Monday, July 12, 2010


Photo used without permission from Justin Calvert

Horsetooth Rock
~38 miles roundtrip
Some climbing

My wife and I happily bought our first condo 3 years ago with a great view facing West. We've enjoyed watching literally hundreds of sunsets from our patio, often while eating dinner outside, exceeded only by our enjoyment of watching electrical storms roll through. I've been able to appreciate how the sun sets in various different notches in the foothills at various times of year, and how the ambient light at sunset has a strikingly different spectrum of colour to it in the summer versus the harsh flatness of the winter. We have dozens of pictures of unique sunsets -- I shall retrieve one later and put it in this post.

Staring off the patio or out the kitchen window, certain peaks catch my interest. In the far corner of the window on a clear day, Longs Peak lords above everything. Naturally, I wanted to head out my door to climb out, and was happy to do so last September. Closer in is Horsetooth Rock, which dominates the Fort Collins foothills skyline, and is one of the most popular hikes for locals and visitors alike. The Rock is a re-assuring landmark to the West, visible from anywhere in town, a beacon that calls us up higher, where we can look further West to the big mountains, and look down East on our happy town, and look even further East and be glad we don't live there.

I've duathlon'ed Horsetooth before, as well as skied (I used that term loosely, as there's always lots of rocks to pick around) most of the way up and down, but I've never run right from my house. While I'm a bicycle apologist and quite happy to use mechanical advantage, there's something even more primal about heading up something tall, from your own home, with your own two feet. Now, Nick and Tony regularly head up their respective mountains from their front doors on the edge of the foothills, but I need to pick my way through a couple hours of suburbia to get there and back, similar to Brandon's run up Green from his house.
So I had this one on the list for a day where I didn't feel like driving or biking anywhere.

Anyway, headed out the door at 6AM. Still need to get a small camera to make some of these reports more interesting. Nothing really notable about this run, except for I carried 2 bottles instead of one, and I brought a host of assorted packaged endurance pseudo-pharmaceutical faux food. A note about this: J was cleaning the cupboard and asked about getting rid of various packs of gels and shot-blocks and other trademarked things taking up space, random objets d'calorie that I've received as a gift or in race goodie bags, so I brought all this junk instead of my usual heavier and labor-intensive PB&J sandwiches, etc.

I think the shortest, most direct route ends up around 32 miles round-trip, but I wanted more trail, some scenery, and a loop, so I headed to Coyote Ridge first. Up the ridge, down into the valley, enjoying the cool shade of the morning, and white, purple, and yellow wildflowers popping up everywhere. None of this run was particularly new, until I got to the new Blue Sky Trailhead: "They paved paradise/and put up a parking lot." There, I had a convenient place to fill my bottles and get a drink, even though Soderberg wasn't much further. I headed through the campground, buzzing with morning activities and the smell of camp breakfast wafting in the air, before reaching the Soderberg TH.

Now, on the up-and-up, up Towers consistently but in no particular hurry, where I saw a few folks enjoying the day, before peeling off onto Herrington, to Spring Creek, and Wathan. At the last bit of the HT trail to the top, a couple of ladies were resting with their dog. I headed past, and had the top to myself -- here I was worried that it would be crowded on a weekend! I scanned around in both directions, wondering what's out yonder in those mountains, and what everyone was doing below on a gorgeous Sunday morning -- worshipping man-made gods in man-made houses? Listening to the same stories about wandering the desert and preaching on mountain tops? All the while, us heathens are doomed, our butts not on a bench.

Ah, I think too much, this is not good, time to head back down. Wathan to Westridge to Towers. Debated staying high and going through Lory, which is what I guess the cool kids do, but got worried about water, so I called it a day, climbing-wise, and headed back down. More water at the TH, campers packing up from the weekend, lots of boats on trailers heading up. Took the pavement around the reservoir, so I could head to JJ's. I enjoy looking at the reservoir, sure; drinking it's water, yes; but also try to imagine how the canyons looked before The Flood. And, how much more quickly I'd be able to get up there without having to go around!

Back down to JJ's for an blue Icee. I'll rant against HFCS all week, then hypocritically suck it down as frozen slush on the weekend, but don't tell anyone. Also don't tell anyone that I rarely get charged when I fill my mug, let alone full price, but I do try to remember to patronize them for gasoline on that side of town. I don't know if this is for everyone, or just Sweaty People That Look Like Death, but historically I've ended up with free fountain drinks in numerous locales, and I'm not complaining.

Icee made me feel better, though I felt pretty decent the whole run. Had some general fatigue at points right before I ate, but I have to remind myself that eating/drinking, possibly a short rest, and just keeping on the move and it will pass. Ended up being around 38 miles, had to add up numbers on the HT map and I've already mapped out other sections. Feeling good overall, and happy to climb a hunk of rock from my door and be back home for lunch.


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  2. 'Housetooth' is the name of the 'trail' from my house. Most of the East side of this 'trail' is Class 1, but don't be fooled: there are still a fair number of chances to get clobbered by drivers on cell phones.

    I kept an eye out for you (might have been why I tripped once on Westridge!) but thought you were still in the San Juans. Otherwise, I would have happily met up, especially if you had extra water!

    I was planning on being gone in 2 wknds, as my wife will be out of town and I'll have the car to go fool around both days, but I'll see how it's looking that week. Are you starting from your house, FKT, or any other options?

  3. Car to the TH and then up and down from there. And yes, I'm looking to break the FKT coz I'm stupid competitive like that.

    Not sure Sat or Sun - either will work at this point, but definitely an early (like early, early) start.

  4. I've thought of doing the Htooth summit from the house idea as well but always decide to burn a little fuel to get to a trailhead instead. I'll be running/hiking up and around Longs this weekend. I'll give you a report. I will also be sure to lower that FKT to make Nick work a little harder. What is the FKT anyway (Ranger Station TH, keyhole route)?

  5. Rob, here's some FKT info, but maybe Nick has more up-to-date stuff?
    (2nd one doesn't have Longs on it?)

    In town, don't discount riding a bike to the TH, for a workout and to save $$ if nothing else. True, I use a road bike for longer trips (it has now averaged out to have cost less than a nickel per mile), but I've ridden a freebie/junker bike I got on the side of the road to various THs and never had problems. (I also drive hundreds of miles, hypocritically, to do other hikes and runs though -- but the point is it's a good workout and a great town for riding) Have fun at Longs! Curious about updates as well, looking to take the wife up there in early August now that she's trained!

    Nick, good luck! I'm leaning towards heading to Aspen that weekend. I do contend that you might shave some noticeable time off whatever you do next week if you run Longs again on a weekday in September when there are less gapers!

  6. Guys, I'm heading up Tuesday am for that stab at the FKT. Rob, as I understand it the FKT is 1:49 for the ascent. Any intel on conditions would be greatly appreciated.

  7. Sweet! I think that's a smart move, I would hate for you to lose minutes (or even legitimate safety risks) from crowds. Excited to hear the results!