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Those of you who know me in real life know that I pretend to be a really hard-core jock while struggling to get out to run 5-6 miles twice a week and doing curls with 10-pound weights about twice a month. One of the ways that I preserve this illusion is that I like to run on the Ute Trail in Rocky Mountain National Park, which runs from the visitor’s center at the top of the park at 11,796 feet above sea level, down to Milner Pass, the continental divide, at 10,800 feet. I end up doing this about once or twice a year–it’s about a two-hour drive from my house, depending on the time of day and traffic, so I can’t justify getting out to do it weekly or even monthly during the summer, the only time the road and the trail are accessible (usually early May to late September, depending on the snow.) Sometimes I do it round trip, but yesterday I only had time for a one-way jog, downhill.
Yesterday was the day, and it was great! I’ve never had any trouble running at that altitude, for some reason. You feel a little lightheaded and tingly at first, but then it’s just another run, albeit with better scenery than my neighborhood routes. No large animal sightings–not even an elk, which in RMNP are as common as pigeons in big cities. Once I saw a couple of bighorn sheep on this run–fortunately, they left me and my running partner alone, as they can be very nasty creatures. There were still lots of wildflowers, like asters, Indian paintbrushes, and all kinds of little yellow and white blossoms. And the weather was mixed–overcast with thunderstorms all around me, but patches of warm sun (as you can see in this picture of the trailhead.) Maybe I can get up there again in a few weeks to do the round-trip run before they close the road!