Saturday, March 5, 2011

Buffalo Creek - Long Run

Solid 28-mile run around much of the North Fork 50/50K course in the Buffalo Creek area of the Pike National Forest.

Time:  4:26
Distance: 28.1 miles
Effort: Easy/Long
Body: Average
Weather: Partly sunny & cool

Met up with Patrick G. at JeffCo's Pine Valley Ranch at 6:30 a.m. Wasn't long at all before we were heading out along an old narrow gauge rail bed and taking a bridge over the North Fork of the South Platte River. We were bound for the day's first climb, the Strawberry Jack Trail, which is part of the North Fork 50/50K course. (This year's race is July 16th).

The plan for the day was to run much of the North Fork course, only backwards. Map here.

At the top of the Strawberry Jack Trail, we hung a left onto Homestead and ran it to its intersection with the Sandy Wash Trail.  Rather than hang a right here to continue on the backwards 50K course, we continued onto Sandy Wash and ran it to Buffalo Creek Road (now closed post-1996 Buffalo Creek fire).  This section is part of the 50-mile course.  We opted to deviate from the 50K course in order to avoid the Gashouse Gulch Trail, which was expected to be icy and treacherous.

Most all the trails in this part of the forest were clear of snow and ice. With so little tree cover left after the Buffalo Creek fire, the area gets PLENTY of sun (just ask anyone that ran last year's race).

After cruising along the road for a couple miles, we hung a left up the Morrison Creek Trail, which is a long, steady climb to a dirt road and an intersection with the Colorado Trail. The CO Trail section had a lot of snow and ice on it. Thankfully, it was all runnable.

Partrick cruising along the upper reaches of the Morrison Creek Trail
Making my way along the Morrison Creek Trail toward the Colorado Trail
After a good bit of ups and downs, we hung a right on Tramway and descended back down to Buffalo Creek Road. Just a few minutes up the road was the day's last climb - Baldy Trail.  Baldy is a fun climb. Its grades are gentle, but steady, and it tops out at a cool rock formation.  From the top, it was a flatish run on a perfect, soft ribbon of singletrack to the Miller Gulch Trail.

Patrick running toward the Baldy Trail junction
A quick re-fueling break at the top of the climb on the Baldy Trail
Somewhere in here we missed a turn and ended up running a couple miles on a dirt road to the Skipper/Buck Gulch Trailhead. Twice near the end of this road, we both involuntarily ducked as gunshots rang out seemingly within range of the road we were on. Turns out there was a dad and his kid (both tricked out in full cammo) shooting at targets next to their truck.

Safely away from weapons, we hopped on the Buck Gulch Trail and began a speedy descent back toward Pine Valley Ranch (passing the only two other trail users we saw all day) through a nice mix of ponderosa and fire-opened lands.  We picked up the pace as we hit the final descent back down to the North Fork of the South Platte River, getting in a couple miles of quality downhill to close out the day.

Felt like this was a very solid run. Body held up well. Still had some energy in the tank at the end. No major rough spots. This was my longest run by about five miles since last October. Feeling comfortably fatigued now.

All-in-all, a great close to a very solid week of running. Really good to get out and share some mileage with Patrick, who is putting up some big miles with the Way Too Cool 50K and Cheyenne Mountain 50K on the near-term race calendar.  Thanks, Patrick, for putting out the call on this one. Good times.

3,836 feet of elevation gain.


  1. Thanks for joining in on the fun. Next time I attempt to play tour guide I'll try not to get us lost/shot at!

  2. Great run, that dirt looks perfect!
    You seem a goos 2,000 miles from where you were a few weeks ago when you were sick ;-)

  3. Excellent spring running. Good homework for SJS, Bear. Assuming the "niggles" have cleared?

  4. Jim P. - Must be a great feeling, after your tough winter. That's some good mileage.

    I really like those trails, but I need to find someone about 2/3 your guys' speed to run it with. It gets a little spooky way out there for a solo.

  5. PG - I wish I could blame you for the missed turn. I've been out there at least a dozen times between mtn biking and running. Never missed it before... Next time, I'm bringing my own gun.

    RIck - Can't tell you how good it is to be rid of the flu!

    GZ - Niggles (heel & lower ab) are still there...always in the background. Taking care, though, to manage them as best as I can. So far, so good.

    MTR2 - So good to be out in the sticks and 75 percent on pure dirt. Bliss.