Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Driving to SW Colorado

Wow, I just realized how many sets of pictures I've collected lately.  I am sure out of practice with this travel blogging thing.  Time to practice a little.

Earlier this month (and at least it's still the same month, for the moment), we drove from Arizona, ever-so-briefly through New Mexico, and into Colorado.

First stop = Durango.  We really like Durango!  Every time we pass through we find more things to enjoy about it.

We discovered a golf course Harvest Host up on the hill, quite a location for an overnight stay.

Nice butt (that's what she said...):

It was a lovely evening for a walk on the grass (and a bit on the sand):

I love this ball John had previously found.  Too bad it didn't stay on the golf course grounds like it was supposed to.  Ah well, easy come, easy go:

Playing among some nice trees:

And solar panels, yay!

The guys we joined up with were great, super chill and encouraging.  John had some doozy shots, both erratic and right on target.  It was an entertaining 9 holes, thanks guys!  A nice way to start our time in Colorado.

The next morning we set off on foot to explore along the river.  Interesting trailer at the Discovery Museum:

Big fish mural:

Perhaps because we were coming from the dry desert, but the river was extra soothing.  And the whole area was amazingly green.  Quite refreshing!

Nice artwork at the library - books with the names of "Community Champions" engraved on them:

Hey, it's the train that goes to Silverton!  Someday we'd like to take that ride:

Fun photo framing at the whitewater park:

We met a coffee barista in the chocolate shop in town (after having lunch at our favorite Himalayan kitchen).  I am wholly behind the concept of customized coffee pours and interesting hot drink menus.

The next Harvest Hosts stopover was the Alpacalypse ranch!  Because... alpacas!  I will now proceed to dump a bunch of cuteness on you, and I only wish I could take better pictures to capture these ridiculously adorable creatures.

Alpacas in the mountains:

Evolution is weird, but, OK!

Incredibly, this little one was just born the day before:

Hello cutie!

Yes, you're cute too:

Up close and slightly personal with the friendly one:

So much "awwww"

Continuing east, to the continental divide:

We went for a brief hike on the CDT, finding snow because it wouldn't be summer without snow patches:

The first of many views from up high in the Colorado mountains:

Thank you Colorado, it's good to be back!

Monday, June 28, 2021

Sidewinder Trail near Montrose

I've got quite a collection of recent photos that I'd like to post, but first there's another FKT report to write!  One of my favorite things to do while traveling is check out the FKT routes to see what's around us and where to go explore.  There is always a smile involved when I find a fun-looking challenge, especially when it seems doable and fits into my training plan.

The latest version of that is the Sidewinder Trail.  It's 20 miles of winding, up-and-down, enjoyable singletrack.  I smiled a lot while running it too.  Rocks - but not too many, views - only somewhat distracting from watching my feet, and an excellent challenge.

We've had some rain in this part of Colorado lately, and the description of the route mentioned mud as a possible problem when wet.  I hoped the dry air and breezes would keep that from being an issue, and the trail turned out to be in great condition.  Just a small mud puddle here and there, easily avoided.  I was also lucky with pleasant weather and a nice gentle northern headwind for much of the run.

Let's get started...

John dropped me off at the southern Eagle Valley trailhead:

Thank you John!  See you in several (hopefully less than 5) hours!

The first of many excellent signs along the way:

The first trail leads up to the start of Sidewinder proper.  And it's a good one!  It's not often a path takes you right up through a narrow little canyon:

Fun trail, I'm sure mountain bikers would enjoy this one too:

Some of the larger obstacles along the way (there were several times I was happy to be on foot instead of on a bike):

The trail pops out of the drainage to hit an intersection; turn left to start the actual Sidewinder trail:

Singletrack heaven:

Every time the trail crosses a road (which happens rather frequently), there are signs pointing the way to stay on Sidewinder, in this case working its way up along the other side of the drainage:

The first of many good views of distant fields and ridges:

Happy as a (running) clam:

The men's FKT time is already very fast - I have no idea how Joseph sped through these 20 miles of somewhat technical trail in 2:36.  As long as there are FKT opportunities for Marcy "I'll never be that fast" Beard, I'm happy to take them.

At the same time, I'm always pushing the pace within my own abilities.  I'd settled on a 5-hour goal, and that turned out to be a good one.  My InReach Mini has a distance readout, and it was telling me that I was barely on the edge of that pace.  I hoped that the many twists and turns of the trail were causing a shorter-than-actual reading (based on 30-second location saves), and later got confirmation of that.

Crossing Wave Road:

Attempting to "wave", and not only failing at the photo but then almost heading up the road instead of staying on the trail.  Pay attention, woman!

One of multiple (like, every time I turned a corner) little drainages that the trail dropped into, crossed, and came out along the other side:

Sometimes the trail stay in the wash for a short distance, usually with cairns to mark the way.  I liked the fun rides down the dry creek beds, but it tended to be slightly stressful because you had to watch carefully for the exit trail - not always obvious.  In this case, no problem:

Another great view, taking a second to look around before focusing on my feet again.  The trail had many great runnable sections, not an overabundance of rocks, but there were still plenty of tripping opportunities, especially if you're gawking:

Bobcat (Road), grr...

An occasional excellent rock formation to run through:

Not quite a race flag...

Sometimes I could see way, way ahead and pick out the trail a mile away, and also make note of a feature higher up (or lower in the valley) to compare my progress to, like that colorful ridge on the horizon:

A couple things occurred to me as I ran along the side of the long hill:
- It sure would be nice to climb up to the top of the ridge to see over the other side - is the Gunnison River visible from up there?  Another time we will need to do that.
- There sure should be orienteering checkpoints out here, this would be a great place for a rogaine!

For today, moving on.

The trail traversed rock slabs here and there, always entertaining to run across:

Dinosaur - love these road names:

One of the bigger canyons ("yet another canyon"), with the trail visible on the other side:

More rocky features to admire in passing:

And another view (my on-the-move selfies are still tilted, I'll keep working on that):

Running down one of the longer drainages (maybe around mile 12 or so), I started questioning whether I'd missed something, but there were still bike tracks in the sand so I kept going.  Then a set of tracks veered off to the right and I looked over to see the actual trail.  Dang it.

I went over to the trail and backtracked uphill.  Maybe a couple hundred meters later I found where I'd made the mistake.  To the left is the creek bed and to the right is where the trail goes:

Well, I'm in a hurry but at least that mistake wouldn't cost me anything except a few footsteps.  Would be nice to have better markings in places like this, but I can also see how that's difficult to maintain when water could move whatever signs you put in place.

I was just looking for a shady spot to sit when I found the best single sitting spot of the whole route, a lovely rock overhang with an excellent place to rest for a second.  The view of the trail from my break location:

Filled up with Spiz nutrition and ready to rock again:

Have I mentioned how many drainages there are all the way across this terrain?

Eventually I could see a long ridge in the distance, a powerline, and trail that was possibly the last couple miles of Sidewinder (later verified to be the case).  Just as I was thinking, "OK, I'll be heading that way", the trail swerved to the right and went directly in the opposite direction.  Then it circled so far back to the left that I almost thought I was going back the way I'd come.

Then it entered another wash and began descending, down further and further.  There were a couple signs in here, helpfully:

However, I still pulled out my phone to make sure I didn't miss anything.  Running fast downhill without absolute certainty that you're on the right route can be a bit concerning.  Yep, it's one large circle that drops way down before coming around to the north.

The exit from the drainage is obvious in this case, thankfully:

Still trying to break 5 hours, knowing that I had a bit of a climb ahead, I didn't take much time to get a good selfie, but I was still enjoying the terrain and various views:

Finally!  The last drainage crossing, with a look back at the trail on the other side:

Starting west along the next slope:

The hillside soon turned steeper, with its own version of "innies and outies" but nothing too tedious (and I guess that depends on how much of a hurry you're in).  I was happy to reach the last high spot and start running mostly downhill toward the finish.

An interesting pile of dark rocks along the way:

I saw John coming toward me, and he "dove" off the trail to try unsuccessfully to hide and not be a part of my unsupported FKT run.  Hi John!  He followed me down, from a little ways back.

We passed one mountain biker coming up the trail - the only other human I saw out there all day.

At the finish, with John barely visible on the trail in the background:

A trail worthy of the name "Sidewinder"!

Yay for a beautiful day and an entertaining trail!

Thank you John for the transportation and for being a wonderful human in general!