It was about 9:30pm on Friday, 6/29 and I had no clue where I was going to run the next day. I wanted to go long, but being one week post-SJS, I was worried about biting off more than I could chew. I started to think staying close to home would be wise.
But then I had the overwhelming thought of how precious these summer weekends are for trail running in the high country and didn't want to miss an opportunity for an adventure. That's when the idea for a Buchanan-Pawnee Pass Loop was born. I've had this run on my list for several years. I scrambled to get my gear together and hit the sack for a 2:40am wake up!
I was parked at the Long Lake trailhead by 4:45am and began my run at 5am. The first half mile was on the road over to the Mitchell Lake trailhead. I decided to run the loop in the counter-clockwise direction as to avoid the long traverse across Mt. Audobon as the temps rose. I don't think it would have mattered much.
Prior to stepping on the trail, I read a sign that indicated mountain lions have been spotted in the area. If that doesn't get your blood pumping when there's barely enough light to see the trail, I'm not sure anything would.
|Sunrise cutting through the smoke. Taken from the eastern flank of Mt. Audobon.|
|A first glimpse at Buchanan Pass.|
|This part was steep, but non-technical.|
|1 of 2 passes complete. Time to move on to my favorite side of the Indian Peaks.|
|Good morning! Smack dab in the center of the trail.|
|Time for about six miles of downhill running. Simply stunning scenery on this side of the Divide.|
Once I made it down to the intersection with the Cascade Creek trail, I began running southeast and the Tour de Waterfalls began. It really is an impressive stretch of trail to run.
|After the waterfalls, things open up a bit and glimpses of the jagged and toothy mountain ridges return.|
|One of my favorite peaks in the Rockies. Lone Eagle!|
|A pleasant start to a grueling climb to Pawnee Pass.|
|Pawnee Lake is surrounded by towering walls of rock.|
|I'm not kidding. I had no idea where the actual pass was and was starting to plan for three point climbing at some point.|
|When you look up, you can only see about 20 feet of trail in front of you.|
|The wildflowers on this run were everywhere. Start to finish.|
|Still can't figure out where the pass is.|
|The trail was all switchbacks, but once again, looking up gave you no clue to the future direction you'd be heading.|
|It was only when you got high enough that you could see how the trail carved through the rock.|
|Whoever blazed this trail did a masterful job. It's not an easy climb, but there was no scrambling necessary.|
|Sure was nice to look OVER at and not UP at the jagged ridge line.|
|Success! Pass 2 of 2 complete.|
|From the Pass, you only have about five miles of downhill before you 're done.|
I would have enjoyed the final stretch more if it wasn't for the masses of people I encountered. Prior to reaching Pawnee Pass, I met ONE backpacker in the first 21 miles. I probably passed by no less than 75 people in the final five miles. It was a beautiful day for a hike, so I think it's great so many were out enjoying the Peaks. It just made for a difficult time getting into a rhythm.
Not much else to say that the pictures haven't captured. This was the most scenic run I've ever been on. I felt great most of the day and was so glad I got out there versus staying close to home. I'll have all winter to do that.