Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sahale Arm In September

Saturday snuck up on me this weekend, fast, after having been gone for part of last week. There are so many great places to go run and hike in the North Cascades, but I didn't make Saturday plans until Friday night.  Rather than come up with something new, I cannonballed up to Sahale Arm and checked out the fall colors.

You just can't go wrong with Sahale Arm.  It is one of the prettiest trails you'll ever hit. No exaggeration. An out and back, going up to 7800 feet, it can take you through several microclimates, which was the case on Saturday. The trail up to Cascade Pass was covered in clouds. Sort of cold.  Clouds then were streaming over the pass, like a waterfall, the wind blowing at a chilling clip. Only a few 100 meters higher, and the sun came out. From above, I watched the clouds pouring through.  Higher still, and a different chill set in. I spent much of the day above the clouds. Glad I brought an extra layer.

The fall colors have arrived. My friend Seth went up here a couple weeks ago--it should be interesting to compare pics.  The views of the Cascades are normally spectacular, but as one or two photos below show, there is a haze in the air now from the forest fires in Eastern Washington.

I saw a full flock of ptarmigan.  I chased a grouse down the trail for 100 yards.  No bears this time around. I once saw seven bear here on one trip.

I made it up to the Sahale Camp, 5.7 miles in, 5.7 out. Up, then down. The distance is deceiving, as this is a slower hike/run, due to the sights and pitch of the trail.  I jogged much of the way down. Listened to U2's Achtung Baby on the drive home, twice.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


This past week I traveled to Montreal for work-related purposes. When I go to a new city, I always bring my running shoes. Love doing the running tourist thing.

One day I ran through McGill University’s campus, aka the Harvard of the north, and then up to Mont Royal, the hill in the center of Montreal. Montreal is a really old city. Jacques Cartier first came to Montreal in 1535, and climbed this same hill with some natives to take a look around. In 1611, a trading post was established, making Montreal a contemporary of North American expansion with the settlers of Plymouth Rock and Jamestown.

Montreal takes its name from this hill. That is, Mont Royal = Montreal. The hill isn't that big--I just can't rise to calling it a mountain---but it has a number of nice single track trails weaving up to and around the top. Beautiful views of the city, the river, and bridges to hinterlands.

Afterwards, I ran to the Musee des Beaux Artes, aka the Museum of Fine Arts.  Everything is in French in Montreal. The museum has some great modern art, as well as some terrific Inuit statues. And it was free! And open to persons in running shorts.

Another run took me into and around Old Town, Montreal.  Here, I ran along the waterfront, joined by friend John. We passed the Molson factory, a site of some distinction.

On a third run, I again ran around Old Town, ending up in the Notre Dame cathedral, which was stunning, with its statues, stained glass, organ, and architecture. Very worthwhile. Probably my favorite tourist highlight.

Montreal is a most excellent town. I loved that French was the primary language. I managed, as I’m sure do all who visit. Plenty of nice places to run, eat and visit.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Beer Mile

James V. had a birthday run at Battersby Field in Bellingham recently.  Happy bday James!  I don’t know where he came up with this, but in celebration, he proposed “the Beer mile.” 

Racers have to drink four beers, one at the start of each lap.  At the word “Go,” drinking begins.  The biggest guy was the first one off and running, chugging his beer faster than gravity’s pull.  Perhaps the trick is to poke a hole at the bottom side of the beer cans—hadn’t thought of that until now. 

Now, I don’t drink.  I wish I did sometimes, and this was one of those times.  But I don’t. So, I opted for Vernor’s Ginger Ale instead, fixing on the close match of Vernor’s for Varner’s, and then there's that whole fake ale thing.  Ginger ale may seem like a competitive advantage, but in the end, I did not improve my ultrasignup ranking with my unleaded effort. I was ready to retch with the best of them on Lap 4, just like everyone else. 

Women ran and drank faster than men at this event, it seemed, though the first couple finishers were guys.  I noticed on the fourth lap one gal wasn’t running straight. 

The beers on Lap 1 go down quick—the drinking slowed down for many on the next three laps.  Dan went with three beers of one type, and then a bell lap beer of another type. Strategy? Apparently, the King of Beers is good---I think that was James' fuel choice---but Chad went with the foreign beer-in-the-back-of-the-fridge plan. Bottle v. can. Lots of things to think about, if you want to get serious about this.

Candice and another guy kept the time.  Thank you volunteers!  There was an official’s timekeepers table, running cones, and everything.  Maybe 15-20 competitors.  There are all sorts of particulars about the beer—needs to be at least 5% alcohol, no wide mouth bottles, etc.  There are other rules too, like if you puke, you have a penalty lap.

I sweated really weird afterwards.  My pores were just dripping liquid.  My eyeballs didn’t seem to line up straight too.  Otherwise, recovery seems ok.  Battersby Field was a worthy location.  Near enough to the police station to flaunt the Law a bit. Weeds growing on the track.  Not all tracks need to be oval, anyway.

I didn’t get to watch James finish.  He was still nursing his bell lap beer, along with Brandon, when I had to go.  He may or may not have been DFL, which as I left I thought is a cool way to handle it, getting to hang with your friends a bit longer.  Still, I doubt this was a conscious strategy.  Lucky for James and Brandon, there were no sweeps or cutoffs. 

Next up, the 100/100.  100 beers, 100 miles, one week.  Got this one from Peter.  I’ve heard it can be done.  Never stop challenging yourself. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Watson and Anderson Lakes

A great Labor Day weekend began with a hike up to Watson Lakes and Anderson Lake, high above Baker Lake. Watson Lakes are just inside the Noisy Diosbud Wilderness area. Beautiful. Overall distance was 6 miles, or so. Looks like a real nice place for a Friday night backpack. Views of Mount Baker and Mount Shuksan are said to be terrific--not this day, due to clouds.