North Table Mountain

I've driven past this sign hundreds of times and never stopped.  For shame!

I’ve driven past this sign hundreds of times and never stopped. For shame!

How is it that I’ve lived 30 minutes up the road and must have driven past well over a one hundred times and yet never visited North Table Mountain down in Golden?!  It’s inexcusable!  First of all, I’m a sucker for geology and there’s a lot here—it turns out NTM and it’s neighbor South Table Mountain aren’t old volcanic cores like I’d always thought.  No, they’re erosion-resistant lava caps left over from the nearby Ralston Dike (which is a volcanic core) from 60-odd megayears back.  But more importantly, it’s some really spectacular trail running!

The view from the edge.

The view from the edge.

On the theory that 60-degree weather in January called for mandatory exercise, I met up with my old pal and local guide Yasuyo for a couple hours of exploration.  First, we tackled the half mile, 400’ ascent (20% grade for those of you keeping score at home) up to the top of the mesa.  From there, we set a quick (Yas is fast!) pace counter-clockwise around the tableland dropping occasionally down canyons to the flanks and then climbing back up to the top via some really nice, smooth trails.  The mesa top was weirdly barren given that it’s in the middle of a fair-sized city and the views are spectacular.  There were lots of mountain bikers and other runners out and, when we dropped precipitously down the south side, a cliff face completely full of single-pitch cragging going on.

Sublime canyons

Sublime canyons

North Table Map

North Table Map

Yas and I on the "summit" of NTM.

Yas and I on the “summit” of NTM.

In keeping with the theme of the winter, it was incredibly windy and the return leg on top of the mesa into the wind was brisk and loud.  Dropping back down the steep road to the trailhead, we could spread our arms and almost let the wind take over breaking duties from our quads (or at least I could.  Yas is tiny and doesn’t present much in the way of sail area.

What a great run (9.8 miles in 2 hours)!  There’s still the northern and eastern sides of the mesa to explore and I look forward to going back for more.

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