Back on track. Jefferson County has an amazing park system. Technically Jeffco has 26 Parks and Open Spaces but this is deceiving because sprinkled in between are many city-operated parks. The foothills are covered with trails and the best part is that you can get the same kind of elevation that you would get if you were starting from some cozy mountain town, except you are at a lower elevation. For example, you still get 1,000 foot climbs but you are starting at 6,000 feet instead of 10,000 feet.
Literally the beginning of the Rocky Mountains. They start here, folks.
We started at William Frederick Hayden Park on Green Mountain. I'm not sure who thought of that name but it is a mouthful. And if you are an Arrested Development fan then that should have triggered a Tobias quote and you can find a delightful montage here. Most people just call the park Green Mountain, but the problem is that there are a ton of "Green Mountains" including a much more well known one that I have blogged about here. The other problem is that the Green Mountain that we ran today is never really green. In fact it is totally exposed with only a few spotty shrubs and cacti.
Despite the egregiously long name and the lack of foliage, I love Green Mountain. You can find a link to a map here. We ran up and over the mountain, scraped the mud off of our shoes, and headed up Dinosaur Ridge. Dino Ridge is beautiful and actually has trees. The terrain is more technical and the views are more stunning. Unfortunately, it is very narrow like a Stegosaurus' backbone (though I think the ridge is actually named for the smaller fin-like rocks you can find on the trail) so you are up and over it in no time. But all you have to do is scamper across the street and you are in Matthew Winters Park.
Matthews Winters is also awesome and well-maintained. No need to tinkle behind a bush because there are fantastic year-round facilities! You can find a map of the park here. There are some rolling trails and then you have the option to head up Morrison Slide or skirt around the mountain on the Red Rocks trail.
View of Green Mountain from Morrison Slide
If you are feeling expeditious you can keep following the trail to Red Rocks and go laugh at the people doing stadium workouts in the ampitheatre. I have not gone that far yet. On my way back I played tag with some mountain bikers on Dinosaur Ridge. I would pass them on the way up and they would pass me on the way down. It was a little frustrating but in the end it pushed me to go faster and take less uphill walk breaks. I did feel pretty good about myself when I realized that I could run faster than these guys could bike.
Enjoying a rolling section in Matthews Winters.
This feeling of pride quickly eroded after I headed back up Green Mountain. Even though I passed two more mountain bikers, my legs felt like lead. I saw some strange coyote poop and a girl being pulled by a dog. She had tied a rope to her waist and connected her large dog to it. May be advantageous on the uphill, not sure about the down hills. At the top I decided to try a new gel for the first time. It was called Chocolate #9 and it was disgusting. Tasted like a mash of those nasty calcium chews that moms and doctors try to convince teenage girls to eat.
When I got back to the car I was almost as tired as when I ran my marathon. I think that's a good sign. We went to Chipotle for post-run burritos and they were playing a Bollywood version of "Man of Constant Sorrow." Confusingly wonderful.