April Runs, Research, and Ramblings
The month of April was refreshing and reenergizing physically but draining and taxing mentally. I made a conscious effort to take a rest after Gorge Waterfalls, and succeeded in this quest. I also made a conscious effort to buckle down and study even more vigorously for the NPTE, the National Physical Therapy Exam, and succeeded in this quest as well. I still ran and hiked but this was in order to explore new places, accomplish tasks or to meet ACSM’s guidelines for a healthy lifestyle. I felt liberated because I was no longer attempting to hit a mileage goal or time goal each week. I was free to run for the sake of enjoyment, not obligation, which I believe is essential when striving for longevity in a running career.
April 8th & 9th
The second weekend in April, I assisted Apryle on her lab’s research by making a trip to eastern Washington. Apryle and I were on a mission to retrieve deer collars that had been separated from the deer for some reason or another. The deer collars are programmed to send the deer’s coordinates in an email to the researcher so the researchers can analyze deer movement patterns with respect to habitat, terrain, human development or roads, predators, seasons, competitors such as cattle, and other biological and physical attributes. A portion of the collared deer will be predated on by mountain lions, wolves, or hunters, or hit by cars. For those deer that survive, the collars fall off over time.
Each collar has a cotton spacer, which wears away with weather and abrasion and the collar will fall off the deer. When the collar lays still for a pre-programmed number of hours, either because the deer died or the collar fell off over time, it sends a “retrieval email”, to the biologist with the coordinates of the collar location. The biologist then hikes to the location and performs a CSI-style site investigation to determine if the collar wore away naturally or if it was a depredation event.
The collars are strewn about the countryside and typically in the most inconvenient of places, which made for a memorable adventure. Despite a two-hour long search, we were unable to uncover the first collar located in the burned sage brush country on the flanks of Tunk Mountain. Although we found the carcass and determined this event was likely a mountain lion depredation, the collar alluded us. However, we tracked down the second collar after an arduous 1.25 mile (1400 vertical feet) bushwhack near Beaver Lake in Bonaparte wilderness.
The landscape of eastern Washington has always appealed to me and I far prefer it to the greater Seattle area. It is difficult to match the secluded and isolated wilderness. The stark beauty of the treeless hillsides that offer unmatched views of the Cascades to the east are my favorite landscapes in the region. However, I also appreciate the dense canopy forest provided by the Spruce, Pines, Firs, Hemlocks and Larches. Even the fire scarred sections offer an eerily aesthetic backdrop.
After finishing up our task, we made our way back to the bustling metropolis, but not before stopping in another one of my favorite spots, Sun Lakes Dry Falls State Park. Prior to this stop I had only spent a few minutes at the overlook, however, on this occasion we went to the camp area to check out the trails. We intended on running a few miles because we assumed that the trail network was not very extensive. We were almost proved correct in this assumption until we took a left at the fork in the trail. From here we journeyed into a sagebrush strewn canyon, full of unique rock formations and lakes.
For some reason, Apryle and I both got the impression that this place looked almost prehistoric, and half expected to see a Brontosaurus around each bend. The trail meandered around much of the basin and we were impressed by the amount of miles we were able to eek out on the trail. We were also intrigued by the diversity of ecosystem within the 4000 acre park, and enjoyed the final riparian miles that skirted along a creek.
I find geology fascinating but its concepts are lost somewhere in the gray matter, therefore I will defer to the sign that describes the origins of this amazing place. The astute observer might notice the sign opposite the canyon entitled “Story of Dry Falls”, which states that it was once the world’s largest waterfall. Furthermore, the falls actually originated 20 miles to the south, and receded due to erosion, creating the canyon. This was all due to the Missoula Flood which occurred during the last ice age.
After we got our fill of running and geological history we made our way to the next roadside attraction… Lenore Lake Caves, which had been on Apryle’s list for a while. These caves were formed by the same flood as the canyon, but by different mechanisms. Essentially basalt was washed away from the walls creating shallow caverns that were later used as shelters. Although not a cave for spelunking, it was still a worthwhile stop offering great views of Lenore Lake.
April 15th & 16th
The third weekend in April was another interesting series of events. My grade school/high school classmates and friends Craig and Emily Genet came to Seattle for the week and we spent some time with them at Deception Pass. We also made an attempt to see the tulip fields in Skagit county, but seemed to be a few days late. At any rate, Apryle and I ran around Japanese Gulch and then we all went for a walk along the beach at Deception Pass.
Craig and I even jumped in the water, reliving old memories of Polar Bear jumps back in Tiffin. We enjoyed some great dinners together and played a game of mini-golf, which Apryle has been wanting to do for years. The weekend was overshadowed with the NPTE looming large in the near future and constant need to study.
One of the highlights of the weekend was a short snowy hike around the base of Mount Rainer. Although I see the mountain most clear days from our apartment rooftop in Shoreline, I had yet to see the peak up close. As expected, the mountain was intimidating and magnificent. One of Apryle and I’s summer goals is to summit Mount Rainer, so it will likely not be our last visit.
In addition to a summit goal, I also have a goal of completing the Wonderland Trail as quickly as I can summon my type I and type IIa fibers to take me. Therefore Apryle and I also hiked/ran the Wonderland trail for a while as well. We picked out a random section and it included quite a lot of vertical but not a lot of mountain scenery. Although the short trip was nothing flashy, it was another National Park off of my list and another nature-filled exploration with Apryle.
April 22nd & 23rd
The fourth weekend in April was a superficially fun and laidback weekend, but inside I was overcome with stress. I was a half week away from the biggest exam of my life and I questioned my preparedness. I kept to a strict study regimen, but there is always room for doubt to creep in. However, I have always been a believer that it is important to continue to live life and adventure even in the wake of pending challenges.
Therefore, we decided to check out a new state park, Wallace Falls. From all accounts this is busy park on the weekends, but on Friday it was relatively empty. This was even more surprising given that it was also Earth Day. It was a pleasant hike/run with an impressive amount of vertical gain. Additionally, it is great park in terms of return on investment, which is probably why it is so popular. In just 2.75 short miles there are three different viewpoints for the Upper, Middle and Lower Falls.
This was a great way to start off the morning but we still needed to get in a few more miles, so we stopped at a small city park in Monroe. We were immediately drawn to Al Borlin Park because we had jokingly referred to it as Al Borland (From Home Improvement) park. Not only did it provide hours of entertainment in the form of corny sitcom jokes, it was also an interesting park complete with a river front view and old abandoned railroad.
Saturday was the planned day for Apryle’s 20 miler in preparation for the White River 50 Miler in July. White River will be Apryle’s third ultra-marathon, the first being Nueces 50 in Texas and the second being the Dirty 30 in Colorado, both in 2014. Interestingly enough, despite all the long runs we have done, this was the first long run together since May 3rd 2014. Which I’m sure everyone remembers was a twenty miler at Horsetooth Ridge in Fort Collins, Colorado. A run which Apryle and I finished up in4:19:07.
We chose to run at another new state park, Lord Hill. Lord Hill is a small park that is flanked to the southwest by the Snohomish River and to the northeast by private lands. It is just a great place for a long run, just enough vertical so that it is not a track practice but yet not so much that it takes six hours to run twenty miles.
There are no notable viewpoints, but is a nicely canopied forest with soft runnable trail. We used the Versa as a mini aid station and dropped in for some food and water at mile 8.9 and 14.7. Apryle ran awesome and put in an impressive kick in the last 3 miles for a time of 3:58:30! I believe that this is a great step toward a successful 50 miler in July.
29th & 30th
The fifth and final week of April was one of the most psychologically taxing of my life. I took the NPTE on Wednesday and tried not to think about it for the rest of the week. Fortunately I had weekend plans to help Apryle in the field with her vegetation surveys. The excitement of seeing Apryle again and the focus required by the project helped divert my attention from the unknown outcome of the test.
On Friday we surveyed a plot on the Colville Reservation and went for a six mile run around the area. The forest was charred but the Larches were sprouting vibrant lime green needles leading to a beautiful color contrast. As we made our way back to the ranch house we stopped and went for another four mile run along the Lower Columbia River Road, which followed the meandering Nespelem River.
We stumbled upon a roadside trail which led to Spray Falls and another unnamed falls. In my opinion, views do not get much better than traveling down this road along the Nespelem River. This is easily one of my favorite spots in Washington, but then again, my taste in landscape aesthetics is somewhat different than most. The experience was further enhanced by the wonderful scent of Artemisia tridentata in the air and prolific yellow blooms of Purshia tridentata in the foreground.
Saturday came too soon and I knew that I had to make my way back to the city and face another week without my other half. But that did not stop us from one last run across the vast Columbia River Basin. We ran along Old Omak Lake Road until we hit BIA 67 to travel toward the Whitmore Lookout. We knew we did not have enough time to make it to the lookout but it was still a worthwhile trip nonetheless.
In addition to the runnable grade comfortable dirt road, there were also impressive views of the Columbia River. Still one of the best parts of the run was catching a glimpse of three wild horses galloping away on the trail. The seemingly empty landscape and feeling of isolation in conjunction with freedom of the horses made me long for the day when I would no longer have to drive back to the nightmarish city life.
I questioned why I was even returning to Seattle at all, everything I needed was right there on that trail, Apryle by my side and limitless wilderness as far as I could see. I felt like that is where I belonged, no stop lights, no commute, no computers or test results a waiting me if I stayed. But life is full of challenges and realizing I still have many things to accomplish before I can realize my dream of living on a secluded parcel of land in the middle nowhere, got me back on the road to Seattle.
Upon returning back to the University, I had to make the ten mile journey back home on foot. This would lead to an accumulation of twenty miles on the day. It seemed as though the city was taunting me on my run home, seeing buildings stacked upon buildings, car after car, stopping at each traffic light, the hard concrete underfoot made for a miserable journey home. However, without the city, I do not think I could fully appreciate the isolation of the Eastern Washington countryside.