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Sunlit Summit

Thorodin’s 50 Starrs: 24 Hours of Hiking Above Boulder

Thorodin’s 50 Starrs is a 50-mile hiking event I developed. By definition, Thorodin’s 50 Starrs is the event such that a person starts hiking at the Chautauqua Trailhead, hikes to the summit of Thorodin Mountain and Starr Peak, and makes sure to hike at least 50 miles before returning to the Chautauqua Trailhead on the same calendar day as having started. No mechanical aid is allowed (trekking poles are o.k.), and no departing the course unless by foot. Companions and support stations are fine–I was accompanied for about 13 of the total miles and I had support stations about every 14 miles.

I decided to call it Thorodin’s 50 Starrs because that name includes both peak names, “Starrs” also connotes the amount of night hiking, the total mileage is 50, and “50 Starrs” connotes the American flag which is fitting as I did this the week of July 4th.

My route was as follows:

Gregory Canyon Trail
Flagstaff Road
Gross Dam Road
Crescent Park Drive
Highway 72
Twin Spruce Road
Gap Road
bushwhack to summit of Thorodin and Starr

For the return, I reversed the route, detouring a few times to increase my mileage to 50 by the time I got back to Chautauqua. I decided to make a double marathon of it, since I was already so close, so I walked home after returning to Chautauqua. The total stats were:

53.5 miles
2 miles vertical gain
22 hours 10 minutes starting at midnight

Here is how I felt every 10 miles, explained by emojis:

Mile 0:
Mile 10:
Mile 20:
Mile 30:
Mile 40:
Mile 50:

I started hiking at exactly midnight from Chautauqua. The initial steep climb to Flagstaff Road went quickly, and then I hiked even faster once on the road. I passed Kossler Lake about 1:40 a.m., and started descending to Walker Ranch. Along the way, I could see Starr Peak looming in the distance. The moon provided a lot of light until it set about an hour before sunrise.

After this shot was taken, I continued to make decent time, crossing South Boulder Creek at 3:55 a.m. and reaching my first aid station at the “town” of Coal Creek on Hwy 72 about 5:00 a.m.

Starr Peak (my destination) from Flagstaff Road

After carefully hiking a short section of Hwy 72, I turned right on Twin Spruce Road, which is really just the lower part of Gap Road. This was a less scenic portion, as it was a deep forested canyon, but sunrise still brought a welcome breath of light. I have often said that miles hiked before sunrise don’t count against how many you can do that day, and I was testing the theory this time, having walked 15 miles before sunrise.

Sunrise on Twin Spruce Road

Every good trek has prayer flags strung up alongside…these were on the lower part of Gap Road.

Prayer flags

Around mile 19, the trees opened up to reveal a nice meadow.

Meadow on Gap Road

Eventually, I entered Golden Gate Canyon State Park, and the road turned to dirt.

Golden Gate Canyon State Park

I met my mom at about mile 21.5 at the Gap Road pullout, which was our trailhead for climbing Thorodin and Starr. There is no trail going to these peaks, and the bushwhacking is bad in spots. I found this lichen bulls-eye marking our path. Coincidence? Definitely.

Lichen bulls-eye

After gaining 1,100 vertical feet in a mile, we reached the lofty and beautiful summit of Thorodin Mountain at 9:00 a.m. You can see the Thorodin/Starr massif from most points in Boulder’s foothills, and it was fun to finally be at the summit.

Summit of Thorodin Mountain

Starr Peak, a mile to the northeast, promised that the bushwhack was not yet over.

Starr Peak from Thorodin

On the way to Starr, I took a short detour to Thorodin’s unranked subsummit to the northeast, which is incorrectly marked in Google Earth as being the true summit of Thorodin. On the descent to the saddle with Starr, I walked into a tree branch, scraping a line from my nose to my jaw. Ouch! After surviving the talus and deadfall, we arrived on the summit of Starr Peak, which is a rock to the south of a big radio building. The sky, which was perfectly clear an hour ago, was now beginning to fill with puffy clouds as expected since the forecast called for afternoon thunderstorms.

Thorodin Mountain from Starr / view from turnaround point

We skirted the other summits to descend as easily as possible back to the car (which had my lunch) at the Gap Road pullout. This blue flower was growing in a very sandy part of the slope.

Flower on descent

After resting for an hour at the Gap Road pullout, I headed back down Gap Road. The scenery was nice (Tremont Mountain on the left, Thorodin Mountain on the right) but the noon sun was intensely hot.

Gap Road views

I made good time back to Coal Creek, where clouds started blocking out the worst of the sun’s heat. On the climb back up Crescent Park Drive, however, I slowed considerably, now averaging only a little more than 2.5 mph. Shortly after crossing the train tracks, people started looking concerned and sometimes stopping to see if I was o.k.

Railroad crossing

Eventually I made it back to the parking lot above Gross Reservoir before 5:00 p.m., and I detoured to eat dinner at the shore. Starr Peak loomed as the highest point on the horizon, blocking Thorodin, which is farther away.

Gross Reservoir

At this point my feet hurt badly, but duct tape helped hot spots. I made it up the final big incline to Kossler Lake and passed Panorama Point at sunset.

Sunset from Panorama Point

I sprinted the last 50 feet back to Chautauqua, arriving at 9:09 p.m. for a time of 21:09 on Thorodin’s 50 Starrs.

Back to Chautauqua and just over 50 miles

At that point, I figured I had hours left and might as well hike home, making it a double marathon. I made it home 1 hour and 1 minute later, clocking an overall time of 22:10 for 53.5 miles.

Here is a satellite view of the route and an elevation profile.




I enjoyed pushing my limits on Thorodin’s 50 Starrs, and I would highly recommend this event to anyone wanting to try a 50-mile hike near Boulder with good views and fun peaks. There are endless potential variations. Someone could do it unsupported; I think a suitable name for an unsupported version would be “Thorodin’s 50 Water Bottles.” I leave you with a couple quotes:

“Long distance runner, what you standin’ there for? Get up get out, get out of the door!” Grateful Dead
“For no particular reason, I just kept on going….I’m pretty tired, I think I’ll go home now.” Forrest Gump