Sunday, November 27, 2016

Olympic Coast Getaway

An Olympic Coast Getaway


By Kathy Vaughan
                                                                     
photo by Kathy Vaughan/UltraPedestrian.com     I ran along the gentle singletrack trail. Some sections were long stretches of boardwalk. I cruised along easily, Lisa and her husband Jason were behind me. I could hear the ocean as we got closer. The forest was thick with underbrush and packed with trees, a temperate rainforest along the upper Washington Coast, in the Olympic National Park. Salal, sword ferns, evergreen huckleberries, small hemlocks and other vegetation grew thick alongside the trail. There was a light drizzle. The air was pungent with the smells of the ocean and its shore.  The temperature was just about perfect for running in short sleeves and tights. The breeze off the sea was not too cold, as we approached it now, about mid-day.


photo by Kathy Vaughan/UltraPedestrian.com


     I had gotten off work about 3:30 on Friday afternoon and headed straight for the Coupeville ferry that crosses over to Pt. Townsend. From there, it would take about 3 ½ hours to reach Ozette Lake, the 3rd largest natural lake in Washington. This is where Lisa and I would begin our Coastal Adventure. We had initially planned on running the UltraPedestrian Wilderness Challenge Coastal Route, designed by Heather “Anish” Anderson for the 2014 UPWC. As we both researched the route, it became clear that November was not a good time to try it, especially since the Super Moon was creating extra high tides and Stormageddon in October had washed out roads throughout the park. Long stretches of muddy trail, high water levels for river and creek crossings, and the times for low tide (4:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.) also made for dicey planning. We decided to meet at Lake Ozette instead, and approach the coast from there. There are two trails that lead to the ocean from Lake Ozette, each of them three miles in length. At low tide, a triangle loop of nine miles can be formed by running to the ocean via either the Cape Alava Trail or the trail to Sandy Point, and then connecting the two of them by running three miles along the beach. 


photo by Kathy Vaughan/UltraPedestrian.com

     I arrived at Lake Ozette at nearly 11:00 p.m. It was pouring down rain as I pulled up to the campground and parked in the camping space behind Lisa and Jason in their Palomino camper. I would make a spot to sleep in the back of my Suzuki in order to stay warm and dry from the rain. But first, Lisa and I took her dog Lucy on a long midnight walk under umbrellas along the lonely road that runs beside Lake Ozette. It felt so good after a long drive to get out in the rain for a nice walk. The air smelled so fresh. At times, wind gusts came up so strongly that we had to put away the umbrellas. We made our plans for the next day as we hiked along, excited about spending a long day on the trails together.

photo by Kathy Vaughan/UltraPedestrian.com

photo by Kathy Vaughan/UltraPedestrian.com

     I slept soundly, then awoke and shared coffee with Lisa and Jason. He would join us for the first part of our run and then spend the rest of the time with Lucy at their camper. Lucy was not allowed on the trails since it was a national park. We decided to first run down to the ocean on the Sandy Point Trail.  Lisa and I generally run and ski in the mountains together. This would be our first adventure at the ocean. Lisa and Jason live in the Okanogan Highlands of north central Washington and were spending a two week vacation on the Olympic Peninsula. During the summer, we had planned on running the Coastal Route while they were in this neck of the woods on their vacation. Now, together in the enchanting rainforest, our earlier plans were coming to fruition.

photo by Kathy Vaughan/UltraPedestrian.com

     The trail was relaxingly gentle. I had anticipated the boardwalk stretches to be slippery and the going slow, and at first it was. But as I ran peacefully along the smooth singletrack, I transitioned onto the boardwalk stretches with the same gait, using just a bit more caution. It was a lot of fun and the miles cruised by easily.  Running at sea level has its advantages. It is much easier to keep a gentle breathing pattern compared to running trails in the higher elevations of the mountainous terrain. I was definitely enjoying this coastal run.


photo by Kathy Vaughan/UltraPedestrian.com

     We snacked on evergreen huckleberries that were loaded on bushes alongside the trail and boardwalk. They were delicious and their flavored had a hint of ocean flavoring, almost like seaweed. I had never had this wild berry and it was fun to discover another one of nature’s gifts. I imagined the Makah Indians gathering these berries, one of the mainstays of their diet.


photo by Kathy Vaughan/UltraPedestrian.com

     And now, on that singletrack approach to the coast, I felt a tinge of excitement as the sounds of the waves grew louder and the smells of the ocean grew stronger. Before I knew it, I could see sea stacks looming out of the ocean waters. The forested camp that sits just off the shore was a place we could stand for shelter from the wind while Jason, Lisa and I each took in the view. I was brought to tears by what I was seeing and feeling from the power of the ocean. A bright red buoy hung from a broken branch of a fir tree. The wet drizzle shimmered off the bright green, tall sentinels of the shoreline, the coastline heavily forested and rugged. I loved being here, in this moment and I was so thankful that I had all day and into the night to explore as much of this area as I could.

photo by Kathy Vaughan/UltraPedestrian.com


photo by Kathy Vaughan/UltraPedestrian.com

     The piled up driftwood had hidden treasures, both natural and man-made. The tide was in and so we would have to wait to run the shoreline. We decided to do a short out and back section that would take us to another spot down the coast and then return to Lake Ozette while the tide receded. We would take the Cape Alava trail to get back to the ocean after eating some Thai Peanut Rice Soup I had made to share, back at our camp at the lake. Jason would stay behind with Lucy while Lisa and I continued our run. The Super Moon would be shining on us past dark and would help light our way. 

photo by Kathy Vaughan/UltraPedestrian.com

     Lisa and I set out again, this time taking the fork in the trail that led to Cape Alava, north of where we had hit the shore on our earlier outing. The Pacific Northwest Trail ends at Cape Alava. There are nice campsites set back in the forest slightly, all along the shore.  During the warm summer months, these campsites are very popular. But now, in mid-November, there was almost no one else around. As Lisa and I made our way along the boardwalk trail out to the coast for the second time that day, we saw a couple of parties of backpackers hiking back to their cars. It was quiet and serene, once we got to the beach.


photo by Kathy Vaughan/UltraPedestrian.com

photo by Kathy Vaughan/UltraPedestrian.com

     The tide was out and we were able to hike and run along the shore. It was getting later in the day and the sun would soon start to set. We had to watch for the sign hanging from a tree that would indicate the spot where we took the trail back to Lake Ozette from Sandy Point. It was about three miles from Cape Alava. The scenery was spectacular in every direction. I enjoyed beachcombing, and picked up some pretty sea glass, shells and agates. The receding tide left tidal pools with all kinds of sea life in its wake. I wandered through the huge sea stack formations known as Wedding Rock, and saw the ancient Native American petroglyphs known to be there.  As the sun set, Lisa and I took a break on a piece of driftwood. We wanted to savor the moment, looking out to the west where the sun dropped below the horizon, and where the ocean sprawled as far as the eye could see.

photo by Kathy Vaughan/UltraPedestrian.com

photo by Kathy Vaughan/UltraPedestrian.com

photo by Lisa Eversgerd/UltraPedestrian.com

     We got to the sign indicating the overland route that begins at Sandy Point. We got on the trail here and headed for a primitive four mile out and back trail to a remote spot on Ozette Lake. Once we got to that trail, we could see how primitive and unmaintained it actually was. Lisa and I headed up it for a short distance, realizing that our almost magical time on the beach was much preferred. We turned around and headed back to the coast. We continued south along the shoreline, knowing that the tide would come back in at 10:30 p.m. We would have to watch our time and the incoming tide, and get turned around in time. We needed to be back to that overland trail to Ozette Lake before the high tide was upon us, with it’s dangerous rolling logs and incoming waves.


photo by Kathy Vaughan/UltraPedestrian.com

     Paying attention to tides, the boardwalk trails, the evergreen huckleberries and mystical rainforest; there was so much uniqueness to this run. I highly recommend a trip to these coastal trails and time spent on the coastal route itself to all hikers and trail runners. Remaining flexible and being okay with some night time hours on the trail will help make a long day of it possible.


photo by Kathy Vaughan/UltraPedestrian.com

     Lisa and I made it back to the trail with time to spare. I did not feel spent like I did after long days on mountain trails. I didn’t even want it to end, although I was ready for some more of that soup and Lisa’s apple bread. It felt almost as if I were floating along as I ran back through the rainforest. I trusted my footing on the boardwalk stretches. I breathed in the fresh, drizzly air. Lisa was behind me as we ran easily along the twisting and turning trail. We pieced together twenty miles of sweet trails and coastline. It had been a blast.


photo by Lisa Eversgerd/UltraPedestrian.com

     Back at our camp, we set up chairs outside and ate our hot soup in the misty rain. The temperature was perfect for sitting outside in the dark, feeling good after a long day of fun exploring. The camp was quiet, most folks tucked away in their tents or camper vans for the night. The moss draping from the birch trees along the lake’s shore created a mystical back drop to our camp meal scene. Lisa fixed us hot tea to sip on while the moon gave us all the light we needed. 


photo by Kathy Vaughan/UltraPedestrian.com

     I’m grateful for all of the gear I have to keep me comfortable, moving sustainably and eating well. But in particular, my favorite gear and those I endorse through brand ambassadorships are: Altra Running – I wore the Lone Peak NeoShell Mid trail shoe and found them perfect for the wet, slippery conditions. I also wore the Heat Zone Jacket and wore the nice little Altra gaiters in pink. I love how these gaiters have a Velcro tab in front and back to keep them secure on the back of the shoe. Altra trail running shoes are equipped with a tab of Velcro on the back where gaiters can be attached; Nathan – I used the super functional and well- designed ultrarunning pack, The VaporShadow. I had easy access to my camera and snacks in pockets up front and on the sides. There was enough room for my rain layers and head lamp, with extra room remaining, in back pockets. I am impressed with its durable construction and fabrics; Trail Butter – I snacked on the Expedition Espresso Trail Butter for breakfast, giving me my fat quota for before the run. I love the bits of espresso bean and chocolate mixed in with the rich nut butter. It’s hard to find me not wearing my favorite royal blue Be Trail Ready trucker cap, but the wind was so strong I had to have my warm ear flap hat on instead.  Honey Stinger Waffles – Vanilla, Caramel and Lemon filled Waffles are my favorite flavors of these delicious, dairy-free trail treats. These waffles are always easy to pull out of my pack and eat on the go, but I also like having them with coffee when I am out long enough to bring along the Jet Boil. I love these on long thru hikes. An evening break on the trail with a coffee and a Honey Stinger Waffle; Ras and I both enjoy this perfect combination.

photo by Kathy Vaughan/UltraPedestrian.com



Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Eight Times Around Rainier

Eight Times Around Rainier:
Wandering the Wonderland in Ceaseless Wonder

photo by Ras/UltraPedestrian.comBy Kathy Vaughan

     We awoke in the middle of the trail, the cold pre-dawn chilling us until we stirred fitfully. We were on the descent to the South Mowich River from Golden Lakes. We had hiked through the high alpine meadows and the area around the old patrol cabin in the middle of the night, frost on the boardwalks and puncheon bridges crunching underfoot. The silvered and burned snags stood tall in the distance as we moved towards them, knowing that we would soon be descending towards the Mowich, the wooded switchback trails ahead giving us an opportunity to catch a couple hour nap. 

     Ras and I were on a nighttime stretch during our 94 mile Wonderland Trail run around Mt. Rainer. We had a long weekend open up in the midst of our busy schedule working as weeders for a yard care service on Whidbey Island. Each weekend all summer long, Ras and I had been getting out on adventure runs, either with each other or with other partners. This was an opportunity for us to do something long together. It would be a challenge and I didn’t know if all of my unsupported trail excursions would benefit me on the 20,000+ feet of elevation gain involved in this circumambulation of Rainier, or hinder me because of my sore knees and tight IT bands. I had set out in an attempt to run the Wonderland on the weekend of my 50th birthday, with my friend Lisa. It was quite hot on the trails around the mountain that weekend, and we altered our route to the 40 mile Owyhigh Lakes loop instead. I was crawling along slowly on the climbs in the heat, and may have even been suffering from some heat illness. The Wonderland wasn’t going to work for me that weekend, but this weekend, with the first of the autumn temperatures on the mountain scape, it was seeming more likely.

photo by Ras/UltraPedestrian.com

     Ras and I set out from Longmire at 10:33 in the morning on Saturday the 6th of September. We headed out clockwise to tackle the 10,000 feet of elevation gain we would encounter on the more secluded west side of Rainier. We started by climbing towards Rampart Ridge, crossing the glacial waters of Kautz Creek and then onwards towards Pyramid Creek. The going in here was smooth and encouraging. I enjoyed the cooler weather and was prepared with enough layers to take on colder temperatures as they were likely to occur when the sun dropped. I love the fall and spending time in the forest on cool days is an all sensory experience. The damp earth emits a woodsy fragrance that brings me calm and evokes feelings of peace from past trail times. 

     Ras and I each settled into our own thoughts and quietly pushed the climb towards Devil’s Dream Camp and Indian Henry’s Hunting ground beyond. The patrol cabin there was occupied with other people out enjoying the trail, so Ras and I continued on before taking our first sit down break.  We had brought along our leftovers from Pizza Pi all vegan pizzeria in the U district of Seattle.  We used to take our daughter Angela there when she attended the University of Washington. We purposely got enough so that we would have some for the trail, a special way to take in some calories and good memories at the same time. My favorite is Presto Pesto and I shared some slices with Ras, as we sat alongside the trail where it first descends from the high meadows of Indian Henry’s Hunting grounds towards the suspension bridge that spans Tahoma Creek, far below. 

     We got chilled pretty fast and this forced us to get moving on our technical descent to the bridge. The trail was steep and rocky, but also scenic and fun. We got moving and reached the bridge in no time. It was fun to cross and think about my first time, crossing it together with Angela as she was only 7 and needed accompaniment. Ras shot some video on our crossings and we continued on our way, climbing towards Emerald Ridge. Nothing about the Wonderland is easy. There are challenges all along the way. Each seemingly insurmountable challenge I’ve ever experienced on that route has taught me a valuable lesson; has been achievable; has been worth every minute of it. All moments in the raw wild of nature are what is real about life. It’s the moments indoors, eating processed food and being warmed by unnatural heating that are artificial. I thrive in the outdoors. I spend time indoors and even time working in the outdoors, longing for the freedom of the trails. 

photo by Ras/UltraPedestrian.com

     Being on the Wonderland and having 94 miles to cover, I was in my element. Any struggles aside, I was in a zone out of which I could not be snapped until I returned to my car, on foot.  I had set out to complete this once already a few weeks back. This time I would cover all the miles, see all the sights, feel all the feels of completing this iconic route in one straight through push.

     Mist rising off of the wet downed old growth created a mystical feel to the surroundings as Ras and I were waking up. We had to get across a couple of separate channels of the braided Mowich Rivers coming off of the glacier on this facing of the mountain. The river was wild and tumultuous; the color of chocolate milk. Ras had tried to build a rock crossing here in the middle of his Rainier Infinity Loop in July. He finally spotted a log crossing with his partner Gavin Woody and got safely across. We didn’t know what to expect this time because of the experience he had earlier in the season. 

photo by Ras/UltraPedestrian.com

     Instead, there had been a new bridge built and easy to follow cairns marking the way through the rocky river bed. We got across without issue and soon saw a young couple, also doing the Wonderland in ultrarunner style. They were coming downhill, moving well, and looked like they had been working hard. They may have even looked “too fresh”, and Ras and I surmised their run may have been supported. They might have camped up at Mowich Lake the night before. They may have just been younger, stronger, more fit and rocking it in better style than Ras and I too. Either way, they were friendly. We went on our way, climbing up from the Mowich crossings toward the eponymous lake.

photo by Kathy Vaughan/UltraPedestrian.com

       I have done this climb so many times and in a different mode each time. On this occasion I felt pretty strong, although it does always feel relentless. It’s a 3.7 mile climb with a 1,000 foot gain per mile. That’s stiff. I listened to some good music on my mp3 player to distract me. I settled into the switchbacks. Ras and I paused for a few minutes and had a snack. We continued on contouring at first and then climbing gently towards some creek crossings. Onwards, upwards towards Mowich Lake where Ras planned on checking the thru hiker box at the ranger cabin. I had hoped he would find some hand warmers there, or any kind of vegan friendly snack food. We were “thruing” the Wonderland, after all, and it was legit to see what the hiker box might behold. We’ve contributed to these things before.

      I sat at a picnic table, cleaning out and reorganizing my pack, as I watched the comings and goings of the camp area. I felt drowsy and low energy, but looked forward to the 2ish mile climb to Ipsut Pass. Once there, we had a long descent to the confluence of Ipsut Creek and the Carbon River. This was a magically scenic section of trail through thick old growth forest with babbling brooks, gigantic ferns and soft carpets of differing mosses. We could make some good time in here and relax into the day. 

photo by Kathy Vaughan/UltraPedestrian.com

     Ras returned with a small baggie of Starbursts, which we divided up evenly. I ate mine right there and threw the little wrappers away while we had access to garbage cans. We got ready and hit the trail once again. The trail left the lakeshore and made its way to the pass where several other parties arrived at the exact same time that we did. We let two guys go ahead of us on the down climb and then we left the scenic over look to descend into the Ipsut Creek drainage. It is one of the most beautiful spots on earth and I love being there. I watched my footing while still taking in the views. There were also berries to eat and Ras dropped behind to graze. I was enjoying trotting along on the steep switchbacks, knowing that the evening’s mileage included climbing the rocky trail along the Carbon Glacier, past Dick Creek Camp, through Moraine Park to the high ridge above Mystic Lake.

photo by Kathy Vaughan/UltraPedestrian.com

     The mountain reappeared as the enchanted, wooded meadow of Moraine Park opened into a valley dotted with large erratics. Marmots whistled in the distance. My goal was to reach that ridge above Mystic Lake before the sun sunk and we lost our light. I climbed in earnest, my eyes searching for the ridge after each steep, short switchback. Leading the climb, with Ras just behind me, I got to the sign pointing to the lake .7 miles away, at the high point I’d had in my sights. It felt good to have reached that little goal. I called out in triumph to Ras, but kept on going, trying to run some of this downhill, my headlamp leading the way now. It was an eroded and steep trail for a little way, but then it ended in a sweet little flat meadow leading up to the lake. It then ran alongside the lake. Being here in the dark was absolutely perfect.

photo by Ras/UltraPedestrian.com

     After running around a portion of the lake, the trail took us off towards the camp. We stopped so I could get some little rocks out of my shoes and Ras got a couple of pictures from this spot at the alpine lake in the quiet of the night. We got through the camp unnoticed and went on our way to cross White River, another of the glacial river crossings. This one was as smooth as the others had been, a good log crossing in place. Now the trail was cruisy as we meandered along with only gentle climbs, leading to the moraine field section. Going through this exposed section at night felt good, cold drifts of air coming up from the openings between the huge rocks in this glacial wasteland.  There is no shade in here if traveling in the heat of the day during the summer months. Ras and I made good time through this section and then we had another river to cross.

photo by Ras/UltraPedestrian.com

     Winthrop Creek at 4,900 feet originates from the second largest glacier on the mountain and is named after Theodore Winthrop, a nineteenth century author. In 1853 he saw the Winthrop Glacier and writes about it in his book “The Canoe and The Saddle”. We crossed the creek via a sturdy log. On the other side, we began a steep climb. We passed a spot where Garda Falls once attracted hikers for camping. It then closed to camping and was a water stop for my family many times. But late one night while running the Mother Mountain Loop with my friends Vivian Doorn and Lisa Eversgerd, we got to this spot, and it no longer existed. I had told them we could stop here and get water before the climb, but it had been obliterated in a land slide. A large tree jam had changed the terrain and it was no longer a parked-out rest stop. It was uninviting, sharp branches poking out and piled up on each other. We had moved on.

     Ras and I did not speak of this as we passed through this time around. It had gotten dark again, another night coming to pass. We were focused on getting to the White River Campground where we planned on taking a nap at the thru-hikers’ camp site. We had some miles to cover before then, but we knew how to get it done. We both had our mp3 players going, giving us something to enjoy listening to as we traveled along the trail through the dark of the night. We were moving towards Granite Creek Camp at 5,730 feet. This was another favorite spot along the trail, because the creek itself is so clean and pure, such a classic example of a mountain stream. My family took a rest day at the group site here when we first took on this trail with Angela at age seven, a big eyed innocent young hiker. She loved meeting other hikers and she got to interact with some at the camp during that hike. We hung out in camp all day, playing at the stream some and washing our clothes in a large ziplock bag.

     But this time, Ras and I crossed the small log foot bridge and moved through yet another of the Wonderland camps stealthily under the night sky. We now had some gentle switchbacks for a couple of miles until reaching the high open landscape of Packtrain Ridge. I had been struggling internally with the effort we were putting out. I was disoriented and slightly out of it when we first got up onto the ridge. There was thick mist in the air and it was hard to see very far in front of us. Ras had taken the lead, feeling good and moving well. I struggled behind him with these feelings of not quite vertigo, but something taking over my whole being, my state of mind and my ability to move very efficiently this late in the night. I really did know this area of the trail quite well. But right now, I could not figure out where we were. We finally reached the intersection where the trail to Skyscraper Peak stretches off towards the sky. Ras said, “Okay, are you ready?” I was in disbelief. I didn’t know if I could even pull off the rest of the mileage to complete the Wonderland, let alone add on this side trip to climb Skyscraper. He said we had decided even just a short while ago that we would climb it. I had no recollection of that and was really surprised that he had planned on doing it. It was midnight, cold, and we were already pressed for enough time to finish and get back to work by nine o’clock Tuesday morning. 

     Unfortunately, this ended up being a turning point for me. I knew I had disappointed Ras by turning down the side trip up Skyscraper. I like the climb too. I too was enjoying making summits each weekend throughout the summer. At this moment though, I felt like adding it onto our 94 mile adventure that was stretching out, was over the top. I also felt pulled to do it and was bummed out I had reacted so strongly to the idea. It did not feel good that we were now moving on, down the trail, in the thick mist, away from the opportunity to pull off that summit. I got teary and even more weary. We dropped down towards Sunrise Camp in the cold basin below us. Ras stayed in the lead. We tried stopping in the lee of an outbuilding at the camp, but the strong wind gusts were still too cold for us to stop for long. We moved on, now on the final three mile stretch towards White River Camp and our nap.

     Finally, we got to the wooded camp. There were restrooms and spigots with running water. We put down one of our Six Moon Designs Gatewood Capes and used the other for a cover. We bundled up in every layer we had with down puffy suits as the top layer. I took off my Altra Lone Peak 3.0 NeoShell Mids, and Ras kept his Lone Peaks on his feet for warmth. I had a blister and wanted to stretch out my feet. It felt good to be out of shoes for a little while. It was 4:30 in the morning. We both fell fast asleep, surrounded by other thru-hikers, unaware of our presence in camp right near them.

     We wanted to wake up and exit the area to begin our final 30 miles, by about 7:30, allowing us three hours of sleep. I woke up first and wondered off to the rest rooms, filling my water bottles on the way back. Ras was still asleep, so I cuddled up beside him and rested just a little longer. We didn’t discuss our plan for the day. I really didn’t know yet what it was. I encouraged him to wake up and move out to the picnic area where we could find a sunny spot to warm up and regroup. We finally moved out there, but were both so tired we would drop off to sleep in the sunshine before making any progress with our trip planning. Could I continue? Did we have enough time? Should we hitchhike back to Longmire from here? Should we pull ourselves together and just get back out on the trail? Would we make it to work on time if we continued? Could we even contact our boss, Mary, from here via our cell phones? 

     After moving from sunny spot to sunny spot for a couple of hours, taking in mouthfuls of my Expedition Espresso Trail Butter pouch to energize myself, we finally argued ourselves into getting started again. Neither of us wanted to give up and we knew we could finish off the mileage. We just didn’t know if we could pick up the pace like we needed to, this deep in.  I had a couple of blisters I needed to tend to before getting started and I’d have to push myself to run more than hike in order to get this thing done. 

photo by Ras/UltraPedestrian.com

     We hit the trail leading out of the White River Campground, crossed the White River and ran the rolling trail for several miles before it began the climb along Frying Pan Creek. We moved together quietly. I knew that each time I pushed myself harder than I felt like I could, harder than I wanted to, it would make a difference. This was it. These were the final miles of the Wonderland Trail. Before I knew it, we had reached the high meadows of Summerland and began our trek up the steps towards Panhandle Gap. We were at one of the final cruxes of the route. This climb through snowfields in the cold mist and wind was hard. We couldn’t stop as it was just too cold. We were low on food, stretching out carefully what we had left to last into the night miles. The views were not far reaching. The clouds and thick mists shielded the views from us as we looked out into the distance. We both pushed forward, strong and determined. At the Ohanepecosh River we would take a break and fill our water bottles. Right now we just wanted to move, one foot in front of the other, through this mountainous terrain. 

photo by Kathy Vaughan/UltraPedestrian.com

     A few other backpackers meandered through the camp at Indian Bar. They were filtering water, or getting settled into camp, or just relaxing after a day on the trail. We were filtering water and then moving on, an additional 18 miles to go before finishing our weekend route. Nothing is as scenic as Indian Bar. The Ohanepecosh River meanders down from an inactive hanging glacier and babbles through the valley. A stone shelter presides just above the river and the hidden backcountry camp turns off the trail just before it.  Ras and I settled into a spot were a side creek splits off from the main river and it’s easy to get nice clear water here. We shared Honey Stinger Energy Chews and drank ice cold water. We knew we had it now. The Cowlitz Divide lay ahead. This would be challenging, steep little climbs and descents over eight miles or so. Then, before we knew it, we would be running the gentle downhill trail towards Nickle Creek. I was looking forward to passing the intersection of trail where Lisa and I decided to run the Owyhigh Lakes Loop instead of the Wonderland for my 50th, back in August. It was a hard decision and we sat at that spot for a good half hour. I knew it would feel pretty awesome to run through it, on my way to completing the Wonderland this summer after all. 

photo by Kathy Vaughan/UltraPedestrian.com

     Ras and I felt great moving through the Cowlitz Divide. We took a couple of short breaks on scenic overlooks, but for the most part, got some quick miles in. We climbed well and had those little summits behind us before we knew it. I recognized the point where the trail begins to descend towards Nickle Creek. I opened up and let loose. I ran well and the miles glided by. We got to the intersection where Olallie Camp cuts off, where Lisa and I had turned. We ran by it and it did feel good. On and on we went at a good pace, running towards Nickle Creek, Box Canyon and then Maple Creek. 

     Somewhere around Maple Creek it all took a turn. Rain began to fall, at first as a drizzle which wasn’t much of an issue for us. It then came on stronger, and finally began pouring with an intensity that grew more mighty with each foot of elevation we gained. The night wore on and on, rain soaking us and only the end in sight pulling us like a magnet ever forward along the dark trail. We both wore our Gatewood Capes and they kept us warm and dry enough, if we kept moving. We could completely tuck underneath it if we needed to make an adjustment with our mp3 players, headlamps or wrappers on our snacks. Ras knew I was running a little low on my food supply, so he had saved a Caramel Honey Stinger Waffle for me. It tasted so good, in this nighttime rain storm, almost 90 miles into the Wonderland.

     Ras shared stories with me about what it was like for he and Gavin at this point in their Rainier Infinity Loop. They finished it at Paradise and thus had to climb an additional 3,000 feet in three miles off of the Wonderland route. They had already summited Rainier twice at this same point we were tackling in the night. Stevens Canyon was wet, slick, steep, but well maintained. A trail crew had been through and cut back all of the thick brush that tends to cover the trail in here. It had been that way when Ras and Gavin came through here. The workers had also repaired a slide in a section prone to giving way, and so we had a safe passage through here as well. 

photo by Kathy Vaughan/UltraPedestrian.com

     The climb ended at Reflection Lakes. The trail crosses the Stevens Canyon Highway at a couple of different points, circles the outer edge of Lake Louise and climbs again to reach Reflection Lakes. Then finally, the descent to Longmire begins. Ras and I had a couple of hours to go before our circle around the mountain was complete. We were able to run, albeit slowly, along the Paradise River. The trail had roots and rocks to navigate. They were wet from the deluge, but Ras took the lead here and we were each able to skip through at our own comfortable pace.  

     I could hear the roar of the Nisqually River, the final glacial river crossing. Nicely built log crossings with rails were in place, so getting across all of the channels was easy enough, even in the dark. It seemed now like most of our glacial river crossings had been in the dark. I reflected on how far I had come with these crossings. I once felt so nervous, sometimes crying or jittering with fear as I heard the loud rushing of the silty waters. Now, it was just not a big deal and my body did not send me these same signals.

     From the Nisqually, Cougar Rock Campground is just a short distance away. Car campers can drive up to this campground and hikers can also reserve spots to utilize it during a thru hike of the Wonderland. We quietly ran past the spur trail leading to the campground and continued down the wide path lined in huge firs, cedars and hemlocks. We could see the remains of old wooden water pipes that were once used to transport water in this area. We knew we were getting closer, but we still had just shy of two miles to go. 

     The bright lights of Longmire let us know we were there. I picked up the pace, running the easy final stretch of trail into the well-lit parking lot. It was 3:30 a.m. Ras and I had taken 65 hours to run and hike the Wonderland Trail, unsupported, with autumn temperatures and daylight guiding our way.  We got to our old Subaru wagon and took off our Nathan packs. I climbed into the front seat and reached for my bag of dry clothes I’d been visualizing changing into for many wet hours. Although wet, my feet had been well protected and warm inside my Altra Lone Peak 3.0  NeoShell Mids. My gear was dry inside my Nathan running vest. I felt good inside, having stuck to an ethic of Zero Limits and completed my eighth and fastest circumambulation of Mount Rainier.  

photo by Ras/UltraPedestrian.com


KATHY’S GEAR LIST

1. Nathan VaporShadow (I used the male version belonging to Ras, waiting for the arrival of my female version, the VaporAiress. I have since received two Nathan Ultrarunning packs, designed specifically for women, and used the VaporAiress for a supported 50k. I fell in love with this pack, finding it perfectly designed. It was so comfortable and had all the right pockets in all the right places. It was easy to reach the side zip pouches while still moving. I hardly noticed it for the eight hours I wore it, fresh off the shelf. Ras and I are now new, Nathan brand ambassadors.) 
2. Altra Lone Peak 3.0 NeoShell Mids 
3. Injinji Trail Socks
4. Altra Performance Skirt 
5. Altra tech short sleeve shirt
6. Smartwool mid weight hooded sweater, arm sleeves, knee high ski socks, calf sleeves and neck gaiter
7. Dirty Girl Gaiters
8. Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape
9. Mammut Down Puffy Jacket 850 Fill
10. Mont Bell Down Puffy & synthetic blend pants
11. 3 packets of chemical handwarmers
12. Ziplock baggie of pancreatic enzymes, antacids, ibuprofen, caffeine pills, and ginger chews
13. Ziplock baggie of toilet paper and a moist towlette
14. 4 Honey Stinger Waffles, 1 packet of Honey Stinger Energy Chews, 2 avacado wraps in whole wheat tortillas, a baggie of roasted and salted seaweed snacks, 2 Expedition Expresso Trail Butter pouches, 4 Picky Bars, 4 slices of leftover vegan Presto Pesto pizza from Pizza Pi in Seattle, 1 homemade apricot fruit roll-up, a few peppermint hard candies, 1 package of Mushroom & Herb cous cous, rehydrated with cold water in a plastic ziplock container, a small serving of Ras’ dehydrated rice and beans.
15. Skins brand compression capris
16. The North Face brand heavy winter running tights
17. Mp3 player loaded with lots of Raggae Dancehall mixed tapes, The Martian and Dharma Bums
18. Black Diamond Icon Mountaineering headlamp with extra set of batteries
19. Smartphone, mainly for use as a camera
20. Swix brand cross country ski gloves
21. Fleece and synthetic fur lined ear flap hat   
*Ras carried 2 small chargers for recharging our electronic devices


photo by Kathy Vaughan/UltraPedestrian.com


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

MAIL Caloric Burn vs Intake

Mount Adams Infinity Loop
photo by Ras/UltraPedestrian.com
Complete Caloric Burn Versus Intake


by Ras Vaughan

I have been fueling based on both dietary fat and stored body fat for almost five years now, since I began training for the inaugural Pigtails Challenge 200 miler early in 2012. (Here's my nutrition and fueling report from Pigtails, May 2012.) I find that fat based fueling helps me achieve a more consistent and sustainable level of performance. In addition, having my body habituated to prioritizing fat metabolization means that I can rely on fueling in part from my body's fat stores, which in turn means that I can carry and eat less food than the math would, at face value, imply. 

I assiduously saved all the wrappers, baggies, and packaging from my various fuels throughout the Mount Adams Infinity Loop. I did this in keeping with my Unsupported ethic of carrying all my supplies and gear from beginning to end, which, to my mind, includes carrying all of my trash until the finish. This also made it easy for me to reconstruct the fuel I consumed during a project by counting up the wrappers and portions of the foods I ingested. 


Below is an accounting of my total calorie intake, as well an estimate of the total calories I burned during my adventure. If anything, the caloric needs estimate is conservative. It only takes into account mileage with an offset for elevation gain. It doesn't take other factors into account that burn more calories to cover the same ground; such as cold temperatures wherein your body burns calories heating itself, or moving against a strong headwind. In all actuality, it's likely I burned a few more calories than I estimate here.

An obvious aberration in my fueling regimen is the SweetTarts. I have only extremely rarely had trouble with queasiness or upset stomach or feeling nauseous during high mileage, multi-day endurance adventures. What DOES sometimes trouble me is simply a lack of appetite. I try to take a "wierd food" of some sort on each adventure, something that tastes completely different and has a distinct texture or unique mouthfeel. This is how I first started taking toasted seaweed on adventures, and it is now a regular part of my fuel kit. I figured tart, chalky, pseudo-fruit flavored lozenges would fit the bill nicely, and they did indeed. 

SweetTarts were one of my favorite treats as a kid, and I still really enjoy them. I had forgotten I had them with me, and was quite stoked when I found them in my pack during the descent from the first summit. I realize, and freely admit, that they have almost no actual food value (or food ingredients), but they are certainly calorie dense. I'm not proud of them being part of my fueling for this adventure, but Kathy and I strive to be as transparent as we can be in recounting our adventures, and sometime that means having to publicly admit to enjoying a box of artificially colored sugar disks. Mea culpa. 


RAS' COMPLETE CALORIE LIST FOR MOUNT ADAMS INFINITY LOOP:

Total calories consumed during Mount Adams Infinity Loop

Trail Butter Expedition Espresso 2.5 x 760 = 1,900 calories
Honey Stinger Waffles 6 x 150 = 900 calories
Picky Bars Smooth Caffeinator 2 x 200 = 400 calories
Peanut Butter Crackers packet 2 x 200 = 400 calories
Honey Stinger Cherry Cola Energy Chews 3 x 160 = 480 calories
Toasted Seaweed Snacks 3 x 30 = 90 calories
SweetTarts throwback box 2 x 780 = 1,560 calories
Instant Rice 1 cup x 390 = 390 calories
Instant Refried Beans 1 cup x 384 = 384 calories
-----------------
6,504 total calories consumed


Caloric needs for Mount Adams Infinity Loop

6,600 calories = 66 miles x 100 calories per mile
2,000 calories = 20,000 feet (round estimate) elevation gain
                        x 100 calories per 1,000 feet of gain
5,000 calories = 2,000 daily baseline metabolic calories x 2.5 days
-----------------
13,600 total calories burned


Overall Caloric Burn Versus Intake for Mount Adams Infinity Loop

13,600 total calories burned
6,504 total calories consumed
-----------------
7,096 calories total caloric debt accrued


photo by Ras/UltraPedestrian.com




Sunday, October 9, 2016

MAIL Complete Gear List

Mount Adams Infinity Loop
photo by Ras/UltraPedestrian.com
Complete Gear List

by Ras Vaughan

The Mount Adams Infinity Loop was my second foray into the very rarified discipline which Gavin Woody has dubbed "ultraneering". The simplest definition of this would be something along the lines of, "A route of greater distance than a standard marathon which includes terrain which necessitates the use of mountaineering skills, methodology, and/or gear." As often happens, I found myself carrying a pack full of gear for a 56+ hour, 60 mile double summit traverse and circumnavigation of Mount Adams which was substantially smaller and lighter than those being worn by other climbers for a single summit bid. In saying this, I'm not judging the gear choices of others, simply presenting the juxtaposition of techniques. 

What I was attempting, and what fascinates and exhilarates me, is the minimalist, fast and light, alpinist end of the spectrum, as evidenced by the list below. In putting together my kit for an adventure of this sort, I make every effort to avoid carrying things which serve only one purpose. Rather than carrying a number of very specific pieces of gear, I attempt to assemble an extremely flexible and versatile collection of tools and materials that can be configured many different ways to deal with any number of unforeseen circumstances.

Since this project was solo and unsupported, I did end up carrying a couple pounds worth of batteries and chargers for the electronic equipment. Much of this would be unnecessary on a trip for the pure joy of it. I end up carrying extra gear such as a SPOT transponder and GoPro in order to document my efforts and to provide some degree of interactivity for friends, family, and the general public to follow along. This comes with being a public person and a sponsored athlete, as well as an FKT player.

MOUNT ADAMS INFINITY LOOP COMPLETE GEAR LIST:

Here's a complete list of all the gear (non-food) I used:

Nathan Journey Fastpack (preproduction test model)
Nathan Insulated 750 ml bottles (qty 2)
Nathan 2 Liter Bladder
Altra NeoShell Lone Peak Mid High insulated, waterproof trail running shoes
Altra Performance Half Zip Long Sleeve Shell 
Altra Everyday Shorts
Montbell synthetic puffy jacket
Western Mountaineering Flash Pant
Sugoi Insulated Running Tights
Injinji Trail 2.0 midweight toe socks
Smartwool midweight socks
Smartwool Arm Warmers
Seven Hills Running Shop shirt by Pearl Izumi
Kahtoola KTS Steel Crampons
Julbo Glacier Glasses
Outdoor Research Expedition gaiters
Black Diamond Polar Icon Headlamp
Black Diamond gloves
Bluewater 48" webbing sling
Camp Corsa Aluminum Ice Axe
Needles 50k buff (gift from Kathy)
REI merino wool liner gloves (didn't use)
Cheap Fleece camo hat bought in a mini mart years ago
Black Diamond Ultra Distance Carbon Z Poles
Duct tape wrapped around each trekking pole, 6 feet x 2 = 12 feet total
Black Diamond Vapor Helmet
SPOT Transponder
REI ultralight 10 liter Drysack
Sony Walkman mp3 player
Asio Altimeter watch
Garmin eTrex 20 gps
GoPro Hero3+ camera
Nokia Lumia 930 smartphone

EC Technology Power Bank 3.7V/22400mAh/82.8Wh charger
Sony walkman 16gb mp3 player

Sea To Summit titanium spork
Ziplock screw top container for soaking dehydrated food
spare OR gaiter for use as a skidplate for seated glissades

550 paracord to rig above mentioned gaiter in place, 3 meters
Energizer Ultimate Lithium AAA batteries (qty 6) for SPOT transponder
Duracell Quantum AA batteries (qty 14) for headlamp and gps
caffeine pills 200mg (qty 15) used 6
ibuprofin pills 200mg (qty 24) used 12
numerous ziplock baggies

Master Amino Acid Pattern supplement (10) used all 10, 
    could have used 90 but didn't have the budget for it



photo by Ras/UltraPedestrian.com

Mount Adams Infinity Loop COMPLETE - Only Known Time

Mount Adams Infinity Loop Completed
Only Known Time of 56 hours and 20 minutes

Solo, Unsupported
A Combined Double Summit Traverse And 
Circumambulation Of Mount Adams

Official Start Time - 12:02 PM Saturday, September 24, 2016

Official Finish Time - 08:22 PM Monday, September 26, 2016

Total Distance measured by Garmin eTrex 20 - 60.01 Miles
                                                                     

photo by Gavin Woody / Ultraneering.comby Ras Vaughan

At 12:02 PM on Saturday, September 24th, 2016, I began at the intersection of the Killen Creek Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and the High Camp Trail on the north side of Mount Adams. This was a three mile approach from my car, so I did not plan on resupplying in between loops, as this would add a six mile out and back. Therefore, the entire Mount Adams Infinity Loop was unsupported. I didn't place any resupply caches or forage or accept trail magic, I carried all my food and gear from the very beginning to the very end, didn't drop off any trash, and I only refilled my water from natural sources.

I had never before set foot on either the North Cleaver or the South Spur routes, but I had lots of route beta from SummitPost.org and other sources. The Class 2 scramble up the North Cleaver was fun and interesting and only got challenging when I accidentally veered off the proper route momentarily. I saw three or four other climbers descending as I was ascending.

Summit Number One, 7:00 PM was very cold and wet due to very high (50+ mph) winds and low clouds enclosing the summit. It was too cold and wet and inhospitable to stop for any reason, be it eating or taking pictures. It was growing dark as I traversed the summit. I was the only person on the summit as the sun began to set, and, consequently, the last person down that day. Once I reached the summit I had a GPS track to follow down the South Spur, although this was unnecessary because of the easy to follow boot track and glissade chutes. I hiked and ran through the night, napping briefly at random intervals. 

I completed the first loop and reached the start/finish Killen Creek/PCT/High Camp Trail intersection at 8:00 AM on Sunday, September 25th. I changed out to my daytime layer, repacked my kit, and began my second assent a little before 9:00 AM. The second climb up the North Cleaver was sunny and warm and uneventful. I saw no other climbers during my ascent, and was frequently following my own footprint from the day before.


graphic by Ras/UltraPedestrian


Summit Number Two, 6:15 PM was much sunnier, far less windy, and triumphant in sentiment. It was much more tolerable, so I was able to shoot a short video and take a few photos. Again I was the only person on the summit, and the last person down that day. A surprising amount of snow had melted since the previous evening, leaving the uppermost slopes bare rock. However, I was still able to glissade for about 2,500 feet of the descent.


Once I reached the Round The Mountain Trail I turned East for a mile or so, and then found a spot to lay down and nap for a couple of hours. I started moving again around 3:30 AM on Monday, September 26th.

Bushwhacking & Route Finding Across The Gap was more fun than I had expected, and easier on a technical level. However it was slow going, and for long sections I was only making a mile or so per hour. I saw a large Black Bear in the Hellroaring basin just after sun up. The next basin north was even slower going, sidehilling across scree and moraine. The creek crossings were easier than I had expected, until I came to the Big Muddy. I got stuck here for more than an hour hiking up and down the creek trying to find a safe rock hop to get to the other side. I eventually succeeded, and after another short bushwhack connected with the Highline Trail, putting the end in sight, figuratively. 



I reached the intersection of the Killen Creek Trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and the High Camp Trail for the third time at 08:22 PM on Monday, September 26, 2016, to establish an official Only Known Time of 56 hours and 20 minutes for the Mount Adams Infinity Loop.

photo by Ras/UltraPedestrian.com
Summit Number Two, self-portrait.

Facebook/Instagram Updates from the trail during  the Mount Adams Infinity Loop:






What a Blessing to be a Hominid! Give Thanks for Life!