Tuesday morning I drove over to the trails of Blue Mountain Recreation Area for a long run. This week the weather has finally warmed up, making for great spring running. I took off from the main parking lot up trail 3.01 towards the summit of Blue Mountain. Blue Mountain Recreation Area is 2 miles southwest of Missoula and has an extensive spiderweb of trails in the 5,500+ acre area, to include great climbs up to the 6,500 ft namesake peak, Blue Mountain (trails start at 3,300 ft).
After a particularly sore recovery period from Leona, I was feeling good on the mega gentle switchbacked climb of this run. 3.01 trail takes the runner by a great forested frisbee golf course and then through a fire stricken landscape before getting to the final climb up Blue Mountain. The trails on the north side of the recreation area are buttery smooth and make for smooth sailing.
At about 5,800 feet the snow began to really cover the trail and then at about 6,000 feet the trail was totally covered with deep trackless snow in the dense pine forest. Had I not had my Garmin watch I might have turned around, but only having 500ft of climbing and about 3/4 of mile to go I hiked on. Things were slow and my hands were getting cold from catching myself as I wallowed through the quiet snowy forest. I decided to take a turn and follow a steeper ascent marked by deer and elk tracks and get to the top as progress was slowing to a literal crawl.
I enjoyed the adventurous nature of this last mile ascent in the snow along with having the majority of the recreation area all to myself despite being only 2 miles from town… a stark difference between the front range of Colorado and all of Montana.
I was treated to the fire lookout at the top of the mountain before descending down the less snowy south side of Blue Mountain.
The next 5 miles of trail on the south side descent was extreme. The trail plunged straight down with loose dirt, rock, snow and slop with deep narrow ruts from motorcycles. The descent was great training for my next few months of racing on steep and technical courses and I appreciated the polar opposite trail conditions from the majority of the ascent. As I explored the trails on this south side I ran into a few dead ends and got thoroughly turned around on where I thought I was, which was fun. I ended up running 23 miles in 4hrs with 5,100ft of climbing on the day. It was a great day exploring a new trail system close to home.
The cold April has kept trail running to a confining low altitude. Driving by the Mission and Swan mountains last week and looking at Lolo Peak from Blue Mountain, I am really getting a bit antsy to explore the unlimited mountain running that completely surrounds Missoula. After the run I picked up Felix from his fun time for the day at daycare and we headed home for some power smoothie loaded with Udo’s Oil, fresh fruit, kale and nuts.