I heard this run being talked about intermittently over the past couple years mostly by Joe Grant
and Nick Triolo
, and it definitely sounded daunting, yet intriguing. When I got an email a couple weeks ago inviting me to make the long trek I almost instantly turned it down due to me taking some down time from running. I slept on it, day-dreamed about it, and researched it a bit online, and then started rationalizing and entertaining the idea of running it with my friends.My foot and body (and mind) were all feeling rested and healed and it just sounded so epic! How could I pass this opportunity up? It's right down the road from me, and I would have three weeks of down-time rather than four...close enough, right? Especially after dropping out of Pine to Palm 100-miler
I was determined to redeem myself so to speak and get back out in the mountains in a more casual frame of mind, and to remind me why I do these types of adventures.
I absolutely love reading this description of the 60-ish mile trek...Read HERE
....One of my favorite sections of the article is, "The 60-mile route is described here as a five-night trek, beginning at the Multnomah Falls Lodge, and then leaving civilization behind for most of the next six days as the route traverses through the rugged high country of the Hatfield Wilderness."
We planned on doing this six day "hike" in one day! Were we being over-confident in our abilities? Only time would tell and that is part of the excitement and challenge. Looking at the amount of climbing and descending we would be doing I knew it was going to difficult. I personally guesstimated that it would take about 14-15 hours because I did know that we'd be taking it somewhat casually with picture/video taking, and stopping to eat, etc....not to mention that we all were pretty worked from a long season of ultra running. I was really excited to hear that 2009 and 2010 Ultra runner of the year Geoff Roes
would be joining us, and our buddy Willie Mcbride
made a last minute decision to join as well.
We started off at 6:10 a.m. from Starvation Creek Trailhead with the plan to run westward all the way to the other vehicle we left at Bridal Veil. Being the enthusiasts that we are we thought that we'd come that far we might as well add on another five-ish miles and finish at one of our regular spots pretty much lacing the entire Columbia River Gorge. The morning was beautiful...not too cold, and we all started our huge climb (probably about 3,500 feet or more). The sun came up and we had some gorgeous views from some clearings. We could tell it was going to be a gorgeous day! Everyone was in great spirits and we stopped periodically for pictures, food, changing of jackets, etc. and the hours were just zipping by.
On our traverse over over to Wahtum Lake I was a fair bit behind everyone taking some video and while trying to catch up I fell hard into some rock on the trail. It really rattled me and my hand-held water bottle fell off the bank of the trail. With mud and dirt all over me and blood oozing out of my knee I had to climb down about ten feet on a steep bank to retrieve my bottle. That zapped me a little but when I caught up to everyone at a stream crossing I was able to wash out my wound and enjoy some cold mountain water. The section from the top of Mt. Defiance all the way to Eagle Creek was very enjoyable running...slightly downhill and beautiful trails.
After crossing Eagle Creek I knew that we would have a huge climb up to Tanner Butte. I did this section a couple months prior w/ Geoffrey Donovan coming down the other way so I knew this would be a slog. Geoff and I worked most of this climb together and chatted as we gained a ton of elevation. Eventually I told him to go ahead because I was starting to slow down and Willie and I motored to the top. Once we hit the top it was a beautiful grassy flat section that connected us to the "trail from hell" as it says on the sign. It wasn't too too bad for our standards but it was steep downhill and long...probably about a 2,000 foot drop. As I neared the bottom Geoff and Joe were probably about 30 seconds ahead of me and they were re-filling at a stream. Just as I approached them I felt needles poking me all over...ahhhhh! ooohhhhh!!!! ahhhhhhH!!!!! I looked down and yellowjackets were all over me. I continued to run past the two looking probably pretty comical swatting them off all the while getting stung and I had to rip my shirt off and out run them. I knew what to do from past experiences! Joe and Geoff kicked up a ground nest and I was the unlucky one to approach the swarm. All said and done I got stung about eight times and again I felt that zapped me even more....the burning and itching were pretty uncomfortable, but thankfully I didn't have a worse allergic reaction.
Fatigue was really starting to set in for a few of us and this next extremely long and steep uphill section was attempting to beat us into submission. Geoff and Joe were hiking strong a couple minutes ahead of Nick and me, and Willie was a few minutes back. We were definitely starting to slow down, after all , we had been going up and down for 10 hours and approximately 40-miles. Nick and I had a plan on the way up that we would propose to Joe and Geoff. We thought that since both of those guys are such strong mountain runners, and seemed to be currently feeling more "put together" than us, that we'd tell them to go on without us to the car and to pick us up at a specified bail-out point. That point happened to be Elowah Falls Trailhead at the junction of Old Columbia River Highway.
Nick, Willie, and I worked together the last couple hours and into the night to finish up a little shorter than we anticipated. When we finally made it down to "civilization" we had been going for
13.5 hours and over 50-miles. Our quads were shot, we were tired, so sick of gels, bars, etc. but we were in good spirits knowing that we just traversed some of the most spectacular trails and mountains in the Pacific Northwest. The route is no joke! There are some really runnable sections and nice groomed trail, and there are a lot on the opposite end of the spectrum. I think that is what really wore us out. Some long climbs, climbing over trees, roots, rocks, stream crossing, all combined w/ taking a casual approach to the route made for a long and tiring day. It was unforgettable in a great way, though, and I would really like to attempt this again in a more focused, determined mindset to complete the entire 60+ point-to-point.
I had a wonderful time out there...thanks Willie, Nick, Geoff, and Joe! If anyone has any other detailed questions about the route feel free to contact me anytime. Here is a video of our Trans-Gorge experience! I'm off for a trail run......peace....