Sunday, March 7, 2010

Stagecoach - Whittier Gulch - Beaver Brook - Elk Meadow Loop - Long Run

Time: 3:21
Distance: 20.39 miles
Effort: Easy
Body: Good
Weather: Sunny and beautiful

Out the door at about 6:15 a.m. for a long loop from home. Felt the early morning chill as I stepped out the door and wound my way through the neighborhood streets to the trail that leads up to the upper parking lot of Elk Meadow Open Space. Here the first rays of the sun were just striking the lot as I jumped on Stagecoach Road for the climb to its apex before dropping down toward Whittier Gulch.

Morning sun on Elk Meadow Park sign at the upper parking lot.

After beginning the descent down Stagecoach toward Whitter Gulch, Mt. Evans and its sister peaks came into full view. Just like yesterday morning, the massif was ablaze in the morning light.

Mt Evans from Stagecoach Road

Soon I was at the intersection of Stagecoach and Whittier Gulch Road. I hung a right and began the 3.17 mile, 1,514-foot ascent of this mostly dirt/gravel road. The climb felt good, as the top 3/4 of the climb was bathed in sun. The road snakes up via a series of switchbacks and ends at Highway 103, also known as Squaw Pass Road. Directly across 103 from Whittier Gulch Road is a trailhead that leads into the Beaver Brook Watershed, which is comprised of U.S. Forest Service land and a Clear Creek County Open Space park. When you put this area together with Elk Meadow and the other national forest land in the area, there's a 20-mile wildlife corridor  from Evergreen to Mt. Evans.

Upper Meadow of Beaver Brook Watershed

The conservation of this property has an interesting and fairly recent history. A unique combination of forces came together to protect the area's 5,000 or so acres. It took the combined determination and skill of the Mountain Area Land Trust,  Clear Creek County Open SpaceGreat Outdoors Colorado and, I recall, then-Rep. Mark Udall and then-Sen. Wayne Allard. In addition to some swell hills, forest and creeks, the property includes one of the City of Golden's small reservoirs. Very scenic. The place has a few trails/dirt roads that a great for running and exploring. And, it's just 4-5 miles up Hwy 103 from Evergreen.

Standing this morning at the upper meadow, I was pleasantly surprised to see a very well-packed trail heading down through the meadow toward the forest below. I was feeling great running through here. I could feel the trail running mojo coming back. I had one of those running moments on this descent, where suddenly everything just feels good. A wave of a full-body chill washed quickly over me. A runner's high? I was listening to FoCo's very own Drag the River when it happened. A perfect moment.

A spur trail I explored while running down the main packed trail in Beaver Brook

A frozen Beaver Brook Reservoir looking west

Beaver Brook Watershed - looking west from the east entrance

From Beaver Brook, I headed east down Old Squaw Pass Road to its intersection with Hwy 103, which I followed down to the north side of Elk Meadow Open Space. Just before I was about to jump the fence into Elk Meadow, I big red tail hawk swooped down from the other side of the 103 and landed on a tree just past me.

Red tail hawk near Elk Meadow

From there, it was quick couple of miles through Elk Meadow and up Bergen Peak Drive back to the house. Great morning.

3,138 feet of elevation gain.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I love your site. I am from Colorado myself. I lived in a few places. Originally I lived in Fruita. Then I moved to Gypsum, some really nice biking there. Then I moved to Summit. It is absolutely amazing up there. Some really good skiing, boarding, biking, and running. I loved running on the trails in summit, some excellent views of the peaks. Especially the 14ers. Running to the top of a mountain is something else. I tell you, running in Colorado never gets old, especially if you live in the mountains. But then I moved down to Denver. Not a whole lot of running there, but I competed in track. So I biked up in the mountains. At places like Red Rocks, and sometimes I went as far as Evergreen. I would have liked to go further, but it was winter. I also started exploring more, and found some good biking, but never got to do it. Since I moved to West Virginia. But I am going to go back to CO as soon as I can. Just love it there. Anyway, that's my story. I really like your blog, very interesting, and great to see that your from Evergreen. Truly amazing place. Happy running Jim.

    Stuart Clayton
    a.k.a ForeverFitness