Rio Frio Ice Fest 5k – 2016

Warm by winter morning standards in Alamosa, the air still had that cold sting, especially on the tops of the ears.  I made my way to Cole Park for the start of the Rio Frio, a 5k run on the river’s frozen surface, well, not totally frozen.  Warm water artesian springs in the San Luis Valley, find their way into the river and open up flowing water channels.  But, the rest of the surface is 8 – 14 inches thick so fellow runners/walkers are in no danger of falling through as long as we stay on course.  To be continued…

Maroon Bells in Winter

Maroon Bells in Winter

A journey to the Maroon Bells in winter should be mandatory for anyone who wants to experience deep winter in its finest hour.  Maroon Creek Road is closed at T Lazy Seven Ranch – three miles from Highway 82 past the Aspen Highlands Ski Area.  The ranch feels like a throwback to a 1950s feel ranch, hidden in the deep woods along Maroon Creek.  They have sleigh rides, llamas and goats for the kids to enjoy but no longer any reindeer aka caribou –  always interesting, cute and docile creatures.  Park along the road, pull out your favorite mode of transportation – mine is usually always my running shoes as the road/trail is well traveled and generally packed down unless you are out there first, early in the morning, after a heavy overnight snowfall, in which case I put on my NEOS – New England Over Shoes.  My running shoe fits inside and they have goretex up to my knees to keep out the snow.  NEOS also work easily with snowshoes.  Trek off!  On MLK day 2016, the temps were in the 30s, the sun was playing amongst fast moving clouds, and an occasional breeze made it comfortably cool.  This doggy heaven as many people use this as their daily dog walk.  Others come to get super fit and skate ski.  With the new fat tire bikes, riders are opting to get after it all winter.  Others use their cross country skis as an official track is cut on the creek side of the road.  Snowmobiles stick to the right side (which is their left coming down), and the middle is for all other modes of transportation.  Suggestion? – Do it.

8.8 miles can make a person thirsty.  Slid into Aspen, grabbed my half growler and settled in for a few samplers.  True Blonde, Brown Bear and Independence Pass IPA.  All yum.  Had a good conversation with the bartender and a young couple from San Fran in their first visit to Aspen.  Good conversation also about Cali, skiing, beer…

Running in Victoria’s Secret


        Out of underwear in which to run, I grabbed a pair from my wife’s clean laundry VS undies. Not out of kinky did I do so – I picked a pair that looked like my Jockey brand underwear. Having mixed the morning world news with the network’s view of economic gloom in the US was depressing. Then came a preview of a six foot Amazon woman in 7 inch heels strutting on stage wearing Victoria’s Secret as if this was an accurate view of the world! I needed a rebellious displacement behavior.  Hence, the VS undies.  No way, I thought, as I drove to a desert canyon, is our world in proper balance. Though not the first to have that revelation, I may have been the first man wearing Victoria’s Secret undies when the thought came to mind, or maybe not. Why is our country hitting a truck in the wrong lane when we have full capacity within us to steer clear?
A cold wind is blowing hollow past my ears as I stretch by my car. Straight away, I notice the amazing comfort of the fabric against my buns. The company got that right but I wondered if the workers who actually made the garment received proper and just compensation. Who am I kidding and why am I upset? Why don’t they make a mens’ version of this underwear and why are the current U.S. political and economic policies so whacked? More questions. What is this material and where do they make Victoria’s Secret? I rotated my waist, reached back and pulled out the label. Ninety three percent nylon and seven percent spandex. Made in Malaysia. Okay, at least not China.
My hands and ears are numb as I start running on the dirt road. Thin layers of ice cover the pothole puddles. The road starts flat but soon crosses a seasonal creek and becomes a steady uphill grade. My metabolic heat gain will kick in and take the edge off the wind chill. As oxygen flows to my head, the thinking begins.
Why are we involved in foreign wars? For oil? To spread democracy? Help people in unjust societies? Or to feed the military industrial complex which Eisenhower warned us against 50 years ago? I had a discussion recently with a political science major from an Ivy League School who had strong opinions in favor of U.S. involvement but had never heard of the 1961 speech, given by Dwight D. prior to Kennedy taking office. He seemed like a chemistry major not knowing the formula for hydrogen peroxide and its significance.
My breathing intensifies as I ascend. The fabric of my underwear is perfect for running while the fabric of American Society is unraveling. How can we have perfect underwear from Malaysia and a crumbling American infrastructure? What are we going to do?
For now, I take a left turn into a dry arroyo, a sandy bottom with boulders, outcroppings, and lined with cacti, yucca, pinyon pine and juniper trees. It makes for a perfect trail upon which to run and keeps the senses sharp. The VS underwear continues to perform as I dodge the occasional beer bottle launched from the rednecks who drive the road that parallels the arroyo above. Wonder what they would think if they knew what I was wearing underneath my running pants? Hell, who cares. I am safe as long as I am over 100 feet from where they can drive their vehicle. Idiot Republicans. Same goes for the Democrats, as both parties are creating a bipolar government instead of instituting bipartisan decisions that actually do us some good. How about those Tea Party bozos? We need a Common Sense Party. A toned down version of Abbie Hoffman and Edward Abbey to monkey wrench and march on Washington again. My politics? I am an Abbeyist.
Even though it is cold, running involves sweating. My usual cotton underwear would be damp by now but my nylon and spandex is staying dry. I guess my problem with Victoria’s Secret is the number of trees they use for catalogues. Classic free enterprise, with which I have no problems only that successful corporations can be wasteful. Wonder if the company pays taxes or is like GE? We need solutions.
I am running across the sandstone flats uncovered by flash floods, remnants of an inland sea which have eroded and exposed the wave action from millions of years ago. Thoughts go to my great great grandfather who was in the Civil War. In the Union army from 1862 and all the way to the end, he attended such ‘parties’ as the battle for Vicksburg, Atlanta, and Sherman’s march to the sea. What would he say? He was nineteen at the time and he had no thoughts of TV and fashion shows and colorful underwear. But this was our country at the time. Quoting from his diary dated February 27th, 1863 he wrote,

“It has rained hard all afternoon, talk about ever wet, hungry and tired. I don’t think I knew what either being wet, or tired, or hungry meant before this night, but to have all three to contend with at once. Everything so wet that we could cook nothing. From the glare of the lightning, the earth looked like a vast sea of water, no place to lay down, nor sit down. No shelter to get under, just a vast cockelbur field. Our teams with our tents and rations nearly a mile behind, stuck in the mud. So we simply had to stand and take it while the water ran down our backs. In making a note of this in my old book at the time, I find this at the end of the note…. and this is way this Rebellion must be put down day by day.”
Those were the thoughts of a Civil War soldier and now these are my thoughts as a rambling desert runner 148 years later. How do we put down the political nonsense in Washington and clean house of career politicians on personal and party and corporate agendas? Perhaps we need a million man march, all of us wearing Victoria’s Secret underwear, exposing our true colors to the politicians who are supposed to serve the people. In the Bill of Rights we are allowed to peaceably assemble and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. We will be dressed all right! Lots of colors and styles from which to choose! . Be ready to go when someone organizes the march. I thought of it, but someone else needs to be the organizer…

NOTE – I wrote this piece a few years ago, and though now divorced, I somehow ended up with a few pairs of her VS underwear and do run in them as they don’t get soggy while running, especially in hot humid weather!
Diary excerpt from my great great grandfather Allen Miller, 30th Iowa Infantry, 1862-1865.

Flattops in Winter – Dunckley Pass Access

On the quest to run new trails for this website, tough duty I know,  I was passing through Phippsburg, Colorado on a deep winter January day and saw the sign, the classic brown sign that says  National Forest Access.  My goosebumps rise, alive come my butterflies and my adventure genes get tripped.  Time check.  Have about 2.5 hours of light.  I leave highway 131 and am immediately on a glazy snow packed road through ranch country.  Horses and cows are happily munching on hay, old barns are weathered and leaning, farm equipment is piled high with snow and rusting, and a few cirrostratus clouds are hanging over the Flattops, a series of flat topped mesas comprising a large wilderness area.  I follow the signs toward Dunckley Pass, ranches thin out and I enter the Routt National Forest.  I keep going, wondering where to stop.  I come

around a corner as the road is going up through a dark tunnel of pine trees on the left and aspens on the right.  I see two vehicles parked and  a trail sign.  A guy is removing his cross country skis and I ask him about the trails.  He had fun.  One trail heads south through the woods from where he had come and the road continues onward to the west.  I hear mega barking, an enthusiastic dog sled team up ahead.  I opt for the road as I am guessing the the snow will be packed down.  The person leaving says the road is closed 200 yards ahead.  Turns out to be a 1/2 mile.  Temp = mid 20s, my hands warm up and the road is indeed nicely packed by weekend snowmobilers and dog sleds.  Let the joys of winter running begin = solitude, stillness, fresh air, new views, and wonderful introspections about ourselves  that only deep winter can bring…

Perils = lots of dog poo on trail beginning as the running dogs are having to relieve themselves as they run and it gets tracked up.  Since the dogsled had left only a few minutes prior to my arrival, it had not yet frozen.  Fairly easy to avoid.

Emerald Mountain in Winter – Steamboat!

Emerald Mountain sits above Steamboat Springs, south of Howelsen Hill Ski Area, where future Olympians practice ski jumping, cross country skiing, running gates and all other winter activities at Colorado’s smallest ski resort.

Storm Peak Brewery is one of three breweries in town and is the best of the three for good consistent beer.