A backcountry ski trip turned into a desert adventure!

As our departure for a back-country ski trip in Telluride, Colorado came closer the snow pack became more unstable.  We looked at the avalanche danger and it was getting worse.  We decided to quickly change our plans to do some running and cycling out in Moab, a climb of Mount Elbert and a run in Boulder.  The day we were scheduled to leave New Hampshire got its first major snowstorm of 2012.  Somehow our flight left on time.

We landed in Denver and got our luggage and waited for what seemed like forever to get our rental car.  After getting the car we saw that there would be a big storm hitting Colorado so we did the drive to Moab.  It was snowing pretty hard and the drive was challenging but we got to Palisade late in the afternoon.  We got pulled over for doing 35 in a 25 and the officer was kind enough to let us go with a warning.  They also told us where to park for a hike of Mt Garfield.

We drove up to the trail head and started up the steep wet climb.  It was a mix of snow and mud and it sure was slippery!  The ascent was steep and the mud was sticking to our shoes like we had never seen before.  We had about 3-4 inches of mud on the bottom of our shoes and it was not making traction any better!  We got within a half mile to the summit and there was a slippery off-camber section that made us feel unsafe.  If one of us were to slip there was a huge drop below and we were not willing to risk it.

We hiked back down and enjoyed the beautiful views and the wild horses on the slope below us.  It was such a pretty town and a nice evening.  We got back to the car with several pounds of mud on our feet and finished our drive to Moab.  We got to the slickrock campground and set up our tent in one of the funny “stalls” that they had set up for tents.

We nestled in our sleeping bags for a good nites sleep and awoke to an  inch of snow.  We weren’t sure what we would do that day so we started by finding some breakfast.  We went to a cute little breakfast shop in town where we happened to meet some locals who told us that we should go running in the Needles of the Canyonlands.  Funny thing was that the guy who told us where to run had a dad in New Hampshire and the woman we met that was a ranger at the Canyonlands was a La Sportiva mountain running team runner that Ryan met in 2009 at a race!  Small world!

We took the advice of the kind strangers we met that morning and drove through snow and car wrecks to arrive at one of the most beautiful places I have been!  There was about 6 inches of snow part way into the park and as we got closer it was down to two inches.  The sun started to come out and the red rocks glowed beneath the white snow and under the dark blue sky.  It was almost surreal entering the park and looking out at the amazing rock formations surrounding us.

We got to the trailhead and started our run on a couple of inches of snow and bright sun.  The first five miles were challenging with the ice and snow but soon the snow had melted off and we were running on soft dirt trails, smooth slick rock and through narrow slot canyons!  It was amazing to be running in such  wild terrain!  As the snow melted our paces increased and we had run 16 miles that were truly spectacular!

We made the drive back to the campground and hopped in our sleeping bags for a chilly night in our tent.  It actually wasn’t too chilly in our -20 degree bags!  We got a great sleep and woke up to return to our new favorite breakfast shop for some more of that delicious granola, yogurt and bannana dish!  After filling our bellies we drove to Poison Spider Bicycles where we picked up a couple of Rocky Mountain Element 29ers to try.

We went to slickrock and hopped on our bikes.  The terrain was a bit intimidating at first and we accidental did the loop in the wrong direction but we love a challenge and didn’t mind.  We had a great ride and enjoyed every minute of it!  The Rocky Mountains were a blast to ride and we both decided that we wanted one!  After a great ride on the slickrock trail we drove to Bar M to demo some Yetis.  We did a 4 mile loop on a trail there and went to try a Yeti but they were all done doing demos for the day.  I was bummed!

The next day we woke up and did a nice 10 mile run on the Jackson trail in Kane Creek Canyon where I tried out my new Brooks running skirt.  Definitely two thumbs up on that skirt!  It was such a fun run and I felt so good!  We had spectacular views and had some fun in a pothole and all the fun terrain!  After an awesome run we went out to Bar M and I was finally able to get on the Yeti 29er!  It was amazing!  I almost gave up on being able to try one and at the last minute the nice girl at Poison Spider Bicycles came back early so I could test ride the bike!

That bike accelerates like nothing I have ever ridden before!  It cornered very well and rolled over rocks like they weren’t even there!  I immediately knew it would be my next bike!  I did about 4 miles at Bar M and flew through it!  I thanked the guys for letting me demo the bike and we drove back to Palisade where we attempted to climb Mt Garfield again.

The conditions were much better but were still slick at the top.  I had some issues with some of the icy areas but Ryan helped me through them and we stood on top of that beautiful peak!  It was flat and we could see forever!  We looked out at the mountain ranges as well as down at the peach trees in Palisade!  After enjoying our time on the top we came back down and hopped back in the car to finish our drive to Boulder.  We had called for info on Mt Elbert but were told the avalanche danger was too high so we decided to do some running in Boulder.

We arrived in Boulder late at night and had to rent a hotel because there were no campgrounds there.  We got up nice and early and got some breakfast before making our way to the trailhead for Green Mountain.  We started out on the trail and I was physically beat.  No running for me that day, just hiking!  We got to the summit under icy conditions and were treated to a great view of Boulder and snow covered mountains off in the distance!  Ryan and I hiked it for the first lap and then I went to chill out in the park while Ryan went to run the loop.

It was a nice sunny day and I enjoyed hanging out in the park waiting for Ryan to come back from his run.  He showed up smiling and he had a great run up the mountain!  We got some dinner and went back to the room for some sleep.  We woke up to our last day of vacation and decided to run the Mesa trail.

We ate an early breakfast and were soon on the trail where we came across the Pearl Izumi ultra running team on a photo shoot!  It was pretty cool to see some of the ultra worlds finest out on the same trails we were on!  I was able to pull six easy miles out of my body on awesome trails!  The sun was shining and the scenery beautiful!  We got back to the car and made the sad journey to our room for showers and then checkout.  After a small lunch we headed to the airport and got on our plane.

We were both sad to have our vacation end.  The trails and scenery were spectacular and looking forward to our next trip out west!  It was hard to come home to snowy trails but nice to see my kitties again!  I ordered up a Yeti 29er through Sohegan bikes in Milford NH and can’t wait for it to arrive!  As for now it looks like I will be doing my running in my Brooks Cascadias that I put screws in and plan to order up a new pair of Pure Grits for the racing season!  🙂

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