's White River 50 mile USATF National Trail Championships, which we both ended up running.
(A fairly intimidating profile.)
Scott was gracious enough to carry a camera all day, and it was completely worth it. The breathtaking scenery and fantastic singletrack were the defining characteristics of this day's run. Also, the stark difference between what a plan looks like on a map and the nature of the actual felt experience.
There were at least two moments worth noting during the course of our eight hours and ten minutes of running. After about four and a half hours of running time I topped out on our third 2000' climb of the day at Caribou Pass. As I sat on the edge of the thin piece of singletrack carved directly into the rock mountainside, sucking on a gel and gazing out into the spectacular basin that spread out before me, I finally "got it". This is why Boulder is a special place. For the past year I've had a hard time accepting why Boulder garners so much more praise and hype as an outdoor mecca when someplace like, say, Colorado Springs had the nearly incomparable charms of Pikes Peak going for it. Well, these mountains had to be it. The Indian Peaks are as rugged, steep, remote, and scenic as anything I've seen in the San Juans or Tetons, two of my upper-echelon contiguous 48 states mountain standards. Eventually Scott joined me and we trotted over to Dorothy Lake at 12,000' for a quick alpine dip before continuing with our run.
The second moment was more of an existential, despair-inducing episode. Scott and I had just climbed to ~12,800' to a perch on the ridge overlooking Arapahoe Glacier when I pointed out to him the Niwot Ridge trail snaking over an alpine meadow waaaay over there. We'd been running for over five hours at this point and I was trying to convince him--and myself--that we were only ~12 miles and two hours away from the crest of that final climb. Of course, we were way off on the mileage and it would actually be another full three hours of running before the day's work was complete. But that's a big reason why we were out there: to see a lot of country and in the process callous our minds and bodies to the demands of running all day.
The rest of the story is better told in pictures:
(Looking down the magnificent drop on the west side of Pawnee Pass. Monarch Lake can be seen way off in the distance. The only other place I've seen trail constructed on such precipitous terrain is in the Grand Canyon.)
(Scott, utterly dwarfed by the immensity of the landscape on the Pawnee Pass drop.)
(Who would've thought this was back there?)
(The High Lonesome Trail: where it seems only elk dare roam.)
(Wow. Sitting on Caribou Pass with Arapahoe Pass and South Arapahoe Peak in the background.)
(Scott cruising over to Arapahoe Pass.)
(A late-in-the-day desperate descent off of Niwot Ridge after not being able to find the trail back down to Long Lake.)
(We came straight down that.)
(Finally, back at the Roost, killing mosquitoes.)
(Scott expressing his love for Forest Service mileages after a longer-than-expected day.)