Friday, August 27, 2010

Burnt Lake Hike

Hiking was one of the things I wanted to do with Cody during his short stay at home.  When Cody was younger, we took many hikes together, and I have very fond memories of our outings.  Cody always loved to find and identify the many plants and trees along the trails we traveled.  A lot of what I know about the trees and wildflowers of the Pacific Northwest I learned from him.

Beautiful old growth forest

We'd planned to go hiking the next Sunday after my half marathon race.  Unfortunately, the weather decided to heat up for that weekend.  I'd wanted to go somewhere high up on Mt. Hood to see the wildflowers, but with the predicted hot weather, a shady forested hike to a lake sounded like a better option.  I decided we'd instead hike up to Burnt Lake.

Large hollowed-out tree trunk along the trail

The Burnt Lake trail is located on the west side of Mt. Hood.  It's path winds through a beautiful old growth forest of Doug fir, hemlock  and cedar.  The trail follows a little creek, and finally climbs up to a small lake, that mirrors Mt. Hood in its waters.

Bright yellow monkeyflowers

We got a late start, and didn't reach the trailhead until almost noon.  Getting out of the car, the air already felt hot!  Ugh!  But once we got on the trail and entered the shady woods, the temperature dropped to a comfortable level.

Our first peek of Mt. Hood from the trail

The trail followed Burnt Lake Creek for the first 2 miles.  The woods were cool and beautiful.  At about the 2 mile mark, we passed by several huge burned-out cedar trees that were hollow inside.  My hiking guidebook mentioned that these trees were casualties of a 19th-century fire that swept through the area, and gave Burnt Lake its name.  The trees were gigantic - about 10-feet wide in diameter.  They were large enough for someone to stand inside, and I did just that for a photo op.

Shoreline color and Mt. Hood

After that we began to climb.  We gained about 600 feet of elevation in the next mile.  The trail ducked though a couple of clearings, and we got our first Mt. Hood sighting.  Wildflowers bloomed next to the trail and the nice scenery helped distract my mind from a hot trudge uphill.

A blurry reflection of Mt. Hood on Burnt Lake's waters

And finally we were at the shore of Burnt Lake.  We chose the side of the lake that had the Mt. Hood view for our lunch spot.  There was a slight breeze, so the water wasn't calm enough for a clear reflection of the mountain.  But it was still a lovely sight.

Lakeside lilly pads

My only complaint for the day (besides the heat) was the flies.  There were tons of flies, both on the trail and at the lake.  The flies didn't bite, but they were numerous and kept landing on us. It was annoying to keep swatting them off our arms and faces.

Bright yellow flower in the lilly pads

After finishing our lunch, Cody and I decided it was too hot to hike the additional 1.5 miles and 800 feet up to East Zigzag Mountain.  So we instead chose to explore the path around the lake.  Halfway around we came upon a large cluster of lilly pads floating in the lake.  The lilly pads had two yellow flowers blooming on them.  Way cool!

Swimmers in the lake

There were a lot of people at the lake.  Some were camping, others dayhikers.  One person had lugged a small inflatable raft up the trail and was floating around in the water.  Many people beat the heat by taking a swim.  By that time, I was feeling pretty hot and sweaty, and the water looked very inviting.  I was wishing I'd thought to bring my swim suit.

Cody and Bear check out the lakeshore

Cody and I saw lots of crawdads in the water.  Someone even had rigged a crawdad trap.  The lake was so clear and shallow that we could see all the way down to the bottom.

Bright fuzzy flowers

Along the far side of the lake were lots of hot pink fuzzy flowers.  The flowers were wonderful - really brightened up the forest.  They kind of looked like muppets.  Cody told me the name of these flowers, but of course now two weeks later, I don't remember what it was!

Pink fuzzies

After circling the lake, we decided to head back down to the trailhead.  It was much easier hiking downhill, which was a good thing, as the temperature was much higher now.

Fireweed flowers along the trail

I grabbed a few more flower photos on the way down.  Cody found a bunch of bright orange salmonberries.  He picked a couple of berries to try and said they were really sour.

Bear ponders the trail washout

There's one area of the trail that was washed out a couple of years ago.  It drops about 15 feet and is kind of tricky to cross.  I was worried that Bear might have trouble scrambling up it, but after a little bit of pondering at the bottom, he hopped right up the slope.

Bright orange salmonberries

The rest of the hike back was uneventful, save for swatting at flies, and wiping sweat off my brow.  By that time the woods were hot, and all I could think about was finishing the hike, and getting some ice cream.  When we returned to our car, the temp was well into the 90s.  On the way home, we stopped for a frozen treat at the local grocery store in Welches. Boy, that ice cream tasted wonderful!

My hike with Cody brought back good memories.  It's great to have him home in Oregon, and I hope we get to hike together again soon.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Marathon Training Update

I'm on week 11 of my 18-week marathon training program.  My big race is Sunday, October 17th in San Francisco.  Race day still seems so far away, and I feel like I've been training forever.

I'm running so fast, I'm just a blur!  (ha-ha!)

I'm now full into the "meat" of my training plan, running five days a week, and logging really long distance runs on Saturdays.  Last weekend I ran 18 miles.  Next Saturday will be 20 miles.  Those long runs looked so daunting when I first started my training in June.  Now that I've done a couple, it's not as intimidating.  I've learned to run slow, stop for water and nutrition often, and run with a buddy.  My friend Cami has been  accompanying me on my long runs, and it sure makes the miles go faster!

I did my first track workout last Wednesday night.  I thought that running fast on a flat track would be easy, since I'd been running hills.  Boy was I wrong!  That workout kicked my butt!  Makes me realize I still have some work to do.

The biggest challenge for me has been to fit my weekend hiking trips around training.  I told myself from the beginning that my hiking was not going to suffer from the marathon training.  So far so good.  I've found if I keep my hikes under ten miles and 2500 feet elevation gain, I can do both a long run and a hike in a weekend.  Hopefully this will continue to work on the weekends I'm running my 20-milers.

But training has not been too bad so far.  Most days I look forward to my run and feel good afterwards.  I'm hoping to continue to stay healthy and injury-free.  Wish me luck as I begin my last weeks of training!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The Sisters Run Again!

Yes, it's true.  The sisters have reunited again to run another race!  This time Susan and I traveled to Bend, Oregon to run the Haulin' Aspen half marathon. 

This race is a trail run almost entirely on dirt and gravel paths, many of them single-track. Back in January, when Susan and I signed up for this race, we didn't know that Susan would end up breaking her arm while on a run. Although Susan's arm had healed, I was worried about her running on the rocky trails, falling and hurting herself again. But the plans had been made, the race paid for, so the show must go on!

At the starting line (way early)

There was a forest fire burning in the nearby town of Sisters. Bend had been getting much of the smoke from the fire all week, and the race officials were concerned that the air would be too smoky to breathe, let alone run a race. But by Sunday, the fire was contained, and race day dawned with clear blue skies and nice cool temperatures.

Susan is all smiles before the start

Susan and I parked at Miller Elementary School, the start of the race.  We did all of the usual pre-race activities, using the port-a-potty, checking my bag, and then we found a sunny spot to stretch and wait for the start.

The trail widened out about mile 4

The race started on the road into the school.  There was probably about 350 or so people lined up across a two-lane road.  When the race started, the group of runners ran about 100 yards and then instantly hit a single-track trail.  Trying to squeeze all these runners (10 people wide) into a single-file track created an instant bottleneck!  The group came to screeching halt, dust was flying, and everyone was jostling for a position onto the trail.  Someone in the crowd made mooing sounds (I did kind of feel like I was in a herd of cattle!)

Susan the happy runner

The runners sorted out and continued down the single track mountain bike trail network that paralleled Skyliners Road. There were some beautiful views of Mt. Bachelor, Broken Top and the Three Sisters that I tried to capture in a photo.  But it's hard to get a clear photo as you're running down a trail.  The course took us through a bunch of small hills and dips that I think the mountain bikers must use as jumps.  Interesting to run on that's for sure!  All the runners kicked up a lot of dust, and I had to be careful not to open up my mouth too much or I'd get gritty teeth.

Finally at the top of the killer hill!

I'd never run a race on a single-track trail before, and learned a couple of things right away.  One - always have your eyes on the ground.  There were all kinds of hazards on the trail ready to trip an unsuspecting runner.  Two - passing other runners is extremely difficult.  When I needed to pass a slower runner, I tried to wait for a wider spot in the trail, and then yelled "on your left."  Upon hearing my shout, the runner would try to move out of the way, but sometimes I had to run into the bushes to get around them.  We found it difficult to pass people on the single track trail, especially when they were plugged into their ipods and couldn't hear us. My sis had to tap one guy on the back, he was plugged into his music and didn't hear our shouts.  Yes, there is a place to use mp3 devices, but I don't think it's while running a race on single track trail.

We ran through this beautiful covered bridge

Around mile four, the trail connected with a gravel road.  It was nice to be able to spread out and actually pass people safely.  Susan and I were finally able to run side by side.  The dust abated a little bit, which was very nice.

We tried to continue our tradition of doing "the wave" at each mile marker.  But after mile 4, there were no mile markers to be found.  So we had to rely on my trusty Garmin, and did our waves as close to the actual mile as we could (or when I remembered to look at my watch).

Susan waves from the bridge

And then........we hit "the hill."  It started out innocently - we began climbing and I thought, "no sweat, I've been running hills every week, we'll be on the top of it around the bend."  We climbed about a half mile, rounded a bend and the hill continued!  We went a little further, and still we climbed!  Up and up and up!  Susan took one look and said simply "holy cow!"  This hill went on for almost three miles!  Almost everyone around us walked at some point, but my sis and ran the whole thing!  All I have to say is that my weekly hill training paid off big time.  It felt soooo good to pass all the people who were walking (and there were lots of them!)

Views from the bridge

Luckily, the hill (all three miles of it) was on a wide gravel road, so passing was not a problem.  Soon after we finally reached the top of the killer hill, we reentered the forest and more single track trail.  By then the runners had spread out enough that passing wasn't as much of a problem.  We had one nice lady from Seattle catch up to us, and we chatted with her for awhile. 

Me running past the bridge

At about mile 10, the courses merged, and we began share the trail with the marathon runners. Boy did they look beat!  There were several people that looked like they'd taken a tumble (or two).   One lady's white shirt was brown with dirt.  Of course, the entire race I was worrying about Susan.  I was afraid she'd take a fall and re-injure her arm.  Around mile 11, my worst fear happened.  Susan hit a tree root and down she went into the bushes!  Seeing the look of horror and pain on her face as she fell, I freaked out.  Luckily, Susan was carrying a water bottle in her hand, and that kept her from reaching out to catch herself with her arm.  Instead, she rolled, and got the wind knocked out of her.  But after sitting up and catching her breath, Susan was OK.  Big relief!

We made it!

After regaining her wits, Susan was really angry about falling.  She stewed about it for the next mile or so.  Later, she referred to mile 11 as her "mad mile."  We continued on, looking for the next aid station.  It seemed to take a long time before we finally reached it. 

At mile 12, we popped out onto the road at Shevlin Park and the final aid station. The poor volunteer had run out of cups, so we just filled our water bottles.  We only had about a mile left, so didn't need much water at that point.

Finish line happiness

We ran on an asphalt road for about a half mile (the only paved road of the race).  Then we ran through a very cool covered bridge.  I took a bunch of photos, and then had Susan get a couple with me in them.  I gave her the camera and ran back towards the bridge for the photo op.  One lady thought I was crazy running back in the opposite direction!  I was expecting the race photographer to be set up at the bridge (great place for photos), and was disappointed that he wasn't.  Good thing Susan and I took some shots!

Susan and I enjoying our reward

Only a half mile to go!  Susan and I wound back through the park on a narrow, rocky trail.  I heard cheering from the crowd, so I knew the end was near.  The closer we got to the finish line, the more spectators we saw along the trail.  And then - there it was - the finish line!  We held our arms high and whooped as we came across.

Trail running means dirty legs

My brother Dale, his wife and son, and Susan's kids were at the finish line to cheer us on.  They had only arrived 5 minutes before we finished.  What good timing!

Cool finisher's medal

Susan and I knew what we wanted - and headed directly for the beer tent.  Nothing has ever tasted so good! The race organizers also had a wonderful pasta feed, and other goodies for the finishers.  We drank lots of beer and enjoyed the good food.  We had earned it!

My race swag

I treated this race as a training run and didn't go all out.  Also, because the course was almost entirely on trails, I knew our time was going to be slower than usual.  Susan and I estimated we would run the race in two and a half hours.  Well, our time was 2:30:55.  Do we know our pace or what?

Modeling our race shirts

We took the shuttle bus from Shevlin Park back to Miller School and our cars.  At Dale's house, we enjoyed a soak in his hot tub and then we took "the best showers of our lives" (according to Susan).  There was lots of dirt and grime on our bodies and it felt really good to be clean again.

Susan and I survived yet another half marathon and came through it feeling good!  It was wonderful to be able to run two races with her this year.  Sadly, we probably won't run another race together until next summer.  But come January, I'll look through our race choices and we'll make our plans.  And the sisters will run again!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Cody's Home!

Two weeks ago Roger and I traveled to Missoula to help Cody move back home.  Cody is starting a new chapter of his life.  He's been accepted at Mt. Angel Seminary here in Oregon, and will be studying to become a priest (or as Denise says, he's going to "priest school").  He begins his classes on August 23rd.  Mt. Angel is only about 40 miles away, and I'm excited that Cody will now be much closer to home!

A parting gift from Cody's friends

Cody's friends in Missoula gave him a nice going-away barbecue.  He got a couple of fun parting gifts, such as the bumper sticker shown in the photo above.  And because Cody likes to cook, one of his friends made him a black apron, complete with a belt and clerical collar!

So we now have all of Cody's stuff stored in the garage and his old room.  But we get to enjoy having Cody around for three weeks before he ships out to "priest school". 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Mt. St. Helens - Harry's Ridge

I am behind on my blogging!  I visited Mt. St. Helens three weekends ago.  Even though this is a late post, it was such a wonderful hike, I wanted to include a recap in my blog.

I'd heard glowing reports about the Boundary Trail near Mt. St. Helens, and wanted to see it for myself.  I finally chose a weekend that promised clear weather and decided to make the trip.

Trail sign to Harry's Ridge

I invited my friend Debbie to join me.  I introduced her to hiking two years ago, and she was an enthusiastic partner.  But last year knee surgery forced her to take the summer off.  This year, healed and strong again, she was ready to accompany me on my adventures.  It was great to hike with Debbie again - I'd missed her companionship last year.

Mt. St. Helens devastation

It's a 2-hour drive to Mt. St. Helens from my house.  Hot weather was forecast for the day, so we got an early start.  We arrived at the Johnston Ridge Visitor Center about 9 am, and it was still a little cool.  But that didn't last for long!

My plan was to hike the Boundary Trail east from Johnston Ridge.  I wanted to hike the trail all the way to Coldwater Peak, a round-trip distance of over 12 miles and an elevation gain of 2000 feet.  But the forecasted heat and the fact that I'd done a long training run the day before made me reconsider my goal.  I decided instead to aim for Harry's Ridge - an 8 mile round trip with only 1000' of elevation gain.

The paintbrush flowers were out!

From the very beginning, the trail was a delight.  Tons of orange paintbrush flowers greeted us from the trailhead, and lined the sides of the trail as we started out.  Mt. St. Helens rose from the barren plain and gave great views off my right shoulder.  The mountain was so close, it felt as if I could reach out and touch it.

Debbie poses for a photo with the mountain

There were plenty of opportunities to photograph the mountain - and I took advantage of them all! 

My turn for a photo on the trail

The devastation is still very evident, even 30 years later.  The Boundary Trail is located north of Mt. St. Helens, the side that took the brunt of the eruption.  When Mt. St. Helens blew back in 1980, an earthquake triggered a landslide on the north side of the mountain.  Tons of rock and soil slid away.  The loss of this rock and soil weakened a volcano already under pressure and the north side of the mountain gave way in a gigantic blast.  This blast obliterated everything in its path, and left only large lava boulders.

Paintbrush flower garden in the shadow of the mountain

But it's amazing how nature heals itself.  Across the barren plains, the flowers were blooming full-force. Bushes and small trees were growing.  We crossed a tiny creeklet with abundant plant life.  There was enough vegetation to provide us with some shade.  We spied animal tracks in the dusty soil.

Lupine blooms along the trail

Because we'd started our hike so early, there were hardly any people on the trail.  It was nice to have the place to ourselves.

Lupine extravaganza

And if the paintbrush wasn't pretty enough, further into the hike, we hit the lupine. Fields of lupine!  Huge numerous patches of lupine!  We must've hit prime blooming time.

Patchwork quilt of purple flowers

We saw so much lupine, it filled a small valley, creating a purple patchwork quilt on the ground.

Debbie enjoys the view from the bridge

We crossed a bridge that overlooked the lupine fields.  Debbie and I paused to take in the view.  Magnificent!

Spirit Lake and Mt. Adams

Shortly after the bridge, we reached the trail junction to Harry's Ridge.  Then the climbing began!  Debbie and I trudged up the dusty trail.  It was getting close to noon, and the sun was hot on our backs.  There was no shade to be had anywhere.

Spirit Lake close-up

But we were soon rewarded with views of Mt. Adams and Spirit Lake.

Panoramic view from Harry's Ridge

The lake was so close I couldn't fit it all in my camera's viewfinder.  So I took three photos and stitched together this panoramic shot.  It was a wonderful view to have while we rested on top and ate our lunch.

Leftover scientific equipment litters Harry's Ridge

The top of the ridge isn't as pretty.  It is littered with old scientific equipment.  It doesn't appear any of it has been used for quite awhile.

Mt. Adams overlooks Spirit Lake

Harry's Ridge is named for Harry Truman, an crotchety old man who owned a lodge on Spirit Lake.  He lived alone with his cats.  When the mountain threatend to erupt and evacuations were ordered, he refused to leave his home.  The authorities came to take him to safety, but Harry just sat down on the steps of his home and said, "If this mountain is going to blow up, I'm going to sit here and let it take me. I have lived in this house all my life, and I am not going to live anywhere else".  And that is what happened.  Harry and his cats perished in the 1980 eruption, buried under tons of debris.

Close up view of the crater and lava dome

From Harry's Ridge not only were there great views of Spirit Lake and Mt. Adams, Mt. St. Helens was also a star attraction.  It seemed the mountain was the closest of all, dominating the view south.  Zooming in with my camera lens, I could clearly see the lava dome still building in the crater's center.

Gotta get a photo with the mountain!

By the time we finished our lunch, the day had heated up significantly.  I could feel the sun's rays burning the back of my neck.  Not wanting to suffer a sunburn later, I tied a bandanna on top of my head so that it hung down to my shoulders and protected my neck and ears.  I told Debbie this was my "Lawrence of Arabia" look.  My neck actually felt cooler because the bandanna provided shade.

Trail marker in the lupine patch

Now that the heat of the day had caught up to us, we didn't dawdle on our return trip.  We hiked down the ridge, past the lupine fields, around the viewpoints, and past the paintbrush gardens.  The rest of the world had woke up, and we met lots of hikers heading out on the trail.  They were in for a hot, dry afternoon.  Debbie and I were glad we'd started so early.

Cute trail side wildlife

We were almost back to the car when we spotted another hiker tempting a chipmunk with some wild strawberries.  The little guy posed long enough for me to get this shot before he scampered off into the bushes.

Debbie and I reached the car, hot, dusty, and thirsty.  We paid the concessionaire in the parking lot $3.75 each for a bottle of ice cold diet coke.  And it tasted mighty good!

What a great day.  I got to catch up with an old friend, see a wonderful wildflower display, and visit an amazing mountain that is recovering from a cataclysmic natural disaster.  Mt. St. Helens is one of my favorite places to hike. I'll come back for more soon!