Laurel Highlands put some cosmetic hurt on my feet, but otherwise left me surprisingly none the worse for wear.
Peel off a toenail...
...band-aid the ankles..
...good as new.
It was back to business and a few days in the office before boarding a plane for Boulder, Colorado. I'd only be on the ground for 3 days and most of those hours would be devoted to work, but remaining on East Coast time, I hoped, would allow me to do some exploring each morning. This would be the first time in several Colorado business trips that I'd be staying in a hotel in downtown Boulder with easy access to the endless trails that beckon from just outside of the city. I'd picked a few of the brains I trust most about what trails to hit and how to get their from the Boulderado.
The flight to Denver International was blissfully uneventful and provided beautiful glimpses of the American patchwork below. My girls are fascinated by planes (and why shouldn't they be?) and have rekindled my marveling at the experience after years of not giving flying much thought at all. Surely a 2 and a 4 year old must believe that there's magic at work and if I think on it for too long, as I did on the flight, I tend to agree with them.
Our host for the visit, Ben, whisked us (my boss, Tim, was also along for the ride) away from the airport and shared a good laugh at the full behind-closed-doors pat down I'd received at the Harrisburg Airport after the scanner reportedly showed a large threatening bulge in the crotch of my pants. All I can say is that a most thorough search on the part of two TSA employees failed to turn up anything incriminating.
Ben treated us to an awesome dinner at a local Japanese tea house and, at least according to Mountain time, we turned in early. Despite being excited to run in the morning, I fell quickly to sleep. Except for a middle-of-the-night wake-up call from the amorous couple in the room next door (short-lived, but vigorous), I slept soundly until my alarm went off at 5:00 AM "their" time. The trails were calling my name.
Three blocks and a couple of hundred yards later, I was here:
Back in April, I'd run and hiked in Utah with Jon Webb, a current Boulder resident, and we'd hoped to get out on the trails together when I hit town. Unfortunately schedules did not align and he was back in Utah on business of his own. He had, however, been generous enough to give me some insider beta and it was at his suggestion that I was climbing the Viewpoint Trail on my way to the Flagstaff trailhead.
The sun rose quickly and after a few hundred feet of ascent I'd reached Flagstaff and continued to climb toward the summit. The single track was incredibly forgiving in comparison to the rocks and roots of home and the surroundings were breathtaking. I saw several deer during the run and they seemed determined to offer up postcard worthy poses against the sub-alpine backdrop.
I made it to the top of Flagstaff winded but pleased to find that the four day window after Laurel Highlands was enough to restore some energy to my legs. The run down from the summit was quick and fun despite the fact that I managed to lose the trail somewhere along the line. I didn't lose the trail so much as I somehow found myself on another, the Ute Trail, which took me further from town and down into Gregory Canyon.
Ute ended at a parking lot which was also home to access trails to the top of Green Mountain and I immediately made up my mind to return there the next morning. A short jog up the road afforded a sweet view of the Flatirons.
Remembering that I did have a meeting that morning and confirming with the GPS that I'd been out on the trail for a good bit of time, I stuck to the road which returned me to Viewpoint and a fun sprint back down into town. I got back to the Boulderado with just enough time to jump in the shower and wolf down breakfast.
Tim and I put in a full day of line reviews of Spring 2012 backpacks, tents, sleeping bags and other outdoor gear before enjoying another delicious dinner. We roamed around Pearl Street for a bit before calling it a night.
My neighbors serenaded me again, this time with a little more gusto. Perhaps they too were getting used to the altitude and building endurance. I didn't give it too much thought and thankfully fell right back to sleep.
Knowing I had a more significant climb ahead of me than the day prior, I planned to wake up at 4:30. I was up before the alarm went off, made my way through the eerily silent hotel and headed for Green Mountain.
As I climbed back up Viewpoint again, I was psyched that my legs felt fresh even after logging 8.5 miles the day before. I was feeling about as good as I could possibly hope to in the unfamiliar altitude.
I couldn't immediately determine where the Ranger Trail began but stumbled upon Saddle Rock and decided I'd run the loop in reverse. Within a couple of hundred yards, I understand why Saddle Rock was suggested as the downhill portion of the loop. That climb went on and on and alternated between maintained step-ups and technical track that surprised me after the smooth surfaces I'd tackled earlier. Here's a look back over my shoulder:
I was no longer progressing very quickly but I was having a blast. The sun had just gotten fully above the horizon when I reached a high point that looked back down on Boulder.
That high point, it turns out, was nowhere near the top of Green Mountain and I had plenty of work ahead of me. I missed a couple of steep switchbacks that made the run even longer than it needed to be, but every single step was a joy. I tried not to look at the GPS for fear that it would tell me it was time to head back down.
Eventually, I topped out at the summit and drank in the expanse. The monument called out the parade of peaks that marched off into the distance.
I finally managed to drag myself away from the view even though I would've loved to linger. I was still daydreaming about those high peaks when I took a misstep and crashed hard on my right knee. Even the lump that rose above my kneecap couldn't ruin the day (though it did complicate the descent).
Less than a mile outside of town, I was granted one last gift as a mule deer in velvet allowed me to take his photograph.
And that was that. I'd eked out 17.5 miles in two days and loved every inch.