Saturday, August 25, 2012

Red Deer Lake

For the last few weeks the road signs throughout our neighborhood and the wider Boulder area have warned of the potential delays caused by the US Pro Cycling Race taking place today. It looks a grueling course and although I don't have the ability to ride it, I know the roads well. It factored into my trail selection this morning as I thought about how far I wanted to run and the likely timing of the race. I just didn't want to get caught up in the race and be delayed with a tired dog in the back of the car.

The closest mountain trailhead to home is Camp Dick at the head of Peaceful Valley. If I could do a 15 mile circuit on about 3.5hrs I should be done before the cyclists came through.

The first three and a half miles of the Buchanan Pass Trail to its intersection with the Coney Flats spur is good underfoot and fast. It was 50 degrees leaving the trail head and Livvy was pulling to go faster. The trail was deserted. There are no appreciable climbs on this section, just gentle rises and we only gained 800 feet of altitude.

Despite the proximity of the AWD course a few hundred yards away, I have never heard any vehicles in all the time I have run this section. The closeness of the St Vrain Creek effectively masks the noise pollution and even emerging into open pasture the still and quiet persists. As the trees part I catch quick glimpses of Sawtooth Mountain dominating the skyline. This is one of my favorite mountains.

The open alpine pastures were beautiful, as always, but lacking the flowers of spring and early summer.  The sun felt warm even though the temperature was 55 degrees.

We crossed the Wilderness boundary at the point where the St Vrain Mountain trail heads north and relatively flat running took us to the St Vrain Glacier Trail split at 6 miles and 9,900 feet altitude.

The footbridge over the creek was in an even worse state than last Fall when, completely iced up, I crossed the river and fell through the ice. No trouble today and we ran up the wet and muddy section into the forest. I kept an eye open for bear tracks. Each time I've been on this section of trail, heading back southeast below Red Deer Lake, I've either seen fresh bear skat or bear prints on the trail. Today was no exception and I saw several different sized paw prints in the fresh mud.

There's nothing particularly unique about Red Deer Lake. At 10,500 feet it sits to the east of the Divide and it is easy access up the short spur from the Buchanan Pass trail.

The wind was quite strong as Livvy and I sat down for a break just above the water line. There was still a little snowpack holding below 11,000 feet and it was a cool perch. I would normally stop for 15 or 20 minutes, but I was cold and decided to head back sooner. It was just over a mile from the lake to the junction with the Beaver Creek trail and it is a pretty section.

It's a fast, rocky drop back to Coney Flats and the welcome relief of a cool pond to lie in - well, for Livvy, not me. The loss of altitude brought the temperature up to 60 degrees.

The water had been clouded by the passage of several AWD vehicles - they were parked on the far bank and their drivers were taking a break. It's a beautiful place and I am still not sure about these AWD courses and their environmental impact. This is a topic I will return to in future.

The view back towards Sawtooth is spectacular.

I've seen quite a few black bears in the mountains while running. I saw six in a two mile section high up in Eldorado Canyon in the spring, but although I had seen lots of bear tracks and skat in this area I had never laid eyes on the culprits. That all changed this morning. Running east towards Beaver reservoir, a hiker's trail takes a short cut away from the AWD track and cuts through thick woodland. It's a section I always run quickly because the ground is forgiving and there is protection from the sun. Livvy was in front as we rounded a corner at a stream crossing. I first thought it was a big dog, but within seconds I saw two cubs and the mother bear turned and faced us. We both stopped quickly. Livvy was alert but perfectly still. I didn't sense any imminent threat and both cubs disappeared immediately. The mother was more wary. She walked a few paces away and then ran along the trail and headed up into the woods.

I fumbled for my camera and managed these two shots before the mother ran up into the woods to the right. What beautiful creatures. A few hundred yards further on we met a party of elderly walkers heading up the mountain and I relaxed a little - I couldn't outrun a bear but I knew I could outrun this group!! I warned them about the bears and then ran the final section back to Camp Dick.

I quickly put the bears out of my mind. That's not true. I was actually thinking about whether I would avoid getting caught up in the Pro Cycling race and being delayed from travelling home when my mind became preoccupied by the news that Lance Armstrong had cheated in his Tour de France victories...and whatever other races he had won. This was dispiriting news. I've come to accept that politicians seemed to have cornered the market on spectacular falls from grace, but Armstrong takes the biscuit. It's inconceivable that he would give up the fight knowing he would lose everything. The only path open to him to gain any self-respect would be a full and contrite admission. But that seems unlikely. Even his prepared statement was argumentative and dismissive and proclaimed his innocence. From ironman to strawman. I hope to never hear about him again and while his foundation is one that I have supported...and I hope it can recover to continue to do good's impossible to create a lasting legacy as a cheat. Has he no shame?

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