Some Colorado Memories

The Colorado trip somehow seems bigger, albeit distant, than most these days here in the east.

I think to Garret it was no big deal to try and hike/run the three (four?) 14,000 foot peaks in a single day.  But not being acclimated and not being in the same shape as him, I think it was an ambitious goal.  Nonetheless that day stands out in my memory; it stands clearly from all the other unconscious days I’ve spent being.

Like any other Colorado summer day, the storms rolled into the mountains in the late afternoon.  We pushed past two of the summits of the named Ivy League peaks. There was a certain texture to the gray brown rock fields as we got higher and higher, listening to the sound of yourself breathing like a deep sea diver as the green grass of summer fades away to the bare unconsolidated ridge line.

The scree field on the backside after the second summit proved the most challenging. George the Kenyan running dog was afraid. I did not want to crush him with a boulder.  I held him by the collar.  Gingerly.  We descended slowly; we made it down.  Cautiously.  The rain and storms rolled in as we ran awkwardly over hummucks, along a fast flowing mountain stream.

Garret was feeling good.  He would run back and grab the station wagon.  I said fine.  I kept plodding on.  At some point I arrived at a creek crossing where it wasn’t clear the direction forward. It was a three way intersection, a medium sized creek. I chose forward, barefoot first, carrying my shoes through the cold knee deep water. I returned back across the creek. I looked right, I looked behind me, back up the mountain.  I wasn’t certain the direction they could’ve gone. The sky was gray and the rain continued.  Then I saw it, the direction forward was left, down what could only be described as a narrow two-lane corridor.  The creek ran with less urgency and it was maybe 8 inches deep, but it was the only way.  There was no foot-track, everything was under water, but there were signs of humans nearby, a park service encampment was visible across the the stream and uphill.  I plodded forward in the cold wetness until I found the dry trail; I stayed the course.

At the road I turned right.  That was the communiqué, “Turn right”.  No more than fifteen or thirty minutes later on the road the headlights of a spruce pearl 1990’s Subaru Legacy wagon became visible, Garret and George were warm inside. I hopped in, soaking wet and cold, but ecstatic. It was done. I’d made it.

Wissahickon Four Corners Run

Finally finished (or started, depending how you look at it) the ‘Four Corners’ of Fairmount Park’s Wissahickon trail system.  The Four Corners are loosely defined as (starting in the northwest in a clockwise fashion):

  1. The Tree House
  2. Northwestern Ave. Stables
  3. Rittenhouse Town
  4. Kelpius’ Hermit Cave

I’ll say that aesthetically those are the four corners, but true geographic corners  are really defined by slightly less notable landmarks, namely:

  1. Where the ‘Meadow Loop’ trail of the Andorra Natural Area starts heading north/northeast (by the house in the corner @ ~ 900 block of Northwestern Ave).  Note: black connector trail is closed for restoration so you’ll need to follow the Meadow Loop to the blue trail which will take you to the Tree House on the red trail (if you want more mileage / quality running you could finish out the red trail before heading to the next corner).
  2. The corner of Germantown & Northwestern Aves (there is occasionally a water tap/hose on the sidewalk in front of Bruno’s Restuarant; I asked at the stables they said they had no public water access).
  3. The Sunoco on Wissahickon Ave. / W. Rittenhouse St.
  4. And finally, the 100 Stairs that lead up to Freeland Ave (I usually bear right at the top and onto the dirt trails, which lead to the Hermit’s Cave).

If you include most of the Cresheim Creek Trail and continue to bear left or right (depending whether you’re going clockwise/counter) and stay on all outer/upper trails the total will be in the 21-24 mile range, I think ~22.5 miles sounds about right for my loop, my GPS was a bit wonky and read 24.4 miles but I think that was long (compared to half loops that I’d done previously).

My upper loop took about 2 hours and then the lower loop almost 3 hours.  If you exclude my stop at Sunoco it still wasn’t particularly fast.  I found the final 2 hours pretty challenging.  I am signed up for the Dam Full Marathon (formerly the R. B. Winter Trail Challenge) in Bald Eagle State Forest in the middle of September so hopefully I can get in at least one more long run before then.

Here’s the Garmin data:


Wissahickon Four Corners Google Earth

Wissahickon Four Corners on Google Earth