Sunday, June 30, 2013

Heaven on Earth: The San Juan Mountains (and T-Rad!)

Beautiful, yet brutal. That’s the San Juans. That’s the Telluride Mountain Run course.

Actually beautiful is an understatement. I’ll try again.

Heaven. That’s more fitting. As I ran the part of the TMR course, past thousands of wildflowers, a few waterfalls, and breathtaking views I kept on thinking “This is what Heaven must look like.”

Heavenly views do come with a price. The San Juans can put your legs and lungs through hell- at least if you’re attempting to run.

Pictures never do anything justice.

I first encountered the majesty of the San Juan Mountains not quite a year ago when I went down to pace someone at Hardrock. At the time I was living just about at the base of the Sawatch Range and thought the mountains there were great. I didn’t realize the San Juans could be so different. I didn’t know certain mountains could call certain people so deeply. While I had found beauty in other mountain ranges, the beauty of the San Juans captured my heart, almost like a person finding “the one”. When I’m in the San Juans I feel perfectly at home. When I’m away from them I’m often day dreaming about them and thinking of when I can go back. That’s the effect of the heavenly San Juans.

Why don’t I just go and move to one of the towns in the San Juans*? If you’ve been to any of the towns you already know the answer… they’re remote!  There are no major cities or airports anywhere close (Denver is about 7 hours away from Telluride). While there are small airports within a couple hours of driving, they’re of course quite pricey. Perhaps the remoteness is part of the allure of the San Juans. 

The small towns residing in the mountain range are all similar in that it seems like the mountains engulf the towns, yet are very different in character. For example, Silverton is a town for those who can stay tough in winter and enjoy simplicity. The town seems to have held on to the past and you won’t find anyone showing off their cash by unnecessarily large mansions. The only roads going in Silverton are also ridiculous (only drive on the Million Dollar HWY with someone you trust). Then there’s Ouray that’s been dubbed “Little Switzerland”. The town views are quite different than the ones from Silverton or Telluride with its rockier appearance. It is not a good place to eat if you are a vegetarian and eat gluten-free. Then there’s Telluride. It’s a ski town, and I am not a skier, but it’s got a vibe I really enjoy. There are quite a few mansions around but then there are plenty of people like me there who are just trying to get by so they can enjoy the mountains. The town bursts with creativity from musicians to painters which makes the town buzz with energy.(Those are the only 3 towns I’ve been to and thus are the only ones I can talk about)

Rachel in Silverton

Sage checking out a view of Telluride from the gondola.
The towns aren’t far apart in distance but it can take a while driving to each one because there are no roads to easily connect them.
*Sage and I actually might sublet an apartment there for a few months but I won't write about that unless it happens

For those running the Telluride Mountain Run aka T-RAD….

Sage and I ran about 60% of the course and here is a very brief summary:

It will be the hardest 38 mile race you have ever run!

Okay, it’s most likely the only 38 mile race you will have run, but you’re going to finish the race feeling like you ran 50 miles or even a 100k.

The climbs will leave your lungs burning and the descents will tear up your quads. Seriously- the first climb was so long that the descending from the top of the pass back down to town seemed to be never ending.

As I said before, the mountain views are heavenly. However, you’ll also get to see some evidence of the mining that used to take place in Telluride. It’s pretty amazing that so many people worked 8-12 hour days above tree line. I’m in awe (you will be to once you see the roads the traveled up) of how they even got the materials up there to make buildings- even a school.

That’s all I’ll say for now though as it will just be best to see it and run it yourself!

A video from some of the trails will be up within a week.

Run Wild, Run Happy,


1 comment:

  1. Sandi,

    BIG fan of the beauty, community, and simplicity of life in these towns. Watching the reaction of the crowd as locals crossed the finish line at a particular town in the San Juans (to remain unnamed) gave me chills. These people are living in the mountains the right way. I know I'll be no stranger to these parts in the future. Glad you've been exploring as well.



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