Friday, July 10, 2009

Rawlins, WY

After you get out of beautiful western Wyoming with Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons, there is a whole lot of nothing. I did not have it in my mind to spend the last night in iRV at a treeless KOA in Rawlins, Wyoming, but thanks to a ridiculous amount of construction in western Wyoming that is what happened. I will admit that the nothingness in Wyoming has its own beauty. After standing in the KOA and finding the largest hill within short running distance, I mapped out a rough way to get there in my mind, set my alarm for 5:30am and went to bed.

I set out just after sunrise for a hill that had all kinds of telecommunications radios on it. I couldn’t find a path right away and ended up running through the low scrubby grasses and bushes that entirely populate Wyoming. Soon I connected with the path to the top. There were some steep sections, and after being at sea level for most of the previous week, I noticed the 6800 foot elevation. I got to the top and was rewarded with a nice view of the State Pen just outside of town. The typical Wyoming rolling hills and a few antelope were also part of the scenery. I ran back down, Faith and I packed up iRV, and we were on our way by 7:15am. It was a nice 6-miler to start the day and a beautiful morning.


As soon as we checked into the campground I went to the info center to inquire about running trails. Before getting there, I noticed warning signs everywhere about bears and even more signs about buffalo. I talked to the first ranger, and she said that if I enjoy running in meadows, there were some good trails nearby. Then she considered what she had just said and added something to the effect that there was a decent chance I might be pursued by something because I would look like running prey. Nice. She said that one buffalo a few weeks earlier had tried to gore a woman in a phone booth. She added that some runners get attacked every year. Nice. She said that she had been charged recently by a bear. Apparently all of the rangers are required to carry bear spray.

She then called in another ranger who she said was a runner. He said that a lot of the rangers don’t get as much exercise outside because of the dangers of being in bear and buffalo country. He said I might be okay close to the canyon because there were fewer bears and buffalo there. We kind of mapped out a route and I went to bed that night thinking I would get up early and put in 10 miles or so in the canyon area. As I went to bed, my spouse mentioned something to the effect that she was not wild about me being gored by a buffalo. I must admit that I am not wild about the idea either. When my alarm went off at 5:45am, I turned it off and went back to sleep. Yes, I wimped out in the face of possible de-bowelling by a bear or goring by a buffalo. I still feel bad about it. It would have been a good run. I know that because we hiked around the canyon later that morning and it was cool. Next time I come west, I will buy bear spray.

Glacier National Park

I was originally kind of excited about the prospects of running at Glacier National Park. I heard there were great trails to be run. My anticipation was quickly tempered after our arrival. I knew Glacier was bear country and was already a bit apprehensive about running there. When we checked into our campground, my fears were magnified by the ranger. She said there had been bear and cougars near the campground lately. I asked her about running and she looked at me like she didn’t approve of the idea. She asked me if I had bear spray. When I replied that I did not, she said that I could pick some up at the camp store. When I went to the camp store, I found out that the cost of their bear spray (basically strong pepper spray) was $49.99. After considering this, I decided to not buy it. I did, however, find a bell that I could attach to my shoe for $4.99. I bought the bell. I guess that indicates that I place the value of my life somewhere between $4.99 and $49.99.

When we got into our campground, I discovered that our particular campground really didn’t have any trails very close to it (we were on the west end of McDonald Lake, which is one of the lower spots in Glacier). I wasn’t sure when I was going to run or where. The next morning we got up early to get to Logan Pass so we could do some hiking up there. There are really some great hikes available up that way and I would love to do some running up there, but I didn’t have the time this trip. We got back to the campground sometime after 6pm and I decided to chance a short run.

I attached the bell to my shoe and set out. People in the campground looked at me kind of strangely as I went by and dogs all over the campground went crazy when they heard my jingle. I pressed on. I did find a short trail about ¾ mile from the campground and, after running it once and not seeing bears, decided to run it again and hope my luck held. Part of it went through a burnt-out part of the forest and every black stump looked like a bear. I decided to break off on a side trail but shortly discovered a pile of poop in the trail. The recommendation from all the park literature said to turn back if you find fresh bear feces so I looked at it closely. I was 95% sure it was horse crap but decided I didn’t want to stake my life on my poop-reading ability so I turned around. My run ended up being 5 miles and I encountered no animals but deer and squirrels. The bell made me feel a little safer, but only a little.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Washington to Montana

I did an 8-miler this morning that wasn’t supposed to be that long. I started out trying to find a route around the lake we were camping beside. I did find some roads and trails that made their way around it. I got out about 3 miles, where I was planning on turning around, and saw what I thought were some trails on the mountain that I was near. I was lured and decided to try to run up it and found a road that started up it. Before long, however, it dead-ended and I decided I did not have the time to try to summit this mountain so I found a different way down the mountain and ran back to camp.

Yesterday, I did 5 miles from the rest stop that we were at on the eastern side of Steven’s Pass in central Washington. It was a nice out and back with the snow-capped mountains in the background. Part of it was on an abandoned road and part of it was on Route 2.

The best run in the last few days was three days ago around Crescent Lake in the northern part of the Olympic peninsula in Washington. This was a beautiful lake, amazingly clear, crammed in between some sizable mountains. I had scoped out a trail that followed the edge of the lake, and decided not to try to run up any of the mountains to give my ailing posterial tibial tendon a break. I think I ended up getting 7 miles in on a mostly flat single-track trail. It was a perfect morning to run. I did have to leap over one snake that I didn’t see until I was in mid-stride.

Now, on to Glacier National Park and whatever possibilities that provides.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Cape Lookout State Park, OR

Well, today I learned of another thing that I have to fear when I go for a run by myself in the woods. I've mentioned some of the rest of the list before:

1. Bear Attack
2. Big Cat (i.e. Mountain Lion, Cougar, or Bobcat) Attack
3. Simultaneous Bear and Big Cat attack
4. Tripping and falling over the edge of a cliff
5. Being head-butted over the edge of a chasm/abyss by a Bighorn Sheep
6. Broken Ankle
7. Torn Ligament
8. Venomous Snake Attack
9. Amorous Elk Attack

...and now, after this morning's run...

10. Escaped convicts with large weed whackers attack

This morning I was thinking of just running along the beach. But after pulling into this state park and looking at the terrain, the mountains beckoned. I figured I could finish on the beach. I started up a trail towards the lookout on Cape Lookout, about 5 miles one way. It was a nice trail through the forest that rose up to a great spot with a great view of the ocean, the beach and the birds below. On my way back, I started hearing loud noises and soon caught from behind a group of about 8 guys with large weed wackers and "Inmate" written on their t-shirts. It was difficult to get by them because I approached from behind and they couldn't hear me. I was just hoping that their release from prison was imminent and they had no reason to go crazy with the weed whacker.

I did get by them and continued down the trail and finished up with a couple miles on the beach for a total of 12 miles. Did I mention how much I love Oregon beaches instead of New Jersey beaches? There are not many people, rocks and cliffs, and lots of beach.

Wow, looking at my list above, I seem kind of paranoid. The runs are really great in spite of an occasional paranoid thought. Fears must be conquered, lest we become a quivering mess.