Yay! Made it to the Alaskan Arctic Circle!
Only problem was when Pup and I got done stretching our legs from reading the displays…the van wouldn’t start! One crank, two crank…luckily on the third crank the van fired up.
Now what? I’m about 200 miles from Fairbanks at this point and I’m at 1/2 a tank of gas. The van gets around 400 miles on a full tank. Question is continue north into no mans land hoping the van starts or begin heading back to Fairbanks calling the Arctic Circle sign a win?
I doubt my AAA covers the remote frozen tundra…time to double back!
On my way back from the Arctic Circle I saw a sign for gas as I came up on the Yukon River. I pulled in and sure enough they had gas, $5.50 a gallon! I was at a 1/4 tank so I only put in 10 gallons to get me back to Fairbanks where gas is $2.90. Lol.
You have to leave a card inside to be able to pump. As I was walking back in to get my card I met Yukon Jeremy. He said to go down and check out his gift shop and his mom was down there. “One of a kind Alaskan gifts”, he said.
I was more worried about if my van would start after the scare up at the Arctic. Luckily it fired up perfectly!?! I drove over to the little shack that had the words ‘Mostly Birch’ painted on it.
I met Yukon Jeremy’s mom Dorthy. She was organizing the knick knacks. There were animal jaws made into little sleds with little Eskimos made out of fur. Necklaces Dorthy made from shells and necklaces. Also necklaces Yukon Jeremy made from bear/wolf/wolverines and a few others toenails or teeth. Fur hats, and other stuff.
I chatted with them a bit about before trying to race the midnight sun to find a spot for the night. If you’re ever up the Dalton Highway stop by and let Yukon Jeremy tell you a few stories…you won’t be disappointed!
After helping 3 mom’s with 11 kids cross the the Winner Creek Hand Tram my arms were jello! But Pup and I made it to the gorge before helping more people cross the hand tram on the way back. Sure wish there was a foot pedal because we all know my legs are stronger the my upper body.
There’s a long 60 mile drive on a gravel road to the town of McCarthy, AK. But only a short 3/4 mile walk, crossing a foot bridge, gets you to the town.
Pup and I walked into McCarthy from the free parking area around 8pm. As usual my planning was way off. I thought this is where the historic Kennecott Mill was located but it’s another 5 miles. The sun stays up long but rain clouds begin to roll in as we make it to town. I decided to head back to the van and reassess my last idea.
Not sure how rain will change the condition of the road into town I check the weather. Turns out rain is in the forecast for the next couple days. I decide I better get my non-4wd van back to a paved road…hhaa.
I found a great spot to boondock for the night on the edge of Moose Lake. I didn’t see any moose on the lake but I did see one just off the road nibbling on some trees. Also got to hit Liberty Falls which is on the way. Kind of bummed I didn’t make it to the mill but time to keep rolling.
My legs are officially trashed from the last couple of days, but well worth it
Did 8.5 miles at Guadalupe Mountains NP. That same day I drove to El Paso and knocked out 9.5 miles with Tommy up to Mundy’s Gap at Franklin Mountains SP. The next morning Tommy and Meike let me crash their hike to North Franklin Peak (never made it up there last time I was here). That was another 8ish miles of climbing. Although, I think I was only invited so Meike could meet the fluffy Pup! 😉
To end the day I’m thankful that Rick opted to meet for beers and some food instead of a run. He’s a buff El Paso Police officer and a beast of a runner so my legs might have fallen off if I ran anymore…haha. It was great to meet Ricks friend Scott too, who just recently completed his first full marathon – The Battalion. Awesome catching up with you Rick and hearing some more cool stories!
Again El Paso showing love! Thanks everyone…see y’all on the next time
Reflecting on 2016 at a spot that makes my Top 5, the Buffalo National River.I’ve now been to all Lower 48 states and Hawaii. Finally got my passport stamped with trips to Nicaragua for an epic trail race and the Netherlands for some family ancestry searching.
But if I’m honest, 2017 scares me a lot. How can it compete to the journey I’ve had over the last two years? I guess the only thing I can do it wait and see where my path leads.
Watching Albatross in flight was pretty spectacular!
There were hundreds of them at Kaena Point the afternoon I set out for the hike. Some of the Albatross seemed to be showing off their skills by gliding around like speeding bullets with the ocean wind. You probably can’t tell in the photos, but these beauties have the largest wingspan of any bird – up to 11 ft.Beginning to hunker down for mating season soon, I got to watch one male try to start a courtship with s female. I’m not sure if the female was having any of his strutting and wing flapping since she blooped down to only watch him swagger around.
There’s a semi funny story about the natural reserve area, Kaena Point, these Albatross are living. The reason there is a fence around the area is to keep out bird predators like the mongoose. Funny part about the mongoose, they are an invasive species brought to Hawaii in the late 1800’s by sugar cane plantation owners to help control the rat population. Problem with that idea was rats are nocturnal while mongoose are active during the day. Bad move by humans…haha. The albatross began to take a small dip in numbers before eventually being put on list for conservation.
I’m just happy I got a couple good flight photographs of these big birds!
There was no finish line ribbon as I drove into the city limits. No streets filled with cheering people gesturing for a high five. Driving into my hometown I could not help but smile. With each passing car I thought to myself “they have no clue where this dirty green van has been or what I have just personally accomplished.” After one year, seven months and 14 days of traveling 50,382.9 miles across the lower 48 states and a spontaneous trip to Nicaragua for trail race, I am done. What a way to wake up from a dream.
I have met some pretty cool people during my time in the van traveling and this man I am going to talk about definitely tops the list!
Explaining the meet up:
I planned on spending more time running in the Lake Tahoe area than I did. With all the recent snow it made Tahoe beautiful to look at but less desirable for me to run. So once the chain restrictions for Donner Pass lifted I rolled toward Sacramento, CA a bit earlier then expected. I had only planned on staying to visit family for a couple days before heading back out on the road. Much to my surprise Easter weekend was upon us so I decided to stay until the end of the weekend. On the night before Easter (sounds like a good song title “on the night before Easter”) I moved my van to the driveway from the busier road. As I parked and got ready for bed I noticed headlights coming down the cul-de-sac. The car passed the driveway then backed up only to drive away again shortly after.Insert David Warady:
The next morning I woke up to a Facebook message on my JAdRunning page from a David Warady. Saying he noticed the sign on the side of the van after leaving his parents place just a few houses down the block. He wrote a little about himself and asked if I’d like to meet up. I looked him up to see if who he said he was was true (I’ve had some crazy random messages before…haha). Turns out dude was a beast of an ultra runner back in the day and a dang good poker player now. In 1992 David won the Runner’s World Trans America Footrace. This would be the first race of its kind in 64 years. This was a story I definitely wanted to hear! So, I replied to see if he was available to meet the morning I left my cousins house to head north.
We met at a Denny’s for coffee and talked about life, family, running, poker, traveling and everything else under the sun. After probably the sixth cup of coffee we decided to leave Denny’s. David said he wanted to meet Pup so we went over to the van and let the crazy pup out. After meeting Jayden, David stuck out his hand and said “well it was nice chatting with you and….”. Shaking his hand I stopped him and said “but I still haven’t heard about the whole race!”
Normally when I have visitors my living room is a bit more scenic. With a forest as a backdrop or a campfire burning. Today it was city dirtbag time so I busted out the camping chairs and set up to listen to his story of how he won the race across the country! Half way through I thought about how I wished I had a camera setup recording his recite and even capture how dirtbaggy our setup was in the parking lot.
Just as he finished of how he crossed the finish line with another runner nipping on his heels 5 hours behind. We had shopping plaza security at the van kicking us out of the parking lot for loitering. Told the security guard it was all good because the interview was over anyways. As I packed up the chairs I said, “You should be getting a selfie with this man, he’s a legend!” I think the guard considered it when David pulled out his business card and handed it to him.
Listening to how he trained, what he sacrificed, and how he overcame injuries showed his true dedication. One of my favorite things he said was that after he graduated from college he said he was going to give everything he had to become the best runner “he could be”, which would make him a better person all around. At this point in my life I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. Just think, if not for the snow in Tahoe I would not have been in Sacramento at the right time for David to see my van.Check out David’s website at http://www.runningthroughcancer.com to learn more about him then I talked about here in my post. Here is a link to a youtube clip about the race finish, http://youtu.be/u6DWnJyp_nU. Big thanks to David for spending the day hanging out with me!
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?