North Boulder Trails and Sofa Search

by Paul Thompson and Shamala Kandiah Thompson
We’d chosen a good weekend to come here. While Boulder was a balmy 50 degrees farenheit, New York was experiencing its first real snowfall of the year. Snow and ice underfoot make for hard work, especially when running off-road.

Paul on the North Foothills trail

When we bought our apartment in North Boulder the big draw was ease of access to a network of off-road trails. Some, such as the North Foothills and Wonderland Lake, are a stone’s throw from the front door. These are great for shorter runs but after a while we started looking around for something that would work for longer, more challenging runs.

We found a great network of trails just north of us. You can run for miles with just the view of the Flatirons, Foothills and the plain stretching east for company. The trails are designated multi-use, gently undulating but rocky in parts. And this is where we headed for our run today.

Paul’s Run
I started right from the front door of the apartment while Shamala drove to the trailhead. I like this type of straight-out-the-door kind of running. The weather was perfect: light breeze and a cloudless blue sky. As this was day one at altitude (North Boulder is about 5500 feet above sea level) I was planning a relatively easy 90 minute run.

North Broadway was already a busy thoroughfare of cyclists heading north. I left the city limits behind me as I crossed Route 36 and went from tarmac to mud pack road and then finally off-road trail.

A marmot on the look-out for runners

The Cobalt Trail starts just north of the North Foothills Trailhead, which is where I caught up with Shamala. It starts rocky but as it descends towards the Boulder Valley Ranch Trailhead it gives over to softer ground – soft enough for marmots who pock mark the trail with their burrows and squeak incessantly, presumably to alert family and friends of my trespassing through their backyard.

A cowboy on his horse

Reaching the  Boulder Valley Ranch Trailhead, a parking lot filled with vehicles of runners, cyclists, walkers and horse riders, I ran due north along Left Hand of the North Boulder Valley Trail. It’s a dusty, rugged and undulating trail and makes a number of small dips and switchbacks as it navigates small creaks, and two lakes. I had the trail to myself bar a few mountain bikers and a horserider who looked like he was straight off the set of Brokeback Mountain.

On the way out the Foothill views to the left slowly unfold. For Shamala they unfolded more slowly (her words not mine) and she turned back after the second lake, while I kept going until the trail ended. At the trailhead a sign indicated that this was once Arapahoe land. I ran another two miles on the packed mud roads common to the area. These roads make for fast running – the Kenyan group  featured in the blogumentary, Chasing Kimbia, trained on them a lot.

I retraced my steps back to North Boulder, taking a short detour, trading a long relentless climb up the Cobalt Trail for a short steep over-in-a minute climb. As I crested the climb and Boulder came into view I was greeted by a warm headwind. I’d been out for 98 minutes and logged 14 miles. So much for an easy run.

Paul heading back on the Valley Trail

Our after-run treat was coffee and pastries at Spruce Confections, our favorite North Boulder coffee haunt, as the frequent coffee points testify. It does great scones with fillings like pecan and blueberry. They actually bake their stuff on site. Plus there’s free wifi which enabled us to write this post.

We got there just ahead of a MAMIL cycling group (middle-aged men in lycra) who had just finished their long Sunday morning ride. Boulder is a magnet to those seeking an active lifestyle, regardless of age. It was recently rated the 4th Best US Town in 2011 by Outside Magazine and is home to some of the world’s top runners, cyclists, triathletes, mountain bikers, and rock climbers.

Another reason for coming to Boulder this weekend was to continue furnishing our apartment. On our last trip in October 2011 we got a bed and bedding: we are too old for the floor and in any case we are not students anymore. This time we were hoping to find a sofa, and maybe even a dining table and chairs. We checked out Concepts Furniture, and shortlisted a sleeper sofa. Unconvinced by the chocolate brown color, we headed to their sister store in nearby Longmont where we found exactly the same for less in burgundy. It was a tie break so we resolved to sleep on it, metaphorically at least.

For dinner we decided to check out the neighborhood pizza joint – Proto’s Pizza. We’d just missed Happy Hour, something Boulder has a reputation for. We shared a large Pontiff Pie pizza which, with the help of a pint of wheat and amber beer, we managed to reduce to a few crumbs. It was, of course, divine. No doggy-bag needed. It’s a good thing we’d done a long run earlier in the day.

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