Sunday, November 7, 2010

Willow Springs - Ken Caryl Ranch Open Space - Hurtin'

Explored a wealth of close-in, beautiful singletrack in the foothills south of Highway 285. Great trails, but a tough day.

Distance: 23.48 miles
Time: 4:21
Pace: Easy/long
Body: Poor
Weather: Sunny & Warm

There's nothing better than exploring new trails right from one's door, but that's a rare thing. So, the second-best thing is exploring new trails right from a friend's door.  Those were my thoughts as Todd G. and I started running up the road from his house to the trails of the Willow Springs neighborhood open space.

Willow Springs Open Space Trail Map - Credit: Bill Highland
Heading up the paved road to the trails, I was feeling a bit creaky. Despite several weeks of moderation in running, I've got more aches and pains now than I've had all year. Between a flared-up left plantar, a worsening groin pull of some sort and a newly sore right Achilles, I was walking wounded. Still I was optimistic that things would chill out once we hit the dirt.

And, for the most part, things were fine through the early climbs through the 800-acre Willow Springs mountain park. The trails in here were awesome...well built, narrow, little-used singletrack. The trails, loaded with tight switchbacks, climb the hillsides behind the subdivision. After one minor summit and lots of up and down across grassy hillsides and through forested drainages, we made our way into the privately-owned Ken Caryl Ranch Open Space.

The Ken Caryl Ranch subdivision includes 5,000 acres of open space with over 25 miles trails, much of it great singletrack. In this area, we ran along more of the great, narrow foothills singletrack before dropping down into the subdivision itself for a number of miles on the red dirt around the hogback and red rocks.

It was in here when the Achilles started really aching. We were about 10 miles in at this point and I was not eager to call it a day, so we marched on.  Soon, the trail turned up and we headed back up toward the foothills. Just before ascending a really steep, rocky canyon, we came across a bunch of West Metro Fire and Rescue trucks parked at a trail junction. Apparently, a kid fell 60 feet down a rocky cliff here yesterday. (Denver Post story here.)

We had better luck and made our way up out of the canyon and onto a hillside covered by gambel oak and aspen. Beautiful spot. I hit a rough patch through here and was just trying to hold it together. Everything seemed to be aching. Still, we motored on, passed a few mountain bikers and made our way back onto Willow Springs land.

We wound our way back to Todd's 'hood via a different route. Thanks to Todd's route-finding, we did the 23-mile loop with only one mile of overlapping trail. Other than that way-short section, it was all new trail. And, all the trail was great. And, unfortunately, it's all private land...owned by the subdivisions below.

Once back at the truck, I assessed the damage. Left foot...trashed.  Right Achilles...aching.  Groin...shot.  I haven't felt this fragile in years. Time for some prescribed time off for a bit of PT and healing. Ugh.

Other than the aches, this was a great (and much slowed) run. Eager to do it due time.


  1. Good time for some good times ... and down time.

  2. I wish I could run the KC trails. That's a nice area.

    It's odd, the trail signs are a bit lacking regarding their use policy. For example at South Valley Park (which is public) there is a boundary sign for KC that doesn't even mention that you're not supposed to use it unless you're a resident.

    For me the colder weather is tougher and probably requires more warm-up time. I wouldn't be surprised to find out that we're more susceptible to injury during cooler months.

    1. it's posted "Private" all over the place...if you don't have a house there you don't have a trail pass. Without a trail pass you're trespassing. I have a house here and and have a hard time getting a trail pass. They're trail Nazi's!

  3. Argh! Time to rest and get healthy to kick off 2011 in Moab.

  4. Good writeup -- I've been checking your blog for trails lately. Maybe we can run together one of these days -- once I feel less creaky and that I could keep up!

    But take it easy if that's what the body says!

  5. MTN2 - I know there's one area where KCR has a management agreement w/ JeffCo and manages some county land...that land is open to the rest of us. Didn't see any KCR rangers all day...and there's lots of trails to get lost on, especially up in the hills.

    Woody/GZ - rest is definitely on the docket.

    Mike - saw you were in the area this weekend. Let's hook up one day soon. I'm sure with winter coming, we both can use the incentive of a running partner to get out in the cold.