Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Washington: A Most Excellent Adventure

I tore myself away from work while on a business trip to Seattle and struck out for a long weekend of adventure...

I finished working on Thursday night, went out with a few co-workers and then got a little sleep, despite being really excited about a new adventure about to begin.

At the crack of pre-dawn, I left my luggage with the bellhop and jumped on a ferry to Bremerton. A very kind and charitable friend picked me up there and drove me to the Big Quilcene Trailhead 833.1, with an intended destination of Camp Mystery at Marmot Pass.

We had a chance to catch up on things during the long ride up and it was nice to be in good company with good coffee in a warm vehicle and listening to NPR on the radio before heading into relative isolation for three days.

The trail up to Camp Mystery and Marmot Pass starts uphill at about 2500 feet above sea level and remains uphill for another 2900 feet, initially through old growth forests and past nicely roiling little streams which empty into the Big Quilcene river.

I passed one small group camp then noticed a sign that said "STOVES ONLY BEYOND THIS POINT." 3,500 feet above sea level...Onto the mountains!

I hiked up and up, playing leapfrog with a couple that started behind me. I had to keep reminding myself that it wasn't a race! To slow down and enjoy the views.

And there was plenty to see. Wildflowers, the peaks of mountains breaking the cloudline, the intricate construction of weathered trees clinging to the sides of the mountains. It was truly stunning. The scale of it made me feel very small. Looking straight up at mountains is always very stunning and awe-inspiring.

It seemed like it took forever to climb the five and a half miles to Camp Mystery. By the time I arrived at my campsite, I decided I had done enough for one day, and that I would be extra attentive at setting up my campsite, as it was to be my home for the next couple days.

I picked a spot by a stream, just because I liked the way it sounded. I knew I would pay in terms of temperature, but I thought I could handle the tradeoff.

I laid down a bed of evergreen boughs underneath my tent for a little fragrant cushioning and insulation, strung a clothes line and hung my bear canister up about fifty yards away from camp over a log that was propped A-frame style between two trees.

I wandered down to the stream and noticed that there were animal prints that were decidedly not dog prints in the mud. There are no claws at the tops of the toes like there would be if they were dog prints, and the top pad of the foot is dimpled - just like the picture of a mountain lion track I pulled up on google. I decide to call the stream "Cougar Lick Creek," because it appears it is a watering hole for mountain lions. We will share this wilderness, I decided...

After camp was set up and the chills went away from thinking that mountain lions regularly drink out of the stream mere yards away from my camp, I took a quick mile long barefoot hike. Even in the VFF's, my feet get hot sometimes and long for the dew and the feel of soil beneath them...

Light began to fade, so I prepared dinner, inhaled it and bundled up for the night ahead. Needless to say, I slept like a rock.

The next morning I hatched a game plan. I would do a 14 mile round trip hike out to Tubal Cain Mine via Marmot Pass and back. I wrestled with just gearing up in running shorts and a tee shirt as it was beautiful out, but I also wanted pictures and the weather seemed to have the ability to change on a dime up in the pass. For imstance, I went to bed pretty comfortable but froze my ass off that first night. It was tough to get out of my warm sleeping bag to go wash up in the creek, that's for sure.

I started hiking up to the pass with a low fog surrounding me. By the time I arrived at Marmot Pass, the clouds were rolling around the peaks. giddy.

From there, I hiked towards Tubal Cain Mine, further into the Buckhorn Wilderness. The terrain ranged from scree fields to even more stunning vistas at around 6,200 feet and then tumbled back into old growth forest. A couple that I was hiking near stopped me to ask about the VFF's, how I liked them, how long have I been running in them...what's an ultramarathon?

Actually, I got a lot of comments on them from a lot of folks I saw in the mountains. I could always hear the hikers in their big hiking boots on the trail past my camp...CLUMP CLUMP CLUMP CLUMP. I don't know how people walk in those things! I'll take the VFF's any day.

I had lunch near a stream, hiked up the Copper Creek a ways and then decided that due to a lack of water and sustenance, turning back for camp was a prudent idea. I tried to fast hike it as best I could, fog was setting in, so I ran sections of the trail and made it in about half the time it took me to walk out there.

I chatted with a couple other hikers back at Marmot Pass then descended towards camp.

I ate heartily then retired. That night, something large brushed past my backside that was against the wall of my tent. Needless to say, I did not sleep well that night.

The next morning the skies were perfectly clear, treating me to grand views on my way back down to the trailhead.

From there, I got a ride back to civilization on Bainbridge Island. My friend took me kayaking in Poulsbo with her son, where we saw harbor seals come right up to our boats. I made three new seal friends that day...I spent the night at a state park there and had a great fire, good dinner and a decent night's sleep.

From there, I made my way back into civilization, hiking 6 miles to the ferry and then back into Seattle to work, then sleep in a bed and flush toilets and turn lights on and off.

The next morning I got to meet my barefoot running idol, A very fit, very awesome Barefoot Ted. He lives about 2 miles away from the hotel I was staying at, so I ran out to visit with him and his dog Edgar.

Ted just finished the Leadville 100 mile race wearing the new Vibram FiveFingers Trek in just over 25 hours. Amazing! We visited his Huarache workshop and his training grounds in Volunteer Park, where he teaches classes and coaches athletes to become fitter, faster and free-er.

I love listening to his theories about running and left there quite inspired to carry the "less is more" message to as many folks as I could. Just like Ted was doing when I left him. Two prospective students were there, Ted introduced me to them as a "fellow minimalist runner" and then he hipped me to a great little trail to run on...after I thanked him profusely for his time and inspiration and took off I heard him begin his lesson with "Okay, boys and girls!..."

I really do love the Washington area. It's so full of a diverse array of life and stone's throws to entirely different climates and experiences. This was truly an epic and memorable weekend!


Jamoosh said...

Excellent Post! Sounds like you had some running fun!

I have a pair of KSO's on the way (my other pair ripped) and can't wait to strap them back on for some of my work outs. The Classics just aren't suited to doing "wet" hills.

I'll be in Washington next month and have signed up for a session with BFT.

Helen said...

What an awesome trip! Sounds like a beautiful trip and how neat to meet barefoot Ted!

Kel said...

Sounds cleansing.

I'd love to visit Washington state and the Pacific Northwest some day :)

Wayne said...

Sounds like a very cool outing, Keith. BTW, I saw two people wearing the VFFs on the Pikes Peak Ascent. I need to get out in mine.

SteveQ said...

Sounds like one very cool trip - I may have to visit relatives in WA soon.

Does the minimalist approach require shaving your head?

Londell said...

Brings back memories! My Grandfather lived in Bremerton and I would vidit him for weeks at a time in the early 1970's before he died in 1979. You did a great job with pictures and words that brought back emotions.

What a great place to take a trip! Glad the job allowed you to do such.

Jess said...

Sounds like it was a great trip and the pics are beautiful!

Steve said...

I love the NW. Seattle and Portland are two of my favorite places to visit. Man, I gotta get back out there sometime soon! Thanks for sharing the adventure and the great photos. How cool is it that you got to meet one of your idols?!

sailnoble said...

Wow, good for you for grabbing hold of that opportunity. Sounds positively life altering. You inspire me to pay attention to the potential in every day.

Anonymous said...

If you ever decide to try some great hiking boots I would recommend Red Wing Shoes' Irish Setter Boots!