Monday, August 9, 2010


Colorado was amazing!

I find myself thinking that I’m a bad Canadian for saying that I enjoyed the U.S. Rockies more than the Canadian Rockies. In fairness, there were probably a number of things that contribute to this statement. When we visited Banff last fall we were there partially for Sara’s work and were both working through some nasty injuries that prevented us from enjoying it to its fullest. It was also during the fall, so the weather was a little bit dreary.
While we are both still fighting injuries again now, we are coming out of the other end of it. Also, being able to share this trip with Brennan and Heather was beyond fun, and each day was a great adventure.

Boulder (Wed, Thu)

Boulder is cool, with a capital C. We stayed at a cottage/cabin in Boulder that was right on the Boulder Creek Trail with great views of the mountains right out the window. The plan was to do a few things around this very happening town before heading into the wilderness a bit more. Boulder is situated at just over 5,000ft, so was a good opportunity to acclimatize a little before heading up higher.

Pearl Street Outdoor Mall: What a fun place. We enjoyed pizza at an outdoor patio, while Brennan was ‘volunteered’ to assist a street performer/busker. Bren didn’t have to swallow any lit torches, but performed with excellence.

La Sportiva: We popped into see Ian at La Sportiva. Great to meet him, have a tour of the facility and see all the incredible new 2011 Sportiva models. Brennan and Heather also got to see the La Sportiva Olympus Mountaineer boot that is used for technical 8,000 meter climbs such as on Everest. Very cool.
Rocky Mountain National Park: Enjoyed a beautiful drive into the Park. Had a great hike with Bren and Heather into Emerald Lake at over 10,000ft. Just spectacular views. While I think we all noticed the elevation change, it didn’t seem like anyone was too bothered by it.
Running: As mentioned, right out the door in Boulder we were on the Boulder Creek Trail and could be heading up a mountain in less than 5 minutes. We did a couple of runs from here with a nice run up Flagstaff Mountain to the summit at about 6,800ft early one morning with great views of the Flatirons and Green Mountain. The red dirt and windy trails were so much fun to run on. The thing that really struck me about the trails in Boulder was that, yes you were running up mountains, but that they were very runnable for the most part. So many times when we are running up mountains on trips to the Adirondacks, the trails end up going straight up, however in Colorado, they make full use of switchbacks that help to make the trails a little more practical and enjoyable for running. This was something that we noticed on many of our runs during the trip.

Pemba Sherpa Restaurant: We had a wonderful dinner at Sherpa's restaurant that included Tibetan, Nepalese and Indian food. Very interesting. It was also cool to see various mountaineering gear and articles from past expeditions. Brennan and Heather were great sports about trying an adventurous menu too, but weren’t quite sure about the Yak Dung Burgers;)
St. Mary’s Glacier (Fri, Sat, Sun)

We rented a condo at the foot of St. Mary’s Glacier for the next three days to base ourselves out of and do day trips from. It was a perfect spot to relax, explore and recharge our batteries at night. The weather was usually sunny and clear in the morning, with thunderstorms arriving in the afternoon. An early start was needed each day.

Crankworx (Fri): Some of the best mountain bikers in the world were doing some sick, squirrely tricks at Winterpark. Very cool competition that may not have been a good thing for Brennan’s safety to see. I think he was pretty blown away to see this live though, as we all were. It was amazing to see what people could actually do on a bike from 20 or more feet in the air. St. Mary’s Glacier Hike (Sat): We all enjoyed an awesome hike to the top of St Mary's Glacier and kept climbing towards James Peak. The going was tough for us flatlanders in places, but we were rewarded with some amazing views. We had lunch above the glacier at about 11,700ft with a great view of James Peak, but then headed back down shortly after because of the ominous looking weather. Sliding back down the glacier was a blast and we saw many people backcountry snowboarding and skiing there. Brennan and Heather did amazing up high, and I think found it interesting how their bodies reacted to the altitude at various heights. We got back to the trailhead just in time as the skies opened up with a heavy rainstorm.
Condo: We were fortunate that we had a great place to base ourselves out of. Other than a brief trip down into Idaho Springs for some groceries, we had everything we needed at our Glacier accommodations. We went for short hikes after dinner most nights near the glacier that usually included a little bushwacking and climbing.
Running: We enjoyed great trail runs from the condo with a number of options right out our door. Sunday was going to be a quiet day at the condo to recharge the batteries a little, so Sara and I took off for an early morning run up James Peak. This route featured the same hike we did the previous day with Brennan and Heather. We ran up St Mary's Glacier, then continued on to the summit of James Peak at 13,294ft. James Peak is the highest peak in the Indian Range and is on the Continental Divide. It was a tough run, but once again spectacular views. The views of the very rugged Mt Bancroft were beyond words, with a massive drop off on the one side.
Another enjoyable run was up the Mine Trail with a beautiful view of the glacier. I got a little turned around on the many off-shooting trails on the final morning and glad I had the GPS to point me back. Was a bit worried with the weather, but it blew over.
Mount Evans and Red Rocks (Mon)

Mount Evans: We drove to Mt Evans, then a short hike to the top at 14,265ft. The road was a little sketchy driving above tree-line with no guardrails, but we made it (Whew!). We were a little worried once again with the weather, but had an early start and were rewarded with more incredible views from the summit. We also saw a number of marmots, mountain goats and picas.
Red Rocks Park. This was quite the contrast from Mt Evans earlier in the day. The temperature was just over 40 degrees Fahrenheit and quite cold up on Mt Eavns, but down at Red Rocks, which really wasn’t too far away; it was like we were almost in a desert with the temps at about 40 degrees, but in Celsius! It was very interesting seeing the giant red rock formations and the way that they had built a multi-use amphitheatre around the rocks for various concerts. After checking out the amphitheatre and noticing all of the bands that had played there, we went for a hike on the trails. Luckily, we didn’t see any rattlesnakes or mountain lions, and actually didn’t even see the warning sign until the end of our hike.

Following Red Rocks, it was time to head to Denver for one last evening in Colorado before our flight home the next day. We enjoyed a relaxing evening doing a little bit of shopping, before re-hashing our trip over dinner.

It really felt like we were busy for the entire week with so much to see and do, but it also seemed like we had just scratched the surface about what was available and offered in this wonderful outdoor paradise.

The one thing that we really left with was the impression of how active, green, fit, and progressive Colorado is…in particular Boulder. It was so refreshing seeing bike lanes everywhere (Yes folks…Kingston sucks in that regard). People were walking through outdoor malls and genuinely just enjoying being outside and a part of life. I was amazed at how clean the city seemed as well.

While I’m not exactly ready to apply for American citizenship quite yet, if I was offered an opportunity to move to Boulder, as a runner especially, it would be pretty tough to turn down.

It’s been almost a week now since we arrived back home from Colorado and the memories are still very fresh in our minds. I guess one of my favourite parts of the trip was seeing how much Brennan and Heather enjoyed this lifestyle and how well they did in the mountains. It was just so great for Sara and I to share it with them.

While I expect that we will still enjoy our regular quick weekend trips to the Adirondacks, Colorado was certainly something very special.


  1. Yeah - it is a pretty magical place here. Hope you make it back soon and we can share some strides.

  2. wow, sounds like you had an awesome trip! And it's a trail runner's mecca... no wonder some of the big names like to live and run there!

  3. Oh boy, another Spafford is turning into an altitude junkie! Two in one family - how did this happen?!! Loved the photos and commentary Rick - really well said and beautiful pictures that make me want to be there. I'm glad you guys had such a blast - what a great experience for Brennan and Heather too!

  4. Sounds like you guys had an amazing trip...all that in a week wow! Brings back so many memories. So are you ready to sign up for Leadville 2011 now :)

  5. George,
    Yes, pretty special place indeed. Hope to come back very soon and will definitely hook up. Thanks again for the trip tips.

    You have to plan a holiday or race there. Just paradise.

    Yup, just keep wanting to go higher and higher. Will be a while before we catch up to you guys though.

    Already thinking about when we can get back. Wish I was healthy enough to think about Leadville '10, but will maybe have to wait for '11.

  6. it sure is amazing all the beautiful places in the world, sure glad you got to enjoy this one. you know you'll have a pacer for Leadville if you need one

  7. Where did we, as parents, go wrong? But glad you're all enjoying yourselves and would love to be there with you.

  8. Sure looks like a great place. Now I can't wait for my vacation.