Saturday, October 30, 2010

Blanchard Mountain

Great day on Blanchard Mountain today. Friend Seth was looking for some miles, and I didn’t want to go too far due to rumors of dirty weather. To our good luck, our run morphed into an impromptu group of six runners—a true fun run---with clear skies and long views over the islands from the lookouts.

The run almost didn’t happen. Seth and I only confirmed around midnight the night before. Seth has had an absolutely amazing year, knocking off Western States and spending six weeks in Nepal, amongst plenty of other cool things. It was good to hang out.

He came up with his friend Kelly, and he managed to recruit Pablo for the run as well. Then, friend Bill just happened to show up at the trailhead, and so he joined in. And Then, we met up with Alex at the top of the Oyster Dome, someone I ran with briefly a few years ago on Blanchard.

18 miles total, and the hills took their toll. We ran the standard Blanchard ultra loop the first time, with an extra detour to the Oyster Dome lookout; and then ran/hiked the short loop up by the Lilly/Lizard trailheads.  I struggled starting out, feeling yesterday’s eats, but felt pretty normal by the end. I'm always a little shy about running in groups, since I never know how I'm going to feel or run. But nobody ran away from anyone--a very relaxed day. Just the same, I think we were all tuckered by the end.

Afterwards, Pablo, Seth, Kelly and I hit the Porterhouse. The after-the-after party consisted of a couch, the worst Husky game in a long time, and an ok World Series game.

Looking forward to running the Ron Herzog 50k next weekend in Granite Falls. Miles and good company.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Deception Pass

The forecast wasn’t particularly good for Saturday, and so I tried to dream up some place new and interesting but snowfree for a long run. I came up with Deception Pass State Park, on Whidbey and Fidalgo Islands.

I’ve driven over the famous Deception Pass bridge many many times, but I’ve never truly explored the park. The State’s website says it gets 2 million visitors per year, and my neighbors and other friends have told me of camping trips there. It’s only a half hour away from home, and so it's kind of been on my list of to dos.

Turns out Deception Pass is a really good trail running location. And just an amazing place. There are a whole lot more trails than I realized, with trails circling little peninsulas on the sea, ridge runs on high bluffs, sand dunes and beach runs, old growth. Lots of ecological variety—a good example of “succession,” as one sign said.

I found green tiger slugs, a big garter snake, a bald eagle, a lot of mushrooms. Tidepools. Running on a cliff above the sea, the Whidbey Island wind spirit stole my Udo's Oil hat. One second it was there, the next it was over the cliff and into the ocean. Goodbye Udo's Oil hat!

Part of the reason I chose to go to Deception Pass was that I heard the North Cascades Institute is leading a mushroom class there in a couple weeks. This made me curious. I wanted to compare a seaside zone to the high country we were in last weekend.  There weren't as many as in deep in the old growth of the Fischer Creek Valley, but still quite the variety.

I enjoyed reading some of the naturalist signs--lots of great quotes from Emerson, Thoreau, Chief Seattle, and others. One by Gary Snyder struck a chord:  "Nature is not a place to visit. It is home."

Years ago, I read a terrific book on Whidbey Island's environmental history--it's slow and science oriented, sort of, but I recommend it:  "Land Use, Environment, and Social Change: The Shaping of Island County, Washington." Author Richard White, a University of Washington professor, later was awarded the MacArthur Award (aka genius grant), presumably for his work in developing the field of environmental history studies.

Despite all my stops, I got a good run in. About four hours on the trail, with plenty of running time. Not the most disciplined of workouts, but sufficient to leave me tired by the time I got back to the rig. There is plenty of up and down in the Park, and so if you want it, you can get some. All the promontories, and up to the bridge, and back down to the beaches a few times--it all adds up. Also, the footing is not all that safe sometimes--you are literally hiking and running along cliffs and steep ridges.

Saturday ended up being a long day. In the evening, I checked out the band Deer Tick with Erik, Steve, and other friends. I don’t really like their name—in general I’m not a fan of deer ticks, because they have lyme disease--but it was good times with friends, and they were a really fun live act. Sort of an alt-country band, with a Jayhawks/Son Volt/The Band type sound. They kind of look like Stillwater from Almost Famous, with the lead singer looking like that blond stoner dude in Dazed and Confused.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Easy Pass Fall 2010

Sipping on coffee, reflecting on a nice day in the North Cascades yesterday. Friends Kevin, Linda, Jamie and I ran the Easy Pass to Colonial Creek route, a 25 mile, three valley adventure through the heart of the park. I’ve blogged about this exact route before, as this is my third time doing it in the past year or so, and so I’ll keep this short. But initially, I’ll just say—there is good cause to return here, again and again.

Saturday was a cold one. We had snow on the ground, all the way up the 3.5 miles to Easy Pass, and we were chilled, hiking in the shadows of the peaks. Last year was colder, but it never really warmed up this year, as it eventually did last year.

On top of Easy Pass, the larches are golden, beautiful against a deep blue sky. It looked to me like peak was a week ago, but there was plenty of gold hanging from their gnarled, winter-tested limbs. The huckleberries too were red, probably having also peaked a week ago. Frosted ferns, mountains dusted with snow. The land is getting ready for winter. At the lower elevations, the forest floor was carpeted with deep green moss, the trail cutting a soft, magical line through this sea of green, alongside old growth cedars and the clear Fischer and Thunder Creeks. Fairy tale land--Hansel and Gretel came up.

October is mushroom season in the northwest, and so we spent a lot of time spotting different types of gilled mushrooms, coral fungi, conch shells on conifers, log jellies, and spine fungi. Frankly, this was my chief interest in going here this weekend. I actually sampled three different types, all of which were interesting. I didn’t eat a ton, as I didn’t want to be the trail runner who died of mushroom poisoning. But I was pretty pleased in my confidence level at identifying a few edibles. Most of the color spectrum was represented.

I didn’t really run that great. The cold made it hard to loosen up, and I puttered a lot, looking at mountains, glaciers, fungi, and brush. Still, 25 or so miles. Running down—and there’s a ton of down on this run—tests my back a bit more than flats or ups. I was really stiff at the end. Speed wasn't a problem—we got done with plenty of light, and it was just a great day in the high backcountry. By evening, I was watching the Huskies beat the Beavers, with a pizza.

More Easy Pass-Colonial Creek photos here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Brief Survey of FB (1st ed.)

I've been on Facebook for nearly a year now, and the one thing I haven't found is a really good Field Guide, to explain the behavior in this new wild. And you probably won't find that here, but for the record, here are a few phenotypes I'm starting to recognize:

1. The News Announcer. Yes, it’s all over the news, but that’s no reason not to update your status too, you Chilean caveminer rescue fan, you!

2. The Vaguester. You know we all care about you, but really, I have no idea what you’re talking about when you say “Change is in the wind.” Hope it's good. (Like!)

3. The Appster. You Like your quizzes, but I am sorry, I am not about to find out what you voted about me.

4. The Hacked. In a similar vein, I am NOT clicking on that link which supposedly has embarrassing info about me, friend! It can't be a bad as that one video, anyway.

5. The Friendster. 4000 friends? Really? I don’t believe you KNOW all of them. But in case you care, last I checked, Sarah Palin has more than 2 million. And if you don't Like her, Barack still has 5 million!

6. The John Denver Tribute Singer. He’s one of my friends. He gets his own category.

7. The Tweeter. This is the person who tweets, and then their Facebook status updates automatically. The rules of social networks are still forming, but for the record, I think it's ok to tweet salad dressing preferences, but FB status updates deserve better. That's just me. (Goddess Rules!)

8. The IPhone Photographer. Thank you for the Safeway sale alert picture! I’m there! Keep it up--I like the photos.

9. The Single Demention. This is the person who talks about one thing, ALL THE TIME.

10. The Scaredy Cat. The person who never talks. This can also be the person who truly doesn’t care. They’re both pretty cool a lot of the time.

11. The Morn Star. Do you really get up that early, or do you hire someone to post for you?

12. The Night Hawk.  Same thing, different hour.

13. My High School Friend. Some of those friends know where the bodies are. But I have to accept the friend request, just the same, or maybe just because.

14. The Mafia fan and the Farmer wannabe. If you’re on FB, you know what I’m talking about.

15. The Runner. It seems like a lot of people always seem to be doing foot races and runs, and talking about them and stuff. Facebook is so weird this way. I don’t know how I know so many. The only time I run is if I’m being chased, like by a bear or the cops or something.

16. The Fan. I used to fan everything.

17. The Fam. Actually, haven’t seen many of them yet.

18.  The Spoiler.  C'mon!! Did you really have to tell the whole world what happened in last night's Mad Men season finale?? SOME of us watch the videos, you know.

Please don't unfriend me, if you're one of my friends. Just flame me in the comments.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Little Mountain

I didn’t make it up to the high country this weekend, as my Saturday was full, with a WWU board meeting in Seattle in the morning, and then a wedding in Bow in the afternoon.

I’m not a wedding person, but I had a great time. The groom, Chris, has been a friend of mine since the late 1980s, and there are plenty of stories, but I haven’t seen he and Jenn much these past ten years. As weddings sometimes do, though, many old and very close friends came together to celebrate their union. And it was good. There was glow in the dark bocci ball, very bad renditions of Don’t Stop Believin’ and Loverboy’s Turn Me Loose, as well as campfire and s’mores. Many hugs and smiles. And a few new children too.

The master weekend plan had me going up high early Sunday morning, but it didn't happen, as my sloth spirit animal took over. But not for too long--eventually, when the afternoon sun came out, I made it up Little Mountain. Little Mountain is a nob of a hill, similar to Bellingham’s Sehome Hill, just east of I-5 as you enter the MV. MV Parks and Recreation has been putting in lots of new trails, and it makes a good run from my doorstep.

I managed to break a sweat and stay out for a couple of pleasant hours. It’s mushroom season, and so my intent, above all else, was to find something odd. I managed to find a cluster of big hooded ones, pictured below, variations to be determined. I didn't kill that one that's flipped over--that was some other shroom killer. I also caught some beautiful views of the valley, the Puget Sound in the distance, the towns, the Skagit River. If you care to look, I live in the middle of the top picture somewhere, in one of the heavily treed areas.

So now it’s Sunday night. I’m getting ready for my week, and listening to “Harper Valley PTA” on the AM Radio Sunday Night Classic Country show. They just finished playing the old Barbara Mandrell/George Jones duet, “I Was Country, When Country Wasn’t Cool.” Makes me smile.

And, as I'm thinking about this week---last week I went to a sports psychology seminar, sponsored by the most excellent Triathlon Club of Bellingham. I've been in one of those seasons of planning and assessment, of late. And so one takeaway from this seminar that I seem to be chewing on today:  Better to aim too high and fail, then to aim too low and succeed.

Now they're playing "Delta Dawn." (:

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Baker Lake 50k

This year's edition of the Baker Lake 50k had plenty of sun; terrific views of one very large, glaciated volcano across the lake; and for the first time in a couple years, a brand new bridge across Hidden Creek. And it is a wonderful bridge—the waterfalls below are striking, dropping into several terraced pools. The significance of the bridge: once again, the course goes the full length of the lake, and back. Very cool.

Of particular note this year, I saw what seemed to be a larger than usual variety of mushrooms/fungi on the trail. Orange jelly fungi on logs, like witch’s butter. Those brown clusters of puff ball spores, that explode if you step on them. Purple and red mushrooms that have to be toxic, or magical, or bad news, or something. Chantrelles, oysters. I don’t know all the names of what I saw, but they were out in force, right along the trail. It was the variety and the colors that caught my attention.

Baker Lake is the quintessential northwest trail run, with massive old growth cedars along the trail, the occasional log lying over the trail, short, slippery log foot bridges, whitewater creeks, and wet undergrowth lining narrow single track. It’s difficult to explain to someone who has not run the event why it is not a really fast 50k course--there isn’t a lot of elevation gain--but it isn't. It's not slow, but it's not fast. A lot of things bring the pace down, like hopping roots and rocks, crossing over creeks on slippery bridges and logs, and maybe the fact that there is only one aid station, at the midway turnaround. The return back can sometimes stretch out.

Shawn, Tony and all the volunteers do a masterful job putting this race on. **Thank you!!**

This was my first ultra event in about four months, after injuring myself in New Mexico. I’ve spent plenty of time running trails in the North Cascades this summer, but not at events, or at a sustained pace for 30 miles. I had little idea of what to expect of myself. So, the good news is, the back held up well. After the first few miles, I found myself able to hold a steady pace, more or less. I faded in the last five to seven miles, and this was probably due to running out of water. Nonetheless, I was happy with my run, and really, it was just great to be on one of my favorite trails, at my favorite event, with so many other friends out there.