The day's loop (in red): 23 miles, 4,500'. Click to enlarge. Map from http://www.ouachitamaps.com
Got up to Pingree Park with Pete yesterday morning for a little more recon on our proposed Comanche 50 mile race route. We have an amazing loop just about figured out that looks like it will come in at around 51 miles with a touch over 10,600' of climb and a high point in the low 11,000' range. This race will happen next year, if the Forest Service is willing, but probably as a very low-key test run with a small group. If all goes well, and assuming we can get the necessary permits, we'll look to put the race on for real in 2012.
Current thinking on the 'Comanche Peaks 50' (not the loop described in the video below, which would involve running in RMNP: Problematic with regards to permitting).Anyway, the loop yesterday was counterclockwise from the Beaver Creek trailhead: Fish Creek - Little Beaver Creek - Flowers - Browns Lake - Beaver Creek for approximately 23 miles and 4,500' of climb. The opening stretch on the two creek-side trails were about as mellow and pleasant as is possible in the higher mountains out here. Fish Creek descended about 1,000' over 5 miles, before hooking into Little Beaver Creek which then ascended a symmetrical 5 miles at about the same grade largely under cover of trees. Both creeks were flowing well, and the beavers clearly are very active out here among the pine and aspen, with pond after pond as we ascended to the aptly named Beaver Park.
Above Beaver Park.
At about 10,800' there is a small plateau with a cairn marking a side trail to the site of a WWII B-17 crash. I took the time to check out the wreckage before proceeding up to timberline and the two to three mile stretch of ridge running to the Browns Lake intersection. This was the high point of the loop with the ridge rolling between 11,200' and 11,500'.
From the north side of the valley, Comanche Peak dominates the views to the south. Mummy Pass and a couple of Mummy peaks were also impressive to the southeast, but the vista was definitely all Comanche.
The trail from Flowers dropped a sharp 800' to the Browns Lake cirque, which was thoroughly majestic. This would be a supremely beautiful spot to camp and hang out for a couple of days, but I shot straight through, following the trail that dissected Browns Lake and the smaller Timberline Lake. Sometimes I wish I would take a little more time to enjoy these panoramas, but that's the trade off with trail running, especially the trail running I do, which generally involves maximizing moving time within the time windows I have.
After rolling by the lakes, the trail plummeted another 800 feet or so on steep, loose singletrack to Comanche Reservoir where it intersected the Beaver Creek trail, which taken east completed the loop on a net-downhill, but rolling six mile stretch back to the Beaver Creek trailhead.
This time last year, we'd already had our first snowfall, however this year so far fall has been most pleasant. Fingers crossed for a few more beautiful fall weekends that will allow for a final scout up around Signal Mountain, which is the only section of the proposed Comanche 50 route that is a bit uncertain.