At 7:15 a.m., JP sat up in bed and said, "Jim, it's 7:15 a.m.!" I had just enough time to utter an expletive before my phone rang. Todd G. was calling, politely inquiring as to where the hell I was.
I was supposed to, at that moment, already be running up the Belcher Hill Trail at JeffCo's White Ranch Open Space with Todd. Instead, I was just leaping out of bed uttering vague apologies about setting my alarm, but failing to turn it on. After a bit of hemming and hawing, we decided to scrap the morning run, knowing that with the poor road conditions, it would take me too long to make my way down I-70. My company didn't promise enough scintillating conversation to warrant waiting.
Still, I knew (and JP helpfully pointed out) that I would stew the rest of the day on my failure to show up if I didn't quickly haul myself out of bed and get to the trailhead.
So, I grabbed an energy bar, threw on the winter running gear and hopped in the truck for sketchy drive down to Golden and White Ranch.
There were two cars in the lot when I arrived, and two sets of footprints leading off up the Belcher Hill Trail. I followed the prints, made in the two fresh inches of powder, up to the first trail intersection. I figured one of the sets of prints had to be Todd's. The prints went right, so I went left and continued climbing Belcher Hill. I figured, if I was lucky, I would run into Todd somewhere along the way.
|Entrance to the Belcher Hill Trail at White Ranch Open Space|
I slogged up Belcher to its apex at the upper junction with the Mustang Trail (3.7 miles, 1,738 feet of elevation gain). This is a solid climb...good distance and lots of vertical. From the top, I descended down to the upper park road, crossed over and continued descending down to the Rawhide Trail intersection. I hung a left here. After about a half-mile on this old ranch road, I saw a runner coming toward me with a familiar gait.
After a quick greeting, Todd and I turned around and followed my footprints back up to the top of Belcher Hill.
We descended via the Mustang Trail, which has got to be one of my all-time favorite trails in the JeffCo park system. It winds over hills, through canyons and across meadows in an area of the park that feels very remote, despite being just a hop, skip and a jump from Highway 93.
We soon were back on the Belcher Hill Trail, winding our way back down to our cars. We encountered a few hikers and another runner on the way down.
As I write this, the snow is still coming down heavy, at least up here in Evergreen. It will be a while before the trails at White Ranch will be runnable again. Glad we got out before the snow got deep...
2,416 feet of elevation gain.