Friday, August 29, 2014

Cutthroat Classic

Last weekend I did the Cutthroat Classic 11 mile trail run.  I didn't really run it--out of shape as I am--but I made it across the finish line.  Basically, I climbed the first five miles to Cutthroat Pass at a steady hike, and jogged down to the finish.  A sinus infection didn't help my time.  The course was pretty empty during the latter half, which made for a nice trot on through the dry lodgepole.  

This is probably one of the best shorter trail races in the U.S.  It's been around for about 15 years or so, and I've probably participated in about half those races.  I wish I was in shape to be over at the Cascade Crest 100, a few passes to the south, but this was the more reasonable option for me. A sunny day in the North Cascades is hard to beat. Plus, my family participated, which makes the whole thing special for me.

We camped out on the Methow River, at the old KOA, with kids riding around on bikes and restrooms nearby.  It wasn't tough, but it was easy.  The river just moves by, with an occasional boater or inter tuber.  Dinner on camp stoves, chairs and drinks, with kids making noise--it was good stuff.

Then there's the early rise and drive up to Rainy Pass, the start line for the race, which happens to be situated square on the Pacific Crest Trail.  About 200 runners, maybe more, released via four waves. Some more serious than others.  Single track, with some creek crossings, and increasingly good views as you climb.  You're basically looking at 5 miles up, and then six miles down, with the crest at about 6800 feet elevation. The pitch is great for running--hard but doable--but I was a walker this year.  The one aid station, about 7 miles in, is packed in via horses.  This year's run was warm, after heavy rains the previous day.

It's been a tough tough summer in the Methow, with many fires causing great damage.  It was good to see so many folks over supporting the community.  We picked up some ice cream and had a nice meal in Winthrop, in addition to our campfire vittles. Great event as always put on by the MVSTA. Best of all, nice to share time with my family.

Skagit Wildlife Recreation Area

My friend Seth dropped by a weekend or two ago, back from some amazing adventures in Nepal. We had a bit of time, so we checked out the Skagit Wildlife Recreation Area, which is becoming a favorite local jaunt of mine.

The recreation area is off the Conway exit, and is referred to also as the Wiley Slough.  There are some dike trails which are a few feet above the Skagit drainage. This is an estuary area, where fresh water meets salt water. Estuary areas are rich in wildlife, as an edge ecological zone, and therefore make for great fun for traipsing around.

We took the trail to the end, and came upon a local conservationist who lives on Fir Island, and who had all sorts of great information about the migratory birds and what they like to eat.  He also pointed out that we might be able to seals if we hiked out to the point, which was basically along the river and through mudflats.

Seth had brought the family dog--who's name is momentarily escaping me, apologies, Seth-- who was thrilled to jump around through the mudflats. Right now, the cattails are at full height, which made our little trek through the flats that much more of an adventure.

I don't mean to make this more than it sounds--we were only out for a couple hours.  What I like about this place is you can see so much cool ecology in such a short time. It's not really a runner's destination, though I suppose loops could be done.  It is more of a naturalist's exploration and delight.   Hunters like it too, for birds. Such is the nature of shared conservation spaces.

We ended up seeing all sorts of birds--herons, eagles, warblers, gulls-- and we made it out to a point, across from Camano Island and Whidbey Island.  We weren't so fortunate to make the full point and see the seals, but there's always next time.  This site is particularly favored in the winter, when there are more migratory birds in the area. Seeing the area in summer, with berries, cattails, and different birds makes for a wonderful contrast.

Some day I'm going to carry a chair out here and just sit for half a day, taking note.