Monday, May 25, 2015


For the first time in a month I stayed home this weekend and did nothing. Where nothing means grading finals and 51 miles and 12,000 feet of vertical gain, a bunch of it off-trail on Mt. Tam.

Also, I got a research fellowship from the Berkeley Institute for Data Science. Starting in the fall I'll be half time at BITSS and half time at BIDS (confusing, I know). I spent Thursday and Friday at a BIDS conference on reproducibility that was pretty interesting, and people were super nice, and they're all better programmers than me, so it'll be interesting see what I can bring to the table as a social scientist. Importantly, it looks like I'll be good to stay in Berkeley for two more years.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Quick Trip to the River

An overnighter on the Foresthill Divide. It rained, and I did some trail work.

I carried a couple tools to do light trail maintenance while hiking. Gloves, a folding saw, and a machete. The machete proved to be completely useless against woody shrubs; the saw was very good. I'll have to experiment with this more in the future. Maybe a bow saw for bigger trees, or maybe a pair of loppers or hand pruning shears?

I spend more of my time these days running than backpacking, but I love going cross-country as well as trying to follow old, unmaintained trails. In Ventana Wilderness and in the part of the Tahoe NF on the American River shown below, some of the trails are in such bad shape, and the Forest Service so underfunded, that I fear they will be lost forever. So maybe I can run the open sections of trail, and brush out a mile or two by myself, adopt-a-trail style? On most of my real trail work volunteer trips, the emphasis has been on heavy work to make the trail suitable for horse travel. The trail was already up to my standards before we even got there, but then we piddle around with boulders and making drainage perfect, and meanwhile there's some completely overgrown trail somewhere else that's disappearing.

Friends are welcome to help any weekend this summer I'm not racing. It's only a 3,000 foot climb up from the river.

She was less excited on the way back up the canyon.

Would have been great in the rain, if it had a floor.

Brushing out the trail after a burn

The River


Words to live and melt glaciers by

Ultramarathon Roadtrip?

I'm signed up for Plain 100 in Washington one weekend in September, and IMTUF in Idaho the weekend after. There's a very small but non-zero probability that I'll want to do Mogollon Monster outside Phoenix the following weekend. What's the most fun way to do this? I could take the time off work, or even do a little work remotely, so how should I do this?

Thinking of just the first two races, driving would be about 2,000 miles, or about 32 hours. Given my gas-hog truck that's about $450 (16 mpg, gas $3.50/gallon). Or I could fly OAK->SEA, run a race, fly SEA->BOI, run a race, and fly BOI->OAK. Three one-ways on Southwest, Alaska, and Southwest would be $360, total.  With two rental cars, and gas for them, the total would be around $725. I suppose I could also just fly to Seattle and drive the 666 miles to both races and fly home from Boise, but that's over $1,000 just for the one-way car rental. Or I could fly to Seattle and drive to Idaho and back. Or I could fly to Boise and drive to Washington and back. Or I could make two roundtrip flights and be home for three days in between races.

Which way does George get to come? I was thinking that I know people who like dogs in both Seattle and Boise, but that's not actually where the races are, so leaving George with people there adds a solid 400 miles of driving. Do I know people in Lake Wenatchee, WA or McCall, ID who like dogs? I guess that also means there are yet more options: drive to Seattle, leave George with friends there, fly rountrip to Boise...OK, enough thinking about this. Driving the whole way seems like the cheapest, and possibly even the least frustrating thing to do. As long as I ignore wear and tear costs to my truck, and the fact that I should really be writing a paper and going on the job market this fall instead of taking a running vacation. That last one I'm going to blame on the USDA not having given me data I was supposed to get last summer.

Monday, May 11, 2015


Jiminy Christmas the trails in Ventana Wilderness are in bad shape.

Just got back from a two-night trip to Ventana Wilderness. I hate planning group camping trips, because everyone bails. Indeed, pretty much everyone couldn't, bailed, or flaked, but a few people made it, and roasting bananas in rum and sugar over a campfire tastes like heaven, so as long as we all come out without poison oak (a big if), it will all be worth it.

We hiked from Los Padres dam on the east side of Ventana Wilderness (that's "Big Sur" for all intents and purposes) up the Carmel River. The trail was in OK shape most of the way (6.5 miles), but deteriorated a bit in the last mile or so up to Hiding Camp, where we spent Saturday night. I explored the Puerto Suello trail from there up to Ventana Double Cone, but it a miserable impassable mess, far worse than the Enchanted Gorge, or my previous trip to Ventana. The trail from Hiding Camp to China Camp seemed like it might be in passable condition.

The Ventana Wilderness Association maintains a useful website with trail conditions. Hopefully I'll get out there on a trail crew soon. Or I'll just head back on my own with a folding saw and a machete. And some Tecnu.

The Long View

Impassable Puerto Suello Trail

Rub My Belly


The Drive Down
You also might be interested in Leor's adventures in Ventana.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

MeOw Marathons

I ran the MeOw Marathons this weekend. Styled loosely after Barkley, and similar to Euchre Bar Massacre that I did last October, this is a race where you follow an unmarked course using written directions and gathering pages from books hidden in designated locations to prove that you went where you were supposed to. I was signed up for the Quads (there were 1x, 2x, and 4x options available, of approximately 35, 61, and 105 miles) but since my knee has not fully recovered from Zion three weeks ago, I thought going in it was very unlikely I'd finish all 100+ miles. My knee balked a bit when I ran, so I hiked the vast majority of the time. I finished the first 61 mile loop in just under 24 hours, and that was it for me. (I missed a cut off by a couple hours, and I was fine with that.)

So that's an abysmally slow 100K, right? When you factor in that it was off trail, following powerline cuts or abandoned and overgrown trails through poison oak, with 22,000 feet of vertical gain, on a pretty warm day, and I was mostly just hiking, I feel pretty good about it. The race is in Whiskeytown, and was quite pretty. Books were hidden at four sets of waterfalls, there were really nice creeks, and we summited Shasta Bolly, at over 6,200 feet, with very nice (if a little hazy) views of Shasta, Lassen, and the Trinity Alps.

Also, while I was hiking with my iPod going, after dark, but without a headlamp (I have pretty good night vision, and there was a full moon) I treed an itty-bitty bear cub, and its mom was right there next to the trail to express her appreciation. She didn't do much that aggressive, but I gave here plenty of space.


1/3 of the way from the right is Shasta, the rest of the white is clouds.

Northwest off Shasta Bolly

Here's the Strava:

It was a pretty good day. I'm glad my knee was able to do as well as it did. I've got another one of these adventure run-style things coming up June 6 with some of the same crazy people, and I'm hoping by then I'll be able to give 100% effort.