Monday Funday #3- FuKT on Copper Ridge Loop (Part 2)

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.

 

Gear:

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

Food:
Trail Butter – 1 pouch
Kind Bar
2 Espresso Gels (1 Clif, 1 Gu)
Potato Chips and Pretzel Bites
(clearly not enough)

 

Picture Vomit:

A very swingy suspension bridge.
A very swingy suspension bridge.
Copious berries also slowed us a down a bit.
Copious berries also slowed us a down a bit.
cable car crossing!
cable car crossing!
me above Egg Lake
me above Egg Lake
sun through some remaining mist lighting up the sides of the valley
sun through some remaining mist lighting up the sides of the valley
looking back at the Chilliwack valley we just climbed out of
looking back at the Chilliwack valley we just climbed out of
the trail up to Copper Peak- open meadows and boulders everywhere- beautiful!
the trail up to Copper Peak- open meadows and boulders everywhere- beautiful!
Alicia at the start- before the rain started in
Alicia at the start- before the rain started in
the junction at Boundary Camp- I wanted to hug it second time around
the junction at Boundary Camp- I wanted to hug it second time around
cozied up in the back of Lucy
cozied up in the back of Lucy
Refueling- "I like potato chips but I wish they had more calories"
Refueling- “I like potato chips but I wish they had more calories”
Parking lot at Artist Point
Parking lot at Artist Point

 

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Monday Funday #3- FuKT on Copper Ridge Loop (Part 1)

On July 13th, Alicia Woodside and I went to run the Copper Ridge Loop in the North Cascades. It was awesome, and we also camped and drank beer, and I will expound on the inspiring moments, the dark ages, the highlights, and the gear in a second post. But first.

I would like to propose a new acronym to define adventures, in light of the recent hullabaloo surrounding FKT OKT STP etc. I want staunchly embrace the gray area by drawing an analogy to illustrate why humans need nomenclature to make sense of the world.  Just as calling all flowers one word is accurate, but doesn’t fully capture the difference between a rose and a dandelion, saying that long, running-ish adventures should just be running-ish adventures doesn’t acknowledge that such adventures differ dramatically in their purpose and characteristics. Gary Robbins’ Wonderland feat is amazing, just as amazing as all those who are taking three days to do it, those who backpack it for a week, and those who do it 2 times, with a summit, on one leg, etc. We are all out there accomplishing great things, and while naming those feats helps us classify and make sense of the many ways of experiencing the wild, we don’t have to value one over the other. But, where, you say, is the acronym for those of us who aren’t doing a fastest or only time? For that I propose the name of FUNNEST KNOWN TIME, or FuKT for short, and yes, the u is 100% necessary (to avoid confusion with fast, of course 😉 ).

Let’s quickly flush out the criteria for achieving a FuKT:

1) you have to laugh at least once, at yourself, at gaping hikers, at incompetent footwork on behalf of your partner, at the incessant rain, at your own stupidity, at swollen fingers, or any other situation/emotion/aspect unique to trail running. Smiling is also a qualifier.

2) you DO NOT have to: announce, document, share, or in any other way do more than simply experience. You’re welcome to, and people will appreciate if you do, but it’s still a FuKT if you just go run and don’t tell anyone or use Strava or anything (as long as you were happy!)

3) FuKTs can be repeated and co-owned and no one will keep track of them (except Strava, but I can’t help that)

That’s it. Now there is an acronym for everyone, and we can all be happy and achieve something with a title every single time we go run. So go on, go out and get yourself a FuKT, because that’s why we’re all here in this community in the first place.

Actual trip report here: Copper Ridge Loop Trip Report

Monday Funday #1- Melakwa Lakes Loop

Okay, this actually happened on Tuesday, June 30. It doesn’t matter.

Been eyeing up an Alpine Lakes loop off I-90 for a while. Settled on Melakwa since I haven’t been in that area at all, rather than Mason Lake and Island lakes and such, where I’ve been a couple of times (but never looped).

Dropped my bike in the bushes at the Pratt Lake trailhead, drove up to Denny Creek and hit the trail about 8:30. Good running for the first mile or so, then the trail climbs, quite technically. Reached the Melakwa lake at 10:15 or so and spent some time exploring Upper Lake, taking a skinny dip, and deciding whether venturing beyond to the pass and looking out at Snow Lakes would be worth it. Decided I’d save it for another day.

The traverse between Melakwa and Pratt (with another lake in between that wasn’t quite as scenic) was pleasant, but the trail was pretty rocky and brushy, making good running difficult. I started to get annoyed by this. I wanted to run! I just looked at flowers instead. (there were lots!)

Stopped at Pratt for 20 minutes or so, had a snack, and headed back down to the bike. Reached the trailhead just after 1, making for a loop of 4.5 hours. The bike back up the hill (even if it was gradual!) was tough- I was happy and very very very sweaty by the time I reached the car. Found a good swimming hole just south of the bridge over Denny Creek and took a plunge to refresh before driving home.

Highly recommend, but do it in reverse so the better swimming at Melakwa is at the end of the loop, and it’s a downhill ride to your car!

Photo vom:

starting out
starting out
denny creek
denny creek
runnable first bit of trail
runnable first bit of trail
climbing up the valley
climbing up the valley
wildflowers!
wildflowers!
Melakwa lake
Melakwa lake
Looking up at the pass
Looking up at the pass
other lake
other lake
bike in the bushes!
bike in the bushes!
perfect chest-deep hole to plunge into
perfect chest-deep hole to plunge into
bike in the bushes!
bike in the bushes!
other lake
other lake
Looking up at the pass
Looking up at the pass
Melakwa lake
Melakwa lake
wildflowers!
wildflowers!
climbing up the valley
climbing up the valley
runnable first bit of trail
runnable first bit of trail
denny creek
denny creek
starting out
starting out

Monday Funday #2- UPWC Chinook Pass loop

I set off Monday to do the Chinook Pass loop designed by Kathy Vaughn as part of the Ultra Pedestrian Wilderness Challenge. I wanted a good long run to help prep for White River, the Wonderland trail, and IMTUF in September, but I’m trying to avoid “training” – since that makes me want to go fast, which is dumb because then I get injured and can’t run. So I’m spending the summer on adventures- tackling long and/or hard routes at a cruisey, fun, take-lots-of-pictures, go-for-lots-of-swims pace.

The loop is gorgeous and surely described elsewhere in more technical and precise detail, but it really broke down for me into 4 distinct sections (if run clockwise):

1. Gorgeous high alpine running– the first 12-ish miles, from Chinook Pass along the PCT (although I think I started somewhere along the road above Tipsoo) were big views, gorgeous lakes, early morning sun, and 10,000,000,000 lupines (I think if I could have counted, that would be a close estimate).

2. Downhill- Laughingwater Creek was down down down down– easy mostly, a few short steep sections, but mostly forested and not any spectacular views. The shade was pleasant as the day heated up and the trail was super runnable, so it was a nice way to pass the middle of the run, which is usually where I fade mentally.

3. Rolling (by) the River- From Silver Falls until Deer Creek, the trail climbs very gradually (1000 feet-ish over 6+ miles) but feels rolling. Footing alternates between great and pretty brushy, and there are ample opportunities for swimming. Several dry creek beds, which may be an issue later in the summer for water sources.

4. The UP- After Deer Creek, you climb. Mostly gradual, sometimes really steep, but at the end of a long day, it was HARD. I was hot, tired, dehydrated, and hungry (see below) and I’m pretty sure if I’d seen anybody (I didn’t)- they might have called emergency services. I weaved, I grimaced, I groaned out loud, but I finished. SLOWLY. But I got it done. The last 1.5 miles up to the parking lot after the last road crossing feels like it takes FOREVER. But you’ll get there.

Stats: 
Started- 7:00
Finished- 3:16
Elevation- ? Some Strava routes say 6,300 or so, some people say 10,000. Felt pretty easy to me until the last climb.
Fuel- 2 Picky Bars (400 cal total), 1 pack Cherry Shot Bloks (160 cal total), 1 pack Honey Stinger Pink Lemonade Chews (160 cal total) (clearly not enough…I did have 1 more pack of Shot Bloks, it just didn’t sound good)

Lessons Learned-
1. My GPS is only good for emergencies, not routing my adventures. See track below. Why it stopped, I don’t know.
2. Lifestraw does not work. I ran out of water just above Silver Falls and stopped to swim and get some water at a gorgeous deep little hole above the falls. My recently purchased Lifestraw was definitely not working as I hoped. I started back on the trail around 11:45, hoping to find a water source soon. I’ve played giardia roulette probably a dozen times in my life, and gotten lucky so far. Here’s hoping this one doesn’t come back to bite me. With temps in the low 90s and 11ish miles still to go, there was no way I wasn’t drinking water. So I found a few small streams along the way, looked like they came from springs just a bit up, moved fast and I filled up and hoped for the best.
3. I need to pack more food. See above.
4. Z-poles are my new best friend. Somewhere between 12 and 1, I just died. Lack of water (I was conserving when I started to get low) plus not eating enough on the downhill (It was too fun to run!) plus low training volumes came back and smacked me hard. I wobbled, I made horrible faces, and I just walked. A lot. I stopped to swim and contemplated sleeping, but remembered I wanted to beat traffic. My Z-poles took half the burden of those last 5 miles. I would have had a rough time on the climb without something to lean on while being dramatic about how tired I was. (ok, I would have been fine, but the poles really are awesome to have!)

Chinook Pass GPS*click for full size*

GO DO THIS LOOP NOW!!

(and now for the pictures)

IMG_3019 IMG_3014 IMG_3011 IMG_3009 IMG_3008 IMG_3005 IMG_3004 IMG_2999 IMG_2996 IMG_2994 IMG_2993 IMG_2990 IMG_2989 IMG_2988 IMG_2985 IMG_3026