Monday, March 7, 2011
Leadville Mineral Belt Trail in Winter
Mineral Belt Trail
Trail run: ~7 of 11.6 miles explored
Having been busy with school the last few weekends, we snuck out for a quick getaway in the mountains. Saturday, we had a great time skiing with in-laws C&C at Copper. Rather than drive back Saturday night, we extended the weekend by staying in Leadville. To do this affordably, we tried out the fabulous Leadville Hostel for the first time, and found it to be a great place to stay. We enjoyed a quiet evening in a private room, although the place was packed with people of all ages, from kids to older adults. The hostel managers Bill and Cathy do a great job of making this a warm, comfortably place. No wonder that reservations for LT races in August are booked years in advance!
Coincidentally, our room was the only one with a LT100 poster on the door.
Was it a sign?
Yes, it was a sign that I sent in a registration check a few months ago. Huzzah!
Although we were planning on snowshoeing/skiing later in the day, I knew it would be an easy negotiation to sneak out for a run if J could sleep in. Luckily, the wind was dead calm and comfortably in the morning. I headed to Provin' Grounds for one of the most consistently perfect cups of dark roast, and a delicious fruit bran muffin (a decision I would have regretted had a gone for an even longer run).
I decided to check out the Mineral Belt trail, an 11.6 mile paved trail that surrounds the town. I've encountered it briefly during the Silver Rush 50 and some road bike exploration, but became more intrigued when Ben had mentioned a series of ski events on the trail, since the trail is groomed for classic and skate skiing in the winter. Snowshoeing is also listed as an activity, and dogs are allowed, so I figured I could try running on it as well without breaching any groomed trail etiquette. (In fact, we were surprised to find mountain bikers screaming down the Harrison Ave. hill the night before, only to learn that they were finishing the Mineral Belt Mayhem night-time race, so clearly winter biking on this trail is legit as well!)
I brought microspikes, but ended up not using them. Instead, I plodded along on the far edge of the trail, opposite the classic tracks. The trail was wide enough so that I didn't interfere with skate skiing, either.
I mostly explored the eastern section, miles 2-9 (map), which are marked by individual signposts on the trail, in addition to interpretive signs. The snow was firmly packed but the lack of traction going slightly uphill slowed me down a bit, and I took a sample mile pace at 10:00. Then I ignored the watch the rest of the time and enjoyed the views. As the trail climbs to the East, you lose sight of town and instead enter quiet, dense forests with occasional vistas of mountains in either direction, as well as historical mining equipment. For being a town recreation path, the ability to get out into the woods within minutes is quite amazing, especially on a free and groomed trail. (By 7AM, there were already no traces of the previous night's bike race).
I had plenty of fun running on this trail, but wouldn't hesitate to recommend it for XC skiing (classic or skate) and snowshoeing, either -- even as a destination for those activities.
In short, Pbville is a great destination year-round, as Brandon can better attest, though I missed him running around town on the same morning. The town has great amenities for all the basics (coffee, bars, restaurants, trails, lodging), but doesn't have the pretentiousness of the larger Summit County towns, as I still saw my fair share of surly older guys with tobacco-stained mustaches, one-eyed dogs and stray cats, and the silliness of night-time bike races and closing main street in favor of setting up snow jumps for a skijoring course.