Distance: 22 miles
Effort: Very Easy
Weather: Chilly and snowing
Eager for some new ground to cover, I headed over to Coal Creek Canyon to run a long route Lucho mapped out on mapmyrun.com. With a print-out of the turn of the turn-by-turn directions and a small map from mapmyrun, I parked at a retail area in the canyon and headed up Highway 72 20 meters or so to the first of seemingly dozens of mountain roads I would run on today. Here's the link to Lucho's route.
Eager to protect my aching left knee, the plan was to run at a way-easy pace, uphill and downhill. With a moderately heavy snow falling, I began climbing up a series of roads that did a little lollipop before dumping me out on Gross Dam Road. As a harbinger to the rest of the morning, somewhere in this section I managed to lose the little map I brought.
Following the turn-by-turn directions, I crossed over Highway 72 and ran along a whole mess of minor dirt roads, with names like Divide View Road, Ridge Road and Rudi Lane. With the help of 3-4 locals out walking their dogs here and there, I managed to stay on track...but just barely.
Finally, around 15 miles in...the inevitable happened: several of the roads the directions said I should be seeing never appeared. I'm sure there was some weird disruption in the space-time continuum that made those roads temporarily disappear, since there's no way my sense of direction failed me.
I surrendered to the mountain road gods and just headed downhill, based on a few pointers from Greg and his malamute Tahoe, who happened to be walking by as I was weighing my options. After a mile or two, I was back at Highway 72 and Gross Dam Road.
Eager to get in a few more miles, I headed down Gross Dam Road, crossed the railroad tracks and found myself on the southeast side of Eldorado Canyon State Park/Walker Ranch. Here in the Crescent Meadows part of the state park, there was a trailhead for the 7.2 mile Walker Ranch Loop. This part of the state park doesn't appear to connect to the eastern part of the park, which includes the actual canyon. Walker Ranch connects the two parts, though. I ran a bit up the trail, but decided that since I already was 19 miles into the run, I had better just head back.
I didn't realize that one could access Walker/Eldorado from Coal Creek Canyon. If I had gathered a bit more beta on the area before leaving the house, I would have included the loop in this morning's run. Instead, I did the climb back up Gross Dam Road and wound my way back to the truck via some of the roads on which I began running three-and-a-half hours ago. Hit the truck at exactly 22 miles.
I loved running in the falling snow. The 1/4 to 1/2 inch of fresh powder on the roads provided just enough softness to cushion every footfall and absorb virtually every sound, save for the occasional cackle of a passing crow. Twas a great morning to be out in the sticks.
My left knee felt pretty good today. I definitely could feel the ache at the beginning, but there were long stretches where I never thought about it, which means it wasn't bugging me. I will continue icing it this week in hopes getting past it before the coming weekend and the Moab Red Hot 50K.
I hope to make it back to this area sometime soon to wander a bit into Eldorado/Walker from that side.
Elevation gain: 3,521. Average HR: 139. Average pace: 10:26.