Dear friends, Here are some books that the Run While You Can team has been reading on the trail in order to reflect on themes like endurance, the Pacific Northwest, and adventure/travel. Please comment if you have any suggestions for us!
Pickets and Dead Men
Bree Loewen reflects on her three years as a Mount Rainier National Forest Ranger
Born to Run
Christopher McDougall describes the superhuman abilities of the Tarahumara Indians of Mexico
My First Summer in the Sierra
John Muir, the Grandfather of Conservation writes witty observations of the area's beauty
Writer Elizabeth Eaves travels restlessly across five continents
And primarily informative, yet equally interesting are the PCT guidebooks:
Pacific Crest Trail
These books, which chronicle Washington, Oregon, Northern California, and Southern California in three volumes provide detailed description of trails, topographical maps, and general words of wisdom
Day and Section Hikes: Pacific Crest Trail Washington
An detailed account of day hikes and trails that lead to the PCT
Monday, September 5 This morning, Ben, Jeff, Marion and I, hiked up to the Snow Grass Flats in the Goat Rocks Wilderness, one of the most rugged portions of the PCT, which yields equally rewarding views. Marion and John had calculated when Sam was supposed to be passing through, based on when he'd left and his pace in similar terrain, and decided to try to hike in ahead of him. From this calculation, or what I will refer to as the "Sam Factor," our window to see him was somewhere between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m. So we woke up at 4:30 a.m. and, after a quick bowl of oatmeal, were out the door by 5:20 a.m., ready for the 14 mile day.
Taking the first shift to lead, I relied completely on my headlamp in the darkness. Every now and then I would swing my head from left to right to make sure we were on the correct trail. At one point I looked up and thought I saw a shadowy figure ahead of us. I reassured myself that it was most certainly a tree stump or person-shaped rock. The next time the trail was visible again, Jeff also noticed this shadowy figure, confirming that it wasn't just my imagination running wild. I continued gingerly, now imagining that we were deliberately following Bigfoot. When we reached a small clearing near a river and looked to our right, we realized that the shadowy figure was a hunter meeting his crossbow-wielding hunter friends. What a relief? At least it wasn't Bigfoot. We cautiously said hello and continued on.
The rest of the hike was uneventful apart from the possible UFO sighting and the ominous sound of Native American drumming in the distance. Once we got above tree line, the trail opened up to beautiful panoramic views and meadows filled with blue and red wildflowers. We reached the Pacific Crest Trail crossing around 8 a.m. and noticed that the area was actually pretty crowded, indicated by puffs of smoke from campfires and tents like ladybugs dotted around the trail. The drive up to the trailhead had been 20 miles up a winding dirt road, so we figured that it was an isolated area. Apparently however, the Snow Grass Trail is one of the most popular along the Washington PCT, due to its relative accessibility in relation to its amazing views. To me, the attainability of the wilderness is one of the coolest aspects of living in the Seattle area; the meadows, the wildflowers, the trails, the views - it's all about two hours away from the city. So, while it seemed strange that there were so many people around, it was also nice to see that this nature was so appreciated and loved.
We set up our camera equipment in a meadow, where we could pan the camera from the trail around to the view of snowy Mount Adams, and chatted with curious hikers as they walked by. Finally, at around 9 a.m., a northbound Australian thru-hiker appeared, and Marion ran over to ask him if he had passed a tall, blond, lithe and spandex-wearing gentleman. When he said yes to this unmistakable description, it meant that Sam had already passed by when we reached our destination. We knew that this would be a potential risk and still managed to capture some amazing footage of the area, so it wasn't too big of a loss or disappointment. As I've mentioned before, there is always a chance that we'll miss Sam and it's bound to happen again. It's also important to remember that the supporting role in this film is the beauty of the Pacific Crest Trail, and it certainly got it's moment in the spotlight today.
Cecily "Crazy Legs" Mauran
Trail near Sand Lake
This morning, our film crew left around 7 a.m. and hiked the short 2-3 mile trail to Sand Lake at White Pass. We reached our destination at around 9 a.m., expecting Sam to run by the trail circling the little lake between the hours of 10 a.m. and 12 p.m.. Once again, we had absolutely beautiful weather, but being in a marshy area, the mosquitoes were UNBEARABLE. Even though it was getting hot outside, I wore my fleece pants, tall socks, a fleece jacket, and a wool hat in a weak attempt to protect myself from the little bastards. In a move of brilliance and desperation, Jeff made a little fire, which kept them away. I was extremely hot, but did not complain. The alternative would have been far worse.
Around 11:30, we received a static-y message from Sam, which meant that he was close in range. We scrambled to our posts, Marion and Ben at the camera, and Jeff, ready to outfit Sam with a lav mic. Within a few minutes, Sam appeared on the trail, and our rig followed him as he hustled by. He took a quick break by our fire while Marion, Ben, and Jeff ran ahead to get another shot, and I stayed with Sam and the walkie to alert the rest of the crew when he would be passing by. Sam seemed happy but tired, and relieved to sit down for a minute. When he was ready, I informed Marion on the walkie, and told Sam we'd see him at the bottom. When we got the shot, we packed up and made our way down.
Days like this feel successful and satisfying, because sometimes they don't always work out so well, and so we've learned not to take any opportunity for granted. When we are able to talk to Sam, we try to get as much information from him as possible in order to plan, but also to prepare for sudden changes, which often occur. Marion compares our crew to firemen, since we spend a lot of time waiting around for Sam, but have to be ready to spring into action at any hour of the day. The tension between waiting and never being able to relax is the most stressful part of this job. There are always going to be upsets and there are always going to be shots that we couldn't get. That's why, at the end of each day, it's important for us to be able to say that we did everything within our control, and let go of the factors that were beyond our reach. When we are able to get a shot of Sam in the location we want, it is immensely rewarding.
Tomorrow, we hike up the Snow Grass Trail in the Goat Rocks Wilderness, where there will be an amazing view of Mount Adams. Wish us luck!
Cecily "Crazy Legs" Mauran
Saturday, September 3 While waiting for Sam to arrive at Chinook Pass, everyone speculated as to how long it would take him. Given the recent ankle injury, I believed Sam would be considerably slower to complete the 70 miles. Believing that we had a decent chunk of time before we needed to film again, the film crew decided to leave Chinook Pass in search of gas and to perform the humbling task of dumping our waste tanks. I recently received a request (hey mom!) to share more of the nitty gritty details of #RV livin' on the blog, so, request granted.
In an RV, there are two waste tanks, grey and black. The former contains waste drained from the sink and shower. The latter, and more sinisterly named, contains waste from our toilet, otherwise known as urine and shit. These tanks fill up quickly and often, requiring the RV owner to frantically drive around smelling the unpleasant aroma of sewage, in search of a proper place to "dump." But here's the thing, once the RV owner has located an RV park willing to allow this little ritual, the RV owner must then pay to do so. It just seems so inherently wrong to me that we have to pay to empty tanks of our own human waste, but I must remind myself that this is just RV livin' and the rules are different.
Our tanks at Chinook Pass were so full that we couldn't run the sink to clean our dishes and we definitely couldn't use the toilet. With our own shame and disgust motivating us, we set out for the nearest town. The nearest town of Ashford was probably over 50 miles away through Mount Rainier National Forest on mountain roads that twisted and turned as they increased in elevation, which, in an RV, gives one the feeling that it will fly off a cliff and crash in a fiery explosion. We were also low on gas. Given the Labor Day Weekend crowd, exponentially increased by the beautiful weather, the roads were scary and I was starting to freak out. After a slight and unintentional detour to the base of Mt. Rainier (what a beauty!) we finally reached Ashford with a collective sigh of relief. After loading up on gas, we drove to the only RV park that had vacancy left, connected the black tube from our RV to a hole in the ground and dumped our shit.
Driving back to Chinook Pass, feeling lighter and content, I thought about the common denominator that all RVs share. You might have a 1999 Chateau Sport or a brand new 2012 Itasca Navion by Winnebago, but at some point or another, everyone has to dump their shit tanks. Hmm how poignant. About a half an hour after we got back to the PCT trailhead parking lot, Ben ran into the RV and grabbed his camera, yelling, "he's back!" A minute later, Sam barreled in, all fired up because he had come in early and was feeling good.
Being unprepared, but happily surprised by Sam's arrival, we scrambled to give him whatever caloric foods we had like cheese, M&Ms, and pistachio nuts. Sam told us that he had walked through the pain of his ankle until it didn't seem to hurt anymore, how he had found a trail angel with a cooler of Mountain Dew, beer, apple sauce, and other delicacies that are so rare on the trail. Sam said that the beautiful weather had allowed him amazing views of Mount Rainier and it became obvious that all these things had contributed to the psychological uplift that Sam had needed so badly needed post-injury. After a brief rest, Sam took off again around midnight, while we drove south to White Pass for a 6 a.m. hike in to meet Sam at Sand Lake and went to bed happy to be back on track.
Cecily "Crazy Legs" Mauran
August 30 Sam arrived at Snoqualmie Pass after completing a 70 mile leg from Steven's Pass. Although he arrived several hours ahead of schedule, he also appeared to be limping and relying heavily on his poles. After peeling off his socks, Sam revealed his swollen ankle. His support team sprang into action with a steady drip of pasta loaded with cheese, muscle milk, and a dirty tepid water foot soak. After a phone call to his doctor, it was confirmed that Sam's ankle was NOT broken, but running dozens of miles a day would not obviously not help, not to mention, hurt. While pressure was mounting on, in, and around Sam's ankle, there wasn't much we could do but wait for any improvement and prepare for potential changes in the plan.
In desperate need of supplies, our RV caravan set out to find food, gas, and running water. Our venue of choice was a parking lot of a Chevron station/locally famous pancake house about half a mile down the road. Luckily for us, the pancake house turned into a bar at night, which we soon learned about when a friendly local knocked on our RV and invited us in for a round of shots. Like moths to a bluelight bar sign, we obliged. However, after Ben, Jeff, Marion, and I walked into the practically empty bar, immediately uncomfortable, and after the group of toothless men realized we weren't an RV filled with hot girls, I think both parties were disappointed. So we took a shot of Jack, chatted for a bit, then made an excuse to leave. I will say though that my omelet and hash browns at the very same restaurant the next morning, were amazing.
Hanging out in a gas station parking lot isn't as bad as it seems. Plus, the Chevron station had more resources to offer than we had most of the time, like flushing toilets and beef jerky! Sam's girlfriend Chloe flew up from Berkeley, bringing a frozen lasagna and cleaning supplies-both much appreciated, and the weather was warm and sunny, putting a bright spin on the littered patch of grass we were parked next to. During the two days we spent chez Chevron, we filmed John, Eric, and Sam, ankle propped up in Chloe's lap, as they convened to discuss Sam's injury and how it might affect the run. With one of the primary issues being the strict time schedule since it starts snowing in the Sierras in October, taking too much time off was definitely not an option. The meeting concluded with the decision that Sam would do the next 70 mile leg and see how he felt. At the next support point, John, Eric, and Sam would then have to make concrete and drastic changes, depending on Sam's condition.
That night, we set up some folding chairs and drank beers that we'd bought from the store twenty feet away. We talked in a dreamy, distant sort of way about the celebratory trip to Vegas at the end of all this, and later, Eric, Ben, and Jeff tossed a frisbee in the parking lot, as I cooked a chicken stew-thing that we poured over rice. Overall, the evening was oddly calm and pleasant. I had to remind myself that despite the good company and good food, we had become the creepy people who had made a gas station their semi-permanent home. I was even on a head-nod basis with the gas station employees and considered buying a coozy that said "Men are like blenders, you know you need them, but you don't know why." Yes, I had become too comfortable there and it was definitely time to move on. The next morning we woke up at 4 a.m. and drove back to the trailhead. After some brief jokes and hugs, Sam disappeared into the darkness, his bobbing headlamp the only light source. Now we all anxiously wait for his return so we can plot our next move.
Cecily "Crazy Legs" Mauran