Pawnee - (Buchanan) Loop
I've been reading a lot about this loop for a while now and I figured I was finally in good enough shape to go for it. My friend Dre who had been living at sea level for the past few months and who had never completed a run of more than 15 miles also figured he would come along.
We woke up to a pretty decent rain in Boulder but figured we'd head up and check the trail out if nothing else. Weather was fine, and we found a turnoff on the side of the road to catch some amazing sunrise views:
|Dre had a much nicer camera than I did, so any picture that looks good is his.|
I had never been to this trail before, but I read you had to pay for parking so when I saw a nearby free lot we went for it. Definitely not worth being cheap here as this tacked on about 2.5 miles of road to the beginning and end of the run. We suffered through the quick road miles before getting to the Brainard Lake trail head. Right off the bat, there were three moose grazing in some bushes right off the road!
|A bit hard to see, but they were big!|
It would seem the mountains got the first of the rain as the trail was pretty wet with puddles all over, still nothing that would do too much soaking of the shoes. Another couple of pictures of the early trail from Dre.
|Cruising over the flat right after Brainard Lake and finally off of the road|
|Perfect mountain scenery here|
Pretty amazing views the whole time. We were trying the loop in a clockwise direction, so Pawnee pass was up first in the distance out of site on the right. We trekked along Long Lake and took the trail up to the pass right before Lake Isabelle. The climb up the pass was Dre's first big run climb at the kind of altitude so we definitely mixed in some power hiking (not that I was necessarily breezing up either), but we were able to stay at a nice jog 80% of the time. Here is a shot about 30% up the climb.
And began the decent down the western side of Pawnee. I really liked the decent on that side. The loose gravel, sharp turns and boulder hopping makes for an exciting ride. Dre was overwhelmed by the scenery and eventually we had to set some rules on how often he could stop and take pictures.
|Dre After a mandatory 20 minute "no photos" period, also nearby where the iPhone went missing.|
Continuing down, we went pass Lone Eagle Peak, a mountain I had really been excited to see. I think it must be more impressive from up close, because the pictures made it look much cooler than it looked from a distance. We continued down till my GPS hit the 13 mile mark (approximately half way), and we stopped to calorize with some sandwiches. It was at this point that we realized that the iPhone 5 Dre had conveniently placed in his unzipped shorts side pocket (probably a poor choice) was missing! He remembered having it recently so we backtracked about a half mile with no luck. We ate our sandwiches then decided we would just make the loop an out and back, on the off chance we would find his phone on the second try. Second group of hikers we see asked us if we had lost a phone. Miracles happen I suppose! Because of all the focus on finding the lost phone, we skimped on pictures in this area. Dre has a couple he hasn't posted himself or sent to me that I might add though. Still we were already well into the climb back to Pawnee so the loop to Buchanan would be another day. I've read going counter-clockwise is the easier way, but I just have to say here that the Western side of Pawnee was a brutal climb. Already at his farthest/highest/hardest run ever, Dre was really starting feel the exhaustion. He really powered through and did fantastic. He had to hike just about all of the climb but he held a fast pace not far behind me. Pretty impressive especially considering how huge of a step this was in his running. I felt like doing a bit of climbing so I scrambled onto some little pillar thing and ended up with a pretty neat shot (again courtesy of Dre):
This climb is really cool but it really sucks. Really steep and difficult (for me at least) to maintain a run. I found myself cycling through power hike, run, pause for 5 breathes and repeating. It seemed fun afterwards
but not during.
|We thought this rock looked like an Easter Island head.|
|Still can't believe there are guys that can race up these sort of things.|
We got to the top of Pawnee for the second time with Dre's "sealevelness" being heavily felt. The whole pass was essentially inside of a cloud. So few pictures were taken after this one that shows the cloudiness.
|Eastern side of the pass being overtaken by clouds|
At this point the calories from my lunch, seemed to finally hit so I was feeling really good and was able to work the downhill at pretty fast pace, especially once the trail turned from rocky to dirt. A light rain started just before we got back below timberline. Felt really good until I got back to the road where my fatigue started setting in more. We were forced to walk a bit at the beginning as there were more moose sitting right on the roadside. We probably got within 10 ft, and did not want to startle it. I was just ready to be done so I still tried to push it on the 2.5 miles of road back to car. At the car I was definitely tired, but the thought definitely crossed my mind of going for a 30 mile or 50km sometime - another day perhaps. Still can't believe we found a lost iPhone in the middle of the mountains. Also we didn't run fast enough to make it to the CU v CSU game. Shucks.
I did a few other trails around boulder this week too, including a flagstaff run with Dre, Mt Sanitas and Royal Arch as well as easy barefoot days in between the climb days.
Totals: 26 miles, 4,200 ft gain (felt like more), 7:39 total time, with an average pace of 17:40 with the breaks included.