Trail running: Mushroom Rock

It’s 1 p.m. on a Friday, I’m standing on a dusty rock, and there are three things I desperately need: water, water, and water.

Out here in Colorado, there’s a saying: “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes,” because apparently the weather is notorious for changing on a whim. Well, I’ve waited that five minutes, and the furnace blast that decided to settle in the valley of Carbondale has only intensified. It’s the middle of March, 6,181 feet in elevation, snow still caked in shaded areas, and here I am running up a mountain in shorts, wondering if somehow I transported myself to the deserts of Arizona.
It is, in fact, my first trail run since I first began trail running in Arizona, and I’m nostalgic. The initial high I got from spidering over boulders, darting between cacti, chasing the sunset and hurdling through unmarked paths as I ran from coyotes—it was all coming back to me in a different time, different place….

And yet as I’m standing on this dusty rock, certain to pass out as I evaporate away, I’m wondering just why the heck I ever missed it.

But that thought quickly evaporated too, because where else would I rather be with a view like this?


Just as it is in Arizona, so it is here—a wild, alluring panorama that makes it hard to ever want to leave. So the suffering was well worth it, and totally my fault, anyway. In the desert, it was a given that I’d need my Camelbak for hiking, trail running…walking from the car to the house. But in the snowy mountains in March, I didn’t even consider it. The thing is, the sun is still closer than what I was used to back home in Maryland, so when the clouds are gone, it could be in the single digits and you’re still warming up. Throw in a freak nearly 65 degrees and you’re scaling a mountain blinded, roasting, and coated in salty sweat. Woohoo!

So on my first trail run in about a year, I learned to make my Camelbak my best friend, no matter the weather. I also learned that TRAIL RUNNING SHOES would be nice for TRAIL RUNNING (I have some, I just thought I could get away with my flat, road shoes….until I nearly skated down a crag).


Skip ahead a few days, and now its 1 p.m. on a Tuesday, I’m standing on an icy rock, and there is one thing I desperately need: gloves.

That Colorado saying turned from five minutes to five days, but, nonetheless, here we are in the same landscape, completely different world. When I was dying of heat on Friday, now I’m charging up Red Hill just to stay warm. The cold wouldn’t be that bad if it wasn’t for the wind, which is biting into my exposed arms, hands, and face. Snow clouds pile over mountains in the distance—whether they’re retreating from dumping on us last night or coming back, I’m not sure. But there’s hardly anyone on the trail today, probably due to the thick mud that’s forming from snowmelt, and I’m loving the isolation. I follow a trail to “Mushroom Rock,” and though I don’t get to the top today, here’s some pics from the halfway point:







Next time I’m going back to the top with the GoPro to film that incredible little trail run.

Now I’m remembering how humbling trail running is, because the “mountain” I was scaling is actually called “Red Hill.” (No, it is not a hill to my standards, but, to Colorado….probably.) And it’s tough. My lungs, which have been adjusting quickly to the altitude and pitch on my road runs, now acted as if I’d never run a day in my life. My pace slowed drastically, all my muscles burning with effort to push against gravity and over roots, rocks, and mud. It’s actually incredible how different trail running is from road running, and how much more awesome it makes you feel afterwards.

It’s also fun to chase turkeys.
Yes, I said turkey chasing.

The other day I was spending a majority of a road run in the zone, focusing on my breathing, my speed up and down the hills, and what I was going to eat for dinner. Right as the only car on the mountain pulls up from the opposite direction, a 24 count of turkey nuggets crosses the street in front of me. Immediately I’m broken from my trance and go sprinting full speed at them, the car blocking their escape on the other side. I can’t tell you how much fun it was to fly at them like a manic, feathers flying as they scrambled into a pile and vaulted over one another to climb the cliff face hugging the road. I chased after them up the cliff for as long as I could, which was about 15 seconds. But that’s 15 seconds more than I could’ve if I didn’t trail run!

Speaking of animals, this week I saw a fluffy-coated coyote nonchalantly crouching on the side of the road, ears attentive to the snow in pursuit of mice burrowing underneath. I looked up excitedly from my bus seat to the other passengers, but apparently I was the only one to get hyped over something like that.
Same thing happened one night in a friend’s car when I saw a very large, very cat-like something on the side of the road. I freaked out and yelled to turn around, but to no avail.
I guess not even cougars phase Coloradans.

More snow is coming in the next couple of days, and I’m stoked! Powder days here I come.


Be sure to check out next week’s post, exciting week coming up!


 Now venture on!


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