The crowd was thinning out and the sky was turning a beautiful orange of sunset. The TrailHead group gathered under a pavilion with a perfect view of any runners coming down the trail to the finish. There is nothing like eating and laughing and sharing stories after a race with friends. Finally we saw Snuffy coming around the corner, we all followed him to the finish cheering him on through the finish line chute, finally collapsing on the ground. Soon after Grub and Bobcat, and Bobcat’s daughter came in just after cut off. Grub was all smiles, his first 100…what an accomplishment!
We all went to bed exhausted and smiling that night. The next day we were up early and off to pick up buckles. I went out for a short shake out run to see the other side of town, and then we met up for lunch and to caravan to Estes Park CO, our next destination.
As we were heading out of town we could see some very ominous clouds behind us, and most of us enjoyed a lightning show from afar. Unfortunately one car got stuck in it though. The wind and hail was so strong they had to park under an underpass and fell nearly an hour behind the rest of us.
As we drove through the canyons up to the park we could still see all the damage along the banks of the river from the flooding 2 summers ago. It was sad to see the condemned houses, and eroded banks.
The road wound up and the mountains came into view. Its wonderful how, just a drive apart, mountains can look so very different. The bighorn mountains were rounder in contrast to the sharp verticality of these CO mountains. Our late arrival on a Sunday evening meant we had to scramble to find an somewhere to eat, and ended up ordering pizza. For the second night in a row, we all fell into a deep sleep.
Monday morning we were up early and hungry! It seems to take my stomach a few days to catch up with my activity level and I was ready for a big meal finally! (Yay gluten free pancakes, lots and lots of pancakes!) Gumbi found a really great breakfast place, Notchtop Bakery and Cafe. (which we actually ate at each morning during our stay) the food was excellent, the portions were large and the cost was cheap. With our bellies full of eggs, pancakes, oatmeal, breakfast burritos and whatever else we all ate we headed out for a short hike before a majority of the group needed to head back to Denver to catch their flights home. The best thing about Estes park is that a good hike with views of the mountains and city is no more than a 5 min drive away.
Gem Lake was the chosen destination, it gave everyone just enough time to get out for a hike, see some pretty views, and get to their flights on time. The up felt really nice, it was the down that wasn’t so wonderful on my very trashed quads. Most of us groaned a bit on some of the steeper descents, but it was nice to be moving and getting the blood flowing.
By that night, everyone but two close friends, and my husband had left. We poked around the artsy downtown and did some touristy things, ending the day chowing down at a really great Mexican place for dinner.
Tuesday we were determined to hike the single 14-er in Estes Park, Long’s Peak. Refueling back at Notchtop, we were ready to hit the trails! Long’s Peak is part of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountain National Park. The first 10 minutes we were struggling for air a bit, but eventually it seemed our breath evened out and we were soon on our way up to the snow fields. The views were breath-taking, coming from the East Coast where you can climb and climb and not see much of a view for hours, the notion of having a view as early as 30 min into our hike was fantastic! I just couldn’t get over the beauty of it all, I didn’t want to leave, I was ready to move (at least for the summer until it snows anyway.)
After the hike we decided to drive through the park to the Continental Divide Trail since we only had a few short days there and wanted to see all we could. I would recommend this drive around the park if you don’t have enough time to hike it all. It was chilly, extremely windy, and even snow flurried on us, but the views didn’t disappoint.
The final hike we hit was the Bear Lake hiking area. It was pretty touristy, but most people stayed within a few miles of the parking lot, so once we hiked from the immediate area the trails became quiet. Emerald Lake was worth the trip, and it was a nice relaxing way to end the hiking part of our trip.
We drove back to town, and had to hit one more place before we left. Its a little known fact that Steven King wrote the Shining while staying at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park. My husband introduced me to the movie back in College. I had never seen it before. He had a novelty screen saver back then, when you turned on his computer it would say “Here’s Johnny” the icons were things like the elevator with blood, etc..you get the idea. Anyway, we had to go check out the hotel just for fun. Many people go there to hunt ghosts, personally I just like the histories of the old mansions-turned-hotels. Another one of my favorites is here in NC, the Biltmore House in Asheville. Anyway, the tour guide was great! She was enthusiastic, knew all the history, and played to the curious ghost “hunters” in our group.
I have never recovered from a race by hiking steep mountains before, and though many of the descents really stung my very tired quads, when I returned home I felt much better than I had after any other race before. Typically it takes several weeks of tripping all over roots post race before I fully recover, after hiking for a week (knock on wood) I didn’t trip at all in the following recovery weeks. Note to self, hike lots of quad searing downhills to recover from hard down hill races!
Hope you enjoyed my little tale of the Mountains, thanks for coming along with me! 🙂