Sunday, May 31, 2009


The Blanchard ultra was Saturday, on and around Blanchard Mountain. NWUltras---meaning Michael and Tamera C. and Scott K.---organized the event. Great job, of course. This is a quiet affair, with a lot of the same folks showing up each year. The course amounts to an 11 mile loop, with some climbs and some views, which can be done one, two, or three times. I started early, 6 AM, because it's so near and I've lately been into getting up at stupid hours on Saturday mornings in the summer. I only went twice, because I'm doing the North Face 50 next week. I ran easy and relatively well, for not pushing much--nice. The day was spectacular, considering all the bad weather we've had for the first half of the year. I hung out for a while afterwards, typical for this event--it has a lazy campground sort of feel, with good company, good chatter et al.--and then caught opening day at the Mount Vernon Farmer's Market. Big radishes.

Tamera and Michael
Skagit Valley
Steve and Eric
Chris and Linda
Charlie, John, Chris and Tom
Lilly Lake

Arthur, TC and Shawn

Mt. Baker and Erika

"Best Blood" Bandur

Monday, May 25, 2009

Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary

In defense of less yardwork:
I just built a bird bath. Costco purchase, not too complicated. I set it in the middle of this mess of plants I've planted, which actually had some great color already this year. I have it in mind that I'm going to create a better backyard habitat for birds and other animals. The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife has an interesting program where you can apply to have your backyard listed as an official sanctuary, and get a certificate to prove it. I'm doing it. They provide instruction on how to make the backyard more hospitable for animals and birds.
There is actually a lot written about this sort of thing in environmental circles. Aldo Leopold is the author of a book called The Sand County Almanac, which is really well known for addressing the conservation ethic. I have it in mind that in this book he promoted letting things grow, and letting nature have its way in places, and appreciating nature in all its forms, nearby and far off. There are counterviews, even within environmental circles--Leopold's work is part of the debate between applying conservation or preservation principles to land management policy.
I probably fall more out on the conservation side, but it depends sometimes. For example, I think we really need wilderness, even if we never go to it. Just knowing its there gives hope for getting away sometime. I think Ed Abbey said that, and I buy it. I like knowing Alaska is up there, that there are no roads in the North Cascades. One of my favorite poems is The World is Too Much With Us, by William Wordsworth, the basic idea of which is sometimes getting away is good for the soul. And less yardwork, good for the birds.
To wrap this up--and really I just started this to toss up a link about the backyard sanctuary program, which I think is cool--but to wrap this up, here's a quote from Aldo Leopold's essay, Conservation Aesthetic--
"Like all real treasures of the mind, perception can be split into infinitely small fractions without losing its quality. The weeds in a city lot convey the same lesson as the redwoods; the farmer may see in his cow-pasture what may not be vouchsafed to the scientist adventuring in the South Seas. Perception, in short, cannot be purchased with either learned degrees or dollars; it grows at home as well as abroad, and he who has a little may use it to better advantage than he who has much. As a search for perception, the recreational stampede is footless and unnecessary."

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Watershed Run

Twelve hours is a long time to run, especially in circles. That said, Chris and Tom, the Watershed Preserve 12 Hour Run organizers, make it so much fun. The run was yesterday, and I am tired today. I kept it busy for the full time, finishing with 57 miles. I'll take it. I was pretty lame for the last hour, but that's ok. It's good prep with good peeps. Organization and volunteers were top of the charts. In particular, the food was phenomenal. Food matters. There were all sorts of Hammer energy fuels, which I've taken to, but then there was this big buffet you'd pop out at every 5 miles. Here's the full menu:

birthday cake
cantaloupe (maybe)
chicken flavored vegetable soup
cooked potatoes
crackers (maybe)
energy bars (cut up)
fruit cups
hot chocolate
peanut butter & jelly tortillas
Red Bull
rice (maybe)
salt (for potatoes)
tortillas (for wraps)
vegetarian soup

For more on the event,

Saturday, May 9, 2009

East Bank Trail

I got up at 5:00 AM Saturday, yawn, and drove two hours east on Highway 20 to the East Bank Trailhead on Ross Lake. I’ve never done the East Bank Trail from 20, but I figured it was the most likely place in the North Cascades Park to be snow free. And it was ....perfect. The trail turned out to be a total cupcake—very easy, but also very gorgeous and very very enjoyable. The trail is sort of like Baker Lake, though I would say it is easier, with better footing, but much longer and more remote. I had it to myself--no boats on the lake, and only two people all day on the trail. Clear skies, warm temps. I made it out to Devil’s Camp, which forms part of the Devil’s Loop, and then turned it around, for about 25 miles total. I took it very easy, just enjoying the trail.
The East Bank Trail goes all the way to Canada. I'm guessing 35 miles total, one way. Not today for me, but hopefully someday. You can catch a boat up to Hozomeen and then hoof it out to Highway 20, or even start in the Skagit Provincial Park in BC. I’ve camped farther up the trail, under Desolation Peak, which is Jack Kerouac’s old fire lookout. There’s actually a campground called Nightmare which I backpacked to with some friends. We took the boat in on that trip, out of Ross Lake Resort. There’s lots of underused wilderness campgrounds on Ross, including island campgrounds.
Here’s what the NPS says about the East Bank Trail. Their write-up includes a link to a map of the trail.
This was a bit of an equipment test run for me. I ran with my new “Spot” satellite tracker and 911/Help alert, which is supposed to work “anywhere.” ( My family got the Spot for me after I told them about the coyotes I heard at night a couple months ago. It makes sense, I suppose. Unfortunately, I think I did something wrong—I’m not getting any of my tracking information so far. So, jury’s out on the Spot. Or, it works anywhere, subject to operator error.
I also decided this year to try out treating my water. I picked up the “Steripen.” ( This thing seems really cool. It is very light and packable—it fits in a pocket or whatever. You stick it in your water bottle, and it zaps all the water boogers with ultraviolet rays, and then they die from radiation or something. I think it worked, but this is a wait and see situation.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Sunflower Run

I ran the Sunflower “Iron”/Relay in the Methow Valley for the first time Saturday. This race is absolutely brilliant. The run is 21.7 miles or so, starting near Mazama and finishing with a steep descent through sunflower fields into Twisp. Details on the race are available at, and I see they already have some nice pics up at their blog link on that site. There is just a terrific community spirit around this run, which is now on its 29th year. It’s also fun to drive 2.5 hours, and yet run into all sorts of friendly faces from the Bellingham Running Club who’ve made the pilgrimage, as well as friends in Winthrop.
The Sunflower course is a rolling one, not as hard as some of the ultra courses around these parts (about 2k elevation gain), but at a little higher altitude. It’s a fun course, very runnable with two fair climbs, and at 21.7 miles, it ends quick enough as compared to longer races. The Sunflower course is a Methow highlight reel, winding along the Methow River, up by Patterson Lake and Elbow Coulee, and through Ponderosa forests, over clear streams, and all sorts of other cool ecology.
As for me, what a difference three weeks makes! There were no sunflowers three weeks ago, Patterson Lake was frozen solid, and I was running awful. This time around, the hills were absolutely covered in yellow, with some blue, and there was no snow--it was a beautiful day. I ran better than the last time I was in the Methow, with none of the bronchial challenges from before. Not great, but better. I took lots of pictures during the first half, but then ran the second half at a steady clip. One point of REAL CONCERN, however, is whether or not the alleged sunflowers in these pictures are actually sunflowers. This has been a matter of some serious botanical discussion. Someone said arrowroot. My guess—a dwarfie sunflower. But I'm not sure.