The good the bad and the ugly; Most memorable Long Runs/Hikes
I have been running since March 2005, when my basketball coach convinced me to run track. It did not take long until I was hooked, running everyday and pushing my body to the limit. However, it was not until August 2011 that I also became engrossed in traveling and exploring. Mixing both running long distances and exploring is a perfect match for seeing some of the most beautiful places in the world but is also a recipe for disastrous situations at times. My first memory of extended wilderness hikes comes from a 4000 mile road trip with my friends Craig Genet and Ezekiel Bowers. The itinerary is outlined in three other blog posts, but I can recall some specifics that have embedded in my grey matter.
Mount Tamalpais – This was our first mini-adventure when we landed in San Francisco and our hosts told us not to expect to do anything else for the day if we ascended this 2,576ft prominence. However, if I recall, my friend Ezekiel made two bike ascents to the summit and I reached the top in a little over an hour on foot.
Pacific Coastline, Redwood National Park, Table Rocks and Crater Lake National Park – The next few days were chill, some beautiful running without any issues.
Heavens Gate Lookout in Hells Canyon – Here Craig, Ezekiel and I ran to Heavens Gate after parking along the winding forest service road. After arriving on top; we agreed that I would run back down and get the car…
Mill Creek Canyon – My first time on a real ultramarathon course. By this point I had read all about the Leadville 100 and Anton Krupitka and was convinced I was going to run the race in 2012. Although, the trail I ran was a part of the Wasatch 100, it was still a special moment for me.
Lake Tahoe – This was an iconic paved loop for Ezekiel, who rented a bike and made the circumnavigation. Craig and I simply ran a small stretch of it, but still accumulated about 21 miles, along with a refreshing swim in the lake.
Yosemite National Park – The pinnacle of the trip. We decided on a 16 mile round trip hike from Glacier Point to the valley, along with a few small hikes to various waterfalls and then an ascent to Upper Yosemite Falls and back. This occupied much of the day, however, we took no water and no food. Despite our misery by the time we finished, I still did not learn to take water and food with me on runs until the summer of 2013.
It was difficult to come down from such a high point and begin my senior year in college. I was generally disinterested in school and competitive cross country running anymore. My performance in school remained solid, but my running nosedived. I was putting in big mileage but was just getting slower and slower.
After an unsuccessful season, my friends Tom Wilkin and Dusan Vasic and I made a road trip to the Great Smokey Mountains in mid November. Ramsey Cascades – My first bout with mild hypothermia… We decided on a short 8 mile round trip to a well-known water fall and fortunately we arrived right before sunset! Unfortunately, on the way back it was dark and we did not have headlamps. Inevitably we lost the trail and decided to sleep in the woods for the night. It was freezing and we were in t-shirts and shorts, we decided to huddle together to stay warm and had one of the most uncomfortable nights of our lives. When it was light enough to see we stood up cold and dizzy and stammered back to the car.
After this trip, I decided that I had squandered too much exploration time already, I began scheming my next adventure. This time it came in the form of a month long stay in Leadville, Colorado with Tom Wilkin, Pete Brown and John Gogle. We lived out of a hotel on the corner of Harrison and HW 24 and I had aspirations of a great showing at the Leadville 100.
Mount Elbert – This was my first big mountain ascent, and also the tallest in Colorado. An incredibly easy walk up, but yet I was so terrified of heights I was actually scared on this ascent.
Mount Massive – My second big mountain ascent, which went very smooth and was even capped off with some snowy weather at the summit.
Hope Pass – I ascended and descended Hope Pass a total of three times prior to the race, but the last time I did the full 20 mile section from Twin Lakes to Winfield and back to Twin Lakes. I took only a bag full of energy powder and a handheld. The out and back took me about 8 hours, because on the way back from Winfield I was so dehydrated and depleted I had to crawl to a stream and drink. A humbling experience that indicated to me that running a 100 miles was going to be much more difficult than I anticipated. To add insult to injury, I had to sprint to tree line dodging lightning strikes once I reached the pass.
Turquoise Lake – My longest run in preparation for Leadville, 32 miles. Although I strung together 14 straight weeks above 100 miles, my long run was appallingly low. Even this run consisted of a lot of walking.
The Race – The details are highlighted in some of my first blog posts, but in case you discovered a pattern from the above stories, the race did not go well. I stumbled my way to the finish line in a little over 26 hours.
I returned to Tiffin and plotted my next move; which happened to be an internship with Rocky Mountain National Park starting January 2013. This would begin the next chapter in my life focused on exploring the world around me.
The staples – Deer Mountain, Beaver Meadows, Moraine Park, Gem Lake, MacGreggor Falls and Eagle Cliff. These hikes were my bread and butter, although I mixed in several others, I frequented these spots each week, vastly raising my standards for a daily run.
Collegiate Peaks Blowup – Started off very quickly, carrying a handheld and of course not wearing sunscreen. Failed to hydrate well enough and was so burnt after the race that I was blistered and pealing for a week. I ended up loosing about 7 positions on the back half of the race. I greatly underestimated how hot it would be in the Banana Belt near Buena Vista…
Lawn Lake/Black Canyon Fail – This continues to be one of my most serious mistakes, Apryle dropped me at the Lawn Lake Trailhead and I had intention of reaching Lawn Lake, then running down Black Canyon Trail to meet her at her cabin at McGraw Ranch for dinner. I reached Lawn Lake in good time, but the snow deepened to waist height near the Black Canyon trail intersection. I stupidly decided to continue on anyway and promptly lost the trail.
I spent the next 6 hours bushwhacking, following a drainage, realizing that if I didn’t cut across ridgelines to reach the highway that I would have to spend the night in the wilderness. So I made my way to a prominence and saw the highway, then I picked my way down a drainage littered with fallen trees and boulders until I finally reached what looked like a manhole cover. A short trail led straight to the entrance gait, where I arrived just in time to call off my own search and rescue. An incredibly embarrassing moment.
Mummy Kill – Knocked out this 18 mile, 6 summit day with Craig Genet and coworker Cyrus Van Haitsma. Beautiful fourth of July in the Mummies that actually went according to plan!
Batman Pinnacle – My first multipitch climb, my first crack climb and my first climb in general. This was of course due in large part to my excellent coach/soon to be wife Apryle Craig.
Longs Peak – These both went very well actually, I made my first ascent with coworker Andrea Gohl and second ascent with my friend Craig Genet who moved to Estes Park for the summer. I was much more comfortable on exposed trail at his point and was never too scared on the ascents.
Boulder Grand Pass – A beautiful 18 mile hike from the east side of the park to the west side of the park via Boulder Grand Pass. Started from Wild Basin with Apryle and Andrea and ended at the East Inlet trail, where we hitch hiked home. This Remains one of my favorite hikes at RMNP.
Lost Lake/Black Canyon Linkup Fail – I decided to attempt the Black Canyon Link up again, this time starting from Comanche Peaks Wilderness and the Lost Lake approach. Once again I brought no food or water for this 30 mile day, but still managed to finish it out without passing out. The Lost Lake trail was well marked, but beyond that I bushwhacked my way across the Mummy Wilderness and dropped down the back side of Mummy Mountain. Fortunately I descended down to a latrine, which had a narrow trail that led me straight to the Black Canyon Trail, which I took all the way to Cow Creek Trail and McGraw Ranch. I made good time but knew that I would not make it back to RMNP HQ to meet Apryle by 5PM, so I was luckily able to hitch a ride with a friend from McGraw Ranch into downtown Estes Park, then from there I was lucky enough to hitch another ride with a different friend at a gas station. I arrived back to HQ just in time, but Apryle and I still just missed each other. Almost a perfectly executed loop…
Leadville Part II – This went much better than the first and was due in large part to an amazing crew consisting of Apryle Craig, Craig Genet, Catherine Genet and Walt Szablewski. My fondest memory of this race was the last 400 meters jogging in side-by-side with my amazing crew. Even though I still was far from my reaching my goal, I was happy with the improvement.
Everything is bigger in Texas, including the consequences of dehydration and underestimation of distances… After my nine-month stint at Rocky Mountain National Park, I was accepted to Physical Therapy school in Austin, Texas. I was excited to start school, but devastated to leave Apryle. Fortunately, Apryle and I visited each other regularly, making the time apart a little less difficult and the time together even more meaningful.
Cactus Rose 50 – I would consider this the first ultramarathon that I got the nutrition piece correct. I remember finishing up with my lab-monitoring job at the University around 9PM. After that I hit the road for Hill Country SNA. I arrived late in the evening a drove up to the start/finish and slept on the ground next to my car. The race started in the dark and I got boxed in near the middle of the pack and had to fight my way through the crowd. I remember being shocked with the undulation and the beautiful scenery as the sun rose, I could not believe that I was in Texas. At any rate, it was a warm day and I probably consumed more water on this occasion than any other in my life. It went well, and I finished with a time I was happy with.
Outer Mountain Loop – This is quite possibly my favorite loop hike of all time. Apryle flew down to visit from late November to early December when I had a short break from school. We made the long drive to Big Bend National Park through the night and arrived watching the sun illuminate the Chisos Mountains. We started the hike from the Homer Wilson ranch and intended on doing an abbreviated version of the loop, however, Apryle’s printed map cut off a key portion of the trail. This led to Apryle’s longest run/hike in one day – 30 miles, through the Chihuahuan Desert. After a long birthday/thanksgiving holiday of hiking, we had some cheese, refried beans and lettuce in the only accessible warm place – the women’s restroom at the visitor’s center.
Nueces 50 – I am sad that this race is no longer on the calendar in Texas, because of all the great memories I have formed here. This was Apryle’s first 50 miler back in March 2014, where I had the opportunity to crew and pace for her during this sweltering winter race. Then a year later this I tried my hand at the course and ended up running the vast majority of it with Lorenzo Sanchez and Anthony Jacobs. However, in February 2015, the race weather was a bone-chilling 30 degrees with sleet/rain and ice covered trails.
Guadalupe National Park Multiday Loop – In-between internships in June/July 2015, Apryle flew down for another west Texas adventure, this time to Guadalupe NP. We set out to explore the park in its entirety at a leisurely pace, but ultimately had to speed it up after a truly terrifying night in the high mountain desert. We were camped at Blue Ridge camp site, in a forested microecosystem of the Chihuahuan desert, when an evening thunderstorm rolled in. We were not too concerned at first, but after hearing the cracks of thunder right on top of us we were not sure whether to be more concerned about being struck by lightning or a tree falling on the tent. After a sleepless and stressful night we finished out our exploratory loop hike of the Guadalupe’s with one long final push.
Fourth of July Debacle – Since we finished up our Guadalupe trip sooner than expected we made it back to Austin for Independence day. I decided to take Apryle to a romantic vantage point of the city and fireworks in a green space that Anthony referred to as Moonshadow. We ran about three miles to the viewpoint and enjoyed the dazzling pyrotechnics. It was easy to navigate the trails and the space was not that vast so we assumed we would make it back to the car quite easily… We ran in circles in the Juniper maze for hours until finally we used my map application on the phone to find the nearest road, and we ended up wading the chest deep Barton Creek and popping out on somebody’s lawn in a Cul de Sac. My map showed that we were 11.7 miles from the car; turning our easy evening jog into a 25+ mile ordeal. We passed by some of the richest neighborhoods in town, crawling under gates, drinking from sprinklers and trying to find short cuts.
A Tail of three Georgetowns – After meeting Anthony Jacobs at Nueces, we began training together on occasion since we both lived in Austin. His persistence in getting me to further explore Austin trails made my last years of PT school a little more enjoyable. However, the most memorable loop trail that we did had to be the Goodwater Loop at Lake Georgetown. I remember the first time I did it, I was so hungry and dehydrated that I pretty much walked into the finish. However, it was a beautiful loop and I was determined to run a little more respectably. A few months later I made it a little further before bonking and even managed to jog across the dam to the finish. The third time was the charm, in my last month in Texas, Anthony, Seth West, Apryle and I set out on one last Georgetown Loop. On this day Anthony and I finished it out with a sub 6-minute mile and a side-by-side sprint into the finish, capping off my 2.5 year stent in Texas.
After graduating PT school, I moved up to Washington with Apryle where we were set up perfectly for exploration and adventure. I had visited Apryle a few times and we already had countless advantures by the time I was an official Washingtonian.
AdVANtures – Apryle and I spent two weeks camping out of her converted van, circumnavigating the state during one of my summer breaks in 2014. This trip consisted of some hikes up Lookout Mountain, Sourdough Mountain, Sahale Arm, and the Maple Loop to name a few. After just two weeks in Washington, I could tell that it was going to be a trail runners paradise and I was looking forward to the move up even two years in advance.
Cape Alava Loop – This was Apryle and I’s first trip to the Olympic Peninsula, and it came in March of 2015. It was a short loop that meandered through a dense rainforest before opening up to a stunning ocean view. We spend most of the day wandering around the tide pools and started back when the sun was sinking low in the sky. We saw some other people in distance disappear down a trail into the forest and decided that it must be the trail back to the parking lot. However, it ended up being a dead-end trail to Lake Ozette. On a positive note, we made it back to the beach to watch a beautiful sunset, but on the negative side, we were forced to navigate the dense dark forest without the slightest bit of light. After an eternity of wandering through the dark using our somatosensory to stay on trail, we finished out the loop.
Northern Loop – This was both a memorable and yet regrettable loop for me. On the positive side I was able to enjoy the company of Adam Braddock for all 39 miles and the scenery was breathtaking. But the loop ended up being about 6 miles longer than expected with an extra 5000ft of vertical. On top of that, the White River was raging, taking a significant amount of time to cross, as well as miles of downed trees slowing our pace to a walk. These culminated to produce the regrettable portion of the loop, which was ruining Apryle’s pre White River 50 plans. Unfortunately we got back so late that she did not even get a chance to eat dinner before her race.
Seven Pass Loop – This is probably my second favorite loop of all time, and one that was actually easier than I anticipated. Apryle and I knocked out this beautiful hike in a fraction of the time that we expected and were treated to scenery that was even more beautiful than we anticipated.
Skyline Loop – South British Columbia trail running at its finest; at least when the weather is good. Apryle and I only halfway planned to tackle the 13 mile loop. We discussed it the day before, but the rain was unrelenting and it was quite chilly, which dampened our motivation for a full loop run. Somehow however, we found ourselves far enough away from camp that we figured we may as well just do the whole loop. I can only imagine how beautiful the views must have been, since we ran the majority of it in a cloud. Additionally, I think it took a few days for Apryle’s hands to regain feeling…
Wallaby Peak – I am extremely fearful of heights and exposure, which makes Wallaby Peak one of my most embarrassing and triumphant moments. Wallaby is a fun 6 mile round trip scramble to the top of a scree covered and jagged peak on the eastern fringe of the Cascades. It is an easy hike to the top for most, but for someone as fearful as me, it takes three attempts to build the confidence to summit. Each September/October from 2014 to 2016 Apryle and I started up toward the top and not until last year did we reach the summit. Then we subsequently lost the trail less than a half mile from the car as nightfall ensued, and bushwhacked our way to the road.
Idaho Mountain Ultra Trail Festival – My third attempt at a 100 mile, and lets just say that the third time was NOT a charm in this case. However, I did set a personal record for most time on my feet at just over 27 hours…
I have been fortunate enough to live in some of the most beautiful places in the United States, therefore, there is not much need for long distance travel, but the Earth has too many wonders to stay in one place all the time. Therefore I made my first big trip out of the country in June 2016; which was Apryle and I’s honeymoon in Peru. Additionally, we made our first trip to Hawaii a few months later in November of 2016. Both of which contained some of my most memorable trail running adventures.
Cordillera Huahuash Trek – Apryle and I planned to do the second most beautiful hike in the world in the last two weeks of our stay in Peru. Unfortunately this was cut short by giardia… After two days out on the trail, making good time, we found ourselves unable to eat, suffering from horrible diarrhea and completely sapped of energy. We were forced to hitch a ride back to a small town where we could catch a bus and end our 160K quest.
Cordillera Blanca Hikes – We did recovery from the giardia after buying some Cipro at a local pharmacy and decided to salvage our time in the Andes by doing a few long hikes from the Hof Hostel. The hikes consisted of Laguna Churup, Cojup Canyon, and Lake IIaca – which all took place above 13,000ft.
Ka’au Crater Loop – My third favorite loop of all time. Because of my anterior tibialis flair up, Apryle and I walked to the trailhead from our hotel in Waikiki, then climbed the fixed rope waterfalls to the top of the crater. We looped the knife edge crater catching glimpses of the ocean surrounding us as well as the lush green rainforest blanketing the landscape. Though it is only a short loop, the technical terrain makes for a long hike.
In five short years I went from a small Midwestern town where I rarely ran further than 10 miles from my parents house to living in four different states, visiting three different countries, and exploring nearly every major national park in the country. I am so grateful for the opportunity to see so many unique places and experience so many different adventures.
Although they are not all perfectly executed (mild hypothermia, lost, fatigued, famished, dehydrated, sunburnt, and hypoglycemic), I have certainly learned something from each of them. In fact in a lot of cases I have had the opportunity to learn the same lesson a few times. However, most of my fondest memories come from the more difficult and trying times because it was in these moments when I felt my resolve and endurance was tested the most.