Sights and Sounds from Imogene Pass

I had the pleasure of experiencing Imogene Pass in Colorado. Tons of history, lots of wild flowers and the trail isn’t too difficult. Just a fun, historic drive.
Here’s a short video compilation:

The hardest and most scenic half marathon I’ve completed

“Do I really want to do this?” I thought as the alarm went off at 4:30am. I am on vacation and I haven’t really trained much. In fact I haven’t trained at all. I stepped outside of the tent and the early morning sky was dotted with stars and constellations that only are visible in the darkness of the wilderness.

A cool breeze blew through the aspen trees and I continued to debate my decision. A quick bowl of oatmeal warmed me up and I decided to just do it. I had already signed up and if I just walked it, I’d be fine.

I had signed up for the Mt. Sneffels half marathon thinking it’d be a fun thing to do. I’ve run half marathons for several years, but I usually train for them. My last half marathon was in January and now it’s August. Plus and this is a big one; I live in Florida (sea level) and have only been in Ouray, Colorado (7,700 feet altitude) for a week.

This past week, I’ve been hiking which has left me gasping for air. If just hiking did that, running 13.1 miles at this altitude was sure to give my lungs a work out. I overheard one guy mention he hadn’t been running for a while and wasn’t sure how he’d do. I was glad to hear, I’m not the only crazy one out here!

Ouray (pronounced u-ray) is a town nestled in the mountain area of Colorado known as the Switzerland of America. The town is surrounded by majestic peaks, waterfalls, and post card perfect views. The early morning sun turned the mountain tops orange providing a picture perfect setting for the run.

Remember how this is a mountain town? The first mile of the course was all uphill into Ouray. What a way to start the race! The town was just beginning to wake up and the amazing smell of fresh cooked bacon and coffee wafted by. Wow, did that smell good!!! If they handed out freshly cooked bacon and coffee as we ran by, that’d be perfect.

As I ran through town, I saw things I hadn’t seen before; hotels nestled along the creek, RV camping and facilities tucked into the trees and my favorite;
the Laundromat that had several dirt bikes parked inside.

Soon, it was the two mile mark and I found one of the best parts of the run, the water station.

Just as this run was anything but ordinary so were these water stations. Water & Gatorade are standard fare for a run, but here they also had pretzels, M&Ms, and Gummy Bears.

Yum!!! I wanted to take the bowl of M&Ms with me. I chose Gatorade and M&Ms; either it was going to give me some great fuel or it was going to be colorful coming back up. Fortunately, it provided some fuel and off I went.

I’ve run numerous half marathons in a various towns, but this was the most scenic ever. Instead of hearing cars and city noise, this run was on a dirt road that paralleled a creek. Running on dirt and in the beauty of nature was a much welcome change.

The trail changed from tree lined and creek side to wide open, lush green mountain meadows. You’ve seen those post cards of an old barn, in a deep green meadow with towering peaks behind. Yep, that was the scenery. Awesome!!

Mile 9 approached and I was taking more walking breaks. That’s ok, I wasn’t doing this for time, but I didn’t want to be last either. I passed some horses grazing in the field and stopped to take their picture. A little while later, another lush green meadow appeared inviting. I just wanted to go lay down,feel the soft, deep grass around me and soak up the sun.

Maybe later, right now I have a few more miles to go before I sleep…..

The course turned toward the mountains and on both sides were meadows, dotted with cows and horses, and small babbling creeks meandering through. Wow, how beautiful and what a looong hill up ahead! This was mile 11 and it was not going to be easily taken. Fortunately at the top was a much needed water station. Gummy Bears are my new best friend!

Mile 13, only a mile and tenth to go! Half marathons are 13.1 miles, full marathons are 26.2 miles. Yeah, almost done!!! People were saying “great job” and “almost there”. It is amazing what encouragement can do!

About this time, my right calf started to complain. My legs had complained around mile two, but then decided to settle in for the haul. My back had been giving me nasty reminders since mile 7, but I was used to that. My glutes decided to voice their opinion at mile 10. All of these messages from my body reminded me, I need to stay in better shape.

I jogged across the finish line and what a feeling of accomplishment and relief!! My favorite part of every race is when they put the medal around my neck. I always feel like I’m being knighted or something special. My body gave its all and it took me the rest of the day to recover, but I’m glad I did it.

The Mt. Sneffels half marathon was the hardest and yet most incredibly scenic run I’ve completed. It happens every August so if you enjoy beautiful scenery and good run, be sure to sign up.

You have more than plenty of time to train if you start now. This year’s goodies included half off admission to the Ouray hot springs, one free beer from the Ouray brewery, a medal, tech shirt, and $5 off a show at the Opera house.

For more info: http://mtsneffelsmarathon.com/

North Table Mountain Park

I wanted to squeeze in one more hike for the day, but it was already 2pm so it had to be something close. As I sat in the parking lot looking at the mesa in front of me, I noticed a trail. That’s what I love about mountainous areas; you can usually see a road or trail from below and then find your way to it.

This one was really easy to find. It’s the North Table Mesa trail and it’s just North of Golden, Colorado on Highway 93. This isn’t your usual hiking trail that has a variety of terrain. The trail starts in the parking lot and is an ascent all the way.

It looks and feels steep while walking, but it was easily managed even with a covering of packed snow. I enjoyed the mountain bikers riding down for a bit and then turning off onto a trail that went into town.

I took a few breaks along the way and it was fun to turn around and see the view. Often when hiking, I’m so focused on what’s ahead, I forget the surrounding scenery. I don’t remember the exact distance, but it was less than a mile to the top so it doesn’t take long to walk up there.

DSC_0848sOnce at the top you can see the city of Denver to the East and Golden to the West. The top is fun because there are other trails to explore and the one above the rock climbing area is very scenic. The north side of the mountain had a herd of deer grazing and they were oblivious to all the people.

I followed the trails east for a bit and then headed back to the rock climbing area. Daylight was going fast so I didn’t want to go too far. I would love to go back early in the morning and explore the entire area. My guess is that it’d be an interesting place to watch the sunrise.

You’d see the silhouette of the city against the sunrise to the east and the mountains to the west would glow as the sun bathed them. That’s my guess anyway. I’ll put that on my ever growing list of things to do.

It was a fun short hike to end the day with ample opportunities to return and explore again.  For maps and current info:

http://jeffco.us/openspace/openspace_T56_R28.htm

White Ranch Park

Ever had the feeling that you just wanted to be outside? Doesn’t matter where, just get outside. That’s the feeling I had! It was a sunny winter day and I just wanted to go hiking, like right now.  Sure, an hour or so in the car would yield me some spectacular views, but I wasn’t up for that much windshield time.

I found the perfect place about half an hour away; White Ranch park.  It is conveniently located on the outskirts of Golden Colorado and easily accessed via North Highway 93.  Take a left at the big brown sign, head west for a couple of miles on a two lane road. The road ends in a T intersection and the park is on your right.

At first glance, the trail doesn’t appear to be that secluded. There are a couple of large homes immediately visible from the trail head. I figured if it went past the homes and up into the mountains behind, it’d be a nice hike.

Initially, the trail follows a fence, crosses a road and then enters private property. Here the trail begins to become less civilized as it meanders through boulders and under trees. To the left, there were several beautiful horses hanging out in their fenced area. They were privately owned, but I enjoy seeing animals of all types.

Past that area, the trail exits private property and takes on the rustic aspect I was looking for. Covered in a few inches of snow, the trail was still easily hike able and I encountered many people enjoying the beautiful day.  It may sound snowy and cold but it wasn’t.  The sun was out and I was plenty warm in a pair of jeans, wool socks, hiking boots, two long sleeve winter shirts, a coat and gloves.

As I made my way up the trail, a hawk silently soared overhead. I can only imagine the view he was enjoying!   The trail continued to ascend up the mountain and the further I went the more serene and scenic it became.

At one point, I found a big rock near the trail and just sat there enjoying the warm sun. All I could here was silence. Occasionally I’d hear a fellow hiker wander by or the wind blow through the trees, but more often it was just the sound of silence. If you’ve ever heard that, it’s really an odd but comforting feeling.

I made my way up the trail for about an hour or so and then decided to turn around. I could’ve hiked all day, but I was getting hungry for more than just trail mix so I turned around and enjoyed a different view. That’s the fun thing about hiking in the mountains; the views are different each direction.

Next time you’re in the Golden, Colorado area, check out this easy hike. More info is here:

http://jeffco.us/openspace/openspace_T56_R57.htm

Denver Botanical Gardens Trail of Lights

One of my favorite holiday pastimes is to grab a mug of hot chocolate, drive around the neighborhoods and check out all the creative light displays.

As I was driving home on C470 last night, I saw a huge display of lights so of course I had to go check it out. It was one of the Denver Botanical Gardens Trail of Lights displays. This one was at Chatfield which brings you over 1 million twinkling lights that illuminate a winding path through the Colorado countryside.

The temp gauge in the car said it was 25 degrees outside. That’s going to be cold, but that’s why I have a jacket, gloves and a hat. With a light snow falling and the cold weather, it was the perfect setting to enjoy the display. It wasn’t crowded, but there was a steady stream of people strolling in to enjoy the scenery.

As I walked in, I was amazed at how all the trees were uniquely decorated.  There was a fire pit and hot chocolate stop to warm you up before you embarked on the trails. There are two trails; a long and short one. I took the long one so I could see all the lights.

There are displays all along the trail, even in spots you don’t expect, like the frozen creek. I particularly liked how the pedestrian bridges were decorated.  About midway through there is a warming hut. That was a welcome stop! Sometimes you when go inside to get warm and you still feel a bit of chill. Not in here, it was completely toasty!!

Continuing along, I had to admire their creativity and how they installed the lights up so high and in such nice designs. I know stringing lights around my home and fence is enough of an adventure.

It was a fun walk and I made my way around more than once to be sure I saw everything. There is also a small ice skating rink near the entrance which several kids enjoyed. When you go, dress warm and prepare for a nice stroll through some creative light displays.

There are two displays one at 10th and York Street and the other at Wadsworth and C470, which is where I went. The displays run nightly till Jan 1st  from 5:30pm – 9:30pm. For more information:

http://www.botanicgardens.org/events-exhibits/special-events/trail-of-lights