#60HikesDenverChallenge – Bear Creek Park

(For 2017, I have a goal of getting through all 60 trails in the book “60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Denver”  You’ll see these posts all year-long. You can find a lot of info on each of the trails in the book, but I’ll highlight some things each time in addition to including my experience and opinion on the trail. The number below is associated with how they are labeled in the book if you have it.)

Trail #16 – Bear Creek Lake Park: Bear Creek Trail
Completed: 5/2/17 | Number Completed: 13/60
Mode: Running
Location: Morrison/Lakewood, CO – C-470 & Morrison Exit (CO – 8)
Distance: 4.42 miles
Difficulty: easy
Type of trail: Hard packed dirt, balloon configuration
Exposure: half of the trail is in the shade
Facilities: Pit toilet restrooms along the park (none at the trailhead)

 

My Experience:
There’s really not much to say. I wanted to get a run in after track practice and drove a few miles to Bear Creek Lake Park, parked in the free lot, and ran the trail from the book.

This trail isn’t all that special. Submersed in the middle of the city, it’s a nice escape from the hustle and bustle without a far trek. The trail system can get a little confusing, but, there only so many miles, that if you did get off track, you’d just loop right back to the main park. There are also lot of trail races here and I’ve done a 10k around the lake.

To follow the trail from the book, park in the free lot just north-west of the C-470 and CO-8 (Morrison Rd) intersection. Carefully cross the street, and hang a left on the biking trail. This takes you under the highway and is the walk-in access to the park. Follow the sidewalk until the bridge, crossing over the river and make a quick left on the trail. This leads you through a parking lot (a paid access lot), across the street and you’ll enter the Owl Trail on the other side. Parallel the river until the Fitness Loop Trail (a looped trail that used to have exercise equipment). This is will loop around, giving you views of the lake, Mt Carbon and the area camping. It will reconnect to the Owl Trail and you’ll retrace your steps back to your car.

Pros:
-Close to town
-Easy miles (unless you add in Mt. Carbon)
-Lots of other things to do
-Dirt trails making it a nice soft surface

Cons:
-Crowded
-Not that scenic
-Can still hear the noise from the roads

Tips:
-Tip avoid crossing the major street from your car, you can drive into the park, and pay a few bucks to get in. State parks passes don’t work here.
-There’s a lot of stuff to do in the park: camping, horse back riding, water sports
-If you’re a runner, check your local racing calendar for races inside the park. A great one is the Bear Chase Series.
-To actually get a HIKE in, add Mt. Carbon into your journey.

Overall:
A lot of tourists flock here for some reason, same with locals. No offense to them, but there’s much better, scenic, more relaxing places to camp and visit not far away. For people coming from out of state, you’ve already come this far, just drive a bit longer and go into the mountains! If you’re a local, yes, run here, play here, etc. It’s a great, close by area to squeeze in some activity to a busy life. But if you have more time, just add a bit more to your travel time for a much better place to play. As for being in the 60 Hikes Within 60 miles of Denver book…. It’s not much of a “hike.”

Bear Creek Lake, Mt Carbon


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Racin’ Rams Cross Country Camp

I have been very lucky to have found a coaching job for the last six years. I know that it can be pretty hard to find an open, paying, position in high school sports and I’m grateful everyday I get to show up at a school and run with the kids. After all, I do get paid to run!

One of the best perks of coaching high school cross country are the camps. Not all schools do them, but the few schools I’ve gotten to coach at have had a summer camp With Arvada, we went out to Portland, Oregon to run around. With Golden and now with Green Mountain, we got to trek it up to the mountains and run like crazy for a few days. I went to Breckenridge last year with the previous school I coached for and this year got to go up to Winter Park for four days.

View from the condos

Our Map

The camp starts out on a Tuesday with a run, of course, and we ran five miles through the town of Winter Park. After some down time and lunch, we got in a few games of ultimate frisbee before heading back to the condos for spaghetti.

Wednesday, we got in two runs, one in the morning and one in the afternoon, time to wander in Winter Park, and a choice of game night or movie night before lights out.

The first run brought two different options: an 3.75 out and back on Vasquez or a longer, lollipop course through the local trails.

Run two, had us jogging through the pouring rain on the trails. I really liked this trail, “Twin Bridges” and went back for a second loop.

On Thursday, we hiked the trail the winds up the slopes of Winter Park Ski Resort and later ran about 3.75 miles along the Fraiser Creek Trail. The night brought the obligatory pizza eating contest at Hernado’s Pizza and was supposed to end with a competitive game of capture the flag. However, the rain had other ideas for us, and left the game field too dangerous to play on.

View from the top

With our last day, Friday, we brought camp to close with a long run. The kids ran out and back anywhere from 5 miles to 10. I got the honor of running with a freshman that wanted to reach that 8 mile mark. We trucked along. The whole way out was an gradual, steady incline. Tough as nails, my new-to-running buddy toughed it out. We reached the turnaround and cruised the four downhill miles back to camp.

Can you see Emma up there, way out in front?

All of the kids did amazing and had achievements to celebrate, a lot of them new to running. With minimal complaining, lots of time to bond, the Racin’ Rams had a great camp to kick off the 2017 Cross Country season.

That’s a lot of kids! And that’s just the ones that got to camp! There’s even more! Excited for the 2017 season with a new school!

Happy Coach! Also, this girl, (one of my favorites – shhhhh, don’t tell anyone) in the back, is new to running, tough as nails, and just keeps pushing on to get better, never complaining!

(Re-Blog) – Ragnar Trail Colorado

I am about to leave for my fourth Ragnar Trail in Snowmass, CO. I have done every single trail Ragnar that as been at Snowmass! I LOVE Ragnar Relays, both the road and trail versions, but being in the mountains and camping makes the trail series all that much better for an outdoor-lover like myself. Altogether, Ragnar does a fantastic job with these events.

Every year has brought different experiences and  memories. Every year has had ups and downs. This year, I am with a completely random team, not having known anyone prior. Some of them are new runners and we are looking forward to a fun experience!

This post was originally written for Becoming Ultra when they recruited me to write about Ragnar for them. It never ended up getting published on their site and it really bummed me out. I worked really hard on it. It was also supposed to get posted on the Ragnar blog, but the employee that talked to me dropped the ball as well and she no longer works for Ragnar.

It ended up only on my blog. I am re-blogging this post because, frankly, I really liked it and thought it was some of my best work.

Here’s to trail running, new friends and the great outdoors! Cheers!


 

It all ends when I finally get home, I examine myself, taking note of what I’ve done to my body and mind.

I am very tried, about to fall asleep.

I’m dirty, literally covered, head to toe with dirt.

I smell like a high school locker room.

My muscles are sore.

I have a few blisters spread out on my feet.

There’s chafing in places only my boyfriend sees.

I’m sunburnt in various spots, showing where I can’t reach.

My hair is coated in grease, staying in a pony-tail without a hair-tie.

My eyes are dry, my head hurts, and my ears are plugged.

But I feel accomplished.

What is Ragnar Trail Relay?

Start with a 2 day and 1 night running relay with 7 of your friends on there different loops of beautiful trails. Mix in camping, music, laughter and s’mores and you got yourself a Ragnar Trail Relay.

What was my Ragnar Trail Relay?

It all started at 4am the morning before. In about 28 hours, I ran close to 15 miles between three separate runs. I climbed a total of 2,295 feet up a mountain, only to come back down, three different times. I slept less than 8 hours in total and tried to remember to eat and drink water when I needed to.

If you read the fine print, I tortured myself for almost two days straight and I called it FUN.

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I have made new friends and strengthened current ones. I watched the sun set then come back up again, all while sitting besides a giant bonfire. I ran 3.5 miles catching up with a friend of mine, four miles with just the light of my headlamp and the stars above, and 6.8 miles in the heat of the day, all while being distracted by tall, snow-capped peaks.

That is what my Ragnar Trail Relay was.

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Running is different to everyone. Some enjoy the roads and others like the trails. Some get thrills from the long run and others just run a few miles each time. Some appreciate company on the journey while others prefer to chase the miles alone. Most of us are a mix of all of these. No matter what type of runner you are, you can find your place at a Ragnar Relay.

My experience with Ragnar Relay has been three years in the making. Every time I join a team and start hitting the trails with seven other team members, I have a new experience. That’s what makes this race series unique. It may be the same three trails every year, but each year you can create new memories and experiences.

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The first year, I was chased by a sage grouse that I coined “The Velociraptor.” In year two, I desperately searched for some dry clothes to warm up in between runs. This year, my third year, I chased the sun and got to finally see the views from the red loop. I was also the last runner and was joined by my team to run through the arch at the end of my last leg. Each year has been made more and more memories.

The brilliant thing about Ragnar Trail Relay is they provide you with the essentials: Trails, music, good vibes, nutritious food, games, good products, a great host, and a campground. From that, each individual experience is unique; from person to person, team to team and year to year.

So I ask you….

What will your Ragnar Trail Relay be?

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Quote on the back of the 2017 medals when you put all eight together:

“We believe that being a Ragnarian is about more than being a runner, that misery loves company, that happiness is “only real when it’s shared”, that there is a badass inside all of us, that everyone deserves to be cheered at the finish line, that dirt in your teeth boosts the immune system, that what happens in the village, stays in the village, that adventure can only be found if you are looking for it, and that a little sleep deprivation is a small price to pay to watch the sun rise with our friends. Together we ran Ragnar trail. Together we can accomplish anything. We are Ragnarians.”

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Ragnar Relays

#60HikesDenverChallenge – Green Mountain and Hayden Trail Loop

(For 2017, I have a goal of getting through all 60 trails in the book “60 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Denver”  You’ll see these posts all year-long. You can find a lot of info on each of the trails in the book, but I’ll highlight some things each time in addition to including my experience and opinion on the trail. The number below is associated with how they are labeled in the book if you have it.)

Trail #22 – Green Mountain and Hayden Trail Loop
Completed: 4/3/17 | Mode: Running!
Location: Alameda and Union, Lakewood
Distance: 3.3 miles
Difficulty: Hard, steep climb
Surface: Hard packed dirt with a few bigger rocks in parts
Exposure: No Shade
Facilities: Port-o-potty at Alameda Trailhead, no water

View into Golden!

My Experience:
I have run on Green Mountain more times than I can count. This is the place where I had my first trail run experience many, many years ago and a place I still love to this day. This is also the place that I just about lost it when I saw some people cutting the trail. Green Mountain does get used regularly and it hurts me to see the signs of overuse or people disrespecting the “rules” of nature. In fact, I just drove by the last week and the signs  were marked RED indicating “OVERLY MUDDY CONDITIONS, use not recommended,” and yet the parking lot was still packed. Come to find later in the week, when the trails were finally dry, there was bike tire ruts baked into the trail – NOT FUN for the ankles!

I look grumpy…but I was just squinting.

Anyway, I’ve run all over this mountain, just about every trail that there is. There are all types of trails here: long easy runs, steep hill climbs, a mixture, etc. Plus, it’s close to where I work and live (I coach track right across the street), making it super convenient to get a trail run in without traveling far. About a week before I completed the exact trail from the book, I inadvertently did the trail in reverse as I just ran around aimlessly. I went back to repeat the trail from the book, just because.

Quite the challenge, going the direction the book recommends takes you up, UP and UP for a whole mile without relenting. Not going to like, it was pretty tough. I ran most of it with a little bit of walking, took in the views at the top and ran the downhill (my favorite part) back to my car.

Awesome views of Denver!

Pros:
-All types of running can be found
-Good views in the distance
-Plenty of miles of trails! The full loop is over 6 miles, but can add trails in between.
-Wildflowers for a brief season in the spring

Cons:
-Not particularly beautiful on the trails
-Some parts have really loose, smaller sized rocks, making footing super tricky
-Crowded
-Overused
-TONS of bikers!
-There can be rattlesnakes

Access Road Trail on top

Overall:
While I do really love running here and I do so multiple times a week,  I wouldn’t recommend it for out-of-towners. The trails and park itself aren’t that spectacular to look at. There are some great views of Denver and the nearby foothills, but the whole mountain is brown/yellow in color most of the year.  If you’re looking for a great trail system to get some miles on without going too far out of the city, this is the right place!

Sometimes it’s green…


Join me in my #60HikesDenverChallenge: