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north inlet trailThe last thing I remember Friday night was looking up at the stars, undiluted from urban light sources, high in the Rocky Mountains outside Grand Lake.  Sleeping cowboy style, I dodged fallin’ stars aimed straight at me.  I finally tucked inside my tent after midnight once the temperature dropped.  Rob and I camped out here to hike a 25 mile segment of the Continental Divide Trail.  The accuracy of CDT maps are specious as my Garmin captured 29.5 miles.  Fortunately the weather was cool, between 40° and 60° so that our water lasted through those final four unplanned miles.

Grand Lake sits at the western entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park, and is also part of the headwaters to the Colorado River.  A quaint mountain town with wooden boardwalks and expensive but good restaurants, it’s worth a stop if you’re near Rocky Mountain National Park, or the Winter Park ski resort.  Grand Lake anchors the southern end of Trail Ridge Road.  Rob and I ate surprisingly good Mexican food at El Pacifico.  After two large margaritas, I was seeing stars.

Flat Top MountainThe 25 (29.5) miles would complete my 90 mile running week, for a total 510 miles of my massive mileage Boulder Marathon training plan.  I run 20 miles today to begin my 100 mile week – the final week before I begin my taper.  I can still report no muscle strains or injuries.  Keeping my fingers crossed.  I’ll start some strength training and work on my pace once I cut my miles by half.

We got some decent running in Saturday on the trail.  This section of the Continental Divide Trail is a loop that begins and ends at the North Inlet Trailhead outside Grand Lake.  It’s contained within the southwest corner of Rocky Mountain National Park, so permits are needed for camping.  We stealth camped, setting up our tents shortly after dusk to avoid the Park Rangers.  We encountered a number of group backpackers who camped along the trail.  One father was trekking his kids on a 3 day outing, targeting 8 mile days with their heavy packs.  There is a Big Meadow trail that shortcuts the CDT, forming a slightly shorter 24 or 25 mile loop.  Sporting light packs, we ran about two miles worth of the big loop.  The coolest part was running across the alpine tundra among the rock cairns above 12,000 feet.

burn zoneAnother cool section of trail was this burn area on the northern part of the loop.  Would have been hot without shade but we benefitted from partial clouds and 60° temperatures.  I’m happy mixing up hiking with my running.  I count the miles toward my training plan because hiking with Rob at high altitude is little different than running.  We maintained a 3 mph pace for essentially a 50K ultra.  Ascending above tree line had my cardio going.  I imagine I burned well over 3000 calories over the ten hour hike.  Once I finish my coffee this morning, I’ll set out on a 20 miler on the LoBo Trail to begin my 100 mile week.