Out early for a solid 19 miles of fun on the nearly completely dry and snow-free trails of the foothills just west of Denver.
Weather: Cloudy and cool
Met up at 6:30 a.m. with Todd G. at the base of Lakewood's Green Mountain with plans to do a circuit that would include Green, the Dakota Hogback, Red Rocks and Matthew Winters open space parks.
The first nine miles was a sweet circumnavigation of the (mostly) outside flanks of the mountain. We ran a series of official and social trails, missing out on the northwest corner of the park when we ran out of social trail options.
After a quick stop at the cars to drop some clothing and pick up more gels/water, we set off up the Zoro Trail to the upper ridge of the Dakota Hogback. At the top, we hung a left and headed south along the formation's spine, dropping soon down to Red Rocks.
With the massive red rock formations looming above, we headed up the Red Rocks Trail and climbed through meadows and up a gully to the north of the park's namesake rocks. We topped out on the Morrison Slide Trail and cruised across the high plateau here before dropping down to just above the Matthew Winters parking lot.
Twas here where Todd pointed out an old road bed that snaked west up into the foothills above. "Up for a little exploring," he asked. Some question. So, up we went, hiking most of it as it climbed steeply up. Turns out, the road bed is actually the route of an underground natural gas line. We climbed for about a mile before hitting the western boundary of the open space park. We soaked in the views of Mt. Morrison and pointed out potential routes visible due to snow in the trail/road treads in the trees and grass far across a big drainage. We'll be back to find a way to access Mt. Morrison, one of the bigger peaks of the immediate Front Range (clearly there's a road up the backside, since it's festooned with multiple radio/tv towers).
After running back down and rejoining the Red Rocks Trail, we ran through the Matthew Winters parking lot, across Highway 93 and back onto the Dakota Hogback formation, which technically is part of the Matthew Winters Open Space park. We made relatively quick work of the steady climb to the Dakota Ridge Trail, hung a right and returned to the Zoro Trail and descended back to the cars at the base of Green Mountain.
Felt decent (save for a lingering dry hack from the recent illness) the whole run. Still working on fully kicking the virus, but progress is evident. Legs felt good, despite the multiple days off of late (including Saturday). Really a great day on the trails. Virtually no mud. Almost no snow/ice (save for a really sketchy steep stretch coming down from the Morrison Slide Trail that had both of us on our butts trying not to slide off the trail). Just a whole bunch of dry singletrack to whet our appetites for the coming spring (please hurry!).
3,899 feet o' elevation gain.