Friday, October 23, 2009

International Rescue Committee

I am running the Seattle Marathon this year in support of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), a refugee resettlement agency located in Seattle since 1976. The IRC Seattle has resettled about 20,000 refugees in the King County area and continues to resettle roughly 450 a year. I think this is an absolutely terrific organization. It was founded in the early 1930s, at the suggestion of Albert Einstein of all people, to help people fleeing Nazi persecution. Since that time, the IRC has rescued refugees from some of the most hostile conflicts around the world and has helped them start anew in communities such as our own.
For just one of the many refugee stories in Seattle, please read Maggi Little’s story below. Maggi is working this year as an AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer with Seattle IRC, and has personally experienced fleeing one country to resettle in another.
In early 1999 my family and I were resettled in the US as refugees from Kosova. The oppressive regime under which I grew up forced most Kosovars to lead a life without an education or understanding of the world outside of their city or town. For me, amongst other things, this meant that I would be tear-gassed on my first day to school, not be allowed to learn about our history, and that I would have no chance of learning another language or studying outside of my small town, Dobercan.
Upon our arrival in Seattle our hope to finally live a peaceful and prosperous life was great, but there were times when the fear of not making it overwhelmed me. When I first entered an American school, at the age of 14, I was given a placement test. It was written with letters that I recognized, but the words made no sense to me. I returned the piece of paper, and had to have an instructor come back to my desk and help me fill in my name under “Name”. I remember a deep sense of trepidation and frustration that set in when I could not convince myself that I would ever be able to compete with American students.
Ten years later I look back realizing that my chances of making it this far by myself were very slim. I am forever indebted to my community and all those around me who helped me get on my feet and make the best of my opportunities. My American friends and family have enabled me to graduate from a great university and to continue dreaming of opportunities that I could not have imagined before. I share these experiences with the refugees whose lives are just beginning to unfold in Seattle. Their prosperity-like mine did not too long ago- depends on people who are willing to provide them with the means to make the most of opportunities that come before them. I am pleased now to be in a position where I can do my part to give back to the community that has enriched my life beyond my expectations. I hope that you can be a part of helping me reach my goal of supporting me and the IRC in raising funds for refugees recently resettled in Seattle. Any amount that you can donate will go a long way in helping people who are restarting their lives in our community.
The IRC received an A+ rating from the American Institute for Philanthropy, and was awarded a 4 star rating by Charity Navigator. Funds donated to this charity find their way to people truly in need. Please consider donating. Donations are tax-deductible, and no amount is too small. Also, if you're interested in joining Team IRC (and getting the early bird entry rate!), or if you just want to learn more about the organization, shoot me an email. I think the world of this organization. And I’m happy to run the miles!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sauk Mountain

I sort of sucked at running this weekend. On Saturday I went up to Sauk Mountain, near Rockport. It was a monsoon. Heavy, heavy rain, coming down sideways, not too cold, but it was absolutely nonstop. Monsoons are interesting, sort of. There was a truck at the trailhead with some hunters—this is the trail where the unfortunate shooting occurred last year. They took off, probably because of the rain. I hiked to the top, fast. Running wasn't happening--I was tight, the trail steep, and there was the rain. My time out was more about seeing if I could stay dry and happy. This is supposed to be a good place for a quick view of the valley.
On the drive up, I saw a herd of elk outside of Lyman. Roughly 25 elk, with four or five bulls. I tried taking pictures, but the pictures didn't turn out well, because it was still dark and it was raining hard. There was a monsoon. A Sasquatch type shot is below.
Today I sort of ran around Blanchard Mountain. Really, I walked quite a bunch again, but there was some trotting. It was nice—no rain today, just wet. A spooky fog drifted through the trees on the frontside of the loop. Creeks, previously dry, ran fast and filled pools with yesterday’s rain. Some crazy beaver is going to town on a tree by Lilly Lake. Wood chips everywhere, tree about to fall. I keep hoping to see the beaver--it previously took a chunk out of a boardwalk.

The View from Sauk During a Monsoon

Elk herd

Monday, October 12, 2009

Easy Pass-Fischer Basin-Thunder Creek

Dan, Linda, and I did the Easy Pass-Fischer Basin-Thunder Creek trail in the North Cascades National Park on Sunday. We lucked into a bluebird of a day, and some of the very best the North Cascades has to offer.
Our route was approximately 28 miles, a point-to-point trail, which we covered very casually in eight hours. There is a rather steady 3.5 mile climb at the start, over Easy Pass and up to 6500 feet, followed by 24 miles of gradual descent. Distance, time, and effort are not good measures of the day—the run is sort of a cupcake. Better measures are the sights and the experience, as the trail travels through the heart of the Park, with several glaciers to see up high, old growth forests to run through down low, and a host of goodies in between.
The autumn colors made it easy to forget the early morning cold as we ascended Easy Pass. Brilliant red, maroon, and burgundy fields of dying huckleberry bushes. A dusting of last week's snow hanging on mountain faces. The rare subalpine larches I've been hoping to see, in full autumn gold, perched on cliffs above.
This was my first time on top of Easy Pass with unclouded views, and I counted a semi-circle of 9 peaks crowning the Fischer Basin, with glaciers hanging on the opposite slopes, and the creekline descent into the Basin visible for miles, through open meadows.
After a good twenty minutes roaming the Pass, we dropped into the Fischer Basin, initially descending relatively steep switchbacks, and soon hitting the Basin, as the trail parallels Fischer Creek. I stopped at Fischer Creek to refill, and had to break ice to fill my bottle.
Downward. Eventually the high bush turns to forest. Mushrooms start popping out, in all sorts of varieties. Purple was my favorite of the day. Ferns. Downed logs, nursing moss, young trees, and all sorts of fungi, as they decay. Dan pointed out Devil’s Club, a thorny bush, which could do a number on a shin. The trail is fully clear, due to the hard work of trail crews.
Later, we came across technical stream crossings, cedar plank boardwalks, the periodic huge glacier high in the distance, grove after grove of big trees, and always a clear stream nearby. The trail was magical, cutting for miles through bright green moss. Think Lord of the Rings.
Roughly 18 miles in, we hit Junction, an important trail intersection within the heart of the park. We turned northwest down the Thunder Creek Valley, nine or ten miles to go. We weren’t really that tired, and it was still early afternoon. We sat at the campground for a bit, and talked about walking it out, just to take things in better.
We ran. More big trees. Cedars a thousand years old. For most of the day, I trailed Dan and Linda, which was kind of cool because I would watch them curl around these giants, giving the trees increased perspective.
Thunder Creek feeds the emerald green Diablo Lake, and you can see the green water at McCallister Creek, a glacier fed creek which drains into Thunder. The green has to do with mineral content. Log bridges. As we neared the end of the trail, ever lower, more and more deciduous trees—maples, poplars, alders—in fall colors. The trail widens, and in the last mile we saw some of our biggest cedars of the day.
A few photos of our adventure are below, and I’ve put up another gallery here. The photos are nice, but they do not do justice to the trip. This is one of the better trails I've run, perhaps because of the fall colors, or maybe it was the moss. We were fortunate--this was probably the last weekend of the year in the high country, and the sky was blue.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Baker Lake 50k

The Baker Lake report, circa 2009:

Sunshine, all day long
Fresh snow on the hills
The blood red harvest moon
Best shirt of the year, with a bear on it, even
The milky turquoise color of the lake--see above
Mount Baker, the volcano, in full view-see below
Snow on Baker’s flanks
The blog report which manages to say “milky turquoise,” “blood red,” and “flanks” in the first few bullet points
Volunteers risking their lives and their limbs at “bridge out” Hidden Creek
The impromptu all you can eat spaghetti dinner at the Skagit Co-op on Friday night
Friends everywhere, all day, coming, going--it's an out and back
Mike decided to run the night before, and ran well
Moss, draping limbs, covering logs, rocks—very mossy
Terry and Shawna won, a week after Hood.
6:47 for me. Probably should’ve stayed out longer.
A parade of mushrooms: big, small, red, yellow, two tones. Made me think of the Legend of Wooley Swamp.
Subway Sandwiches and coffee for all finishers! And cake too!
Stanley’s “garden” vegetables
Prizes! I won a Nathan pack!

Shorter, twitter report---WOW!!

Really, the weather was really really good this year. Maybe better than really good, since I packed for rain. We were fortunate. Everyone was happy, and many hung around a long time afterwards. Baker Lake is my favorite ultra, period. I’ve done it more than any other, and I expect I’ll be back most years, even if I need a cane. Thank you Shawn M. and Company!