Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Big Beaver Valley

Friend Rich and I got a little ambitious on Sunday, and ran behind Ross Lake into the Big Beaver Valley. Very cool of Rich to come up from Tacoma to check this out--great company, as always.  I've blogged about this route a couple times before, but I just keep going back. It's a favorite place of mine, and an easy but worthy run. 

The trailhead is at Ross Dam at Mile Marker 134 on the North Cascades Highway. From the start, the run immediately drops a mile, then you cross the very tall Ross Dam, pictured below. Follow the Ross Lake Trail north for 7 miles, and then take a left and go up the valley. Harvey Manning says its a total of 12.5 miles to our turnaround point. We thought it was less--but we're going with Harvey, because he's an icon--and calling it 25 miles, RT.

The trail is exceptionally runnable, soft, with enough rocks to make your feet hurt by the end of the day. If you're me. Rich carried a bag worthy of Goliath, in anticipation of the possibility of serious weather, and still clipped off the miles, strong. I was hit and miss, sometimes feeling like running, sometimes not, but I ran pretty hard the week before too. I'm going through a running phase.

The real score of the day was the weather. Rain and significant wind were predicted, and we didn't know for absolute sure whether we'd encounter snow, because this is up in the North Cascades.  However, we must've hit a rain shadow, because it rained a lot in the lowlands, back at home, but not so on the trail. We carried extra gear, but didn't really end up needing it. We also played it safe, carrying a 911 SPOT satellite communicator.

In 25 miles of running, we saw nobody. Not a soul, all day. It was like I Am Legend, in the daytime. A little spooky, really. I just think it was too early, and the hiking crowd wouldn't think to come up to the trailhead, considering the weather and with the pass still being closed.

The Big Beaver Valley itself is truly remarkable. It's exceptionally still, and the sound of each bird is clear--the regular whistle, and then a chirp. Horsetails line the trail, green and black, and acres of wetlands with snags host all sorts of wildlife.  We were early, and so it wasn't quite as green as it will get, but the early season run accented other things. Snow above, flora just starting to spring.

The preeminent feature of the valley is its old growth cedars--moss covered titans, almost a thousand years old, lining the trail like pillars. You want to run, but it almost seems blasphemous to do so when you get in the thick of the grove. One triple trunked tree stands out beyond the rest, like the tree that the headless horseman pops out of in the Johnny Depp movie, with a gnarled root system climbing eight feet above its trunk. I'd run a bit, but the truly big trees always brought me to the halt. 

It's a special place, and not too hard of a run, really. I'm trying to go there at least once a year now.

This is one tree, joined at the trunk

Ross Dam

I've been working on using the Force

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