‘Tis the season for running



Recently I’ve found some much-needed recharge time running alone in the Sangre de Cristo Range. This would be unremarkable except in all my years living here I’ve never run there in December. Skied? Yes. Snowshoed? Yes. Run? No.

The lack of snow this season had me curious. So one morning I drove over to the Gibson Creek Trailhead. It was 17 degrees when I left the car and headed south on the Rainbow Trail, which I found to be almost completely dry.

Gibson Creek had spilled over the trail, and then frozen into a small glacier. After crossing this little ice flow I continued south, crossing Verde Creek, then catching the trail’s short jog on the North Taylor Road. I crossed the bridge over North Taylor, then traversed the next ridge before reaching Hermit Pass Road. All the way I encountered only light snow in the shadows, but wonderfully icy streams and a strange and beautiful quiet. Very few animal and bird sounds, and no people.


I headed up Hermit Road, marveling at the sculpted ice of the rushing Middle Taylor Creek, and reaching the meadow where the Rainbow once again leaves the road and heads south. Here I turned around and retraced my steps. When I got back to the car it was still 17 degrees.

We had a very light snowfall this past week, but today I decided to make a run up North Taylor Road. I did encounter a small amount of snow and some ice but it was still quite passable. At some point after the road turned to a trail the snow became deeper and the run degenerated into a slippery version of wilderness parkour in which I was literally climbing over and under fallen logs. When the trail reached the creek crossing and entered some north-facing timber I regrettably turned back.

I know any day now a snowstorm will close these trails for the rest of the winter. But for now I’m grateful to have experienced this country during this quietest time of the year.


Grounding for the Hardscrabble Runs


Grounding, or earthing is a controversial practice that in its truest sense involves direct physical contact with the ground. Some people claim health benefits and I don’t doubt they may be true. I just know grounding feels good.

Lately I’ve been grounding out on the Hardscrabble Mountain Trail Run course. The races are coming up June 5 and already the entries are flowing in. I won’t be laying around in the dirt that day for sure.

This is my fourth year as Trail Boss for the event, which raises awareness and funding for vital land and water conservation projects in Southern Colorado. The Hardscrabble Run is hosted by the San Isabel Land Protection Trust,  which  in partnership with landowners, has protected more than 40,000 acres of land, 174 water rights, and 61 miles of stream frontage in Southern Colorado.

Runners and walkers can meet the challenge of the 5K or 10K courses on Bear Basin Ranch, a 2,400-acre protected ranch located in the Wet Mountains 11 miles east of Westcliffe.

It’s work it just for the lunch — after the race, entrants will be treated to a post-race fiesta that includes a gourmet lunch by Kalamata Pit Catering. There’ll also be live music by Bruce Hayes, awards and prize drawing for fantastic gifts, including awesome items from Patagonia.

Youth 17 and under will run free thanks to the generosity of Ranchers Roost Café/Cliff Lanes Entertainment, and other individuals. The goal is for 100 young runners from Custer County and surrounding areas participate. Young runners must register online by using discount code youth.

The races start at 10 a. m. on June 5. The start and finish are at 8,913 feet elevation. The courses feature 475 feet of vertical gain on the 5K and 1,083 feet of gain on the 10K, with the 10K topping out at 9039 feet. Both routes have short but steep sustained climbs that may require many participants to hike or walk. There is one aid station for the 5K course and two for the 10K.

Entry is $40 if received by May 30.

For more information or to register visit: www.hardscrabblerun.com or contact San Isabel at 719.783.3018.

Anyone wishing to sponsor the event with cash donations or prizes for our drawing should contact me at jackassontherun@gmail.com.

So come on out for the trail run. Ramble around Bear Basin. Each some lunch and listen to the music. Maybe win a prize. Do a little grounding yourself, if you want.

Courage and wonder on the Voodoo Trail

Even in a mild winter it’s easy to feel a bit snowbound in the Wet Mountains. Most of the trail routes I use in the warmer months are at least partially closed by snowbanks. If you like to run regularly like I do, the decision whether to go left or right at the main road gets old.

Getting off the glacier is always a good mental break. Today I planned a shopping trip to Pueblo, coupled with an exploration of the trail system on the south side of the Pueblo Reservoir. I parked at a turnout on Colorado 96 and took the trail from there. Although it’s February it was T-shirt weather. A sign pointed the way to the “Voodoo Trail.”

Within a mile the tracks of casual walkers gave way to the braided tread of mountain bike tracks, and my Nikes were the only footprints in the trail. The trail dropped down an arroyo and then climbed up and to the west, where another sign indicated a loop. I opted for the counter-clockwise “Voodoo Loop” thinking that I’d be soon disappointed with not enough distance.

Onward I ran, as the trail meandered in and out of the various ravines and offered great vantages of the water from high cliffs. A half-hour out from the truck I ran out of time and the loop had not even begun to turn a corner. I stopped and took in the sights from a point overlooking the lake. Though it was midday, a better-than-half moon was rising over the bluffs to the east.

Back at the truck I changed into street clothes and drove on into Pueblo for lunch and groceries. I found a map of the trail system online. The Voodoo Loop, it turns out, is more than 11 miles. I plan to make this trail system a regular break, and maybe even bring a burro next time as I see some of the trails are open to equines.