Long Run in Eldorado Canyon, Boulder

by Paul Thompson

After several days running in the 70sF and scorching sun, Saturday morning was cold and cloudy in Boulder. It was in the high 40s with dark clouds promising rain when Lucas Hartley, a Warren Street team mate who had relocated to Denver over a year ago from New York City, pulled up outside my apartment at 7:30am for a run in Eldorado Canyon State Park, 6 miles south of Boulder.

He had the car for the occasion. A white Jeep Wrangler. The question was would we share the same off road ability. Twenty minutes later and we were at the trailhead. Clouds obscured the upper reaches of the canyon walls, popular with rock climbers.

Would we be as good at offroading as the Jeep?

Off we went. Within a few minutes a combination of steep gradient, rocky underfoot and altitude (the trailhead is at 6000ft) was severely testing the lungs as well as muscles I never knew I had. Fortunately it was too early for my mind to register what was going on.

Luke – all set for a long hilly trail run

Luke is like me. He can talk the hind legs off a donkey. We competed for the airwaves whenever we could catch our breath. When he had the upperhand he explained how he and his wife had stop wishing they lived the life they wanted to live and just started living it. They traded in the high roller city life in New York for the active outdoor life in Denver – biking, running, skiing and more within a short drive from their home.

We ran the Eldorado Canyon Trail.  It gains over 1,000ft in elevation and intersects the Walker Ranch Loop making it a 14 mile roller coaster lollipop-loop run (Eldorado Canyon Trail-3.5 miles, Walker Ranch Loop-7 miles, back to the Inner Canyon on Eldorado Canyon Trail-3.5 miles). All in all the elevation gain was some 3000ft.

The weather varied from dry and still to wet and windy while the outlook changed from canyon floor to mountain top. At times the cold driving rain turned our hands red with cold. But every so often a window opened in the cloud and we caught glimpses of the spectacular scenery – towering sandstone cliffs and alpine like meadows. It took our breath away. As if we had any left to give.

As we descended back to the car we saw a coal train skirting the cliffs across the canyon. The Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad, the mainline through the Rockies and one of North America’s most famous railroads. The rail road dates back to the 1870s and includes a 6.2 mile tunnel under the 11,000ft Rollins Pass. There was only one word for it. Awesome. And that’s just how we felt.

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