After last weeks Thanksgiving Day trail run, I was antsy for another. Despite another few inches of snow that fell on Friday night, and into Saturday morning, I grabbed my Yak Tracks and headed northwest.
Just north of Boulder is a popular mountain biking/hiking area called Heil Valley Ranch. It is a 5,000 acre Open Space, with several multi-use trails. While I’ve heard it mentioned many times in relation to trail running, I’ve not actually made it out there. Until Saturday.
I left my place just as the snow was tapering off and the sun was starting to show its pretty face. An half hour later, I’m at the trailhead strapping on the Yak Tracks. I’m definitely going to need them today!
With a quick look over the map, I decide on the Wapiti Trail; a 2.5 mile section that connects to several loops on the back side of the ranch. I know I’ll at least get a 5 miler with an out and back, but depending on how I feel, I’ll connect to another 2.5 mile loop, Ponderosa Loop.
I set out at a slow pace, as I make my way uphill, trudging through snow. I’m quickly feeling the 5900 feet of elevation. Combined with all of the high knees I’m doing, to get above the snow, I’m winded! And a little shocked! Shouldn’t I be in better shape than this? I remind myself to keep it slow, enjoy the run. This is good for me and I’m becoming a stronger runner through this.
While there is a lot of snowfall, there is some exposed rock. I occasionally slip, but the Yak Tracks keep me from some potential falls. A few times, the Yak Tracks slip to the side of my shoe, depending on how I’ve hit a rock, but with a quick adjustment, they are righted and I’m off again.
I meet up at the Ponderosa Loop and, despite the 800 foot elevation gain (I’m now at 6700 ft), I am feeling pretty good. My breathing has adjusted to the pace and the ups and downs of the trail. I opt to keep on going, even if for another 1/2 mile. Now, the trail is completely covered. No mountain biker or cross country skier has dared to go beyond this point. So, the fun begins, with making my own trail!
I go on for another mile, and at 3.5, I turn around. The run down is much quicker, though my ankles take a small beating as I find my footing on the snow-covered rocks. I was pretty sure they would be sore today, but they fell okay!
As I’m careening down the trail, I hear the gobbling of some nearby turkeys. And, I get this view:
Heil Valley is a great trail run in the snow! I wonder how easy it would be to traverse on a dry day. I’ll definitely be revisiting, so I can explore some of the other loops as well.
7 miles/1:22/11:51 pace