Welcome back, and please consider subscribing if you haven’t already, or recommend this newsletter to a friend.
I’ve lived here year-round enough years now to recognize a pattern: by late February, I am daydreaming about grassy wildflower-filled meadows and single-track trails ascending above tree line. I’m ready for the big melt to begin.
It may not happen until mid-May. The Durango Weather Guy—the most reliable weather blogger in this region—wrote yesterday, “I don’t think that winter is going to end anytime soon. When I look at the long-term extended forecast out through April 13, I see above-average precipitation and well below-average temperatures. This increases my confidence that the SW San Juans and Purgatory may be taking a run at the 2018-2019 winter season snow totals. Many of our rivers were running at or near the flood stages in 2019.” (2019 was the summer the Hardrock 100 canceled due to excessive snowpack and avalanche damage.)
Of course, I’m grateful for this season’s strong snowpack. I want it to melt and flow from the high country all summer long, making its way to the Colorado River. Last year’s snowpack evaporated too quickly due to strong winds and warm temperatures, but fortunately, a good monsoon rain season prevented wildfires. There’s no such thing as “too much” snow. A decade from now, we could be like this sad resort in Virginia that closed Sunday due to warm temps and lack of snow.
And yet, the snow is making me cranky and frazzled. I actually yelled “fuck this!” at least four times last Friday when I was trying to navigate the road between our driveway and my brother’s driveway, but the drifts were so high and the traction underneath so icy that, for the second time that day, my Subaru Crosstrek spun and lodged into a drift. I couldn’t open the driver-side door because a snowbank blocked it. This happened only 20 minutes after the brakes had locked and tires skidded on a sheet of ice, and I barely avoided slamming into the car in front of me. I got a shovel and dug out, again.
The region received such a big dump last week (and is due to again today), combined with wind, that drifts several feet thick covered our long driveway. I relied on my husband Morgan to get our temperamental Bobcat skid steer running again and clear it. We bought the 2005 model used several years ago, and Morgan gave me a few lessons on how to operate it, but it’s so unpleasant and awkward—so many buttons and handles to operate to make it go forward, back, and lift the bucket up and down, while it rattles and belches fumes—that I gave up. He operates the skid steer while I shovel our front walkway.
We have a division of labor in our marriage, a lot of it based on traditional gender roles, and for the most part, I don’t mind, because it works—for example, I wash and fold the laundry and plan our meals while he tinkers with the irrigation system and restocks our wood pile. I know I could do those jobs too, I just prefer to let him do them. Except when it comes to the skid steer, then I feel helpless and intimidated. That monstrous, complicated vehicle is such a pain to operate, I’d rather not learn it, and besides, Morgan is quite good at working it. But my over-reliance on him and that skid steer makes me feel grumpy and vulnerable when we get a big snow.
The last storm was so powerful, and covered our driveway with such deep drifts, that even Morgan couldn’t get the Bobcat through. It wound up lodged in a snowbank, and the tires spun in spite of their thick chains.
We carried bundles of firewood up the driveway and stuck them under the tires, trying to gain traction, but still those tires spun. We were stuck until a good-hearted neighbor rescued us the next day with his bigger Bobcat that pulled ours free. It was kind of a karma thing, since Morgan keeps a tow line in his truck and pulls other drivers out of ditches during wintertime. Helping neighbors and passers-by on these backroads is expected around here; calling AAA or the sheriff is a last resort.
Living here is scenic, peaceful, and at time idyllic, but coping with the elements goes with it. We have to dig out and de-ice our cars every morning since we didn’t build a garage (opting for a barn instead). And we have to post-hole a path to the barn and make sure the chickens stay alive with a heat lamp in the coop and limited access to the outdoors. At least our pipes haven’t frozen yet, unlike at my brother’s cabin across the road.
When I was in Arizona the prior weekend for the Black Canyon Ultras, I did a short shake-out run through the suburban development of North Phoenix near my hotel. I found myself running down a half-finished road with fencing covered by signs for a new senior living complex under construction. The signs promised an active and social lifestyle for residents 55 and older. (Wait, 55?! That’s me in two years!)
It got me thinking, would I ever gravitate toward that kind of community where it’s easy to get around, and you have built-in friends and caregivers? My parents did. They also rented out their cabin (the one across the road where my brother now lives) in wintertime, spending half the year in warmer, lower-altitude communities. Living where I live now became too difficult for my folks. Will it for me, too, someday?
I can’t fathom giving up the high-altitude mountain lifestyle on a dirt road that we have now, but eventually, it likely will prove too challenging and tiresome to take care of the land and our animals. That future scenario is too depressing to contemplate, so I’ll embrace and deeply appreciate this way of life now—even on days when we get stuck and have to call for help—and hope it will keep us younger and healthier than any master-planned community ever would.
When I feel cooped up like the chickens, I like to calendar and plan some getaways. I’ve already planned a bucket-list Grand Canyon Rim to Rim to Rim run with a group of women friends for mid-May. This summer, I’d also like Morgan and me to take some long weekends with the dogs to explore parts of Colorado still unfamiliar to us.
This is the list I developed of destinations in the state I’d like to explore. What might you recommend adding to this list? Please comment below; or, if you have recommendations of what to see and do, or trails to run, around the areas, please let me know.
Creede and the Weminuche Wilderness: I’ve never been to this historic mining town southeast of Lake City, on the other side of the San Juan Mountains, but I’ve been curious about it ever since reading Pam Houston’s memoir Deep Creek about her ranch there. I also haven’t explored the Weminuche, the vast wilderness area that that spreads out from the southeast part of the Hardrock 100’s route. A camping and sightseeing long weekend there is overdue for us. Or, I might consider volunteering at the Creede 100 ultra, which looks like a really special relatively new race in late August.
Steamboat: The only time I visited Steamboat Springs was back in 2017 for the Run Rabbit Run 100. Now that I’m signed up for RRR100 again in September, I’d like to return during summer to pre-run a segment of the course that changed and became more difficult since the 2017 version, and to see the sights. My friend Cara Marrs (a nutritionist spotlighted in this post) co-directs the Steamboat Springs Running Series of races—a bunch of summertime races both trail and road, mostly sub-ultra distances—so I’ll tap her as a guide!
Fort Collins: For whatever reason, I’ve never been up north to see Fort Collins. My son Kyle got a summer job at a remote guest ranch in the national forest northwest of there, where he’ll help manage a herd of horses and guide guests (#proudmom). I want to go through FoCo to visit a nephew who lives there, see the town, and make my way to see Kyle and the ranch. Some summer (but not this one), I’d also like to venture east of Fort Collins, to the small town of Gould, to run the Never Summer 100K in late July, which I’ve heard only good things about.
Pikes Peak: I have never been up this iconic mountain. Will this be the summer? The Pikes Peak Marathon/Ascent takes place the same weekend in September as Run Rabbit Run, so I won’t do that event this year, but I’d like to run (make that, hike) the route, ideally with Olga King as my guide. Visiting Colorado Springs again wouldn’t be a bad idea, and it’s also a chance to connect with Aravaipa Colorado’s Monday night group run, and/or to get my butt kicked again by the Manitou Incline.
If you’re looking for more ideas of where to go in Colorado this summer, I invite you to read these posts on places we explored last year:
Zapata Ranch near Alamosa and the Great Sand Dunes National Park
Camping near Silver Jack Reservoir in the Cimarrons (near Ridgway and Ouray)
The West End of southwest Colorado (article for Telluride Magazine) and the Hanging Flume 50K’s route and history
Tiger Lily and her tragic backstory
A brief life update: We adopted a beautiful, sweet 3-year-old cat from the local Humane Society after learning she had been abandoned. We gave her a double name, Tiger Lily, because she looks and sometimes acts like a tiger but mostly is affectionate and gentle like a lily.
She spent five months of last year in a shelter, after her first owners surrendered her for some reason, and then she was adopted last August by a young woman. That woman died alone in her cabin by Trout Lake, near Telluride, from fentanyl-laced cocaine on January 27, and the cat was left alone for three weeks while a neighbor fed her and tried to get extended family to take the cat. By mid-February, the Telluride Humane Society heard that no family members could care for her, so she was put up for adoption. Their Instagram Reel about her plight and the loss of her owner brought me to tears.
It’s just plain awful and terrifying how fentanyl is spreading. Telluride always has had a party-hard drug culture heavy on coke (Glenn Frey’s mid-’80s tune “Smuggler’s Blues” includes the line, “They move it through Miami, sell it in L.A. / They hide it up in Telluride, I mean it's here to stay”). Now that drug scene is potentially much more deadly. Our local paper reported on the cat owner’s death, and the county sheriff’s perspective, last week with this note: “What’s most concerning to [the sheriff] on the county crime front is a failure by the system to address the fentanyl issue. In late January, there was another fentanyl-related death in the county, the fourth such death in the previous 16 months, all while numerous individuals are being charged in the county with possession and intention to sell suspected fentanyl.”
I don’t have any clue what to do about it, other than spread awareness (hence the paragraph above) and to advocate for better access to rehab and counseling, which is sorely lacking in our region.
Meanwhile, our animal-heavy household will shower this cat with care and love, and I’ll keep donating and expressing deep gratitude to the Telluride Humane Society and Second Chance Humane Society that do so much for animal welfare in our region.
Colorado Mountain Running & Living is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Lol, these photos of you with the community signs are amazing.
R2R2R is life-changing, limitless. Have you done it before?