Monday, December 31, 2012

Holiday Trail Running

A slight calf strain and more persistent achilles injury has kept my holiday running down. It has been a frustrating few weeks and I've taken to walks with the dogs before gradually easing myself back into some slow jogging. I had hoped to clock about 200 miles in December but I'll now be lucky to reach 75.

Since my last run around Wonderland I've managed to get out 7 times, although nothing was particularly strenuous until a trip to Sourdough yesterday with Otto and around Marshall Mesa with Livvy today. Today was the 16th consecutive day below zero, so it has been a cold snap and the snow on December 24th (8 inches at home) was very welcome.

Rabbit Mountain December 22nd

This is always a nice, short trip fairly close to home. I took both Livvy and Otto for a pre-holiday walk before the snow came.

The Indian Peaks with Meeker and Longs Peak on the right

Livvy and Otto on the west loop of the Eagle Trail
Annual Borzoi Walk, Denver, CO December 23rd

We heard of this event by pure chance. Although Borzoi are a very rare breed, there are a few owners in the area, and each year they meet in Denver for a short walk through town. With Otto and Harvey being a bit unpredictable with other dogs we decided to take Livvy and Lilah. This usually isn't my kind of event, but it turned out to be quite good. We also met Livvy's brother - he turned out to be much bigger than her, although I'd bet on her running endurance every time over any other dog.
Lilah and Olivia in Denver
Livvy in the foreground with her brother at the top

Boulder Valley Ranch, December 25th

It was good to get out of the house on Christmas Day, but with the temperature in single digits it was very cold. BVR is a great place from which to view the foothills and although the snow was quite deep in places the trails were fairly well trodden.

Livvy at Boulder Valley Ranch

Lilah in a rare off-leash moment

Otto, off trail to avoid a bunch of aggressive dogs

Green Mountain, December 29th

I've run Green Mountain so many times I've lost count. However, the route via the Amphitheater to Saddle Rock and then the Ranger trail is my favorite.

Early morning sun on the Flatirons

At the top of the Saddle Rock trail

Livvy on the summit of Green Mountain

I love my Kahtoola microspikes

Sourdough Loop, December 30th

I took Otto on this higher level trail system. I knew the snow would be deep above 9,000 feet but thought that cross-country skiers and snow shoe walkers would have packed it down a little. It was a beautiful day with some great views of the high mountains to the west. The first two miles of this route were along the snow-packed road that leads to Beaver reservoir and we started to climb as we headed south from the Beaver Creek trailhead below.

Otto at Beaver Creek

We reached the ridge at 9,200 feet and the trail was great. But then, at the point where the ski trail bisects the route our onward trail was not broken at all and Otto and I began short-striding through 2-3 feet deep snow until we reached the Beaver Bog trailhead.

Just after the point where the broken trail ended - a half mile of deep snow to Beaver Bog

For the next 1.5 miles we climbed steadily passed the junction with the Wapiti Ski Trail and I decided to take the trail spur directly to the South St Vrain trail. This was really hard going. The trail was not broken and we encountered some deep snow. Otto had a hard time jumping through the drifts but he had a lot of fun. I kept having to pick clumps of ice from his paws.

The views west to the mountains were spectacular

In the deep snow just before the South St Vrain trail junction

At the junction with the South St Vrain trail
After the long, slow section of deep snow we made rapid progress back to the car.

Marshall Mesa, December 31st

I risked a slightly longer run on this last outing in 2012. Hard packed snow on this lower level trail would mean less strain on my calf and achilles. I set off with Livvy at a brisk pace. I was wearing my spikes and these worked well when the trail became icy.

Initial section of the Marshall Mesa
Light flurries of snow were falling from the heavy cloud cover although the sun penetrated through in places. It was a comfortable temperature in the shelter of the lower trail, but I got very cold as I headed to the Foothills Vista trailhead.
At the top of the Marshall Mesa at the intersection with Community Ditch
Descending Dowdy Draw with Eldorado Canyon ahead
It's even cold for a dog. Livvy with iced hair around her muzzle.  It was 20F
Brooding weather in the late afternoon. I was very cold at this point and pushing hard back to the car
Happy New Year to everyone.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

An unfortunate misnomer

Context is everything. There was nothing particularly wonderful about running around Wonderland this morning. The dark cloud of shame hanging over the nation was paralleled by increasing cloud cover and fog rolling in from the plains and it quickly enveloped this otherwise pleasant suburb of north Boulder. I was smacked hard with double injuries following my 10 mile run around Hall Ranch yesterday and decided I would take a brisk walk today with Otto and Olivia and try and stretch out the stiffness.
Otto and Olivia heading towards Hogback Ridge from the North Foothills trailhead

Rising early on Sunday - as I do every morning - I needed my "fix" of world and domestic news (in that order). Unfortunately, all news was the same today with domestic networks and international media all focusing on the horrible events in Connecticut. There was nothing new to report from yesterday, just more of the same, but the shift in articles questioning the lax gun controls ("controls"? - there aren't any!) in the US was at least a bright spot. Let's hope Obama seizes the moment.
Tracking south towards Wonderland and fog rolling in from the east

But I was quickly distracted by the jaw-dropping inanity of the faithful and the credulous, seeking to explain the unexplainable in theological terms. First, we had the incomparable Mike Huckabee speaking on Fox news (where else?) telling the world that this atrocious act was the result of a policy of keeping God out of the classroom. It seems that Huckabee, who in one moment explains that the Founding Fathers were Christians (which is certainly stretching the truth), isn't aware that those same Founding Fathers wrote a pesky constitution protecting the State (through its schools) from supporting or advocating religion. If God is being kept out of the classroom it's because either He, or those who claim to speak for Him, can't behave according to the law.
On the Old Kiln loop

Of course, this gives rise to the more obvious point not dealt with by Huckabee. If children were compelled to pray to his Christian God in classrooms, would this have afforded them protection in the face of an attack of this kind? This seems to be Huckabee's contention. Personally, I'm not convinced. I mean, if Pope John Paul II was shot and almost killed in an assassination attempt, was God asleep on watch or was he distracted by something else? If God can't look after his spokesperson on earth, what chance a small group of completely innocent children and their teachers at a school in Connecticut? Or maybe Huckabee thinks that if all children are compelled to pray to his God in schools this will somehow create a more moral and law-abiding nation? But if this were the case he would need to explain why only 0.2% of the US prison population is atheist, whereas this Pew survey of prison Chaplains (hardly known for their independence in religious matters) estimates Christians, Catholics and other Protestant groups to be in excess of 70%. Still, what are mere data points in the face of such unshakeable beliefs?
An icy Wonderland Lake. We would strike up the hillside to the right of the houses

We then have Brian Fischer, of that nasty organization "American Family Association", telling us that "God is a gentleman and doesn't go where he is not wanted". All of this, I am sure, is of enormous comfort to those who are dealing with this tragedy and might never recover.
Near the top of the hillside and the fog begins to thicken over Boulder

The problem of evil is religion's achilles heel. If the God of religion (and I'll not get into the different competing Gods who all have mutually incompatible versions of the truth) is all seeing , knowing and loving, it does raise the question why He is so unable to act to prevent these cases? After all, if God is all knowing he could have done something to prevent this yet chose not to. Whether the disasters have natural causes, such as a Tsunami, or are man made, such as Columbine, Virginia Tech, Aurora, or Connecticut, they all happened under His watchful and protective embrace. Never have I been smothered by such ineffectual protection. It must surely be crossing the minds of victims' families that as some of them pray for their children's safe passage to heaven, what does it mean to believe in a God that permitted this to happen in the first place? And I really don't think that "God works in mysterious ways" is quite sufficient an explanation. Most people of above average intelligence know this to be the case yet find comfort in perpetuating the pretense. Like parents clinging to the last vestiges of the Santa Claus myth in the face of awkward questions from the children, they find it difficult to break rank. Social pressure is so strong. Let's hope that, as they reflect on the enormity of what has just taken place they get nudged a little closer to rationality.
Wonderland Lake

Fog quickly covers the hillside
You would think that rather than expose their stupidity to the world, Messrs. Huckabee and Fischer would show some restraint. But it is clear that the 8 year long embarrassment of a President who exemplified low intelligence and a high degree of certainty is but a superficial speck of neural circuitry in cavernous, echoing skulls usually occupied by a fully functioning brain. Shame on those media outlets giving these idiots airtime.
From clear skies to dense fog in about 30 minutes

Friday, December 14, 2012

Where not to live

If the news reports today are anything to go by it is not a very good idea to live in random cities in America. Now I know that isn't very helpful advice, but at some point someone is going to have to decide that mass shootings aren't "random" (except for geography) and that they really are a pattern. As Jay Carney, the White House spokesman said earlier regarding raising the issue of gun control, "I think that day will come, but today's not that day, especially as we are awaiting more information about the situation," Well, if today isn't the day, when is it? When the Aurora shootings occurred in July the President also said that wasn't the time to debate gun control. Well, we haven't had that debate in the four months since, so when is the time?

But I digress, because it wasn't the issue of which city in the US to live that I wanted to write about today. No. I've made my peace with Boulder and, mass shootings or not, I'm here to stay. I did come across this nasty little article. Well, it's not the article that is nasty...just the content it is describing. And it is clearer to me now than it has ever been that there are some countries where it is simply unwise for me to visit.

I've written before about the problem of being an atheist in America and how I am part of the least trusted segment of society...even worse in public perception than being a rapist. It makes me proud. This report has just been published, and it is definitely worth reading. While the report mentions America, its main purpose is to highlight the abuse and persecution of atheists and non-believers around the world. It provides a list of shameful examples of countries who legislate against non-belief and it is an outrage. It should come as no surprise that the states where atheists can be put to death or imprisoned for their beliefs are all muslim countries.

Saudi Arabia
The Maldives

Is religious belief so fragile and tenuous that it requires those who reject it to be put to death or incarcerated? But the benefit of the report is in how it demonstrates how so many countries attempt to shackle unbelievers. From countries like Italy, where you can be imprisoned for blasphemy. Even in the US it lists those states where an atheist is prohibited from holding office or any elected position. 

It also casts light on the attempts of many Islamic states to impose blasphemy laws through the UN and bind every country in genuflection towards Islam. This is thought crime and it has no victim.

I have to admit that the list of countries that would execute or imprison me for my non-belief isn't exactly full of my "100 places to visit before I die" itinerary. But they represent to final drop off the slippery slope that starts with legislation to make criticism of religious belief a crime. Ideas, however distasteful, can never be a crime. Only actions are criminal.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sourdough - Niwot - Brainard

I've fallen flat on my face plenty times when running to be not too surprised when it happens again. This was my initial reaction yesterday when clicking along the Sourdough trail skipping over the thick icy sections. All is sweetness and light then - bam - I am full stretch across the ice and rocks wondering how it happened while marveling that nothing serious seemed to have occurred - or had it? I took a few seconds to mentally check the extremities and make sure I felt OK then stood up. A quick glance at the usual body parts and I was off running again in no time. Livvy, as always, patiently waited, keen to keep going. That was it.
Early section on the Sourdough trail before my fall

It's not as though this pattern hasn't been consistent. This is pretty much what I have done every time I have fallen over. Admittedly, the extent of nausea has been more varied (sometimes nearly causing me to pass out in short term pain), but I've always been running again within a minute or two of the event. So I wasn't too concerned yesterday. In fact, I seemed to pick up the pace a little afterwards and Livvy dropped in behind me as evidence for that. And maybe I just put it out of mind, because I had always put it out of my mind. Descending from Niwot ridge to Brainard Lake it didn't register there was a slightly different problem to usual when I began to feel a tightening in my right groin muscle. When I hit the final two mile section - the one that should have been the fastest (slightly downhill with a very strong wind at my back) - I couldn't work out why I was clocking miles 2 minutes slower than I should have been. But more about this later.
Long, uphill section on Niwot ridge trail below the tree line

It was so cold yesterday - the air temperature was around 28F when I set off (a good 15 degress colder at altitude) - because of wind chill. Slipping my barefeet into my running shoes at Red Rocks trailhead at Brainard told me all I needed to know about what was to come. There were only three cars in the lot and a really bad sign was that none of the occupants had got out. Whether they were collaborating or not, their collective inaction spoke volumes about the conditions. The must have enjoyed the spectacle of me doing a one-legged dance as I hopped around trying to put my shoes on. Thick cloud covered the mountains at around 12,000 feet and a steady stream of snow and ice particles were being carried by the wind. These were peppering my face as I struggled to gear up and I knew this would make for tough conditions crossing the col high on Niwot ridge. Still, as I reasoned, most of my run would be in sheltered terrain and through woodland - it was only the three or four miles of high terrain that would be hard going.
Towards North and South Arapaho Peaks in the cloud. Taken from near the col at 11,400 feet

The four and a half miles south along the Sourdough trail - both before and after my fall - is pleasant enough running and the dense woodland did protect me from the worst of the wind. Horrible sections of packed ice slowed us down a lot, but we emerged onto the track that led up into the mountains and the Niwot ecological preserve and research center. I've been up here a few times, always in bad weather. Some sections of this trail are long and straight and the trees thin out considerably as elevation is gained. The wind was unbelievable. Granted, I wasn't plucked in the air and deposited 20 yards away, as happened on Arapaho Pass last week, but it felt just as brutal.
Punishing and exposed high traverse before the descent to Long Lake

Another three and a half miles and the trail swings to the north for the final ascent to the high point at around 11,400 feet. I thought this section would have been the worst but it was actually OK. I was afforded some protection by a higher ridge to my left and I only got a serious buffeting rather than a constant battering. And when I reached the trail junction (where Niwot ridge goes west towards Niwot Mountain and Navajo Peak) and turned east, the wind was at my back for the most exposed section...until I reached the col of course when I would turn back towards the north west and run into the face of the storm.

I recall at the time thinking that I was spending too much time for the conditions above 11,000 feet - 4 miles and about an hour of time. The going was difficult because the wind had sculpted huge drifts and ridges of snow that stretched like fingers across the landscape and obscured the trail. This isn't a very popular trail in the heat of summer (I have never met anyone on it...ever) and it made navigation tricky. Sometimes I would cross these snow patches easily by skating across the top of the hard-crusted snow, but some of the sections were soft and I would sink up to my thighs. Poor Livvy disappeared a couple of times under the surface. My whole lower jaw was frozen and my mouth and nose were encrusted with ice. I was conscious the whole time of how much exposure I was experiencing and this pushed me to keep moving as quickly as I could.

We eventually reached the tree line at the top of the descent to Long Lake. The Lake wasn't visible. Unfortunately, there was a lot of snow in the woodland on this north-facing slope and it became impossible to follow the trail. We lost the trail after about half a mile and began to pick our way down the quickest and easiest route. It wasn't too bad, but Livvy picked up a cut on her right foreleg from a sharp rock - she didn't seem to notice and it didn't affect her running, but it was disconcerting seeing small blobs of blood on the pristine snow. It was slow going.
Long Lake from the clearing. Mount Audubon obscured by cloud behind

We came to a clearing and saw Long Lake about 500 feet below. The last section was very rocky and I was really pleased to be able to run again once I reached the Jean Lunning trail. We were a little off route on the descent - too far west by about a half mile. But I found it difficult to keep a decent pace. This brings me back to the twinges in my groin muscle. I know enough about these things to realize that they nearly always result from overcompensating for another problem. But I couldn't feel any other painful areas - not a huge surprise as I was so cold.
View from the Brainard outlet

Here's what the view should look like
We crossed the footbridge at the Long Lake outlet and reached the Long Lake parking lot - completely closed in winter of course. Not a soul in sight. We tracked along the access road to the north of Brainard Lake and then reached the newly constructed Pawnee Campground and the final two and a half miles back to the car. It became obvious along this final stretch that my left knee had a problem and this was causing the strain in my right groin. It was a slow jog and it should have been a much faster run back to the car.

Later that night, fully thawed out, I had a searing pain on my left patella. It seems that when I fell over I must have cracked it on a rock. Despite all my falls on mountain trails...and there have been plenty...this was the first that had resulted in direct injury. I really hope I am not out of action very long.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The "Stupid" Party

One of the best pieces of historical analysis I have had the pleasure to read was the chapter about the 1867 Reform Act in Robert Blake's biography of Disraeli. Ruthlessly fact-driven Blake rose above his partisan conservative credentials (he was the official historian of the Conservative Party in Britain) to completely demolish many established opinions on the motivation behind this incredible piece of legislation - legislation that both advanced and restricted the right to vote (with some of these restrictions being removed in further landmark legislation in 1884). Following the methodology that underpins so much that is good in broader scientific research, Blake was able to be critical of those from within his own tradition, to expose their callous attitudes and to do so against data that leaves the reader in no doubt about where he stands on issues of propriety in public life. He was, without doubt, a Conservative historian, but he was a master of objectivity and very influential because of it.

I mention this for the stark contrast it presents to the current predicament of the Republican party in the US - the "Stupid" Party. The party that someone like me, who is fiscally conservative but socially liberal, could never currently vote for. I don't particularly want to dwell on successive fiscally irresponsible Republican Presidents - and rather than launch into a tirade against the incompetence of GWB, let's lay the blame where it is deserved - Reagan, who I regard as the turning point in Republican politics. I believe "stupid" really started to take hold during his era and evidence of this is provided by his current acolytes who are prominent in the party and who are on the wrong end of all the issues that will come to define this age.

There is a complete absence of a modern Blake in Republican politics, someone who can rise above the "stupid" and set the party back on a modernizing and centralizing course. I really hope this can happen. It is very bad for democracy for one of the major two parties to be legitimately branded as "stupid"and it will serve the electorate poorly if the Democrats become the permanent party in power with all the arrogance that will entail. Some are more hopeful than I in seeing the potential for change - and there have been countless analyses already since the election that highlight what Republicans need to do - but the case for change is undeniable. Speaking purely tactically, Republican policy is wrong because it speaks to a narrow and shrinking proportion of the US population - it might make you feel good to be sticking to time-honored principles (although this isn't really an accurate description of the issues), but you had better enjoy losing because there are fewer and fewer people who agree with you.

And it isn't just the tireless efforts of the most recent batch of really stupid Republican politicians who are to blame. The fact that Michele Bachman and Sarah Palin - both of whom held the Republican base in thrall at different points over the last 5 years - exude such smug certitude regarding their ignorance of, say, the age of the earth, shouldn't be allowed to conceal the fact that Reagan was just as limited. The difference, if it is worth arguing over, is that Reagan knew when to keep quiet about it - as though he was intelligent enough to be aware that his own stupidity wouldn't exactly endear him to a wider public who were already a little leery of yet another Hollywood President. Yes. I would lay the blame for the Republican demise - its retreat towards stupidity - firmly at the feet of Reagan. What Reagan permitted…even made acceptable…in much the same way Margaret Thatcher did in the UK, was to legitimize fringe views. It is no coincidence that the rabid bunch of neo-conservatives so beloved of the anti-intellectual GWB were all time-served apologetics of the Reagan era clothing their moral legitimacy in outmoded and offensive theology.

So what are the key areas of policy that mark out the current Republican party as the party of "stupid"? Well, from a long list that suggests I am spoiled for choice, I'll pick just 3.

First, the Republican party has allowed itself to become anti-science, particularly where that science contradicts the skewed belief-set of its narrowing base. Evolution is the lightening rod issue. Whereas all sanity would suggest that declaring personal opposition to such a monumental scientific theory as evolution should render you unfit for public office, it has become a badge of dishonor for aspiring Republican Presidential candidates to fall over themselves in genuflection towards the Christian God of creation and in denial of the fact of evolution. I know of no modern industrialized nation where the declaration of such ignorant beliefs would be accepted by the public. It is, frankly, an embarrassment. We need politicians and public leaders to educate the masses and provide leadership to them, not to lie to them and pander to their prejudices. Evolution is as much a scientific fact as the germ theory of disease or the theory of gravity. Endless Republican politicians at the state level lining themselves up behind anti-evolution legislation do an enormous discredit to the respectability of the US as a science friendly nation. Advocating the teaching of creationism in Biology classes is the equivalent of requiring a batch of alchemy in Chemistry classes. While whole swathes of middle America deludes itself into thinking that the Flintstones is a documentary we need politicians who can point out not only why this is mistaken and wrong, but also unacceptable. Rather than speaking in tongues, Sarah Palin should be explaining why exploration in science is essential for our longevity - actually, maybe I am stupid - the thought of Palin having anything sensible to say is stretching things to say the least.

Second, and continuing the anti-science theme, Republicans need to step back and consider whether they are fit custodians of the planet. Anthropogenic Global Warming is a fact. Allowing big oil dollars to skew scientific logic does a great disservice to this planet and has seriously retarded essential actions to combat the threat of real climate change. However esoteric a debate Republicans think this is now, it is going to shed that cloth over the next 50 to a 100 years and they will bear real culpability. As marginal as they are right now the Republican party is going to be a 'bete noir' of mammoth proportions in the next 50 years as their egregious anti-science stance reveals the vacuity of their position. "Drill baby, drill" won't come to be seen as an effective policy for the protection of the delicate ecosystem that is rural Alaska. Nor will failing to act on vehicle emissions represent a sensible policy on combatting poor air quality - at a time when the control of spiraling healthcare costs would seem to be pressing, the cognitive dissonance that prefers no action against carbon pollution while holding to the view that the provision of universal healthcare is a crime against humanity, will be exposed for what it is. But when you are in denial of science you can permit yourself the freedom to deny the illogicality of your position.

Third, it is in the area of social policy that the label "stupid" is most truly deserved. We can pick any or every issue from gay marriage to abortion and find the bigotry and prejudice of the Republican party ill serving the electorate who depend on their leadership. We need Republican leaders who can stand up and declare Roe v. Wade as settled policy. We need them calling a halt to silly "personhood' definitions in law that would provide a legal route to undermining otherwise perfectly legal abortion. Them doing so doesn't prevent all people finding accord in seeing abortion as a last resort, but twisting biblical references to motivate a credulous public against a perfectly reasonable medical decision - a decision I should add, that is best left to a woman and her doctor - has been viciously exposed by the recent decision in Ireland to allow a woman to die rather than abort the foetus that was killing her. You don't deserve to stand on a "pro-life" platform when these beliefs marginalize the rights of those who are living against the interests of those yet to be born - even those who might not have a viable prospect of even being born. Being on the wrong side of the gay marriage issue is further proof of the "stupid" label. That there is a genetic basis to human sexuality is undeniable and Republicans perverting the truth in denial of this is egregious. Just as most Republican hetro-sexuals can't point to the stage in their past when they chose to be hetro-sexual, their presumption that gays made a different choice is exposed as pure bigotry. Using the law to codify this bigotry is in denial of basic human rights. As the tide continues to turn in American public opinion, the stupid party stands alone and isolated. Whereas it used to use gay marriage as a means of energizing its base supporters, they now find themselves in the minority. Just as Mormons needed a "revelation" to see the light in post civil rights US, so the Republican party needs some kind of inspiration and leadership to extricate them from a mess of their own making. It is inconceivable that they will go into the next Presidential election opposing gay marriage, but if they do they will lose and lose heavily. At that point they will be completely unelectable, as a stupid party should be.

So I am looking with interest at the new batch of potential Republican leaders and I wait in hope, but more likely I will wait in vain. The signs are not good. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana is a misogynist and biblical literalist who is anti-evolution and a climate change denialist. Marco Rubio is still caring for his bruises from his recent GQ magazine interview where he publicly stated his ignorance on the age of the earth. Such settled scientific issues are not…and cannot be…matters of personal opinion. Maybe there's a Republican leader out there who has some sanity…someone who is as concerned as I about the party being seen as the stupid party. I hope they step forward soon. There are 47% of Americans (the percent of the popular vote Romney secured) desperate for scientifically literate leadership. The problem, of course, is that no candidate has a chance in hell of winning the Republican primary unless they speak to issues the base wants to hear. Until Republican leaders step forward and accept their role in re-educating that base - and this means telling them they are dead wrong on key areas of science - they will be locked into a vicious circle. Now, there's a problem and I doubt even Robert Blake could find an answer.

Welcome to stupid.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Lake Dorothy

On Thanksgiving day I was pleased to get to 11,500 feet altitude. On this trip I got above 12,000 feet and felt that it would be the last time in the high mountains with the impending snow forecast next week.
Icy trail rising through the woods

The 4th July trail access road has been open for much longer than usual this year. Normally, by mid-October it is completely snowed up. Apart from a few icy sections it is still a very easy drive and I arrived at a completely empty lot around 7.30am. It was blowing a gale - when isn't it in the mountains at this time of year? I put an extra jacket in my pack, set my altimeter, and headed off.
Tricky surface to run along

It immediately became apparent that this trail wasn't going to be easy. I've run it before many times in better weather and I know every twist and turn from memory. But there was a thick coating of hard ice everywhere and I was having to pick my way carefully along the edges of the trail to get decent traction. Of course, I should have slipped on my running spikes, but I had it in my head that it wasn't that bad. I really should have worn them.
Jasper Peak just left of center. Mount Neva to the right

There was one section of trail that climbed steeply uphill that had about 6 inches of sheet ice for about 80 yards. This was frozen overflow water from a small stream and it required high stepping on a very steep grassy bank to get by. It would be even more difficult on the descent.
Just above 4th July Mine

The boggy plateau immediately before the junction with the 4th July Mine was also completely iced over and the trail then became much more runnable as accumulations of neve snow had built up on the surface and this produced much better traction and I was able to move at a faster pace.
Jasper Peak left, Mount Neva right from high up the trail

The long rising section of the Arapaho Pass trail above the mine sweeps across the hillside of Quarter to Five Peak before cresting at the point where the Caribou Pass continues passed Lake Dorothy. My original plan was to run to the pass, then jog along the rising ridge line to the summit of Quarter to Five Peak, before descending directly down the steep talus to join the trail just above the mine. It didn't quite work out that way.
The frozen surface of Lake Dorothy dwarfed by Mount Neva

The wind that hit me in the face at the col was gale force. I pulled up my neck scarf to try and breathe but it was impossible. I tried to turn my back towards the blast but I could barely keep my feet. I edged along the ridge towards Quarter to Five Peak but it was impossible. When a particularly strong gust plucked me into the air and dropped me 15 yards down a snow slope I decided to turn back and climb to Lake Dorothy instead. The broader slope up to the lake afforded a little more protection and when I reached the banks of the lake it was completely still and felt warm. This was relative warmth of course as my thermometer showed 3F before wind chill.
Standing on the lake surface at 12,000 feet

I rested a short while by the lake. There was about 8-10 inches of ice on the surface but I could hear a lot of creaking and the sound of water below the surface. Another month and the whole depth will be completely frozen. After about 10 minutes I reluctantly set off back into the wind for the long descent back to the car.
Quarter to Five Peak ridge foreshadowed by North and South Arapaho Peaks

It didn't seem as bad on the descent as the wind was at my back. I picked my way carefully down the icy trail. There were sections where a slip on a snow slope would have seen me deposited several hundred feet below and I wanted to avoid unnecessary exhilaration.
Caribou Lake with Santanta Peak above

I only lost footing a couple of times and managed to avoid any disasters. I did meet a couple of walkers but they didn't seem to be equipped for high country and were likely heading for the mine. I was already very warm before I reached the car and was able to enjoy the beautiful views of the mountains from lower altitude. I really like this trailhead, even if the access road is a trial. And it was a pleasant surprise to get above 12,000 feet again for maybe the last time this year.
Final descent - 2 miles to the trail head

Twin Sisters Peak

Thanksgiving morning dawned very cold and windy in the foothills. In stark contrast to my Flagstaff Mountain jaunt I took the trip to Lily Lake and the start of the trailhead. Otto needed a rest and Livvy was recovering from an ailment so I was without dogs today.
Ascending through lodgepole

The holiday almost guaranteed a quiet trail and I was looking forward to getting above 11,000 feet again. There won't be many more opportunities for doing so this year as the trails are becoming heavily iced and soon there will be too much snow. Neither were problems on the Twin Sisters trail and it was pleasant running up through the trees sheltered from the high winds that were roaring through the treetops. Every now and then I would get buffeted and knocked off balance. It would be interesting to see what the summit was like when I got there.
Early glimpse of Long's Peak covered in cloud

I had not run this trail before, mainly because, starting in the Rocky Mountain National Park, dogs are not allowed. The map showed rapid altitude gain and lots of switchbacks on the trail, but in truth I never found any sections that I couldn't run. That didn't mean I was uniformly fast, but it did mean that I could keep moving and maintain some body heat.
Fern Lake fire still visible above Estes Park

The initial 2 miles ascends through lodgepole and the trail is fairly even and gently rising. I would catch a glimpse of Long's Peak as the trees thinned and it was shrouded in cloud - not as bad as last week when I ran up Battle Mountain, but likely snowing. If I was experiencing high wind at this level it must have been unforgiving at 14,000 feet.
Long's Peak emerging from cloud cover, taken from the summit

Although most of this trail ascends through dense woodland it is quite interesting, passing beneath some nice rock faces and with good valley views at overlooks. It climbs the west facing slopes for the first two miles than switches to the north east face as it makes the final push above tree line. This was the part I was dreading because I feared the strong, cold wind. As it turned out I was reasonably well sheltered and the only sustained damage was inflicted on the summit.
It took me a while to find a place where my camera didn't get blown away in the wind

As the trail struck up the final rocky talus I had a great view of the Fern Lake wildfire above Estes Park. This started back in August and has been burning ever since. Even the recent snowfall has failed to put it out. In the photo here you can clearly see the plumes of smoke.

I had seen no one all day. It was perfect. I had a tricky time avoiding the iced up sections of the trail on the decent but it was pleasant running and getting warmer as I lost height. I did meet a couple out walking closer to the bottom and they seemed a little concerned about the cold. I hope they made it to the top as the views are spectacular. This would make a great summer evening run.