Now, for the meat of our Copper Ridge Loop FuKT report:
Alicia is such an awesome and inspiring runner, and although we’ve hung out at races, we’ve never gotten to do a run together due to our geographic separation, so it seemed totally appropriate to scheme up a fun adventure run during the flexible schedules of summer.
Originally we’d planned to do the Cathedral Pass loop in the Pasayten Wilderness but a fire out that way closed off that possibility, and we both stumbled upon Copper Ridge loop, drawn to it for promises of a fairly runnable grade and spectacular views. It’s 34 miles total, with around 9,000 feet of elevation gain.
After a long weekend of work and very little sleep, I met Alicia and Dan Probst in Bellingham at Kulshan Brewery on Sunday night. We stocked up on goodies at Trader Joes, drank some beer and ate some pizza, chatted with Dan about the loop and his Bay to Baker project, and then headed out to the Hannegan Pass trailhead, where we set up Lucy the Subaru camp. It was like a sleepover from middle school, chatting until we started to dose off mid-sentence. We got to sleep sometime after midnight, which was surprising since I’d only slept 4 hours Friday and Saturday night (more on that later). Luckily Alicia likes to sleep in as much as I do, and we stayed nice and cozy until 9:00 Monday morning.
After a breakfast of yogurt, granola, oatmeal, coffee, whatever else we could eat, we packed up and headed out- at this point it was slightly cloudy but not wet. The clouds sat low on the peaks and we hoped it would clear later in the day for some nice views. We headed up to Hannegan Pass, rain starting to fall, then headed out counterclockwise to the Chilliwack River trail. There was a nice, long downhill section through the woods that was dry followed by some wet brushy sections, which started to tear up the thighs pretty good. We were both in pretty good spirits, until we realized we were a few miles further behind than we assumed and still had 20ish miles to go instead of under 18. Dan had predicted it would take us about 10 hours, but we were being a little cocky and assuming 8-9 hours was a better estimate. Battling thick brush in the rain was slow and thinking about doing that for another 6 hours was a little overwhelming, and I started to realize how sleep deprived I was. There were some gorgeous sections of trail through here, with mossy trees, ferns, soft trail, and wildflowers on the open slopes, plus great chats about all things running and life, which provided a nice distraction. We agreed that running with other people is the best way to socialize- you have time to chat, you get to help each other, you tackle projects together (like the cable car- which was AWESOME!)
Then we reached the junction up to Copper Ridge, where we started to climb up. All told the trail climbed about 4000′ in this section, but at times it felt interminable. While Alicia had bounced back from her earlier slump, mine only got worse. My hamstring didn’t feel great, but worse, my legs and lungs felt like lead. I could feel how slow I was moving on the climb, but my heart rate was up and I knew I couldn’t go any faster. Cue the cycle of stupid negative thoughts (“I’m so weak, I can’t do this, why can’t I do this?, everyone else can do this except me, I’m weak, why am I out here”) and then I started just hiking and not talking and wallowing. The trail switchbacked through woods, and I thought I would feel better when we reached the ridge, which I started to, despite the socked in conditions (the trail was still super cool and open!) and then we had to climb some more and I went right back into the blackness. I just wanted to sit down and not ever run again. The whole time, Alicia was exceptionally encouraging, but not obnoxiously positive, and finally, when we reached the Copper Peak lookout, and I was on the verge of tears and suggesting she just go ahead and meet me at the parking lot, she made me sit down and eat and regroup for 5 minutes. This saved me- I wanted nothing more than to stay there and sleep (not a safe option, obviously), but having a few minutes where I had to stop moving and accept that I was just very very tired, probably hadn’t eaten enough and it was normal to feel shitty for my level of training and crazy lack of sleep put me back on the right track. I usually come out of a slump quickly, so the 3 hours of grumpiness was incredibly mental training- something I can look back on and draw strength from. A few cloud breaks provided some warm sun to dry out the damp clothes and we got peek-a-boo views to other peaks.
We continued on the ridge, and my spirits perked up with each mile we covered. We finally hit some runnable terrain, and being able to move with a bit of speed reminded me of why I love running long- nothing feels better than looking back at those tough spots once you’re in a better mood and seeing that you can be so strong mentally. Once we hit Boundary Camp junction again, we had just one small climb to Hannegan Pass left before a long downhill and flat section back to the car. I felt fantastic! We passed some backpackers we chatted with in the parking lot that morning, and I realized we were going to finish right at 10 hours, just as Dan had predicted. I laughed at how silly my earlier mood seemed in light of the fact that we finished right where we needed to be, and I’d had one of the worst days I can remember.
Back at camp, we cracked a few beers, cooked up some food, ate a lot of chips and hummus and cheese and whatever else we could, and talked for a few more hours, before it got dark and we settled back into Lucy for the night.
In the morning, while Alicia stayed snuggled up in the back, I drove up to the Artist Point parking lot at Mt. Baker so we could have breakfast and coffee with some spectacular views. We hung out for an hour, listening to a Native American drumming and chanting somewhere up Table Mountain, watching hikers pour in. Hopefully they all got a FuKT.
Merrell AllOut Peak *LOVE THESE SHOES!
Ultimate Direction Jenny Vesta
Outdoor Research Helium II jacket – performed great but condensation kept it damp after a few hours
Zensah compression socks- no blisters even though soaked the whole run
Trail Butter – 1 pouch
2 Espresso Gels (1 Clif, 1 Gu)
Potato Chips and Pretzel Bites
(clearly not enough)