Sunday, July 25, 2010

Yellow Astor Butte

Yellow Astor Butte yesterday, up off the Mount Baker Highway in the Mount Baker Wilderness.  It was a hike--and only eight or nine miles total. It's a classic on that highway, and I've never done it---it was time. The sky was Joni Mitchell blue, the views as long, coming up empty here--my tortured youth? Pinocchio's nose? a chick flick? I don't know--long, big, far views. That's two weekends in a row now of great weather and clear skies. Suddenly, I feel fortunate.

I made it out early, 6 AM, and so had the trail to myself all morning, but many many followed. I spent a good three hours up top, wandering the snow fields, climbing the butte, checking out the wildflowers. Columbine, Cow parsnip, avalanche lilly, tiger lilly, purple asters, lupine. I whistled in a marmot for about ten minutes, getting all sorts of poses. WTA featured Yellow Astor Butte as one to find wildflowers this month. 

There's still a whole lot of snow, and so I think it will only get better in the next couple weeks. But the bug count is just right to do this now, and the snow is kind of fun to march around in--like hiking through a smoothie. It seems like I spend more time in the snow in July and August than I do in the winter--that probably needs to change.

From the top of the Butte, you can see amazing views of Mount Shuksan, Glacier Peak, Mount Baker, the whole Welcome Pass-Excelsior Mountain ridge, Goat Peak, Church Mountain, Mount Baker Resort....lots.  It seems like it'd be pretty awesome to sit on the butte at night, with a clear sky and full moon, which we had this weekend. I'm getting a bit of a backpacking jones these days.

For more pics, click Yellow Astor Butte.

Earlier in the week I went up to Fragrance Lake, swam, and jogged down. Fragrance Lake is awesome for swimming--in the middle of the lake it seems like there is an amphitheater of trees looking down at you.

My running just doesn't seem to be improving fast. I'm not stressed about it--I'm actually enjoying not being stressed about it. I could do more stretching, but I do get out. Every time I try to run, it's very awkward, as there is no flexibility in the lower back. As long as I can find my way on trails, and stay relatively active, I'm  fine. I think a change of pace/focus is good for me right now. Not sure about Where's Waldo--I waffle on that one from day to day.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sourdough Mountain Loop

Gorgeous Saturday. Everyone I talked to was doing summer things. Winter, Spring, whatever it’s been—it’s been too long.

I grabbed a trekking pole and took on the Sourdough Mountain loop, which is in the North Cascades National Park. I’ve wanted to do the full loop in the past, but have been foiled. I sort of succeeded today, making it up and over, but the Diablo Trail was shut down, and so I had to walk Highway 20. Fortunately, some good folks saw my thumb, and chose to pick up a guy with dirty legs.

I wasn’t really able to run—the back, it hurts still. But I was happy with my hiking clip, and more importantly, I was happy to be out. I made the Diablo trailhead by about 7 AM, and happened to meet Matt, a former ultrarunner, and we had a great climb together to the fire lookout. It’s steep going up, especially in the first mile.

The wildflowers are just starting to come out—I think I’ll go up somewhere next weekend, because we’re at the front end of the curve. Amazing views on the way up and at the top—the Picketts, Thunder Creek/Park Butte, Hozomeen and Desolation, Jack Mountain, Ross Lake, Diablo Lake, the Skagit River—just a ring of peaks all around, emerald waterbodies below. Truly incredible.

The coolest part of today was navigating the snow fields at the top. Lots of snow, but nothing particularly sketchy. Except figuring the way down the Ross Lake Side. The trail was buried up high, and so I had to go from one cairn to the next, eyeing them one at a time. Pretty fun. Last time I wasn’t able to figure it out, and had to turn around. This time, success.

I saw a WTA trip report from two weeks ago that said a well equipped group decided to turnaround. The pictures are totally different--the snow is melting real fast. Two weeks ago, Sourdough Creek was covered by a snowfield--it's completely open now.

The fire lookout is closed. It is a famous lookout--there's plenty written about it, from being one of the oldest around, to hosting Gary Snyder, a poet for a couple summers in the 50s, to just being cool. Maybe because it's the same color as my house.

I think I went about 15 miles in total. It was a slow 15, a reasonably hard 15, with lots of stops and pictures. For more pictures, click here. The full loop is somewhere between 20 and 24 I think. The trekking pole was a very very good idea. I felt the pain in my back, but the pole helped a lot. I can't seem to get leg turnover for real running, but I can climb and hike.

Afterwards, I watched The Road. Really liked it. Scary, sad, and something.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Chuckanut Foot Race

I fired the engine up today and tried running the Chuckanut Foot Race. This is a seven miler, from Marine Park in Fairhaven, Bellingham, along the Interurban Trail, to Larrabee Park. It is basically the first section of the Chuckanut course—flat and fast. The race is also one of the oldest in Washington—this was the 43rd running--and it is popular, with 820 runners today. It is a GBRC sponsored race, and I’ve ran it numerous times—it used to be an annual thing, but I've gotten away from it the last few years.

The weather today was humid, surprisingly so for the Northwest. Temperatures were probably around 70. It was a good day for the event.

I didn’t run so hot. My back injury, which I should give a name at this point since we're so well acquainted, flared up pretty quickly, affecting my gait. It was kind of odd running, as my feet wanted to happy-quick turnover, but my hamstrings and butt would have no part in it. I sort of ran like Inspector Gadget, up down up down, rather than forward. The humidity or lack of running also affected my breathing a bit too--of course I'm worried I'm getting out of shape, but I don't think that's too much the case. I hurt worse once I stopped and sat down, and my back stiffened up—a little frustrating. The same thing happened earlier this week when I did a Fragrance Lake-swim-$2 Bill run after work.

I probably finished about halfway in the pack or a little further back. If I really tried, I could've tolerated the pain enough to do better, but not so much better that the effort would've been worth it to me. This was more about kicking the tires. There is some improvement, but longer runs are questionable for now.
The good news is I got out there today, saw a bunch of friends, took some pictures—link to album here--and got some good exercise in. I’ll get better, and I’m determined to make the most of things, whatever the situation. At this point I think getting better will take time, a lot of stretching, and some effort to gently keep pushing myself into the soup. Hiking or easy run/walking takes main stage in the coming weekends.

Afterwards, I bought a 24 Volt Black and Decker Hedge Trimmer, with EXTRA power. There are some plants around my place that have no idea what’s coming.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Washington Monument

Here are some pics from my boat tour last week on the Potomac River, featuring the Washington Monument. The Washington Monument has always seemed a little too lifelike to me, and its red eyes at night are really spooky. You can see the red eyes if you click on the last picture. It's kind of cool how the monument seems to move all over the place--I've had the same experience with it just walking and running around DC. A little creepy, this monument. Respectfully, GW.

This omnipresent effect is probably because it's taller than everything else around. It is also the tallest all-stone structure in THE WORLD, and I now know that it took forty years to build, because of the intervention of the Civil War. The Washington Monument is also featured in the "Rave Run" section of this month's Runner's World, in case you're a runner friend and reading this and dissapointed in me going so off theme with this post. Sorry, I'm a nerd. This creepy monument is much more interesting than my running experiences this week anyway.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Maryland And Virginia

I write from the sky, again, as I return from a weeklong trip to Maryland and Virginia, immediately on the heels of last week's trip to Squaw Valley and Western. I'm proud to say I never had to check luggage.

The first four or five days were spent at a bruising professional conference in Maryland, with sessions lasting all day. The setting was National Harbor in Maryland, on the Potomac River. The place was a bit too enclosed, but I managed to get out one night with friends and catch a monument boat tour up the river, with stops in Old Alexandria and dinner in Georgetown at Martin's Tavern. Oyster stew, crab cakes, and a bit of soft shell crab. We sat in Richard Nixon's favorite booth; the booth behind us was where Jackie accepted JFK's proposal in the early '50s. Georgetown on a hot summer night is a real kick.

After the conference, I stayed a couple days in Virginia with my folks. We had a barbq on the fourth of July, and watched fireworks from the street. Lightning bugs, copperhead hunting, baby deer, corn on the cob, politics and chatter--i more and more treasure my visits. Temperatures got up around 95, and so I put in some time in the pool, including a nice session of nightswimming after the fireworks, with a star-filled sky to backstroke to. Fortunately, no one was watching, as I am not a good swimmer.

I'm feeling ready to test my running wheels again--I just signed up for the Chuckanut 7 miler for next Saturday. Presuming I go through with it, it won't be fast, but more to feel where I'm at. I'd like to hope I can bounce right back into things, and start hitting the North Cascades. It's such a short window each year, but so worthy.