Saturday, November 10, 2012

Picture Rock

The slowly rising, sweeping trail leaves the trailhead just south of Lyons and picks its way through countless switchbacks as it ascends towards the Wild Turkey and Ponderosa trails - trails I had visited from Lefthand Canyon only a week or so ago. I found the Picture Rock trail to be altogether easier running, a fact borne out by my fast running time over the 15 mile circuit.

Looking back to the trailhead from the first sweeping curve
It was an unseasonably warm day...perhaps 65 degrees...with just enough of a cooling breeze to prevent overheating. I was running light today - no drinks or food, no dog (they are banned from this trail unfortunately) - and this enabled quick progress. Probably too quick for comfort. I knew I would be clocking about 15 miles when I set off but this was a new trail for me and although the map suggested a gentle rising climb I had been surprised before and wondered whether there would be a sting in the tail.
Approaching some of the rockier switchbacks

This is a pretty trail. It winds through Juniper and Lodgepole and crosses open grasslands and the surface is really smooth and even. It makes for an excellent mountain bike trip and I met more than a few cyclists as I slogged uphill for 5.2 miles to the junction with Wild Turkey.
Approaching the Wild Turkey trail junction. I would head right

I've commented before about mountain bikers. I have a 75% experience with them - by that I mean that for every obnoxious one (you know, the kind who just plows right through you without braking, yelling to you to get out of their way, despite the bylaws requiring them to stop and concede ground), there are three exemplary ones whose manner and civility is an example to uphold. Well, on this trail, by the time I reached the trail split, I was at 25% and I was mad. The first cyclist descending toward me after about 2 miles was so pleasant and allowed me the trail as I ran slowly by. We exchanged good wishes on such a beautiful day and I continued feeling that all was good with the world. The next 3 cyclists were appalling. The first two were just rude and aggressive, completely ignored me, failed to slow down, forced me to jump to one side without the hint of an apology. The final cyclist took the biscuit. He clearly saw me, kept pedaling hard, yelled at me, and I just managed to leap sideways as his front wheel ran across my left thigh. For a moment I hoped I had caused him to crash but unfortunately he fell into the next curve and was able to right himself. I hope he feels proud of himself.

Thankfully, there was no sting in the trail and although the trail surface got a little rockier in places there was no steep climb and I arrived at the Wild Turkey junction about 8 minutes ahead of my expected time. I took the counter-clockwise circuit again thinking it would give me the longest uphill stretch and then pushed myself a little to see if I could better my time on this top loop of a few days ago.

This face looks familiar
A herd of deer were in exactly the same location I encountered on my last visit. I like to think it was the same group but, well, I didn't recognize any of them and they all looked similar to who knows?

America was at the polls today electing, as I was later to watch, Barack Obama, and despite the long wait to vote I did meet a number of walkers out escaping the reality of the day. Maybe they voted early and were out trying to cleanse the thought of a Romney Presidency from their thoughts. I empathized.
A steep, sharp turn on the descent

The descent down the same trail is a little too fast for me and I found it hard keeping a high tempo. Sometimes I would find myself breathing awkwardly and striding out too much and on other occasions felt right off the pace. The gentle downward slope and good surface tempted me to run too quickly and I found it hard to adjust to the slight switchbacks and sharp turns favored by mountain bikers. I did lose altitude quickly and I clocked 8 minute miles as I retraced my earlier climb.
Looking down the final two miles towards Lyons in the north

This is clearly a trail designed for mountain bikers because there were a number of sections where a walking trail would have taken a direct route, but this one swept across the landscape in long loops like coils of string. I stuck to the trail and allowed the extra distance to hurt my legs.

I'll definitely run this trail again during the winter. It is exposed enough and low level enough for the sun to burn the snow off pretty quickly and although it might get muddy in places the ground seems to drain quite well. I doubt I will run it as fast as I did today though.

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