Held annually in August near the small Colorado town of Saguache, the Middle Creek Flyathlon is our flagship Flyathlon event. This “race” is actually a celebration of the priceless public watersheds like Middle Creek that can be found throughout the American west.
On Friday night, we gather at the Upper Crossing Guard Station to share fine craft beers from around the country and go over the rules.
Bright and early Saturday morning, we convene at the Middle Creek trailhead which sits at the end of a 10 mile dirt road in the Rio Grande National Forest. A few words are spoken, a shitty domestic beer is sacrificed, and then flyathletes are off.
The “short course” winds past a mile or so of Middle Creek beaver ponds that are teeming with brook trout and the occasional large brown trout (who eats small brook trout). At this point, the trail crosses East Middle Creek, and makes a hard right up into the East Middle Creek watershed. Downed Aspen trees and small water make casting challenging in East Middle, but the brook trout are naive (fish biologist term for dumb) and plentiful.
The final half-mile of the out part of this 7 mile out-and-back course is an aggressive climb to the checkpoint on the top of Cow Skull Hill, named for a moldy cow skull that graces the summit. Decaying ungulate parts aren’t the only gem that this hill has to offer, as rumor has it that the elusive whiskey bush lurks somewhere near the checkpoint…
Most importantly, beyond the checkpoint lie hallowed waters that house a San Luis Valley treasure, the native Rio Grande cutthroat trout. If you are fortunate enough to catch and release one of these beauties during competition, you are awarded a double fish bonus at the finish, a difference maker that has crowned champions!
The “long course” is the short course with a really cruel additional 5 mile loop added on. The first part of this loop climbs then descends a hill with the nicest trail in the valley. I know this, because flyathletes built this trail in 2016 with a lot of help from Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado. Seriously, you could skateboard down this hill.
At the bottom of the hill, long coursers turn left and follow an overgrown trail up Indian Creek, which is also loaded with brookies. After crossing Indian Creek for a second time, the “trail” begins to climb steeply up WTF Hill. Named for the aspen forest that seems to be collapsing all around you (i.e. White Tree Falling), this part of the course has been called “unpleasant” by more than one competitor. At the top of WTF Hill, the course rolls through a beautiful aspen grove on its return to the starting line, where the out-and-back portion of our endurance flyathletes begins…
After the race is over, the real fun begins back at the Upper Crossing Guard station. Fine Colorado craft beers compliment a delicious catered meal. Awards are presented to the top finishers and fundraisers, and a grand champion is crowned following a corn hole / BB rifle cage match battle…
We hope you will join us in Middle Creek some day.