On New Years Eve Day 2011 -I know, this post is a little late- I took a run on one of my favorite trails in the Colorado National Monument. Starting at the West Entrance to the Monument at 4700 feet, the Monument Canyon Trail winds it's way under the shadow of Independence Rock, past the Kissing Couple, meanders through some beautiful alcoves and canyons to end with a steep switchback up to the Coke Ovens. 6 miles one way ending at about 6200 feet, it's a beautiful run during all seasons, and is runnable the whole way.
The Kissing Couple- to the left
This particular version was spectacular. A fresh dust of snow covered some of the higher ledges, and the early morning sun had that light that can't be described, only experienced. If you've been in the desert on a clear winter morning, you know exactly what I'm talking about. It was completely silent except for the occasional echo of the thawing ice releasing a rock or two to bounce down a cliff face. I was running peacefully, completely enjoying the solitude and thinking about how this was the perfect way to end a year of incredible running. Then, off to my left, I heard a scrambling, rock kicking clatter and turned my head in time to see tannish-grey bodies bouncing through the junipers. I had heard stories and seen plenty of tracks and poop of Desert Bighorn Sheep in the Monument, but this was my first personal encounter with them. Being fairly accustomed to people on the trails, they let me slowly walk to within 30-40 yards and then sit down and watch them. I counted 22 sheep: kids, nannies, young rams and a couple mature rams with full curl horns that were chipped and battered from years of smashing heads to see who was the biggest and baddest.
I've been trying hard to come up with some analogy relating the rams to tough old ultra-runners. Battered feet, wrinkled/sun-damaged skin, the "ultra-shuffle", etc,. But nothing really comes to mind. Instead, I'll just think about how lucky I was -and we are- to be able to see such beautiful scenery, on a crisp winter morning, without having to look through a car window to enjoy it.