OUT: Outdoors Junkie Column September 21, 2008

Searching for Capitol at the end of my nose

A few weekends ago, with the dog days of summer upon us and respite from heat top of mind, I was searching for a nice rolling trail run at elevation. Perusing a guidebook, I fell upon the Hay Park trail running 10 miles from the Thomas Lakes trail head at the base of Mount Sopris to Snowmass Creek. With “jaw-dropping scenery,” “rollicking single-track” and “the most spectacular view of Capitol Peak,” it sounded just the ticket.

Capitol Peak has long fascinated me. Perhaps one of the most difficult climbs in Colorado, the peak is truly
spectacular and I have seen it only from afar. The plan was to run until the point described in the book as “top of hill with Capitol Peak in front of your nose.” I was excited. This trail was going to get me up close and personal with Capitol. And, even better, I would only need to run 4.9 miles to get there.

As someone who has routinely run significantly longer trails throughout the summer, this surely would be no big deal. So the night before saw me propping up the sushi bar at No Coast thinking that such a short, piddling, little run could easily be accomplished with sake and sea urchin shooters as fuel. Carbo-loading be damned.

The next morning as my husband, Chad, and I lumbered up the rocky single track from the trail head, sun beating down on our backs, my head was pounding. Furthermore I had a nagging feeling that I was not going to experience my usual epiphany while out in the backcountry. But once I topped out the first hill, the trail leveled out and Mount Sopris rolled into view. Sopris is a magnificent peak and never fails to lift my spirits. This time was no exception. I picked up my feet and ran on.

Trotting through Hay Park we caught our first glimpse of Capitol Peak far off in the distance. After crossing several drainages, Capitol was a little closer, but not much. So we ran on. I felt like I should have covered 4.9 miles by now, but maybe the sake effect was hindering my internal odometer? So we ran on. And on and on. I am stubborn and I wanted Capitol at the end of my nose.

After an hour and 20 minutes we stopped, exhausted, hungry and dehydrated. Normally I would expect to cover 5 miles in well under an hour. We must have run at least 7. But where was Capitol? Knowing that continuing would be folly, we turned back toward the trail head. Disappointed, I realized that rubbing noses with Capitol would have to wait for another day.

The return journey was painful, despite the beautiful scenery. Rolling meadows of wildflowers and shady forests of aspens passed me by, but I was focused only on making it back to the trail head alive. Three hours and at least 14 miles after first setting out we crawled into the car.

My epiphany occurred 30 minutes later, in Carbondale, when I took my first bite into a big fat Crystal River grass-fed hamburger with all the fixins and washed it down with a huge gulp of beer. Now that’s what I like to have at the end of my nose! But I plan on coming back and getting up close and personal with Capitol another day.

Ann Driggers is a blogger for GJSentinel.com. Her blog (The Outdoor Junkie) chronicles her adventures whether mountain biking, trail running or backcountry skiing.


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