Sunday, July 29, 2012

South Arapaho Peak from Rainbow Lakes

It's getting to the point where little virgin territory remains. So prolific has been our focus that there aren't any more trailheads left to least on the east of the Divide and I am now looking at different trails up mountains already visited. This is hardly a burden. I have so many duplicate photos of the same views from the same mountains but on different days, revealing the pleasure of a beautiful view revisited. I'll never tire of the aesthetic pleasure. There's a chapter in Emile Zola's "La Debacle" that describes an industrial northern French town at the fall of the third republic - I just have to conjure that description to truly appreciate the majesty of the Indian Peaks.

I was tired for lots of reasons. Not just the flight delays and cancelations as I criss-crossed the country during my working week, and I set an aggressive alarm clock with the thought that, come morning, I would be raring to go. It didn't quite work out that way and only a morning "wash" from Livvy kept me from turning over. But even she was lethargic. It took her a good 5 minutes before she could drag herself to her breakfast. We were the antithesis of the athletic specimen. The thought of running from the only trailhead I had yet to visit was all that motivated me. It would all change when we got underway.

I'm not sure what I think about allwheel-drive off-roading. I've tried to think it through but the pictures that form in my mind are very negative and almost certainly biased. I think it's the idea of man-made machines gouging up the countryside with their physical and aural pollution that is at the heart of my disquiet. This came home to me a few weeks ago when the solitude was shattered by a revving engine and shouted expletives at Coney Flats...a favorite off-road trip. Because open space is so limited in the UK I used to get very upset when off-road motor cyclists ripped up the trails illegally and caused untold damage. It was the attitude of disrespect of the environment that troubled me the most, which started with littering at one end and physical damage to the earth's surface at the other. I just had it in my head that no self-respecting person who cared for the environment would accelerate its demise.

But life is full of unhelpful contradictions. I drive a car, for example, and there was little doubt that doing so was damaging the environment. I would buy products sold in non-biodegradable wrapping without a second thought. We are all guilty in so many different ways.

My distraction with off-road driving was prompted on the way to Rainbow Lakes trailhead. Shortly before reaching the parking spot there is a large sign pointing to an off-road driving course. The entrance to this area was littered with...well, litter. Soda cans, plastic bags...all discarded without a thought for the environment. It was a mess. I saw the same mess every time I drove by the entrance to the off-road course on Lefthand Canyon (where the careless discarding of a cigarette ignited a major fire that threatened life and home last year). Similarly, Camp Dick (there's that name again), where the loop through Coney Flats commences. While I am the first to point out that anecdote doesn't equal data, my three reference points correlated. Maybe I am generally negative about off-road driving less because of the environmental harm that it causes and more because of the kind of people I believe do it. The word to describe this is "prejudice" and it's difficult to face when it stares back at you from the mirror.

It looked as though a couple of cars at the trailhead were recent arrivals and this meant folk ahead on the trail. Oh well, it was a nice cool morning and the previous night's thunderstorm was evident around us. We set off up the Arapaho Glacier trail...another annoying trail that undulates for 2.5 miles without much appreciable gain in altitude. I knew we had over 3,800 feet of climbing ahead so it must come soon.

We emerged from the treeline and the trail switch-backed up the grassy flanks of an unnamed mound ahead. We were running the whole way, taking a breather on the steeper sections. As the sun rose the temperature picked up and it made the tee-shirt selection at least look reasonable. Up ahead I caught sight of a runner, clearly going a little slower than us. This would be our first target.

It's funny, but sometimes the psychology of a situation overrides all common sense. The runner saw us from a distance. As soon as I knew he had seen us I knew we would catch him quickly. His brain told him to speed up and I could see him step out a little quicker. But Livvy and I just kept plodding at the same pace. The runner ahead raised his effort too much and the rebound exhausted him. I was once told by a wily competitor, many years ago, that the time to accelerate is when you pass someone...not before. His theory (and it always worked) was that the person in front of you was already working hard to keep ahead and that accelerating hard past them would prevent them dropping in your slipstream and getting a "tow". I can barely believe I took the trouble to explain that. If the runner in front was a snail, then I was a slightly faster snail. But it still felt good to power (ahem!) by someone who looked 30 years my younger.

The high level contour that would lead to Arapaho Pass was great running ground. Verdant and exposed with only the occasional rocky section. There were several raised stones pointing the way (as if these were needed in the summer) and we crossed several sparklingly clear ponds...the product of overnight rain. In the distance you can see Mount Neva and just left of center is Diamond Lake.

As we rounded a shoulder, South Arapaho Peak came into view. Livvy and I had only been here a few weeks ago, but this was a much longer approach. Down to our left we could see a lot of hikers coming up the route we last took from the 4th July trailhead. If we picked up our pace we'd get to the final steep climb before them and prevent being held up.

Climbing up the southern flank of South Arapaho we got this stunning view of Lake Dorothy and Mount Neva. The Caribou trail skirts the lake before heading off west. Livvy and I were on that trail a few weeks ago heading for Santanta Mountain.

Approaching the foot of the final, brutal climb we could see a party of three high up on the skyline. I wonder? We passed them about 100 feet below the top in another Neanderthal display of thinking. I collapsed at the summit drawing deep breaths, immensely proud of this non-achievement.

Descending the way we had climbed we could see hikers gathering at the pass and the trail home was clearly visible. Far below to the right the 4th of July trailhead can be seen in the valley. Only 4.5 miles if we were going there, but Rainbow lakes was 6.5 miles away.

A mile away we could see Rainbow Lakes and another 2.5 miles to the trailhead. As we approached the parking lot we met a couple with a small dog. "How big is the glacier?" I knew this wasn't the question they wanted answered. "How far is it?" That's more like it. "You've got about 6 miles and it's all uphill". "How far are the Rainbow Lakes?" "Oh, they're only about 10 minutes" "Let's head there instead dear".

It's decisions like these, made every day, that make trail running such fun.

No comments:

Post a Comment