Saturday, March 7, 2009

Deer Mountain

Took a trip up to Rocky Mountain National Park today to run up and around Deer Mountain. The park is only 40 minutes from my house so no excuses not to get up there and take advantage of it.

Met Chad at six and we carpooled the 25 miles or so up to the park. We were greeted by snow about half way to Estes and by the time we got to the park, it looked like a couple of inches had accumulated. I bitched about being tired of running on snow-laden trails, which is a bit silly because we've had barely any snow all winter. The elk were out in force once we got into the park.

The Deer Mountain trailhead is at about 8,800 feet. As we were zig-zagging our way up a steep meadow in the early going, a bunch of elk came into view and we got to watch a couple of impressive bulls run at full tilt across the trail 20 meters ahead of us. Its amazing how gracefully these animals negotiate mountainous terrain - if only I had their form!

Through the rest of the climb the snow continued to fall and the dusting on top of the trail covered rutted ice underneath, making the going underfoot very treacherous. Despite the snow, it was a perfect morning; not much below freezing and totally still. The trail topped out at the 10,013-foot summit, which sat in the trees. There are supposed to be great views of the Continental Divide from the plateau near the top but we were shrouded in mist, so missed that.

Just a short, but steep, spur to the top.

Chad hanging out at 10,013 feet.

We had originally planned to do the full loop for 12 to 13 miles, but the trail heading on from the peak was deep in snow. It didn't look like it had seen any traffic in quite a while so we turned around and headed back the way we had come. Despite taking it super easy on the way down, we both managed to take a couple of spills. Some kind of traction device would definitely have helped.

It was just six miles out and back so we decided to try and tack on some miles on the lower trails, hooking up with a trail to the Aspenglen campground. After a couple of miles of on and off running on terrain that was at times icy and slopy, at times decent, and at other times drifted deep in snow, we quit and ran back to the car on rte 34 for nine hard-earned miles and maybe 2,000 feet of climbing.

On the way back down, near Drake, we saw a bunch of big horn sheep hanging out by the side of the road, as they tend to do.

The snow made its way down to Fort Collins by the afternoon, finally giving us a bit of much-needed moisture.


  1. Are those icicles growing from your beard? It's a great look.

  2. Thanks! Wasn't that cold, but I guess cold enough for beard icicles.