Friday, December 31, 2010

Best of 2010

Lots of trails traveled this year. Basically, the first half of the year was filled with great prep for Western. Then I got injured in New Mexico, and from then focused on getting on trails and didn’t worry about races. I probably spent more time in the mountains this year than any I can remember. And then, in November, on impulse I snuck off to Kaua’i, a place I’ve wanted to hike/run for a long long time.

So, here’s the Officially Certified Top 10 List of Trails I hit in 2010, with links and copious notes. The actual rankings are pretty immaterial, non-scientific, and just offhand impressions. Serious. It's like going to the County Fair, and griping about eating the third place pie. It's all good, though pecan is best.

And, finally, before hitting the list-- THANK YOU FRIENDS FOR ALL THE GOOD TIMES! I truly know some wonderful people.

Anyway, here it goes:

10. Alaka’i Swamp Trail. Kauai’s highcountry rain forest in the Kokee’ State Park felt like the set for the original Land of the Lost show, starring Michael Landon. Permamist, exotic birds, boardwalks, a peak at the headwaters of Waimea Canyon, the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific.” Quite amazing. The swamp trail, which is actually an old caldera at about 4500 feet up, is very quiet and filled with endangered plants and birds—half a world away, and a conservation inspiration.

9. Chuckanut 50k. Not many races will make my list this year, mainly because I made it to so many other cool trails. However, C-nut was special this year for me, as I pr’ed in my fifth running, and finished the last six miles in step with friend Rich. Good weather, excellent event, good day.

8. Sahale Arm, North Cascades NP. Listing this North Cascades trail is sort of cheating, because I went up to Sahale Arm *three* times this summer, and truly watched the change of the season. I think I saw four bears on one visit. The running was minimal, because it is steep beyond Casade Pass, getting up to almost 8000 feet. Sahale Arm makes the list, because it is one of those spectacular places. It is featured in “50 Best Hikes In The World” and was Harvey Manning’s favorite. Thanks Mike for the day you got up there with me—probably the best of the batch, with the snow and clearing clouds.

7. Mowich Loop, Mount Rainier NP. We didn’t have good weather, but climbing Tolmie Peak, circling out to the Carbon Glacier, traversing Spray Park and a Wonderland Trail section—this trail/loop would be good in any conditions. Some of the best wildflower displays I’ve ever seen. Rich and Linda led, and were kindly patient with my injury which slowed me down.

6. Western States DNS. It’s my list, so I can include a DNS. So much of the first half of my year was buildup for Western States, THE Western States. And I was ready, running as well as I had in the last few years. But then I injured my lower back, bad. And so I had to wrestle with whether to run injured or not. Very stressful and an educational life experience. Six months later, I still feel I made the right call in not running, and am happy with the way I handled the whole thing.

5. Sourdough Loop. Sourdough Mountain in the North Cascades above Ross Lake is a special place. It has been the home of poets like Gary Snyder, the great naturalist. I’ve been up the mountain many times, but this year was the first time I made a loop of the hike/run, coming down the Ross Lake side. Early in the year, it felt like we were some of the first of the year near the top.

4. Diez Vista 50k. Just a really fun daytrip up to Canada with Rich to run one of the older 50ks around, which had been on my mind for several years. The course is beautiful, with water island views similar to Orcas, and crazy root hopping early on. A non-impressive effort on my part—I was a dumb American--but fun times with friends. Great job by the RDs.

3. Jemez 50 miler. I’m proud to have hung in there on this spooky 50 miler in New Mexico. I’ll most remember the spooky sound of the wind through the burned forest as the sun set. And that I injured myself pretty bad making the 12 hour cutoff, but I made it. Good times with BJ, Thomas, Mike, and Fran. High altitude, great organization. 64% finisher rate.

2. Stehekin. Stehekin was another one of those places I’ve always wanted to go to, and finally did. About 36 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail with a bakery stop and bus ride in the middle.

1. Kalalau Trail. Kauai’s Kalalau Trail is world famous, for its beauty and its hazard. It’s been on my wish list for years and did not disappoint.

A good list. I’m happy with the year, overall, and very much so from a trailrunning perspective. So many things did not make this list. The Maha’alepu Coast in Kauai, including the lithified sand dunes, the sacred haena, and Captain Cook’s first point of contact. The perfect Teddy Bear Cove Run in January, when the weather was just right, the islands there to the left, and the hour away from work so needed. Yellow Astor Butte. Floating the Potomac in the summer, and the Skagit River eagle float last New Year’s Day. Has it been a year already?!!  Easy Pass-Colonial Creek, twice! And then, so many amazing favorite races, like Lost Lake, Baker Lake, Sunflower, Orcas, and Seattle. Nightswimming in Virginia’s summer heatwave, on the 4th of July, near family.

The bar is set high for next year. I imagine some good things will come up.

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