2011 Trip Out West Part 2
After some debate over the destination of the next leg of our journey we landed on Hells Canyon in the northern panhandle on August 8th. Hells Canyon is actually the deepest canyon in North America at an impressive 2.4 kilometers deep. This was a surprising fact we learned upon arrival. Due to time constraints we had to prioritize our activities so decided to run up Squaw Creek Road to the Heavens Gate Overlook. We parked the car at the bottom and trudged our way up the mountainside. After arriving at the top, Craig, Bowers and I agreed that I should run back down and drive the car to the top. This added a solid six more miles to my day and gave them a breather. The views from the top were breathtaking, including the winding Snake River, the pervasive Seven Devils Mountain Range to the east, three states and about five national forests. The lookout also serves as a wildfire lookout spot and due to its elevation (8429 feet) is prone to frequent lightning storms. After a long day of driving and running we took some time to walk around downtown Boise and of course much to Craig’s delight check out the famous blue turf football field.
We changed states once again on August 9th as we entered northern Utah. Isolation was the theme of this morning drive, surrounded by an all-encompassing desert. In the middle of nothingness, however, we paid homage to a large piece of American history in the form of a railroad. It was quite an experience to set foot on the very spot where the gold spike was hammered uniting the Union and Central Pacific Railroads on May 10th 1869. After the history lesson, we made our way down to Salt Lake City to meet up with our next couch surfing family. They gave us suggestions on where to go for a run and we landed on Millcreek Canyon where we put in a quick ten in the Wasatch Range. Then we enjoyed a great dinner, great conversation and reflection on where our trip had taken us thus far.
August 10th included another eleven-mile run up Millcreek Canyon, but also a hike up Rattle Snake Gulch where we were rewarded with a panoramic view of the city and lake below. In the afternoon we wandered around the city and of course stopped to observe the Mormon Temple. On our way out of the city we were distracted by several side attractions, one of which included wading out into the Great Salt Lake, which was pleasantly warm but teaming with Brine Flies and Shrimp. The other was Antelope Island, which was quite a sidetrack but worth it after Bowers and I spotted our purpose for going to the island – a bison.
Once again we stopped into Dennis’s for all you can eat pancakes in which Craig, Bowers and I each consumed eight. Then we hit the road to traverse the Utah and Nevada deserts on our way to Lake Tahoe. All the while, we attempted to “dance off our pancakes” in the car. We arrived in Carson City, Nevada very early the next morning much to the dismay of our couch surfing host. As a result of our late night of driving we slept in on August 11th, before traveling to Lake Tahoe. Upon arrival we avoided all the cheap attractions and visited a history museum to get our chronological bearings of the area. Then Bowers took off on a 77-mile ride around the lake, while Craig and I began a long run. We started in Emerald Bay and after some miles on the road I veered off onto a trail that took me to Cascade Falls and Lake. I headed back to Baldwin Beach and Craig and I went for about a 500-meter swim in the mild Tahoe waters. Then while Bowers and Craig enjoyed some all you can eat Chinese food I went for a three mile run around the Upper Truckee Marsh, giving me a solid 21 miles on the day in my attempt to compete with Bowers’ impressive ride.
On August 12th, we arrived early and Bowers and Craig did some hiking while I ran a quick ten-mile out and back from Emerald Bay to Rubicon Bay. After the run I attempted to catch up with Bowers and Craig by hiking down next to a waterfall to the castle near Emerald Bay. After refueling we headed toward the Sierra Nevada Mountains and Yosemite National Park. We stopped at several roadside vistas, most notably the Lake Mono overlook. Then we went up Tioga Pass into the National Park, and did a sunset hike through the Tuolumne Meadows. Just off the beaten path this was an amazing wilderness with countless Mule Deer and upland meadow flora. It would have been a miserable and sleepless night in the car but Craig manned up and drove through the night to Glacier Point where we caught the sunrise over Half Dome on August 13th.
After catching a glimpse of the first Black Bear I had ever seen we descended the 4.6-mile trail down into Yosemite Valley. Then we explored in the valley, Lower Yosemite Falls, El Capitan, and Bridelveil Falls. Then we made the hike back to the top of Glacier Point. A 27 kilometer hike may not seem like it would be too difficult but our lack of any water or food for the day made the final ascent miserable. After we were satisfied with our adventures for the day, we made the decision to get a hotel in Mammoth Lakes. We stayed at the Sierra Nevada Lodge and aided muscle recovery in the hot tub. After a restful nights sleep I awoke and ran a quick 5 miles with the snowcapped peaks as my backdrop. After the run we indulged in a significant amount of food at the continental breakfast, which had a spectacular patio view of the mountains.
August 14th marked our third day in Yosemite, and to celebrate the start of another day we took an ice-cold plunge in the waters of Lake Tenaya. After the exhilarating swim in the mountain lake we headed back to the valley and made the 6.4 mile round trip hike to Upper Yosemite Falls, which we completed in about 2 hours 5 minutes. It was one of the more challenging ascents of my life, which included over 120 switchbacks. Once we were back in the valley my compulsive mind was convinced to run another four miles in the valley while Craig and Bowers checked out the famous Ahwahnee Lodge. After I too made a quick walk through of the lodge we headed to Mariposa Grove. I did not think trees could again impress me after our exploration of the Redwood National Park, but the Giant Sequoias proved me wrong. It is impossible to capture in words how impressive these organisms are, so instead I will describe our adventure in the grove. I am a stubborn person and when I set out to complete something, I intend to finish it, which is probably why the three of us had to sprint clumsily through the grove in the pitch black without a light. We managed to visit each named tree before the sun went down, and as a result we were three miles from the car as the sun set. After we made it out of the grove safely relief washed over us and we made our exodus from the park to the town of Merced where we stayed the night in a dive motel.
August 15th marked the fourth and final installment of the Dennis’s all you can eat pancake challenge. This was a momentous occasion that resulted in a blend of both triumph and misery and yielded 100 total pancakes between the three of us in four trips to Denny’s. Craig poured his heart and soul onto the breakfast table and devoured ten pancakes, while Bowers finished with nine and I fizzled out at seven. Nonetheless, the trip total was 31 pancakes for both Bowers and myself and an impressive 38 for Craig. This was arguable the most telling statistic of the trip, and that statistic is why we exercised excessively and did not eat nutritiously enough to compensate for it. Either way it was an extremely memorable and entertaining part of our journey!