Sunday, August 5, 2012

Arapaho & Forest Lakes loop

Livvy clocked 500 miles running for the year today. A short and punishing 15 miles took her over the magic number and there's every chance she'll reach 1000 miles for the year. I don't know how significant this is for a Borzoi. I know they were bred to run and chase down wolves, and that they have both speed and endurance, but Livvy is small for the breed and is barely 60lbs weight.

Over the last year Livvy has emerged as the stamina hound of the family. She just runs and runs. We have developed an understanding - let's call this a series of unwritten rules and assumptions - that accommodates both our needs when on the trails and in the high mountains. I say "developed" because this wasn't always so. In fact, on some of our very first runs together I had serious doubts whether she would make a runner at all. The main issue was one of safety - my safety. Unlike Otto, who always likes to run in front, Livvy is more selective. She likes to start in front, but then switches at different stages during the run. These changes seemed random until I uncovered her messaging and now her signals are part of our running rules. In those early days she would fall behind and then run across the back of my legs clipping my heels. When running at pace this brings only one result - a painful fall. If our running partnership was to continue I had to find a way of controlling her.

It's amazing that she has developed such predictable behavior in three critical areas. First, she always runs to my left and this means that if she is running behind me she always overtakes to my left. If I feel her nose pushing to the right I just say "LEFT" and she corrects herself. She no longer trips me up. Second, when she's had enough of running in front she turns her head to the right and slows, and this is her signal to me to go in front. I don't always know why she wants to run behind, but this is a very safe way of making the switch. Third, it is often difficult for me to see my footing when Livvy is running in front. Even with  a flexileash I need a good view of the trail surface. Livvy knows that she can run on the left or the right side of the trail, but not in the middle. I don't know how she worked this out, but when descending at speed this is a lifesaver. These three rules make for safe and enjoyable running.

The route we took today was brutal. There was a lot of off-trail running...or should I say walking...and we were covering ground that wasn't exactly popular. We left a cold East Portal trailhead at 7am on the Roger's Pass trail and the first 1.25 miles to the Forest Lakes trail spilt is fast and damp. Our first destination was Arapaho Lakes and ProTrails said that route finding would be a problem. They were right.

The initial section of trail is fairly flat and the morning sun was warming nicely. I was expecting the trail split to come after another 1.25 miles at 10,200ft elevation. There were quite a few fallen trees around and nothing obvious was cutting left so we kept on the main trail. We almost reached the first of the Forest Lakes and I had clearly missed the trail junction. This was annoying as we wasted a half hour backtracking. I pride myself on accurate navigation, but it was only when I uploaded my GPS tracks to Strava that I discovered that the map was wrong. For those intending to follow, the photo above shows the second footbridge on the Forest Lakes trail - there are two more higher up. The Arapaho Lake trail leaves exactly 0.25 miles above that fourth footbridge. Just look for a whole series of carefully placed branches and tree trunks designed to keep you on the main trail - unfortunately, these also cover up the Arapaho lakes trail. Step through these and the trail becomes obvious.

Once over Arapaho Creek there is a relentless, brutal slog straight up alongside of the descending river. The map tells you to cross the river at around 10,900ft. This is incorrect, you don't cross the river at all. At the point in the photo above, where a small tributary joins the main stream, strike up left of the main river course on a solid trail and this is a hard but quick way to the false basin before the turn left to the lake. This is no trail for running and the uphill just keeps coming.

Eventually the ground levels off in a false basin which is fed by a beautiful waterfall at the head of the valley. Just after the point above the trail takes a sharp turn left for the final climb to the lake.

If you want solitude...and I always do...this is the lake to visit. Despite the ground being soft there were no footprints and it wouldn't surprise me if no-one had been here for weeks. We didn't stay long. Having lost a lot of time with a navigation error we hurried along, initially skirting the northern shore and then striking up the hill aiming for the Divide.

It is an idyllic place. If it wasn't for that exhausting approach!!!

A cool stream above the lake provided Livvy with some respite from the heat and, after a short break we completed the steep climb across rough, open ground to the Divide.

From the ridge we were able to look across the Arapaho Lakes towards James Peak in the distance - we were there in June.

We struck a course over rough ground to the north aiming to pick up Rollins Pass Road. Below and to the left we could see Deadman's Lake. I have no idea why this lake has this name - maybe someone found a dead man there? What an inspirational thought. We half ran and half stumbled across this rocky moraine and joined the Rollins Pass Road near Deadman's Lake and then took a trail to the east before dropping down again to the eastern Rollins Pass Road just above Jeany Lake.

Jeany Lake - we would take the higher road to the right...not the lower one visible here.

The running had been so slow and so rough that we needed to pick up the pace and this trail, although rocky, provided a good opportunity to make up time and we cracked off a couple of quick miles before taking the trail to the upper Forest Lake.

I took this photo of Forest Lakes from the Divide and it shows the road (upper left) - we took a trail from the obvious bend directly to the upper lake. When we arrived it was too tempting for Livvy. Those dry and dusty trails required some cleansing.

This is another beautiful lake, but lacking the solitude I prefer. A number of fisherman were wandering aimlessly about - there's a fine line between fishing and standing on the shore looking like an idiot. But who am I to judge?

4.5 miles back to the car seemed to pass quickly. It was downhill all the way. For the most part Livvy was in front - she seems to sense when we are coming to the end of a run and likes to stretch out.

So, those rules are designed to make us safe on the trails and they help make running so enjoyable. With about 0.25 miles to go, on a perfectly flat section of trail, with no rocks or obstacles in sight, I fell over at full stretch on my front. It was a perfect fall for the cameras, although no-one was around to snap the incident. With no injuries I quickly got up, glanced around to make sure no one was watching, brushed myself down and then ran off pretending nothing had happened. I can do the "idiot" thing just as well as any fisherman.

No comments:

Post a Comment