Sunday, August 21, 2016

Everyone Flakes

As a general rule. Which is why I typically don't go out of my way to organize group, or even pair running or camping events, but I just did two in a row, and they were great. Maybe even three if you count AC, and maybe four if my orienteering (Rogaine) race with a partner next week comes off. And then Amy and I are traveling the weekend after that, so I guess I'm a regular socialite. Forget those decades of self-proclaimed misanthropy, you were misinformed, dear reader.

Anyway, Steve-o is going off to intern at the White House Council of Economic Advisors. Fancy! So we went camping. He held up quite respectably for a non-runner. Which is to say we hiked 26 miles on Saturday, mostly together except for a few at the end. Sunday we split up and I ran 24 more, while he did a short hike on his own.

Saturday was in the eastern portion of Carson-Iceberg, up Wolf Creek and down the Carson River. Wolf Creek was only OK, but the High Trail above the Carson had some pretty great views. Granted, N=2, but both times I've been to this area, it's been fairly hot.
Wolf Creek




Saturday after we finished, we went into Markleeville for some ice and Gatorade, over Monitor Pass down to 395, and then started back west up 108. We camped at the Leavitt Meadows Campground. Of course paying to camp makes me feel like a failure, but it did make for easy access to the trailhead in the morning. I ran south up the West Walker, looped around the Chain of Lakes, and came back. There were nice views of distant peaks to the south.
Leavitt Meadows




This weekend I managed another 54, this time with my grad school and trail running mentor ZG. A decade ago he had some amazing races (4th place at Hardrock), and he has more fun getting scratched to hell on incredibly steep slopes while lost than any non Euchre Bar or Barkley vet I know, but he's basically coming off the couch. So he hung in there, and I wasn't really any faster than him, but he was definitely done, while George and I could have done some more.

Saturday we started from near the Underwood Valley Trailhead on the 7N93 that's on the way to the Bear Valley Ski Resort. (Note: 4x4 vehicles only if you want to get past the Sno-Park lot that's on the paved road. We saw a handful of other trucks, and Alice was the only one with extra clearance, but I was happy to have it.) The loop I designed dropped way down to the North Fork of the Mokelumne, climbed abandoned Tahoe Yosemite Trail up to the dirt road that's the wilderness boundary on the back side of Kirkwood (9N82), to Munson Meadow, back down to the North Fork, then back up to the car. It's a doozey.

Yep, that's a forest fire.


Climb 1 done. Top of Horse Canyon.

Drop down to the bottom and climb up the opposite side.

He loves it, I promise.

Almost back to the top.


It wasn't quite 40 miles, but it was a hell of a loop. 9,500 feet of climbing. Really good views of the North Fork, which I didn't realize had such steep walls. (I also didn't realize the Mokelumne Tetons were a thing.) The TYT trail still can be followed thanks to cairns, but it trail tread is basically non-existent, and I had the map on the Forest Service baselayer GPS map to follow, which is basically cheating. The views from the top were great as well. You get very close to the back side of Kirkwood, and though it is a 4x4 road, we didn't see any vehicle traffic. The whole day we saw a nice mix of users: two bow hunters, one mountain biker, three backpackers, and some cowboys moving cattle to higher ground.

The trail down from Munson Meadow is actually in worse shape, and ripped our legs up. I would advise against going up that--manzanita and other chaparall brush grows downslope and you just step on top of it rather than fighting against it uphill.

Sunday's run was a quicky from Pacific Valley. 14 miles up Bull Run Creek, cross country to avoid what seemed like a pointless descent to Spicer Meadow Reservoir, up Weiser Creek, down Marshall Canyon, and back.

Really nice bowl at the head of Pacific Creek


Score!






Monday, August 08, 2016

AC 100

I finally ran Angeles Crest 100. It's close, and it's been around for a long time, so it's a bit unclear why I hadn't run it before. Maybe because I don't like Southern California very much? More likely because several years ago they moved the date from late September to early August to try and beat fire season (and instead guarantee that it will be uncomfortably hot). Also, the race director has some very poor policies that clearly seem like they're designed to maximize profit--the race signup takes place the day after the previous year's race, with no refunds, no waitlist, and almost no experience requirement for signing up. All these lead to a very high (something like a one-third) do not start ratio, and a very high do not finish ratio as well. Do not starts=free money!

To make matters worse, this year the race was kicked out of the Pleasant View Ridge wilderness. Part of Angeles National Forest was turned into wilderness in 2009. Commercial events such as races cannot go through federally designated wilderness areas, just like you can't drive in a wilderness or graze sheep or cattle in a wilderness. However, some activities are allowed to be grandfathered in. Western States 100 is grandfathered in to Granite Chief Wilderness. Cattle grazing is grandfathered into Mokelumne Wilderness. As far as I can tell, these decisions are regulatory not statutory.

For the last several years, the race has been allowed to continue to use wilderness. (On foot only. It's not like anyone was driving on trails or anything like that.) However, President Obama designated much of the San Gabriel range as the San Gabriel National Monument in October 2014. This year, the Forest Service decided that because of the added protections as a Monument, the race could no longer cross designated wilderness. The race has been on much the same course for the last 25+ years, which traverses the San Gabriel range from east (Wrightwood) to west (Altadena), paralleling Highway 2 and using a significant portion of the Pacific Crest Trail. As you can see from the map, for some stretches, the only thing that's not wilderness is the Highway 2 corridor. As a result, the race was re-routed and consisted of around 10 or 11 miles of pavement.

As an aside, I blame the Pacific Crest Trail Association for this. I can't confirm that they're the reason that the Forest Service changed their minds, but I do know that last year when the PCTA announced their ridiculous blanket anti-trail-race policy, they were very upset about Angeles Crest 100 going through the wilderness and actively working to have the Forest Service deny/alter the race permit, and the PCTA has a lot of influence with the Forest Service. Frankly, I think the PCTA's policy is completely absurd, and if they're going to focus on ending long-held activities in newly designated wilderness areas, instead of focusing on races that send a couple hundred people on foot across well-established trails once a year (and also require 8 hours of trail work from every participant!) they should focus on cattle grazing.

[PCTA contact] [Forest Service PCT contact][Angeles NF contact]


OK, now that I've complained a lot, here are some photos.
Camp

Start

Sunrise



Miles of Highway 2 shoulder. Thanks for nothing, PCTA.






The race was hot but fun. The first thirty miles are nice high country, which reminded me that it's not that I don't like southern California, it's that I only like the parts that are above 7,000' or within a mile of the ocean. The pavement was awful, but I wore Hokas that handled it reasonably well (but caused other problems). I ran miles 52-75 with Nano and 75-100 with Marshall. It was great to catch up with Nano, and Marshall knew exactly what to do: tell me stories! (And boy, does he have some colorful ones). My time wasn't great (29:25) but I wasn't really pushing it. This was my first 100 in 11 months, which for me is a long time, so I didn't know what sort of shape I was in. I moved up 20+ positions in the second half of the race, and ran the last 5 very strong, so I feel good about it.

Gear-wise, I made the mistake of trying out a cotton shirt. That's been the rage lately ever since Pam Smith did it in Western States and won, so I thought it might feel good in hot weather. The first shirt I tried had seems which chafed. The second shirt I wore worked fine from mile 10 to mile 75, but then when it got cool and the moisture stopped evaporating, it was a gross clammy chafing mess that really started irritating me. I went shirtless for 5 miles, but that's terrible with a pack on. Luckily Marshall didn't mind wearing his long-sleeve and I finished in his Icebreaker wool tank top.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Stupid Tiny Airports

I worked from Florida for a week. One day of that wasn't exactly my work, but rather Amy's, as we had to go to the field and count mangrove seedlings. Mostly I sat in the canoe reading The Cartel, which I guess was exciting, but wasn't that good. I don't think I read enough to read entertaining stuff that isn't good literature. Or maybe it's just that the trash I prefer reading is travel narratives instead of crime novels. Yes, that's probably it.

Daytrip to the field


Gatorade should sponsor Amy's research

Lots of weird flavorings, like the PB+J Amber. Not exactly my favorite. But they've improved the seating and space since last time.
 We did some tubing down the Santa Fe river, stopped at a small state park on the way home, and saw four baby armadillos.






We also saw Jason Bourne, which was somewhere between average and terrible. Spy movies should focus on one specific spy threat, not the larger issue of whether spying is generally good for the world or not, because if you try to cover an issue that large, the dialogue will inevitably become completely hamfisted, with winners like "This is America!" and "We're keeping America safe." Obviously that's a real and important question worth debating, but I think you can't do it well in such a stupid medium. Or at least not while also choreographing multiple fight scenes and car chases. Another example--I know everybody liked Skyfall,but no one walked out of it thinking "Wow, that was a really insightful treatment of the value of signals intelligence vs. human intelligence." 

Back in CA, I rode my bike to Napa to do some wine tasting with the Ex-Mo's. I don't recommend it. The biking, not the wine tasting. The route from the East Bay is basically only pretty once you get there, so you should put your bike on the bus or carpool there, and then ride around the valley instead. EDP won a raffle so we went to a spendy place (Darioush) for free, and a much more chill place (Laird Family Estate) on our own dime.

Rode over Carquinas Straight (I-80) bridge for the first time.

Good Stuff

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Ruby Crest

I ran the Ruby Crest in Nevada in June. I've been hearing about a couple trails in Nevada for the last few years: the Ruby Crest and the Toiyabe Crest. 35 and 70-mile long National Recreational Trails, built by the CCC during the Great Depression, and supposedly still hikeable. Having hiked some epic CCC trails, and with the word "Crest" in the name, I was pretty excited to do the Rubies. It was a very nice run, but it wasn't as great as I'd hoped. Maintenance on the trail is poor (but does appear to happen on rare occasions) so it wasn't too hard to follow, but long chunks, especially in the southern portion, aren't necessarily run-able with the overgrowth. I also didn't think the trail was particularly crest-y, in that it didn't really seem to follow the ridgeline. The northern half is definitely scenic, with high alpine lakes.  The trail is worth hiking, but I probably wouldn't go too far out of your way to do it.






Yep, George came along for the whole trip.


You might see mountain goats right around here. George expressed some interest, but a pair of large males stood impressive guard over the herd and after a staring contest he didn't do anything stupid.





It was a fun trip, but it was definitely disappointing to fail so miserably on what was supposed to be Day 2: running the East Humboldt range, just one range to the east of the Rubies. Old maps show trails that can be connected to hike the length of the range on the western slope, but those trails definitely don't exist on the ground anymore. After an hour or so of painful bushwhacking, we knew there was no way we were going to make it the whole way, so we gave up.


Access to the southern end of the East Humboldt range requires crossing some private property and a bunch of fences. Access to both ends of the Ruby Crest trail is more straightforward.