Mt Assiniboine Provincial Park

We had two adventures planned for our week-long stay in Alberta. I don’t think we realized how much the Rockwall would take out of us. Our next traverse was through Mt Assiniboine Provincial Park and in Banff National Park with more long days and multiple passes to climb. The weather was starting to look sketchy. We had an opportunity to stay another evening in Canmore after the Rockwall trek in an awesome hotel. Soft beds and hot showers… it was lovely.

Mt Assiniboine is the Matterhorn of Canada. Our original plan would have brought us right to the base, with views so amazing that they actually helicopter people in to small cabins there to see it. Personally I think that’s cheating, not to mention the helicopter noise in the Rockies was a bit annoying.

Our new plan was just an out and back overnight trip to a cute little cabin 8 miles in to the park. It gave is a nice taste of what Assiniboine Provincial Park has to offer, and left us excited for when we can come back for the full traverse!

The weather was holding out for us, and since we were headed to a cabin that had a fireplace inside, we weren’t to concerned if we got rained on.

The hike was mellow, along what seemed to be an old access road. It is used for cross country ski routes in the winter, and I had visions of skate skiing through Assiniboine one of these years!

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Even with the mellow hike, the views were still there. Beautiful rivers and streams, with mountain peaks showing themselves through the trees.

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After we arrived to the cabin, we decided to explore the surrounding area a little. It was only 8 miles in, so we had plenty of time to check out the near by lakes and loop around a linking trail.

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Marvel Lake did not disappoint! There was even a little peak of Mt Assiniboine that we could see from the right angle! This was a place that I would have been happy to just sit down with a book by the water and read the day away.

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We thought about trying to hike up to Wonder Pass for views, but it was getting late, and we didn’t want to chance it taking longer than expected and burning ourselves out completely. So we decided to take a little side loop back to the cabin, traversing through some beautiful meadows and coming across a horse ranger camp to boot!

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After arriving back to the cabin, we had dinner and made s’mores in the fireplace. A fun treat to have when backpacking!

The next morning was nice and lazy. No rush to tackle another pass, and only 8 miles to hike out! The clouds were coming in, but we only got sprinkled on the very last mile. What luck!

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This small taste of the area left me yearning for more. I certainly hope that we are able to plan a trip here in 2017 to explore more of this magical place.

The Rockwall Traverse

When I was first told about the Rockwall traverse in Kootenay National Park (Alberta, Canada), it really didn’t register how incredible this trek would be. I’m always up for adventure, so I was just excited for the invite and figured I’d do some research as we got closer to the date.

Soon I found out some more details, like we were fastpacking 34 miles in two days, and each day we had some serious elevation gain with two passes a day to conquer. We were going with three other friends, five of us total, and I was certainly the one with the fewest miles under my belt to date. I was nervous and excited at the same time.

It was a nine hour drive from Seattle to Radiant Springs, where we were car camping the night before our trek started. We broke this into two days, making Spokane the half-way point. It’s a beautiful drive through Washington and Idaho, and as we got closer to Kootenay National Park, the scenery just kept getting…. well… more scenic!

We started at Paint Pots trailhead, and left another car at Floe Lake trailhead for us to drive back up the road to Paint Pots a few miles the following day.

Paint Pots was true to it’s name, with beds of orange and yellow muddy clay made from iron-rich water in the area.

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The trail was very low-key for the first miles, which made us all a little nervous knowing that we had two passes to climb today. It was nice to have some warm-up time and not have to conquer a huge mountain right off the bat, but again… we knew what was coming.

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It wasn’t long before we started catching glimpses of The Rockwall. I knew it was big… I’d watched a few YouTube videos of other people’s treks and seen some photos. But it’s not until you’re standing at the base of The Rockwall’s pass that you can understand the sheer magnitude of this monument. As big as it was, it seemed that every few hundred feet there was a new view… a new angle. No photo could capture this scene and be able to relay it’s beauty accurately. But I took enough photos to certainly try!

The passes were steep, and even our tenured trekking team members were mumbling under their breath. This was the hardest fastpack trek I had tackled to date, and also the most scenic.

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The views didn’t even seem real. They were more like a photo in a magazine that someone edited to make the scenery pop more.

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After about 17 miles of jaw dropping vistas and enough elevation ascent and decent to leave me with shaky legs we settled in to Tumbling Creek campground.

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It’s pretty amazing when you’ve been trekking 17 miles and when you get to your camp area there are picnic tables and bear vaults available for use. Thank you, Canada! No need to hang our food, and we were able to sit at the table for dinner and chat about the day’s adventure, and what tomorrow would bring.

Day two did not ease us in as nicely as our first day on the trail. Nearly immediately we were trudging up the first pass of the day, leaving me wondering if I would have anything left for the second pass.

The views kept coming and thankfully, regenerating my energy. Trying to find words to define the landscapes we were witness to on this trip seems impossible. Even photos don’t come close to giving this trip justice.

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Floe Lake was fabulous, and we would have stayed longer to soak in the aura here if not for the swarms on mosquitoes promising to carry us away!

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After 34 miles and 4 passes in 2 days, with views of the Rockwall along with vast meadows, waterfalls, streams, tarns, and glaciers that hold so much history,  I was left with a tremendous sense of awe and accomplishment.

Earl Peak and Navaho Pass

Once again, we had multiple options for this day’s excursion. We had high hopes for a scenic loop in Mt Rainier National Park, but the weather seemed sketchy and we weren’t in the mood for the early morning rise that was needed to ensure we would have the time needed for the drive to and from the park. A closer option with fewer miles was a 13 mile loop that would take us along Navaho Pass in the Teanaway area. Navaho Pass is certainly a “must see” in Washington, so it seemed like a no-brainer to chose this option. Not to mention the weather was much nicer on the other side of the mountains.

We arrived at the Beverly Creek trailhead after 10:30am, which was super late for us, but it was only 13-15 miles, so we figured we had plenty of time. I had only reviewed the map during the drive there and thought I had a clear idea of the direction we were going. I was concerned about the elevation gain, but figured I’d give it my best shot! It’s light out late still, so worst that would happen is we would be driving home in the dark.

We started a moderate jog up to the first trail junction. I thought we were going left, to continue up Beverly Creek. We reviewed the map again, and decided we weren’t too confident about the Hardscrabble trail, and we didn’t have time for a crazy bush whacking tour, so we opted for going right up Bean Creek trail. This was a good 2,200 feet of elevation gain in under 3 miles, just to get to the side trail (not on maps) to Earl Peak. Here at this plateau we took a much needed break for lunch, soaked in the view of Mt Stuart, and pulled out the map again to decide what direction we wanted to go.

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Our goal was Navaho Pass. Earl Peak sounded interesting, but we weren’t sure we had time for both. We started down the trail towards the pass, but five minutes in we saw some amazing rain clouds, that happened to be dumping rain from them right in the direction we were headed. We didn’t want to get caught in a rainstorm this day, so opted to turn around, do the little scramble up Earl Peak, and see what the weather was like at that point. If it was good, we could always come down and try the pass still, or just go back the way we came.

This “little scramble” up to Earl Peak turned out to be an hour of me literally using both of my hands the entire way to crawl up the mountainside. Every time I thought we were almost to the summit, I’d crawl around another boulder and see more rocks to climb up. Scrambles are not my strength, so this was certainly a challenge for me, physically and mentally.

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After what felt like forever, and another 1,000 feet of elevation gain literally crawled up, all of my frustrations from the climb melted away with the intake of the panoramic scene I had before me. Mt Stuart in all it’s glory, as well as range upon range of breathtaking mountainous views. We signed the logbook and had a snack, at what felt like was nearly the top of the world.

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To the northwest we could see an enticing ridgeline. There was no trail, but it seemed to go along the wilderness boundary line, and then drop off to the Navaho Pass trail, which we could also see from our perch. We got the bold idea to traverse the ridge, drop down to the trail, and make a lollypop loop complete by coming back through Navaho Pass and some connector trails.

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What we thought would be an easy ridge traverse turned into another test of my abilities. Steep scree fields that didn’t look nearly as intimidating from afar made me seriously consider going back down that crazy scramble that I was so glad to get behind me. Multiple times we thought we were to a point that we could trek easily down to the trail below, only finding more scree that we weren’t willing to gamble with.

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Even through the uncertainty and challenge of this trail-less adventure, the views continued to amaze, so it was easy to continue on without complaint.

We finally found a safe place to slide down the mountain into a field that connected us with the trail we had been looking at form afar for some time. I felt like someone who had been shipwrecked, and they had found dry land for the first time in days! I nearly kissed the ground.

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After a few more diversions to get through the field safely (not all fields are flat, you know!) and some conversations with the ground squirrels, we finally made it to a cairn marking the trail to Navaho Pass.

A short jog up to the pass rewarded us with more views of Mt Stuart and the ranges that skirt it. We were behind schedule. I was tired. Now we only had one route option back to the car, and it wasn’t going to be easy. Yes, we now had a trail, but we still had some big climbs, and a steep decent at the end that I knew would leave my knees screaming at me.

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Another quick snack and we were on our way down the trail, homeward bound. We had two small passes to go over, so it was a mixture of “run while you can” and then “trek up the switchback slogs”. It was hot and I was tired from the challenging terrain we already covered. I wouldn’t call this part of the adventure fun, but the views continued to amaze, so I tried to keep a positive attitude and continued to push myself.

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The base of Navaho Pass is a popular backpacking destination. I’ll admit, I would smile as I passed people carrying their huge packs in, thankful I didn’t have that weight on my back!

Even though this trip wasn’t what I had planned, or prepared myself for, it was still rewarding and I’m proud that I was able to complete it. We reached the car at 7pm with a total distance of 13 miles, with 5,600 feet of elevation gain. Lots of learning, pushing, and accomplishments!

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French Ridge – Testing Bushwhacking Skills

It seems that the more you change your plans the harder something is to plan… go figure… but in the end it always seems to work out!

This traverse had been re-planned probably three times before we finally just walked into the Ranger Station in Leavenworth and started asking about trail conditions. We saw a few loops that looked interesting, and finally settled on a loop that started with French Ridge, that allowed us multiple options for extending the loop, depending on weather and trail conditions.

A dear friend was getting married near town Saturday, and we had the opportunity to extend the weekend into an extended trip. Camping options for Saturday night were non-existent due to it being 4th of July weekend, but as luck would have it, another friend was vacationing in town in a little cabin and allowed us to car-camp in their back yard! Things do have an odd way of turning out sometimes…

We parked at the Black Pine Horse trail head, as that seemed like a safer place to leave the car overnight. The Icicle Creek trailhead was only a few hundred feet up the road, with an easy rock-hop across the creek that flowed over the road.

The two miles along Icicle Creek to the French Ridge trail was more like a lovely stroll. Horses are often on this part of the trail, so the path was well worn and wide. About a half mile before we came to our cutoff, there were some beautiful views of Icicle Creek. Here we had a quick snack and filled up our water, as we knew there would be no water sources for about 8 miles along French Ridge.

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One mile into our assent up French Ridge we were well aware that the trail hadn’t been maintained much. Luckily the elevation gain was very gradual, so the crawling over downed trees and wading through shoulder-high brush wasn’t too terrible. I will, however, re-think my attire the next time I go onto a trail that hasn’t been verified as “maintained”. A hiking skirt probably wasn’t the best choice, judging by my scratched up legs by the end of the day.

I’ll admit that the bushwhacking was getting on my nerves, and I may have had a few choice words under my breath the second time I tripped and fell, but once I saw the view from that ridge, it made every scratch and scrape worth it.

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The nearly 360 degree viewpoint boasted incredible views of Bulls Tooth, Chiwaukum Mountains , Sixtysix Hundred Ridge, The Cradle, and layers of the Wenatchee Mountains. It’s places like this that make everything else in the world melt away, and all that’s left is you, in awe, grinning like kid in a candy store without a care in the world.

We spent some time on the ridge relishing in the beauty, and then started towards the connector trail that would lead us back down the ridge. En route was a spot where an old fire tower used to be – this landmark was only listed on one of our maps, so if you have a new one, you wouldn’t even know the spot existed. We came to the faint trail pealing off the north side of the ridge trail, and dumped our packs to explore. We found the marker and took in the views, which weren’t quite as good as our previous viewpoint, but still amazing none the less. Weaving through wildflowers we made our way back to our packs and continued on.

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Next time I’ll make sure I understand my map’s legend better… we came to a trail crossing that wasn’t listed on either of our maps. One direction had a sign that says “Trail Not Maintained”, and the other direction looked like a much more traveled trail continuing along the ridge. After exploring a few hundred feet in both directions and reviewing the map again, we realized we were at the location on the map where the trail line changed from “Hiker/Horse” to “Unofficial/Unmaintained/Position Approximate”. We later found out from some trail workers the next day that the other trail is a fisherman’s trail the goes to Turquoise Lake.

The two miles down the unmaintained trail was certainly not the highlight of the trip. I was very grateful that we were going down that mess, and not trying to hike up it. About 1.5 miles down, there was a beautiful spot next to a waterfall that I can imagine not many people had the pleasure of seeing. At this point the trail opened up a little more, as it seemed that a few brave people had come up to see the falls and called it quits there.

The French Creek trail was a sight for sore eyes, and we took a little beak here before heading on towards Klonaqua Lakes, where we planned to camp for the night. We were already 11 miles in to our trek, and only had 4 more miles to go, thought with a steep final ascent to the lake.

The two miles along French Creek trail was pretty uneventful. A nice mellow reprieve from the gnarly French Ridge trail, but no real views. Lost of blowdowns pulled off the trail, and the creek was a lot like ever other creek out there.

We passed the Snowall Cradle trail and took a look at the creek crossing. This was one of the three options we had as a return route the next day. The creek was deep and cold, and it looked like we would have had to wade through waist high water to cross it. That didn’t sound appealing.

Right before the Klonaqua Lakes trail, we came to a little creek crossing that required some rock hopping. This would be an easy crossing for most, but I still need more work on my water crossing skills, so I was a little terrified to say the least. The creek wasn’t too deep or fast, so if I fell it certainly wouldn’t be deadly, but it would still be cold and wet… With some assistance and coaching I made my way across. Sounds odd, but I was pretty proud of myself! I thought back to when I had to cross smaller creeks and the fear I had then. It’s a good feeling to feel like you are progressing in skills, and overcoming fears that you have.

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The two miles up to Klonaqua Lakes was a brutal way to end a long day. It was only 1,400 feet of elevation gain, but most of that was packed into one mile. After the long and challenging traverse over French Ridge, my legs were shot. It was getting late and we didn’t even know if there would be a campsite available when we arrived.

There were two other couples with camp set up when we arrived to the lake. The wind picked up, and it felt like the temperature dropped 15 degrees. There were even a few little patches of snow near the lake. We were told there was one more campsite available, which required crossing the water outlet from the lake. I saw the rushing water over slippery logs that extended an old small dam that we had to cross, and I just needed a minute to gather myself. My legs were tired and I was shivering. The last thing I wanted to do was slip off the logs to the water below because my legs were shaking and I couldn’t feel my hands. So I quickly put on another layer, double checked with the other campers that there were no other spots, and psyched myself up to get myself across the water. Again, with some assistance I made it across with nothing more than one wet foot.

The next morning it was raining and the clouds had rolled in. I knew I should have taken a picture of the jagged mountains that encased the lake when we arrived! It was a spectacular view, but we were more concerned with setting up the tent and getting some food into us upon arrival.

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We quickly packed up and headed back down the trail towards French Creek. Luckily the rain had stopped, so we were only getting wet from the brush holding on to the water. The weather still looked sketchy, and it seemed like there was a good chance of more rain. We were told by some trail workers the day before that both alternate trails we were considering were still very overgrown, and the trail was hard to follow in some places. We could either hike 16 miles via Meadow Creek, or 8 miles back via French Creek. Not typical for us, but we opted for the easier route this time, with hopes of coming back when the trails had been worked on a little more to explore Meadow Creek and Snowall Cradle trails.

French Creek back to Icicle Creek trail was mellow and we were able to keep up a fast pace. I wouldn’t call the trail spectacular, or chose to go back again, but it did have some nice views of French Creek, as well as some neat areas with old-growth forest and some beautiful terrain with rocks, moss, wildflowers, and snags.

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Soon we were back at the car with a 24  mile weekend under our belts! We had reservations at the Icicle Creek RV Park to stay in one of their little cabins that night, so we headed back, showered, and spent some time tooling around in Leavenworth. A great way to end another fun traverse!

Herman Creek to Eagle Creek via the PCT

The Columbia River Gorge is breathtaking any way you look at it. I am lucky enough to live within a half day’s drive to Oregon, so exploration of endless loops and treks in the area are at my fingertips. Eagle Creek is one of the most popular hikes in the Gorge, rightfully so. Last year we planned a trip up Ruckel Ridge with hopes of running down Eagle Creek, but due to an injury I had at the time, we had to cut our trip short and gimp down Ruckel Creek instead.

With Eagle Creek being so popular, we wanted an alternate route that would make a nice two-day loop, allowing us to enjoy the scenery of Eagle Creek leisurely on day two without fighting the crowds.

We decided to start at Herman Creek trailhead, and stashed a bike at Eagle Creek trailhead a few miles away so getting the car back was just a short bike ride at the end of our trek. I didn’t have to bike back to get the car, so t was extra convenient for me!

Though Herman Creek trail is quite the slow, uphill slog, only a few miles in boast some waterfalls and scenery that make you want to need a break sooner than later.

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Past the waterfalls we continued up the Herman Creek slog, past the Cedar Swamp campsite, and paused at the Mud Lake junction. We decided to dump our packs for a break and check out Mud Lake, just a short jaunt down the trail. Being more of a mosquito haven and a swamp, Mud Lake didn’t keep our attention long, but it was a nice little reprieve from the march we had been on the past few hours.

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We grabbed our packs again and headed on towards Wahtum Lake. As we came to the ridge above the lake, a cold fog blew in, along with some chilly air at the 4,400ft elevation level. What should have been some spectacular views became grey waves of fog crossing our trail.

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We quickly descended down to Wahtum Lake where we perused the shore for a suitable campsite. There were a few people that had already staked their claim, and we didn’t see anything that met our fancy, so we decided to keep trekking. Our goal was to find a suitable campsite along the PCT, maybe near Chinidere Mountain or Hicks Lake.

Having passed both assumed locations and not finding a site, we were starting to wonder if we would end up just pitching our tent on the trail. It was getting later, and we only had an hour left of light.

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We knew there would be a spot at Smokey Spring, but we were really hoping for something exceptional. About two miles from Smokey Spring, we saw a little side trail and decided to check it out. A few hundred feet in boasted probably the best camp site on this stretch of the PCT. Mt Adams was in full view from an amazing ridge top, and the little camp space was just big enough for our tent. We set the tent, made dinner, and had a picturesque view of the sunset.

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The next morning we packed up and headed towards Smokey Spring, where our cutoff was to connect to Eagle Creek Trail. Upon arriving at the Smokey Spring campsites, I was to thankful that we found our little diamond in the PCT rough. The site would have been safe, level, and doable, but did not boast the view (or any view, for that matter) that the ridge site had. Luck was certainly on our side!

The cutoff trail turned out to be more of a “are you sure this is still the trail?” bushwhacking event. I doubt the trail had been maintained at all in the past 5 years. It was so steep that when trying to navigate over downed trees, I often had to straddle the log and slide down to the ground on the downside since I am so short. Not to mention the bush was so over-grown that it was above my head most of the time. Let’s just say that I wouldn’t recommend the trail, and I’m glad we were descending and not ascending it!

Touchdown to Eagle Creek was a sigh of relief. We took a break by the creek, had a snack, and refilled our water. Even with Eagle Creek’s popularity, there were no other hikers at this spot since it was so far in. It was lovely!

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The long trek along Eagle Creek was true to it’s reputation. Spectacular views of the creek, waterfalls every few miles, and lots of day hikers. We took a few side trips for better viewings, including one to lower punchbowl falls. I would absolutely hike eagle creek again, but certainly would opt for a mid-weekday to avoid some of the crowds.

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Soon we were at the Eagle Creek trailhead, with just a quick bike ride to the car at Herman Creek trailhead. After loading our packs into the car and switching our trail shoes for sandals, our first stop was to Thunder Island Brewery, where we discovered the best Barley Wine in the States yet! After 27 miles in two days, this was the perfect end to another great adventure!

Rogue River: Testing Endurance

We went round and round about this trip. Forty miles in two days along the magnificent Rogue River in Oregon… The last time I completed a long back-to-back trip was on the Eastern Loop on Mt Rainier, and I ended up injured for two months post-adventure. I had struggled with our previous trip on Silver Star (see previous post), and I hadn’t been able to train much due to my work being crazy. We had an alternate plan that we could opt in to, but we didn’t seem too excited about a beach fastpack in May. Rogue River had it all; minimal elevation gain, maintained trails, extraordinary scenery, and garunteed dinner complete with beer! Friends were rafting the river, and had invited us to rendezvous at their campsite. They were able to carry our primary gear (tent, sleeping bags, pads) so all we had to carry was replenishment food, water, first aid, and a spare clothing layer. It seemed like a no-brainer.

We made the choice. We would start at Grants Pass, camp with friends at the Rogue Ranch, and end at Foster Bar. I was excited and nervous, but confident I could do this. We made the decision that we would make this a fun trip, keeping the pace slow, stop to stretch often, and communicate honestly about how I was feeling. I was feeling euphoric!

We had twenty-two miles to cover on day one. This was the furthest I’d gone in one day. My goal was to maintain a mere three miles per hour, including stops. I started off strong, but soon realized that when you’re stopping to replenish water often so you don’t have as much weight to carry, and stopping to stretch to ensure you don’t get injured, this can be a challenging pace for someone at my skill level. But with views like this, you tend to forget about miles per hour and just smile while doing the best you can….

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By mile seven on day one my hips were screaming at me. Why didn’t I think to do some runs with weight on my back? I was only carrying ten pounds, but on a frame like mine, an additional ten pounds is a lot! I popped some ibuprofen and held my pigeon stretches a little longer on our quick breaks.

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I must have been doing something right, because I couldn’t stop smiling! I felt strong, even knowing my weakness. I was thinking back to when I could barely run three miles in a day. How far I’ve come! I felt like a rockstar without the hangover. Who wouldn’t feel amazing running along this river?

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I was proud of myself and my calorie replenishment planning. I had lots of gels, Nuun, high protein bars, jerky, and even the new “baby food” packets made for runners. I never knew pureed sweet potatoes with sea salt could taste so good! Even with my planning, I still ended up dehydrated on day one. I realized this when we had been going for 6 hours and I still hadn’t peed… whoops… mental note to drink a liter of water when we arrive to camp, and another liter the morning after before we hit the trails again.

We got to camp and met up with our friends around 5:30pm (we got a late start!) and I realized at that time that it hurt more to sit than to stand. Muscles were tight. My feet were sore. I felt amazing.

I ate enchiladas and drank beer that evening. Friends were going on about how crazy we were to run so far… I kept saying things like “We didn’t run the whole time!” or “It took us almost eight hours to go 22 miles!” I should have just acknowledged that what we accomplished was pretty amazing, and not many people out there did what we did that day.

My pad in our tent never felt so comfortable. I don’t even remember falling asleep, but I did wake up with the sunrise, which was sadly a little annoying. My coat over my face helped me get a little more rest. I won’t deny, I didn’t feel too guilty when I heard the rest of the camp up and making breakfast. Typically I’m the one helping and pulling my weight with work, but I was tired, sore, and hungry!

Our friends made an amazing breakfast of oatmeal, fruit, and sausage, which we graciously devoured as we packed up our gear. Soon we were back on the trail, with a lesser 18.5 mile day ahead of us!

Inspiration point was probably my favorite part of our trip. A waterfall, amazing trails blasted into the rock wall along the river, and stunning views in all directions made this area true to it’s name…

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I was giddy. This is why I endure the pain of gaining strength each week. This is why I run, why I love adventure, and why I push my body to adapt.

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By mile fifteen on day two my feet felt like they had been beaten with a baseball bat. When I thought about it, they had been beaten with rocks for two days, so it didn’t seem crazy that they hurt so much. I am used to sitting at a desk or in a car for fifty hours a week, so a few “training runs” here and there certainly wouldn’t prepare me for pounding my feet into rock laden trails for eight hours a day, two days in a row. At this point in our trip, I was doing that awesome “walk-run” move that you see women do in their velour pants at 2pm around Starbucks with a latte in hand. Except, I didn’t have a latte, and I still had 3.5 miles to go…

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Once again, the scenery helped me forget about the pain I was in, and I just focused on putting one foot in front of the other until we got back to my car. I had to walk that last mile along the road, but I didn’t care. I was still smiling, and so excited that I made it. I was excited about the opportunities that I had because of this trip. I was excited to go home to keep running, to continue training, and to research our next adventure. I was excited to know that I had so many adventure options, knowing that I was able to accomplish the miles, and knowing that I can get so much stronger with more training.

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My goal is to make this trip an annual event, and to become faster every time. Well, maybe not faster, but less strenuous. Why would you want to make this traverse faster when you have such breathtaking views along the entire trail?

The Rogue River now has a special place in my heart, and I can’t wait to hear her sweet melody along the trail again. The Rogue River helped me discover a lot about myself, and taught me a lot about what to expect in a back-to-back adventure run. This adventure built my confidence, as well as my motivation for future challenges. This may have been the best forty miles of my life to date!

Cheers to the next adventure, the next challenge, and the next mile!

Silver Star Scenic Area

A few weekends ago I was lucky enough to be able to test my technical skills over a mere 6 miles of the extensive Silver Star Scenic Area in southern Washington. Not only trail running skills, but driving skills as well! I’ve seen warnings written in trail reviews before regarding road conditions to the trail head, and I believe this is the first time I felt they were understated. I certainly put my Subaru Crosstrek to the test, and it came through with flying colors! Sadly I didn’t think to take photos of the road conditions, but do note that they were not pleasant!

A few hundred feet from the trailhead I threw in the towel for fear of bottoming out my car, so I parked on the side of the road and we started jogging up to the trail. At the trail head the only vehicles were older Subarus, Jeeps, 4×4 pick-up trucks and a few tricked out SUV’s. Brave drivers!

At this point I’d been sitting in a car for 5 hours… unfortunately my body doesn’t do well with quick transitions, and always seems to take a while to warm up. Especially when I’ve been sedentary for hours on end. Lucky for me, the views started right off the bat, so motivation wasn’t hard to embark. Slowly but surely I trudged up the trail, hoping my muscles would remember that I needed them this day.

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Four volcano’s could be seen almost immediately, and I kept mixing them up due to the light clouds that covered up just the top of the peaks. Regardless, Helens, Adams, Rainier, and Hood all looked magical. (Mt Hood is just out of my lens’s reach in this photo, but look closely and you’ll see the other three!)

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The view from Silver Star Mountain was phenomenal, and left me wishing we had more time to explore the area.

The 6 mile loop we chose took me ridiculously too long. It had all of the things I still need to work on regarding technique…. scrambling, snow, and trails with loose rocks. I’m more of a “deer trail in the wilderness” kind of girl currently, excelling on dirt trails with roots, bushes, trees, and windy paths. This adventure was certainly an eye opener to what I need to work on to be able to be prepared for all that may be put in front of me this running season. It was also a reminder of how quickly your estimated miles-per-hour goal can be crushed due to slowing down in areas you’re not comfortable with yet.

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Six miles can be cake, or it can be a struggle that scares the crap out of you! All the more reason to get out, expose yourself to terrain you might not enjoy, but still most likely will encounter if you’re serious about exploring the trails!

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In the end you’ll be able to see some amazing sights that the majority of the population doesn’t have the luxury or viewing wth their own eyes. Always be prepared mentally for situations that you may not be comfortable with. Identify the areas that you need to improve on, and either work hard to get there, or chose another route!

These are just a few things that I learned on this adventure…. cheers until next time!

Pensée

Pensée: a thought or reflection put into literary form; an aphorism.

I seem to have a lot of these type of thoughts lately. I am a 36 year old woman, live alone, have no children, and don’t even have a pet to care for. I love adventure running, backpacking, biking, healthy food and craft beer. There are many reasons for my current lifestyle, but that is a story to be told in another segment. I’m often that girl that people judge on multiple levels without knowing why I’ve made the choices I have. Some aspects of my life haven’t even been due to choices, but more of an acceptance of circumstances beyond my control, and making the best of them. Some say things like “Wow! That must be nice to have no responsibilities!” insinuating that they think I am selfish and only living for myself. Some make statements that reflect jealousy, such as “I wish I could have time for that…” or “I remember those days!” Then there are those that just have that blank stare, and then ask “Why??” To which I typically will reply with “Why not?”

The statement that got me thinking the most was when someone told me they remembered when they used to live like there was no tomorrow, just like I was doing. I first categorized that somewhere between them thinking I was selfish and them being just jealous, but ultimately I felt like it was a compliment. Isn’t that a statement used to motivate and push you to reach for the stars and strive for your goals? That statement, “Live like you’ll die tomorrow!” makes you take chances and try things you might not otherwise, right? You hear it in movies, you read it in books, and you see those memes on Facebook with people leaping off cliffs into unknown waters below. Isn’t that what we all want?

Then I started thinking about the repercussion of what people did with that mentality of leaping off ledges into the unknown. I have known a few of these types of people, and read about many. They take risks. Sometimes they have amazing stories to tell from their adventures. Sometimes they get injured and have extensive rehabilitation, or are never able to walk again. Sometimes health isn’t even a factor in their lives and they spend hours indulging in calories with the mindset of “I’ll die anyways”… at times I’ve seen people gamble and lose their lives, or their freedom.

I don’t want to be like that. I don’t want to die tomorrow, or anytime soon, for that matter! I want to explore, experience, taste, feel… I want to live! I want to help ensure other people, generations after me will also be able to experience this incredible planet we have the honor of inhabiting. If I truly thought I was going to die tomorrow, I probably wouldn’t smile so much to strangers. I wouldn’t care what I ate today, because obviously it won’t matter how I feel tomorrow. I wouldn’t read the news or vote. I certainly wouldn’t exercise, and might not even shower today.

What if people started thinking like they would live forever? Wouldn’t this be the mindset that makes more sense to embrace? If we lived forever, wouldn’t we want to take better care of ourselves physically and mentally? Feed our bodies with nourishing sustenance that will help us have the energy and health to enjoy this amazing long life? Wouldn’t we want to explore this stunning world we live in and see all that it has to offer? Would we choose the job that pays the most, or the job that pays the bills and makes us happy? Would we pause more, love more, appreciate more? If we knew we would live forever, I think we would make more of an effort to save this Earth and appreciate all that inhabit it, regardless of species, race, gender, or creed.

I realized that this is how I have subconsciously focused my lifestyle for some time now. I choose to live like there is always going to be a tomorrow. I research my options in life, and always try to follow the path that will be the best for myself, as well as those I care about. And as for those I care about, they are not just friends and family. I care for the creatures that balance this earth, the vegetation that gives us our air, the water that replenishes us all, and the soil that it all starts from.

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My pensée is a daily occurrence, and changes as the world turns to show me different perspectives. Though direction and focus may change, I try to keep my core values aligned with the mantra of living like there is always a tomorrow. I’ll make the best choices possible at the time that they are presented, and not take foolish risks that may hurt me or those I love. I will nourish my body so I can push its limits, allowing me to explore and experience all this world has to offer me. I will feed my mind with valuable knowledge and grow emotionally with each new challenge. I will encourage the people I care about, and be honest with not only those around me, but most importantly, myself. I will step outside of my comfort zone to try new things, and to stand up for what I believe in even when I think there will be resistance.

Sometimes the most challenging traverse is discovering what options this world has to offer, and what the best course is for yourself regardless of what you think others will say about your choice. My traverse is one day at a time, always knowing there will be a tomorrow, and striving to make it the best tomorrow imaginable.

First Half Marathon! … And Maybe My Last!

My last installment was speaking to my love for trail running, how it helps me on so many levels, and that I was curious how I would do in a half marathon I was considering to run in February. Two months later I’ve made time to write about that run, and what I learned from it.

I purposefully didn’t sign up for the half marathon ahead of time because I really wasn’t sure if I wanted to try it. I also have issues with commitment, and prefer my weekends to be open for adventures. The Saturday morning of the race I woke up early and decided it was worth a $50 last-minute sign up fee to at least try it, even if just to say I did. It wasn’t raining, and I was familiar with the course at Soaring Eagle Park. What the hell?

I pulled up and started walking towards the sign up booth. I notice a man that also noticed me, and we stared at each other for a moment trying to figure out how we knew each other. Quickly we realize it was from a local run group and we start up typical runner chit chat. I shared that this is my first half marathon, and I figured it would be good for me since there wasn’t much elevation gain or loss. I felt like I was slapped upside the head when he said “Yeah, that’s why these are hardest! You have to work the whole time! No downhill reprieve!” I laughed it off, but certainly had an “oh crap!” moment on the inside… I really should have thought of that aspect!

I started off strong, even with the dozens of runners passing me right off the bat. Quickly I realized I needed to focus on “slow and steady” or I would bonk out too quickly. By mile 3 most everyone had spread out along the trail, and I only had the occational runner passing me. By mile 6.5, and the first of two loops on the course, I was super proud of myself. All I could think was “Ok! Let’s just do that one more time!” Mile 8 I was wondering what the hell I was thinking… then I had a little rebound on mile 10 and was able to keep up a good pace. Miles 11 and 12 hurt… my knees hurt, and I had to walk up a few of the little hills. I can’t tell you how happy I was to see a few other people walking as well. By this point everyone was so spread out, I felt like I must be last, or close to it! I really had no clue what a “good” time was for a half marathon on that terrain, but I was just happy that I hadn’t quit. I think I recall actually saying out loud “Oh thank God!” when I came around that last corner and saw the finish line! I crossed at 2 hours 28 minutes, and turns out I wasn’t even last!! Almost smack dab in the middle of my age group and gender.

I think I waited so long to write about this experience because I have been reflecting on it for some time. What did I learn? Will I want to complete more runs like this?

I learned that I am stronger than I thought, and I am very proud of myself for accomplishing a run like this. I only really started to trail run over distances more than a few miles this past summer. When I’m running, often people will ask me what I’m training for, and I never have an answer. I just love to run, and want to be active, healthy, and explore!

I learned that I really don’t care about free swag. After the run, there were booths set up, people talking on microphones, and raffles to enter in. Everyone was crowded around the booths trying to see, and I glanced over with no peaked interest at all… I felt that took away from the beautiful trail I was just on for the past 2.5 hours.

I learned that I love to run distances, but I don’t care if I win or lose in a race. I prefer to race against myself and break personal records. I’d rather go run with friends and explore new places without worrying about time, sharing the trail, or having time to pee. 🙂

Will I run a race again? Probably. If it’s to support a good cause or be social with friends. Do I feel the need to run a race every month and make a wall covered with race bibs? Nah… I’ll fill that space with photos of the amazing scenery from my adventure runs!

Cheers to adventures in 2016!

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Nascent 

Nascent: just beginning, budding, developing, growing, embryonic, incipient, young, fledgling, evolving, emergent, dawning, burgeoning.

This is the perfect word for me this past year. Yesterday’s run made me realize more than ever how far I’ve grown, developed, evolved, etc… etc… Not only physically, but as a human being overall.

Sunday morning I was wondering… curious about how far I could run now. I’ve traveled some miles this past year (the most being 21 miles in one day), but typically the long hauls have been more of a run/hike/trek/run/climb/break type of day. There’s a five mile loop I like to run up on Cougar Mountain near my home. The last few times I ran it I realized I felt good afterwards. REALLY good. Then I asked myself why I didn’t try for more? A half marathon is coming up that I’m interested in… could I handle continuous running for 13.1 miles so soon after diving in to this whole trail running thing?

So I reviewed my map and gave myself some options… I really dislike running the same course twice in the same trip, so I found some loops that I could run that would either keep me at 5 miles, extend to 7 miles, or even shoot for 10 miles if I was feeling up to it. By mile 7 I was grinning like a kid in a  candy store, passing people on the trail and only slowing long enough to check the signs at trail crossings and snap a few photos:

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Who wouldn’t just keep running and smiling with these trails ahead of them?

Trail running is my therapy. It has helped me through so many challenging aspects of my life, helping me focus, reflect, learn, grow, and strengthen not only my body but my mind and soul. Every run is an adventure with a story and a lesson learned. With every run I feel like I can accomplish more in life, and I become more excited for this life that I have.

I can’t wait to discover what trail is next, where it will take me, and the adventure to be had along the way!