My wife and I were less than 48 hours away from our frontier road trip when I realized it. We were meeting up with her sister in Colorado and I was perusing the itinerary. On the way to Colorado, we would stay in Boise, Idaho and Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Then we’d all meet up in Grand Junction, Colorado. Ok, this is wine country, which is nice, but aside from a riverfront trail, there aren’t any publicized great running trails within running distance of the motel. What’s next? Silverton, Colo…
Silverton, Colorado! I was shocked. The tiny victorian mining town where the Hardrock 100 Trail Race starts and finishes every summer – was this really that place? A quick review of our reservations and I realized that it was indeed that very place. No, we wouldn’t be there the same weekend as the race, but we would be there within 3 weeks of the race finishing. There was never a more pleasant surprise than realizing that we would be staying just a couple blocks from the start/finish line.
Just a few weeks before, Killian Jornet and Anna Frost had set course records here. Granted, I wouldn’t be there for all the excitement of the race, but there was another bonus. I was going to get to run on portions of the Hardrock 100 course. I looked up several maps and put together a Garmin GPS map for my Fenix 3. I got the lay of the land online and mentally ran the course over and over. This was going to be fun. I wasn’t going 100 miles. My wife and I would probably only put in 5 miles or so, but it isn’t every day you get to run in the footsteps of legends.
We drove into town from the north end and stopped at an overlook to check out the old mining facilities. We saw tons of deer on the way into town, so if you decide to visit, drive carefully. The steep drop-offs on the side of the highway don’t look like any picnic either.
We stayed at a little motel above a bar called The Bent Elbow. Supposedly, this place used to be a brothel. It was actually very cozy and had a patio with a great view of Notorious Blair Street, formerly known mostly for gambling, booze, and prostitution. Only one street in town is paved and the place has a great feel. We must have visited every bar and restaurant in town in the one night we passed through. At some point in the early evening, while we were wandering around, I spotted it. THE Hardrock.
Fully geeked out and prepared, my wife and I left early on a Thursday morning to adventure on the trail. Just getting out of town was difficult. The town is in a valley, so even though the runners reverse clockwise and counter-clockwise every other year, there’s still a brutal ascent in the first mile, no matter what direction they go. We made it up the single-track trail, almost as high as the miner’s memorial, and then dipped onto an area with fewer brutal elevation changes. There were still some flares up from the race, which helped us a bit with navigation.
We started out on dirt and gravel road and wound up on dirt double-track. Eventually, this became single-track and we emerged from the forest into an unbelievable expanse of huge, orange and red rocks. The footing was tricky, but fun, and we had a great time running through the low-hanging clouds and generally blasting along on terrain the likes of which we had never experienced.
Before too long, we turned around and headed back to town. We had to meet up with the rest of our traveling party for breakfast and the drive down to Durango. We would still travel out to Mesa Verde on this day. We packed a ton into this short trip to this tiny town, but we would do it all over again.
Silverton stuck with me after this trip. Whether I ever get the opportunity to run the Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Race or not, I hope to return to Silverton any time I pass through this area. And someday, I’m going to take advantage of that Durango-Silverton steam train too!
Check out some footage from our run below.