Sunday, August 06, 2006

Pikes Peak & the Barr Trail Down


I'm writing this in the public room of the Avenue Hotel in Manitou Springs, doubtful that I'll be able to stand up when I've finished. Today saw me take the cog railway up to the summit of Pikes Peak, a window seat on the front row for a magnificent ride up past the views that inspired the song 'America the Beautiful'. And after an hour, tucking into the cloud that covered the summit. I miss having had the view from up there, but at least the cold and cloud offered atmospherics for my Haldane chapter about his own trip in 1911. I was also duly giddy and breathless, so got some insight into the physiology of life at altitude.
Then three hoots and the train went back down, without me. THe Barr Trail - 12.6 miles, 7300 feet in altitude - was my own track down.
An astonishing stream of people rushed up towards me as I descended - runners who had made the 5am start, maybe preparing for the Pikes Peak marathon up and down in a week or so's time. This time most had rides waiting for them at the top (a dirt road leads up there). Fairly typically I was doing the whole thing in my own way, going down rather than up - harder on the knees and toes, more prone to stumbling, but gravity's in my favour.
Also solitude - the stream of runners ended and the mountain gave me some intimate time. I enjoyed the clouds swirling round the granite boulders, and it was a thrill to enter the treeline and find the first specimens all in miniature. THen a host of flowers I had never seen before, and the finest crop of the ammanita mushrooms, those perfect fairyland species, bright red with whote spots. The trail is wonderfully well kept and signed. My normal run on a mountain sees me following a goat-track into some hidden never-never land but here I was never tempted to diverge. The path zigzags at the top and bottom, with a long straight stretch through lighter forest and meadow in between.
It's not pitting yourself against nature, more putting yourself in its hands for a while, and stretching your own body to a limit. A fine day out!

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