Director's Blog

Dizzy Daze 12 Hour Race

Dizzy Daze 12 Hour Race

I entered Dizzy Daze 12 Hour race with a goal running 76 miles in preparation for the 100k National Championships in Madison Wisconsin. Dizzy Daze is a Seattle classic ultramarathon that consists of clockwise loops around the Green Lake bike path. Because I ran 78 

Life List Update As of 2023

Life List Update As of 2023

Since I was a child, I have always been interested being outdoors and observing other animals. However, birding is rarely a hobby that young children become interested in, so I did not begin formally keeping a life list of birds until the latter part of 

Redwood National Park Adventure

Redwood National Park Adventure

After clearing the snow and ice off the driveway, Apryle and I drove off into the darkness en route to Redwood National Park. After about 8.5 hours and 520 miles of driving we arrived at the Lighthouse Inn in Crescent City, California. Although it was 0300, the night was alive with sounds, Pacific Tree Frog’s incessant chirps set a consistent tempo while California Sea Lion’s barks echoed through the harbor creating a unique symphony. I internalized my excitement and went straight to sleep. 

I awoke on January 19th and drove up the unforgettable Howland Hill Road, which steeply snaked up the hillside curving between giant Redwoods. The dusky light was further obscured by a light fog that hung just below the canopy. The trees towered 200 feet above the lush green vegetation which appeared denser than a tropical rainforest. I reached the Fern Falls trailhead and began my first Redwood area run since August of 2011. The trail had a clay-like surface that carved through the forest dominated by Redwoods, Rhododendrons, and Sword Ferns. The waterfall was a worthy destination, but I found myself distracted by my desire to book it over to the Grove of the Titans. I quickly navigated through the forest and back out to Howland Hill Road and continued running up the road to Mill Creek trail. The vegetation hugged the banks of thundering turquoise waters of Mill Creek. Grove of the Titans dwarfed the surrounding trees (which dwarfed the typical tree). The grove was well protected by a metal boardwalk that eliminated foot traffic over the delicate root system of the trees. 

Later in the afternoon, we journeyed down to our weekend cabin rental in Klamath and after unpacking we continued down the Newton B Drury Scenic Parkway. We stopped at the Ossagon Trailhead and completed an impressive loop around the Hope Creek and Ten Taypo trails. The trail on the north side initially followed Hope Creek up to a broad ridge through old growth redwoods that clearly survived a fire or two in their lifetime. On the southern side of the loop the trail followed Ten Taypo Creek where there was additional evidence of massive trees surviving fire. After completing the loop we took the Ossagon trail towards the Pacific on the west side of the road. This trail passed through Redwood forest before transitioning to Sitka Spruce forest near 800 feet in elevation. After remarking on the interesting tree species transition we descended back to the trailhead and concluded the first day of our Redwood National Park adventure. 

On January 20th we started out for the Tall Trees Grove in the predawn hours and had to move a fallen branch from the road to even reach our destination. We arrived at the Tall Trees Access Road and I punched in the gate code and we descended the 6 mile gravel road to the trailhead. Back in 2011, it was the first gravel road I had ever driven on and I remember thinking it was quite adventuresome, but now after thousands of miles on rutted precarious forest roads, I found it well groomed and tame. We stepped out into the pouring rain and jogged down to the grove. We transitioned to a walk to fully immerse ourselves in the experience of the landmark site. It was a special experience to be in the presence of natures infinitely growing towers. Redwood Creek thundered in the distance and provided an apt backdrop to the grove.

After visiting with Tall Trees, we decided to visit more tall trees at the Lady Bird Johnson Grove off Bald Hills Road. This grove was my favorite of the entire trip because of the density of towering trees. They were not necessarily the tallest, but I thought their scattering on the forested knoll provided more visual interest than the Tall Trees Grove. The trail felt more open and the light filtered in to the forest floor nicely. After completing the loop, Apryle went back over the skybridge and I continued down the Berry Glen trail towards Prairie Creek Meadows. Berry Glenn trail was my favorite stretch of trail in the park dropping from 1550 feet at the Lady Bird Knoll to 250 at Prairie Creek Meadows. The 1200 foot drop stretched over 2.4 miles and highlighted some of the most impressive hillside Redwood forest in the area. I crossed the wooden bridge over Prairie Creek and then ascended up to Trillium Falls which was much more impressive in January than when I saw it in August of 2011.

After drying out the clothes and warming up back at the cabin for a bit, we traveled south to Prairie Creek Visitors Center. We walked around the interpretive center and I bought a small Redwood tree to take back to Little Bird Landing. We meandered around the trails and continued to marvel at the quantity of enormous trees even right out the door of the park headquarters. We finished out the day on the beach at Orick Point, south of the mouth of Redwood Creek, where we would have watched the sunset, if the sun was visible. 

On January 21st, the third day of the trip, Apryle and I had a big loop planned starting from Prairie Creek Visitors Center. We started fairly early in the morning and were surprised to find that it was not raining. We took the James Irvine trail up to the junction with Miner’s Ridge trail, which reached a highpoint of about 800 feet before descending towards the Pacific Ocean. The trail was swallowed up into a forest of Redwoods, Hemlocks, Douglas Firs with every square inch of ground occupied by Deer Fern, Sword Fern, Salal, and Evergreen Huckleberry. Unfortunately, the rain started as we descended along Squashan Creek. The lush green forest transitioned to Sitka Spruce canopy with dense deciduous thicket replacing the carpeting of ferns. Upon reaching the California Coastal trail at mile 4.8, the sky really opened up and we did not have the trees to shield us from the rain. The landscape was dominated by grasses and sedges that pushed up through the dunes while the occasional stunted Sitka Spruce stood a few feet above my head. 

We ran alongside the lapping waves of the Pacific as we headed north towards Fern Canyon. I carried Apryle across Squashan Creek as it emptied into the ocean and then we were forced to wade through a knee deep lagoon in order to reach Fern Canyon. The last time I was in Fern Canyon there was a small trickling stream and dozens of people admiring the wall of ferns. However, this time the trickling stream was a cascading creek with knee deep water and there was not another person in sight. The canyon walls were lined mostly with brown maidenhair ferns, but it was still a beautiful sight. Ribbon-like waterfalls sprayed over the cliff and mosses created a drip wall down to the stream below. An American Dipper sang and bobbed into and out of the water as we made our way eastward through the canyon. We said goodbye to the Dipper and ascended to the James Irvine trail. We were completely soaked from the rain and the creek, but we had 7.5 miles behind us and were ready to complete the loop.

The James Irvine trail followed Home Creek until the path trended upward back into thick Redwood forest. The understory again transitioned to Sword and Deer Fern as we gained the ridgeline above Godwood Creek. The further away from the ocean we got, the less it rained and by the time we reached the junction with Miner’s Ridge trail, we were actually quite comfortable. We finished out the 12.88 mile loop (1450 feet vertical gain) in 3:20:10 and headed back to the cabin to again dry out our clothes and rest up for the next adventure. 

Having accomplished the biggest loop of the trip we focused our attention on smaller roadside attractions for the afternoon. We took the Newton B Drury Scenic Parkway and stopped at the Ah Pah trail which showcased the importance of restoration work for forest health. Then we completed a short loop around the Corkscrew Tree and the Big Tree. Corkscrew tree was perhaps the most visually interesting tree in the park but Big Tree was one of the most impressive. Big tree is estimated to be 1500 years old and stands 286 feet with a circumference of 74.5 feet. After our hike, we stopped to watch Roosevelt Elk graze at Prairie Creek Meadows and then called it a day.

January 22nd was the final day of the trip and I woke up early to tackle the West Friendship Ridge Coastal California Loop. I started from the Prairie Creek North trailhead and under the light of my headlamp I zigzagged up the Zigzag trail until I reached the West Ridge. Even though I have never actually seen one, I was still a little nervous that I would encounter a Mountain Lion. However, I did not see any wildlife, just towering redwoods faintly visible through the darkness and fog. As I reached the 800 foot high point, (which seems to be typical of the ridge lines here) the forest again changed from Redwood to Sitka Spruce. The light filtered through the fog and moss covered branches of the spruces created a spectacle reserved only for sunrise runs in Redwood National Park. The trail dove steeply to the ocean as I followed Butler Creek and I emerged from the forest right into a vernal pool. My legs sunk mid calf into the mud and I nearly gave up my shoes, but I managed to keep them both. 

I planned to run down to the ocean, but the knee deep water and two sentinel bull Elk made me rethink my decision. I continued southbound skirting the forest edge, trying to stay on dry land. However, this proved to be an insurmountable task, I waded through the standing water providing some entertainment for the waterfowl that were floating to my right. Every now and then the trail would touch dry soil just long enough to reach a stream crossing where I would begin wading through water again. There were some spectacular waterfalls plunging from the forested bluffs and I recall passing by three en route to Fern Canyon. After passing over Boat Creek, I reached Home Creek and the Fern Canyon again. However, this time I arrived from the north and skipped going through the canyon and instead elected to take the James Irvine trail on the cliff edge. 

From the James Irvine trail, I jumped onto the Friendship Ridge trail which traversed a 2.4 mile ridge with 575 vertical feet of elevation gain. This trail featured the usual suspects, Redwoods, Sword Fern, Deer Fern, Rhododendrons, and Evergreen Huckleberry. I completed the loop when I reached the West Ridge trail and then continued back down to the trailhead. Overall it was a great send off run, capping off an amazing weekend in Redwood National Park. The loop was 11.86 miles with 2034 feet of elevation gain and took me 2:15:22.

Before leaving California, I went for one last miniature adventure at the Crescent City Harbor. Although it was generally an industrial looking inlet, it was teaming with sea life. I stopped at a jetty and observed dozens of California Sea Lions hauled out on the rocks. Their annoyed barks and playful antics made for an entertaining afternoon. As I continued down Anchor Way towards the Whaler Island Rock I picked out a few White-winged Scoters, Surf Scoters, Buffleheads, Common Loons, Cormorants, and Western Gulls. I summited the highpoint (108 feet) of the rocky island and enjoyed views of the seaside landscape and finally saw the Banana Slugs that I was looking for all weekend. It was a perfect way to cap off a successful trip to the Redwoods and California coast. 

Seattle Marathon

Seattle Marathon

I signed up for the Seattle Marathon for the second year in a row and essentially kept to a very similar series of events as the 2022 edition. On November 25th, Apryle dropped me off to pick up the packet in downtown Seattle, then we 

Mount Si Hill Climb and North Bend Skyline 30K

Mount Si Hill Climb and North Bend Skyline 30K

After my Wonderland Loop, I throttled down on the mileage and geared up for two relatively short steep races in North Bend: Mount Si Hill Climb and North Bend Trail Fest 30K. These races were the vision of my friend Scott Sowle and he and 

The Ruff

The Ruff

The Ruff has be on my radar for a few years, but I have never made the long voyage down to the Columbia River Gorge for such a short distance race. However, this year I signed up for The Ruff as a unique final workout for the Seattle Marathon. However, this does not mean that I did not treat it as an all out race, because I definitely poured my soul into this one. In some ways, I may have been better prepared for the Ruff than the Seattle Marathon because my previous two races were Mountain Running Races Vert Series competitions which featured short distance mountain climbing challenges. 

On the morning of Saturday November 18th, Apryle and I booked a hotel room at St Martin Hot Springs in Carson, Washington and then loaded up the car and ventured down to the Columbia River Gorge. En route we had lunch at an Indian Buffet in Vancouver and then visited Beacon Rock State Park. Beacon Rock State Park is a 4458 acre natural area in the heart of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Apryle and I decided to summit Hamilton Mountain as a tame adventure prior to my race. We started from the Hamilton Mountain trailhead and passed by Hardy and Rodney Falls (Pool of the Winds) and then continued up the switchbacking trail to the summit of the 2445 foot mountain. The winds were so strong that it felt like we were going to be swept off the mountain. However, we stayed on the saddle long enough to enjoy views of the Columbia River and surrounding mountains. We descended the Hardy Creek trail to complete the loop and then continued along Highway 14 to our hotel. 

St Martin Hot Springs is adjacent to the Wind River and the hotel that we stayed in had a heated pool, which we took advantage of prior to my race. We were able to sleep in since the race did not start until 10AM on Sunday November 19th. However, I took advantage of the extra time and did a quick warm up run at the hotel prior to departing for the Dog Mountain trailhead. Upon arriving at the start/finish area, the wind was gusting off the Columbia River and the rain began falling sideways and after checking in, I ran back to the car to stay warm prior to the start. The race distance was only 7 miles, but it had almost 3000 feet of climbing with a mountain top mid point. 

I started out in second place on the climb behind the course record holder, Michael Moore. Then Peter Buckley passed me about a half mile up the trail and I settled into third place. After about 1.1 miles, my body started to feel comfortable in the pace and I actually sped up a little and moved myself back into second position. This seemed crucial because I noticed that the second place runner was losing ground and I did not want to hemorrhage too much time to the leader prior to reaching the summit. The weather was perfect for a fast ascent, it was a cool 40 degrees with a constant mist. The forest shielded most of the wind and I ran nearly the entire way to the summit with the exception of a couple hundred feet that were so steep that I had to hike. 

Michael and I cleared the tree line at around 2 miles and 2000 feet and the wind was stifling. It was so intense and cold that I had to turn my head in order to properly breathe. There were no views to speak of because we were ascending into a cloud and the fog was so thick that it was difficult to see more than a few feet ahead. I topped out on Dog Mountain (2948 feet) in about 33:57, roughly 6 seconds behind Michael Moore. I was fairly tired of climbing but was excited and motivated to tackle the descent. Descending has never been a strength of mine but I decided to be aggressive this time.

The 3 mile (ascending) Dog Mountain trail transitioned into the 4 mile (descending) Augspurger trail. The trail surface was muddy and slick and I nearly lost my footing on several occasions. On one occasion I barely kept upright when I slid into a rock, but I managed to keep my balance and more importantly, momentum. Michael must have also been struggling on the descent because once I reached the forested section I was able to pass him. However, it was not long before he was right back on my heels and we dropped the pace from mid 6:30s, to low 5:20s, and then finally to high 4:50s. I thought Michael might pass by me again but when I looked to my right I saw a railroad track come into view, then a parking lot, then I knew we were nearly at the finish line and I threw in a surge. 

I pumped my fist as I crossed the line less than a second ahead of the Michael and was so excited that we both went under his previous course record. I finished the race in first with a new record time of 56:47 making it my first short ascent style race win of the year after finishing 5th and 3rd at the Mt Si Ascent and North Bend Skyline races. It was a well organized race, thank you to Devin the race director, Michael for pushing me, and Apryle for supporting me. 

Following the race Apryle and I made a couple of quick destination stops including: Dog Creek Falls, Bridge of the Gods, and Beacon Rock for a second time. Our second trip to Beacon Rock was to climb the namesake mountain. Beacon Rock is a 848 foot basalt monolith on the northern bank of the Columbia River. The rock is steeped in history and was first named by Lewis and Clark in 1805. The rock marked the eastern extent of tidal influence in the Columbia River. It is one of the largest free standing monoliths in the world and there are 51 uniquely positioned switchbacks to the summit. Following the Beacon Rock summit, we stopped back at our favorite Indian restaurant and then continued home. Overall it was both a successful and fun weekend excursion. 

Ohio Reunion Part III: Wetland Birding Adventures and Class Reunion

Ohio Reunion Part III: Wetland Birding Adventures and Class Reunion

On the evening of August 24th after arriving in Tiffin, I decided to drive north to Ottawa National Wildlife Refuge, where I hoped to bird the next morning. However, I heard on the radio that a tornado was spotted near the refuge and was headed 

Raising Chickens!

Raising Chickens!

On March 31st 2023, following a long run on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail, Apryle and I went to a small farm in Fall City, Washington and adopted six little chickens. The six downy feathered birds fit neatly in a shoebox and when we arrived home 

Ohio Reunion Part II: Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Ohio Reunion Part II: Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Following my Rocky River Reservation run, I continued towards the northern terminus of Cuyahoga Valley National Park. Since there was a rain storm the previous evening, I assumed the waterfalls would be roaring down the Cuyahoga River Valley, so visiting waterfalls was the focus of my park exploration. Cuyahoga Valley National Park is only a short distance from the urban areas of Cleveland to the north and Akron to the south. The park is a compartmentalized pseudo-oasis in a vast metropolis and suburban sprawl. The undefined boundary of the park travels in a north to south direction as it bookends the snaking Cuyahoga River. 

The landscape consists of deciduous forest, undulating hillsides and farmland comprising 32,572 acres in its entirety. The park was formed in 1974 and protects 22 miles of the 100 mile Cuyahoga River, which was once so polluted that it caught fire 14 times, earning it the nickname of Burning River. The most notable fire occurred on June 22nd 1969, spurring the American environmental movement.

My first stop was the Great Falls of Tinker’s Creek on the Bedford Reservation. It was an incredible sight as water thundered off the 20 foot precipice spanning an 80 foot crest. The water hit with such force that a constant mist hung in the air around the falls. Upon leaving the Great Falls, the weather began to shift from rainy to sunny and humid as I made my way south to Bridal Veil Falls. 

The Bridal Veil Falls area had a more natural feel than the Great Falls and the waterfall itself was more of a slanting cascade than a sheer drop off. The trail followed Deerlick Creek, which is home to Bridal Veil Falls. The creek meandered through a forest dominated by Hemlock and hardwoods. The trails were inviting and several offshoots looked inspiring, but I had limited time and energy remaining, so I was relegated to a short loop. 

The third waterfall of my Cuyahoga Valley adventure was the famous Brandywine Falls of Brandywine Creek. The falls are 60 feet and the rock cliff is formed by Berea Sandstone along with Bedford and Cleveland shales. This was the most commercialized waterfall in the park complete with a large parking area, a wooden boardwalk, and a designated overlook. I completed the Brandywine Gorge Loop in order to fully experience the area and then continued on my southbound trajectory.

I arrived at the Boston Mill Visitor Center running quite low on energy, but still motivated to squeeze every last ounce of daylight out of August 24th. I wondered around the banks of the Cuyahoga River and then decided to take the trail to the fourth and final waterfall of the day – Blue Hen Falls. I took the Buckeye trail as it carved through the dense woods and reached what I believed to be the prettiest falls of the entire day. The water tumbled off of a 15 foot ledge into a small pool below which was bordered by a recessed shale cliff. When I arrived back to the car I made my way eastbound back to Tiffin and settled in for a nights sleep in the car.

The Wonderland Loop

The Wonderland Loop

I have wanted to attempt the Wonderland trail at Mount Rainier National Park since 2016 and after a brief discussion with Apryle on September 6th, we decided that September 8th would be a good time for me to give it a try. Even though this may