Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Low-level running

I wouldn't write-off the prospect of higher level running just yet - the current warmer temperatures are melting a lot of early season snow - but it is unlikely I'm going to get above 11,000 feet again this year. If the snow holds off for a week or so I might try this coming weekend. I didn't have a lot of time today and decided that a short, brisk trot in the hills of south Boulder - with good exposure to the early morning sun - would be ideal.

The mountains south of Eldorado Canyon are a bit of a mystery to me. They aren't accessible from any trail system that I can see and the east approach (shown above) would require crossing the Rio Grande railway tracks. It isn't a particularly busy rail line, but being caught in one of the tunnels at the wrong time would be disconcerting as well as potentially illegal.

The advantage of starting from Dowdy Draw trail head is that the initial half mile of trail is hard gravel and less muddy than what is found around Chautauqua. It's a gently rising trail and it is possible to step out quite briskly. It was deserted this morning - only one car in the parking lot - and a cool breeze swept the grassy slopes. Turning a shoulder I encountered a herd of deer. These magnificent creatures were grazing in the morning light, ever anxious of the unexpected and alert to threat. They shuffled a little nervously as I tracked along the hillside before nonchalantly strolling up the hillside and into the woods. There are people whose first thought on seeing these animals is to reach for a gun - I'll never understand why.

The Fowler Trail is reached at the point where the Goshawk Ridge Trail crosses the drainage ditch and I ran down the old quarry trail to the north. The cutting above led to a cold stretch in the shadow but it afforded beautiful views of the entrance to Eldorado canyon.

Eldorado is one of my favorite climbing destinations, and I like to follow the Fowler trail all the way into the park, but time didn't allow that today and, instead I aimed for Goshawk Ridge.

I heard the train as I started the steeper climb to reach the ridge. There's an 8.30am departure for a passenger service from Denver to San Francisco (which takes a day and a half to get there) and this was the train I could see now. My wife and I have spoken about how we would love to take this train journey across the Rockies. The route traverses the higher slopes above Eldorado Canyon and is famous for the very long Moffat Tunnel, which is the starting point for my runs in the James Peak Wilderness.
Climbing to the top of Goshawk Ridge it is possible to look back at splendid views of the slopes of South Boulder Peak (left above) and Bear Peak (the last high point to the right). I was looking at this summit from the north just a few days ago.
From the top of the ridge it is a really fast descent back to the trailhead. The deer I saw earlier were now in the woods to the west and I made quick ground on the firm trail surface. It was a great morning.

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