Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best Runs of 2009

My running year started off with a bang, but I feel like one more big event in the later fall might’ve been good. I also think I got a little too worked up about the unknowns of Hardrock in the earlier part of the year, and this took away some of my fun. Looking back, what stands out most is my favorite, most memorable runs were the self-supported backcountry trail runs in the North Cascades. I wouldn’t give up the camaraderie of my peers for anything, so I’ll be doing events until I can’t. Still, the backcountry stuff was both edgy, fulfilling, and on a different scale of wonderment.
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The other thing that was particularly notable this past year is I really got into wildflowers, and Canyon Creek, the Sunflower, and the Colorado runs were amazing for these. The Audubon Society just put out an app for wildflowers, and while I’m mentioning them, their recent photo issue that I just received has some absolutely amazing shots. I think its $20 to join, and in the Skagit there’s a separate, active chapter which I plan to join one of these days. I have a link to their website here.
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It's hard to pick best runs. Some events are obvious, but some regular runs during the week and on the weekends had amazing moments. I remember one night running at Lake Padden in Bellingham and seeing 30 bats flying over the water chasing flies, as dark was falling. Another night early in the year I was run/hiking up Chinscraper, and a coyote barked at me from 50 yards or so in the pitch black. There were some amazing hikes, like the full moon snowshoe and a few different jaunts in the North Cascades and Virginia. Then there were runs with friends, which are always more memorable, like taking an afternoon run up on the Ridge with friend BJ from out of town, who wanted to scout the North Face course.
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That said, here’s the list of best runs for the year:
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10. Baker Lake 50k. A blood red, full harvest moon to start the day and announce fall. A downed bridge for a turnaround. No rain, crisp air.
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9. Sunflower Run. A 21 mile trail race put on by the Methow Valley Trails Association which I've always wanted to do, from Mazama to Twisp. Right towards the end, you descend into a field of sunflower-like plants, which seems like a scene from Alice in Wonderland. Many good GBRC and Methow friends there too.
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8. Big Beaver Valley, North Cascades National Park. If you like thousand year old trees and nature preserves 15 miles from the nearest road, this is a good place to check out. Easy 24 mile run on cush single track behind Ross Lake. I go there every year.
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7. Virginius Pass, Colorado. In the week leading up to Hardrock, I scouted portions of the course. This section was a pure delight, with a sketchy climb through snow, using a tent pole as an ice axe, to reach a 15 foot wide pass that serves as an aid station during the race. Kroger's Kanteen, its called. We glissaded back down.
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6. North Face 50m-Bellingham. BJ came up and ran it, and Rick W. and I traded places all day. Great weather, well organized, and I ran pretty well for me. Saltwater and volcano views.
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5. Hardrock. I’m disappointed with the DNF on this one, but I made it over Handies Peak, a fourteener, and that’s not small potatoes, and I saw a good portion of the course. It’s a remarkable part of the world, and the passion people hold for this race is phenomenal to experience. Unfinished business, as they say.
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4. Canyon Ridge-Damfino Lakes-Excelsior Mountain. Post WTA trail work party run in the Mount Baker Wilderness which turned into one of the most spectacular bursts of wildflowers I’ve ever seen. Mount Baker right in your living room. To top it off, I got chased off the mountains by a lightning storm, which at first I watched like a ding dong as it came down a valley towards me from Canada, and then realized, a little late, that I needed to get out of there fast. Sort of touchy there for a few miles. I've done dumber things.
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3. Cascade Crest 100. Any time you finish a 100 should be cause for celebration, and Cascade is really gorgeous, even though I sort of fell apart for the last 20. I probably should feel better about this one, because it is such an incredible experience, but I know I didn't run my best or smartest. So what? This is one of the best races, period. The whole event is increasingly a family affair, and the organizers and volunteers are just terrific. Rich W. was a huge help to me too, and friends were there throughout and after.
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2. Devil’s Dome-North Cascades. A 42 mile loop through the Pasayten Wilderness with friend Mike C. I think we went 25 miles without seeing a sign or a person. There was place called Devil's Park that was just downright spooky, with no noise except the buzz of birds and bees. There was a place called Devil's Pass that was one of the more remote places in Washington that I've been. There were wildflowers, and creeks spread out every five miles for the anticipated water stop. Devil's Dome gave a spectacular view to the east and west, with Jack Mountain in the foreground. An eight mile descent to Ross Lake, and then a gorgeous lakeside run on the East Bank Trail. Totally doable, but not to be underestimated, because aid is not near.
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1. Easy Pass-Fischer Basin, North Cascades. We hit the right place at the right time-- autumn-- and the payoff was all sorts of fall colors in the heart of the North Cascades. The trail was straight out of a fairy tale book--I knew it would be good, but I'd be lying if I said I knew it'd be that good. 28 miles of clear trail, golden larches, red huckleberries, purple mushrooms, snow and dustings of frost on mountains, frozen waterfalls. I love the Fischer Basin. The trail was three miles up, twenty five miles of gradual down, through two or three ecological zones.
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Au revoir 2009! You weren't as bad as they say.

3 comments:

Audrey said...

Happy new year, Scotty! Great list of runs and beautiful trail picture. Hope your 2010 is equally filled with adventure.

Scotty said...

And to you to Audrey! And to Charlie and Lucy too! I'll be at CC again in 2010, probably as a volunteer.

Scotty said...

Note from the Editor: somehow, some way, Lost Lake 50k also needs to be on my list here. Wonderful event.