“In a strange kind of way, lifeless landscapes have so much to say.” —Porcelain Raft, Shapeless and Gone
April on the Front Range had record snowfalls, so a trip south to the desert made sense. Joe had a planned rendevous with his uncle in the Grand Canyon and my apartment sublease was up and I needed a long, hot run to get ready for Transvulcania next month, so figured, why not?
Joe’s and my first road trip together was the 22hr epic out to Western States in 2010 where he drove the entire way; the long, crooked arm of the law shamelessly profiled our unkempt, hirsute visages half-way across Nevada (thanks to the “Runners To Watch” section in the WS100 Handbook, we were able to finagle a warning); and I learned the meaning of Joe’s moniker “Joe G FM”—with his olympic abilities as a conversationalist, we never turned on the radio in over 1000 miles of driving.
Gold Hill, CO running at dawn. Photo: Joe Grant.
I knew it was a different morning on Longs when I left the parking lot with a bare head and bare hands. Usually I’m pretty chilly at the trailhead, but on this day the sweat was pouring off my eyebrows and nose on the very first steep cut up through the trees, and instead of dreading the breeze at treeline I welcomed it for its cooling properties.
Whenever one has a mishap in the backcountry, the chain of decisions and events that led up to it always seem so obvious in hindsight. But I suppose that’s just the way it works. I was battling a bit of a head cold and was feeling beat down from a previous 10 days of high-volume outings, so on this morning I resolved to just wake up whenever my body wanted, not interrupting my slumber with the typical 5am alarm that I set when I’m planning on an ascent of Longs Peak. As such, I arrived at the trailhead an hour later than usual, and on top of that it was a gloriously warm day—temps in Boulder later in the day would reach the low-70s.