Wednesday, August 26th, 2009
I consider myself a capable trail runner — in California, that is. In Colorado, no way.
I’ve been in Telluride, Colorado, a little over a week, adjusting to life away from home and acclimating in the high altitude for the September 12 Imogene Pass Run. (Our family travel blog away-together.com details why we’re here and what we’re doing.)
If you’ve never been to Telluride, picture a cluster of brightly painted Victorian-era houses and frontier-era storefronts lining main street, all dwarfed by the surrounding mountains. The town sits at 8750 feet in a horseshoe-shaped bend in the San Juan Mountain range, and the road to town dead ends where the peaks rise up almost 5000 feet more and waterfalls cascade down. Spruce and aspen blanket the backdrop, and hunks of red rocks jut out most of the way up. Then the trees thin out and the red rocks turn a smoother gray on the peaks and ridges, which are stained by rust-colored splotches of mineral deposits that lured prospectors in the 1870s.
If you could look right over the mountain behind Telluride or tunnel through it, you’d reach another old mining town, Ouray, also tucked in a box canyon of stunning scenery. Connecting the two towns is a single-lane rocky road: Imogene Pass. It used to be the trail leading to large-scale mining operations where thousands of people worked from the late 1800s through the Depression. The road runs past the ghost towns of Tomboy on the Telluride side and Camp Bird on the Ouray side, and it crests above timberline at 13,114 feet.
I have some history with Imogene Pass, even though I’ve never run it. I’m here training for the race in part because the trek over the road always stood in my mind as an extreme daytrip infused with family folklore. (more…)