Want to know something cool about this picture below?I was running along Salmon Creek Trail when I came across a patch of wild flowers. It wasn’t the first patch of flowers I ran pass as I climbed the switchbacks of the Los Padres NF trail in Big Sur California. It was however the first spot on the top of the ridge that I noticed a perfectly placed rock that would be a great spot to setup my phone to capture the beauty.
After three takes (every runner knows two takes is not enough) of bending down to hit the camera timer I got a weird feeling, a feeling of being watched. I told myself to stop being stupid bending over so many times this far out in the mountains alone. I picked up my phone and started to run the amazing single track again. Shortly after coming into a fully tree covered section I stopped to walk after hearing a noise and getting that feeling again. Maybe it was the creek flowing, or just a bird or squirrel, at most a deer I told myself.
Going the short distance to the creek crossing I stopped again to check my phone for the time. At this point I had been gone for an hour and half so I decided to head back to the van to get pup. As I put my phone away and turned around I was greeted by a mountain lion 25 feet in front of me! “Holy sh*t you’re big” I yelled! The expression on the lions face once it noticed I noticed it was almost cartoonish. With out hesitation it took off down the trail and up into the brush. As it ran away I yelled again, “NO! That’s the way I need to go!” I stood there for a few minute in shock. It seriously looked dumb founded I turned around…was it stalking me? It just went the way I need to go back…how long do I wait?
I grabbed a fallen branch and broke off a chunk incase I had to fight. After waiting several minutes I began to walk down the trail. I started talking to the lion, or myself mainly, if it could hear me. “Thank you for letting me see you, I appreciate being one of the lucky few, but I do not want to see you again!” “You are a beautiful creature, I am not scared of you, but I will kick your ass!” “I don’t like that you went the same way I need to go but I am just going home, I live in a van and taste horrible.” “I am in the middle of a detox from a fast food diet so you’re better off eating a deer that taste good.” “This makes it two times now that I have seen a cat on the trail, you are much bigger then the panther I saw in FL. I am bummed I didn’t get a photo of you but I really, really do not want to see you again to get one either.”
Pup at the Salmon Creek Waterfall
I walked waving the branch and talking nonsense until I came to what I remember would be open trail back to the trailhead. Remember, don’t bend over a bunch of times on the trail for a silly picture. Don’t run solo for hours on end in bad cell phone reception areas. Pssh, who am I kidding…just make sure you don’t get eaten by a mountain lion!
**Disclaimer** No running shorts were soiled during or after the sighting of the mountain lion.
Race morning came quickly with only one real day to relax and enjoy the island. The day prior was spent exploring the island on scooters, packet pickup and a group bbq. I was racing the 25K (closer to a 33K) so the start time was a late start at 10am. I opted to not go watch the beginning of the 100K/50K race because it began at 5am. Which meant I would have had to catch the 4am shuttle from our hotel. Extra sleep sounded much better before I toed the line of the hot grueling race I was about to partake in.
I woke up at 7:45am and headed to the restaurant area for breakfast. I ordered coffee and the “healthy” fruit only selection off the menu, fresh local organic fruit from the island. I drenched every piece of fruit with local honey making it extra delicious. This may have been my first mistake. I don’t eat like that before races or period and why I choose to order it I still don’t know. After eating I went back to my room to pack my Orange Mud HydraQuiver pack and lube up with Bodyglide before the 9am group ride. After riding in the back of a pickup to the start line we were gathered for another briefing about the course and heat conditions. Before we could start there was also a role call of bib numbers. This was to help keep track of every runner on the course. Luckily my number was a lower number for the race because the coffee just kicked in…second mistake. The coffee on the island is amazing and strong but it ran through my body faster than molasses every time. So I yelled here and rushed off to find a bathroom at the hotel. I made it back to the race start in time to get a decent front spot for the count down. Time for the race I have been waiting for since December!One of two things will happen: Crash and burn or balls to the wall (or volcano wall). The race is off and I shoot out the start with the top 15 runners. The first mile was fast since it was on the beach with compacted sand. The next 3 to 4 miles was on the road to the town of Balgue. Coming up to the first aid station we turned the corner of a baseball field. Since it was a Saturday, we got some cheers from the kids playing in a little game. Feeling great, I stopped only for one glass of Gatorade…this was my third mistake! After this aid station we began the first climb on crazy single track through the jungle. I still felt good so I continued to run at a decent pace. Running through a section of a plantain grove that seemed to be holding all the heat making it a scorcher. The temp on the beach was around 95 degrees with a breeze. That grove felt like 150 plus! Coming out of the grove is where I felt my body starting to break down. Getting to the second aid station was my primary focus.
At the second aid station I chugged two gatorades, filled up both my OM bottles and ate some watermelon. But there was no salt…my fourth mistake. My salt tabs were sitting in my van back in California. So I didn’t have salt with me during one of the most humid races in the world. I could tell it was going to hit me hard and fast. I ran out the aid station with a group of four runners. Two of the runners were for sure the top females so I stuck close for the push. Talking with them a bit as we ran down hill helped easy the pain that was creeping in slowly. Crap! About a half mile later down the trail we realized there were no course marking flags! We quickly doubled back to the last time we noticed ribbon. That climb back up took everything out of me. It was around this time my body was telling me to slow down. As much as I didn’t want to listen I started to power hike knowing I should find some shade soon to cool down. I didn’t feel like dying in the jungle, on a volcano, in Nicaragua (though running would be how I’d want to go).It was at this point a came to a guy sitting on a rock wobbling. I asked if he was good? Not really responding he got up and started to jog some with me. I told him it was hot and we needed shade. He replied something in Spanish. I pointed to the sun saying hot, then point to the shade saying bueno. He nodded and we both sat under the tree laughing at our misery.
Ernest was his name. Ernest and I had no clue what was being said by one another but our bond of pain was obvious. Not sitting long we drank some water and had a snack then we began to power hike up the volcano. The suffer fest was real at this point. Ernest and I kept each other going anxiously waiting for the third aid station to appear. Running low on water and the aid station no where in sight we sat down under a shady plantain tree where there was a breeze. I pulled out my phone to figure out how far we had roughly gone. Only 12.5’ish miles of the 22 miles were done. About this time a guy came up the trail wearing Fuego y Agua gear. He was remarking the course since it seemed someone messed with the ribbons. The course marker told us we were only 2K from the aid station. Ernest and I perked up and followed the dude up the trail. Talk about the longest 2K jog of my life! With every knee lift I was on the verge of cramping.
Finally! The aid station was like a mirage in a little village. First thing I noticed was a bag of ice so I took off my buff and filled it full. Put it around my neck and began to forage the food. SALT and potatoes! My favorite for long distance. I ate about four salt covered potatoes, chugged a couple gatorades and filled my bottles of water. Before leaving the station I grabbed Ernest pointed to the ice and his towel. I motioned for him to fill it up to wrap around his neck. The rest the race was pretty uneventful. Majority of it was on a flat gravel road with a few hills leading back to Balgue. This was not the most scenic area. It led us through several little villages. Runners were allowed to buy random things from the local village stores. A runner just outside the third aid station was buying a fudge ice cream bar from a man with a ice cream cart. Some of the locals along the course were charging for a spray down with their water hose. One thing I did envy were the stray dogs that just lay in the sun baking. As well as the random livestock that wildly roamed the island not seeming to be effected by the heat. The road was exposed with not much shade so brutal is to say the least! Ernest and I continued to flip flop as we would run, walk past each other laughing.Cut to the final aid station with 6K left to run! The final aid station was also the first. The volunteers here were awesome! I sat down and they got everything I needed. The final stretch was on the road to the beach then to the finish. A lady from the group ride from the hotel had caught up to me or I caught up to her, Ruthmaria. She helped push me through to the finish with her story. She had knee surgery the previous year and was out crushing this race! We swapped stories and encouragement. Once we got to the beach it was a struggle to lift the legs. Ruthmaria and I separated for the final mile so I could change the battery on my new Pivothead video glasses. After changing the battery I pushed on for that mile.Man oh man did it feel good to cross that finish line! That 33K was seriously harder then my 50 mile race!
Thank you again to all the volunteers and to Josue for putting on a crazy tough race.
Thank you Orange Mud for making an awesome pack! The easy access bottles are so much easier for the volunteers to help refill and get me out of the station quickly.
I don’t normally hold grudges but Fuego Y Agua might have to be a redemption race in 2017!
Without a picture how do I tell you a story about my run in Death Valley National Park to Darwin Falls? How do I tell you about how I got to the second, third and fourth waterfalls while rock climbing on dangerous cliffs? How do I tell you about the loose gravel trail that wanders through a wash in the canyon leading to the first waterfall? How does one explain the soothing sound of the rushing water as I get near? How do I tell you about the lush green California desert oasis as I rounded the corner to the first waterfall?
Lower Darwin Falls
Without a picture would you believe my story that I convinced a photographer to climb cliffs with me to what I hoped was another waterfall? Would you believe it when I said that with the slip of a foot the fall down would be severe? How about if I told you I had a hugging hold grip around a boulder, on the edge of a cliff, and my hand started to sweat as I tried to pull myself across? What if I told you the photographer trustfully handed me his 60 lbs pack multiple times instead of doubling back? How do I describe the relief as I jump down from a cliffs edge and noticed there was a second waterfall?
Second Darwin Falls
Third Darwin Falls
Again, without a picture would you believe there was a third and fourth waterfall tucked away in a narrow slot canyon? Could you imagine now climbing up a slope of crushed rocks to try and find a path for a better view? Then can you imagine finding a path over the third waterfall to an amazing view of a towering 80 ft tall free falling waterfall?
Fourth Darwin Falls
So the question remains, how do I begin to tell you with only a few pictures the things I have done just to see four waterfalls?
If you have been following my journey on my JAdRunning Facebook page then you know I’ve been traveling for a year now. The Wave has been on my list since day one! The beauty of this highly sought after sandstone rock formation draws hikers and photographers from all over the world to get a permit.
The hike to the wave is limited to only 20 people/permits a day. Ten permits through an online lottery months in advance and ten next day in person lottery permits. The rules are pretty simple for the in person lottery (BLM Wave Website). I showed up to the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument Visitor Center in Kanab, Utah at 8:30 am after parking the night at the gas station across the street. We listened to a little spiel from the Park Ranger about the dangers of the hike before going into the lottery room. Each group then fills out an application and is given one number no matter the size. So let’s say the number of a group of six gets called…then only four permits are left of the ten.
The Ranger makes a joke about our odds of getting picked being pretty good compared to other days. It was a rainy night with snow in the morning. Only 29 people were there for a chance to hike the next day. The record of people the Ranger said was 254! I was feeling lucky on my first Wave lottery. You could feel the tension as the Ranger drops the numbered balls into a bingo wheel. He spins and calls the first number…a couple cheer loudly! “They’re still nice people but their group is for 5 so there are only 5 permits left” the Ranger chuckles. Second and third numbers are called…both to a group of two. This now leaves one permit. The Ranger then explains when this happens he allows an extra permit because he doesn’t recommend hiking alone. But, if the number called is for a group of more then two they would have to decided to pass or leave someone behind. “It could put a strain on some relationships” he says. Spinning the wheel and the last number drops…number 12? I motion a low fist pump to my side and let out a subtle YES! Then I say, “Well I saved everyone’s relationship…its just me.” The hint of laughter after my comment seemed to be more of a I hope you roll your ankle, then a that was funny. I pay the $14 fee for the permit ($7 for me and $7 for pup), take my picture map and started to prepare for my next day journey!
With it still raining through the day we were caution that only 4×4 would get us to the trailhead via the clay back roads. That didn’t stop me. Once I found out there was a free campsite only a mile from the trailhead I set out to venture the roads. I decided to come in through the south after being told the roads were better that way. It would be an extra 45 minute drive but I’d rather be there then miss this hike. The last two miles of road to the campground were a sloppy mess but manageable if driven right. As sunset neared I got everything ready for the morning adventure! Rather then explain the hike I’ll let you enjoy the pictures (for more photos visit my Facebook Page JAdRunning)…
So if you’re compiling a list of must see places I definitely recommend putting The Wave in Arizona on your list! Pictures will never do justice for the beauty Mother Nature holds!
Spent a few hot days at Big Bend National Park in Texas!
Dogs aren’t allowed on the trails here so I had to do my runs in the early morning. First night we had a great view spot of Nugent Mountian to camp. It was also close to Pine Canyon Trail which leads to a waterfall. Pup and I hung out trying to stay cool in the shade of the van. Shade is very limited to find in the park. Woke up early and ran 4.6 miles round trip to the waterfall on the Pine Canyon trail. Not much of a waterfall but it was trickling/flowing good for a TX desert waterfall. After my run pup and I explored the scenic drives in the park. Dogs are only allowed on roads so we stopped often on the backcountry roads to stretched. Drove from Boquillas Canyon all the way to Santa Elena Canyon, which are opposite sides of the park. Crazy to see views like this in Texas! On our last day I woke up early to run to the highest peak in the park, Emory Peak. Woke up 15 minutes before sunrise to get to the trailhead at Chisos Basin Village. The view of the peaks as we drove was overcast and cloudy. Emory especially was not visible from the start. Most people would be disappointed but I was relieved. The overcast would keep pup cool in the van incase the forest service mileage was wrong, which it was. Total miles to the rock scramble peak of Emory from the Village was 11 miles vs the 9.8 I originally thought. My view at the top was pure clouds, cool breeze and solitude. Not in if for the views, I am in it for the adventure!
Maroon bells may be as picturesque as you can get in CO. It’s a huge tourist attraction drawing hundreds if not thousands of people a day. So beautiful and popular that the National Park Service doesn’t allow cars to drive up to the top between the hours of 8 AM – 5 PM. It is only accessible by a (dog friendly) bus ride to the top during the day. Of course I picked one of the busiest weekends at Maroon Bells to try and run here. Since there is color on the trees folks come from all over to get a picture. This made me have to wake up at 6 AM to get a spot at the top, even at 6AM the lot was filling up quick.Pup and I chilled in the van til the sun started to light up the darkness. I then walked around to stretch pup as I focused on the run. After meeting a few runners the night before I planned on running up West Maroon Trail for about ten miles.Maroon Peak is a 14er and surround by several other 14ers as you are in the meadow near Cater Lake. With the high altitude, breathing is still tough for me while running upward. But I managed to get 11 miles on this beautiful trail.I also had my second moose encounter with a very curious young bull that was b-lining it to the lake.If you are in the Apsen, CO area a stop at Maroon Bells is definitely worth your time.
Awesome run this morning in the Badlands National Park!
Trail blazed from my boondock spot by following the goat trail through the cliffs to the bottom. First run with the Orange Mud Hydration pack and liking it so far!
Great run and view to start my westward journey!
Also, after all the suggestions I have started a YouTube channel, JAdRunning – YouTube (http://youtu.be/PuOlsw-_RFk), so be sure to subscribe and follow my videos there!
You think my toes look bad? You should see the rock I tripped on…kicked it so hard it came out the dirt!
About 2 miles into a 7 mile run to Minnesota’s highest peak (Eagle Mountain in the Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness) I tripped and fell hard. Trying to save my face from hitting the rocks I first hit the ground with my left hand holding a water bottle. I am calling it a pretty graceful fall, as I caught myself semi-sliding with my right hand and knee in a kneeling position. I jumped up quickly and took off running while trying to shake it off. After a the short sprint I slowed to a walk to assess the damage. No visible blood or scratches, just dirt. Only thing was I had a pain in my left heal and my toes felt numb’ish when I pushed off. A smart person would turn around and call 4 miles a good day. Well, being the stubborn runner I am I continued walking up to the summit. Hitting an overlook I got a surge of notifications on my phone as I picked up service for the first time in a day. Taking it as a sign I called my Dad. Told him what happen and jokingly said that I might get eaten by a wolf, bear or mountain lion. After hanging up I could feel my foot was starting to swell. I looked around for the summit marker to make my Minnesota’s highest peak run official. I ended up hiking a bit more to find it up the trail.
On the way down I started to walk/hobble. It only hurt if my toes bent around a rock or root. Knowing it would only get worse I started to run the 3.5 miles back to the van. With luck I only aggravated my toes a few times on the way down.
Getting back to the van I was nervous to see what the pain was all about. Removing my shoe and sock I see my 4th and 5th toes were black and blue. My 4th toe had a small puncture with a little blood where I assumed the cut came from my pinky toenail. Since no bones were sticking out I concluded that medical attention was not needed. I drove to the nearest town to get a bag of ice, beer and some junk food to help ease the pain.
As I near my home town to close out my East Coast journey this is almost a fitting circumstance. A month in I had a incident where I injured my left hand crawling into a cave to see a 35ft waterfall. Smashing my hand into a rock I bruised my pinky and ring finger causing horrific pain for serval days.
Either way I recovered nicely…free camping with a bunch of left over cut fire wood and a lake view in Superior National Forest.
Big thanks to Chris Koch (far left of picture) for meeting up with me for some beautiful Ohio miles today! Chris is a beast completing three 100 mile races – Western States 100 Mile Endurance Run being one of the three! Even better yet, he is from my home town of Brookings, SD. Who would have guessed two crazy runners would come out of our small town. Super stoked I got some miles in with him as our paths crossed on my journey! Before we started running Matt (center of group picture) happen to see us as he pulled into the trailhead. As any trail runners knows the more runners the merrier, so he joined us for our run. Matt is training for a 100 mile relay race the end of July, the Burning River 100. Love meeting bad ass people as I travel.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park has a great trails system between the two large metropolitan areas of Cleveland and Akron. The trails I have run so far have been in the Virginia Kendall Unit of the CVNP. The Salt Run and Lake Trail sections offer multiple steep hills on some of the muddiest terrain I have run. The exposed root and rock don’t concern me as much as my chances to face plant from the mud. There is also a short tunnel on the east side of Lake Trail that takes you under what use to be a toboggan sledding area back in the late 1930s. Imagine flying down that baby back in the day…sweet! Ledges Trail gives a unique scenery change into massive rock outcroppings. It doesn’t seem to fit into the flow of the trails when you suddenly run up on the big rocks. Personally my favorite as it’s takes your mind off the leg trembling uphills from before. The Cross Country Trail is a open meadow of tall grass around a mowed trail with a few more steep little hills.
With my Ohio miles officially logged at 7.6 miles with Chris and Matt. Then another 5 mile course preview group for Western Reserve Racing’s Muddy Paws 10/5 mile race on Sunday July 5th. I look forward to exploring more of the trails here in CVNP.
I will be running the Muddy Paws 10 miler so if you see me say hi!
Met the guy pictured above at the top of my 9 mile run to McAfee Knob on the Appalachian Trail in Virginia. His story is pretty awesome!
In his 20s he started to thru hike the Appalachian Trail but only got a little ways in on his quest. This retired high school English teacher is continuing his journey from where he left off 30 years later. His friends call him Stubby or to his students Mr. Stubblefield. He was overwhelmed to hear about my journey and smiled big with the few stories I shared him.
But it’s real stories like his that inspire me and gives me true guidance. It let’s me know I am suppose to be here at this exact time and place. As we exchanged safe travel farewells Stubby left me with a quote he felt fit my life and dream.
“Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” – Helen Keller