Thursday, November 1, 2012

Nostalgia on the Rainbow Trail

What do you do when you live in Colorado and you have two weekdays off of work? You go skiing. Is that what we do? No. It's not because we are too cool to go skiing. It is because we suck at skiing. So on Tuesday we drove 3 hours south to the Sangre de Cristos to run for two days on the Rainbow Trail. The Rainbow Trail is special to us because it runs out the back door from the camp where Cory and I met.

One time on the Rainbow Trail, I started to experience hypothermia when sunny conditions gave way to driving rain, which detiorated into hail. Unfortunately that was an introductory backpacking trip and I was supposed to be the group leader. That night the camp director got me out of there and let me sleep back at camp. What I never admitted was that it was actually far worse sleeping in a large, empty dormitory by myself. I kept the light on the whole night.

Later this trail is where Cory and I started to fall for each other. We had hiked Horn Peak with a group of other counselors and once we reached the Rainbow Trail, I asked if anyone wanted to run with me. Cory was the only one who said yes. As we blazed down the trail, I tried to convince myself to stay away from him. I already had a boyfriend.  Later this trail became Cory's escape after I told him I couldn't date him.

And here we were, years later and married. We parked at the Horn Creek Trailhead right behind camp and ran north on Tuesday afternoon. That night we camped (like a bunch of creeps) in sight of camp where we once took campers to do fort building. It was cold (25 degrees) and the coyotes serenaded us all night long. On Wednesday we woke up and ran south towards Humboldt.

It seems that we tend to argue a lot on the Rainbow Trail and this trip was no exception. I hate to be the weaker runner. I wish I was as fast as Cory, but I'm not. Therefore I tend to get left behind. Ordinarily this is fine, but I was not comfortable being left alone for the entire day when I knew I would be more likely to encounter a large predator than another person. I'm really not exaggerating. We did not see another soul on the trail, but in the past we have seen multiple bears (4 between the two of us) and we've also seen mountain lion tracks.

I really wanted to be able to push aside any fear. I recently read that 0.2 people die from mountain lion attacks every year while 16 people die from dog attacks. Trust me, I've tried to coax myself with every rational line of thinking. After arguing for the first 35 minutes, I told Cory to go ahead without me. Then I secretly decided that I would turn around early and wait at the car.  Then 15 minutes later, I saw him coming back for me. He said he didn't want to spend the whole run worrying about me. For the next 3 hours he would run ahead 15 minutes and then come back to me. What a great husband.

After we got back to the car, we drove into Westcliffe for a post-run tradition: enormous cinnamon rolls at the Sugar & Spice Mountain Bakery. If you are ever driving through Westcliffe you must stop there. You will be greeted by the most wonderfully awkward Mennonite woman who will provide you with huge servings for unusually reasonable prices.

Here are pictures:

View of the Sangres from the road to camp. Horn Peak is directly under the sun.

Cory heading north on the Rainbow Trail. He wants to set an FKT (Fastest Known Time) and run all 105 miles of it.

A familiar trail intersection.

We think the Sangres are greener than the other ranges.

Horn Peak and its darned false peak. Many a camper was left in despair after realizing how much farther it was to the top.

Snowy trails.


  1. Great post & +1 to the bakery recommendation. I've spent waayyy too much money at that place. I'd also recommend the Lemon Bars! amazing.

    by the way, you mention you husband wants to set a FKT on Rainbow Trail. Do you know what the current FKT is or where I can find it?



    1. I will definitely try the lemon bars next time!
      As far as we know there isn't an fkt for it success rate should be pretty good. There's nothing on Peter Bakwin's site and Cory hasn't found anything online (and he has done A LOT of research and planning). Have you run the trail before? Thinking about running it? I'm surprised how few people know about the Rainbow Trail.

    2. Awesome. I've spent a lot of time in the Sangres & look forward to making an attempt, but I'm living in Northern CA at the moment, so logistics are tough.

      I noticed your husband posted on Bakwin's site. Was he successful in July?

    3. Yeah. He is working on a write up about it but it was successful. It took a little longer than he planned. 24,000 feet of gain, 102 miles, and just under 31 hours.

    4. Awesome! Tell him congrats, very impressive. I'm excited to read the writeup!

      Did he by chance post the gpx to Strava or any other sites? Really curious to see the full gps route for that.

    5. Nevermind, I found you guys! Follows & Kudos incoming! lol

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