Footsteps in a Dune: Great Sand Dunes National Park

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Footsteps in a Dune: Great Sand Dunes National Park

I went for a hike at Great Sand Dunes National Park. My route was to the top of 700 foot tall dunes starting at over 7,000 feet elevation. Great Sand Dunes is a popular park and this was Sunday of Memorial Day weekend. By 10:30 a.m. there were already a lot of people plodding their way up.

Even though I’m in good running shape when I hit the steeper climbs in the high altitude I started to strain. Every step resulted in a little backward slide that made progress slow. I actively thought, “What could make this easier?” I began to experiment.

Stepping on the mounds of sand at the heel of an old footprint didn’t help. That wake was soft and slid downwards easily. Stepping in a spot devoid of a footprint was a little better. There was a little resistance before creating my own mark.

The best approach I found was to step directly into an existing footprint. The sand was already compressed and I didn’t sink as much. I seemed to make better time working with the footprints than stepping around them.

I contemplated this as I worked. The footprints were not straight: they zig-zagged from side to side, sometimes requiring a short step, sometimes a long one. They were not all made by the same person. However, collectively, they were helping me toward my goal.

Despite those that had come before me I was still on my own path. I was still going in my own direction. I may get to the same place as others but it would not be the same journey they travelled. I took my own steps.

This train of thought stayed with me for a long while. I was taking the best of what others had laid out before me. I was allowing myself to be guided. In the past, I’ve often struggled with needing to figure things out on my own rather than following another’s blueprint or asking for help. If I didn’t do it myself then was the accomplishment really mine?

I began to think that not even trailblazers start unguided. They learn skills and acquire knowledge from others. Once they’ve learned from following, they are ready to cut that new path.

My traveling over the past year has allowed me time to contemplate what I’ve learned and what I still have to learn. I’ve thought about how open I am (or not) to feedback, direction and help. I take this type of internal discussion as growth but also recognition that I need to embrace this even more.

I’m certainly not a trailblazer yet but I’m certainly on a new course of exploration and that is a big first step.

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Vblog: Barreling Down the Black Canyon Trail

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Vblog: Barreling Down the Black Canyon Trail

My friend Ron Peck and I had an awesome time running 26.2 miles at Rocky Mountain National Park on Wednesday May 17, 2017. This was marathon #42 for me and this was the second time Ron ran with me having joined for marathon #1 at Acadia National Park in June of last year. This is a quick video of us barreling down the Black Canyon Trail after hitting the snowline and having to turn around. 

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On the DizRuns Podcast with Denny Krahe

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On the DizRuns Podcast with Denny Krahe

On my way back north following my run at Everglades National Park I got the opportunity to be on the DizRuns with running coach and great guy Denny Krahe. We talked about the project, possibility and of course, running. At the end he added some really nice points about how he thinks about possibility and how we get caught up in "could nevers" (even me).  

He's got over 400 episodes so there is something for everyone to learn. Thanks to the opportunity and the great conversation Denny! 

Listen via iTunes at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/diz-runs-with/id894643596, his web site at http://www.dizruns.com/408/ or here - 

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On the Dr. Laurie Marbas Podcast

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On the Dr. Laurie Marbas Podcast

I was honored to talk with Dr. Laurie Marbas on her latest podcast. Dr. Marbas is Board Certified in family medicine, a public speaker, author and the medical director at Dr. Furman's Health Oasis, a unique program combining nutritional care with innovative behavioral therapy to reverse illness. She is dedicated to making her patients healthy and curing disease not just treating symptoms.

Dr. Marbas has had big guests on her podcast like Dr. Joel Kahn, Andrew "Spud Fit" Taylor, Milan Ross, Josh LaJaunie and Dr. Robert Ostfeld to pick just a few. I am really appreciative that she asked me to join to talk about Running the Parks. 

We touched on how I came to the decision to start my project and how change is possible. We chatted about motivation and a little about our National Parks. We also talked about how I fuel myself when on the road. Sometimes simplicity is best. 

I really enjoyed our conversation. We ended up talking another hour after the podcast ended. I hope you enjoy as well. 

Listen via iTunes:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/dr-laurie-marbas-podcast/id1163569560

Or via Soundcloud:

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Vblog: First Loop at Dry Tortugas National Park

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Vblog: First Loop at Dry Tortugas National Park

Back on April 8th, 2017 to get my marathon distance I had to run 0.6 mile loops around Fort Jefferson at Dry Tortugas National Park. This was the first loop. I ran counterclockwise for 13 miles and then clockwise for 13 miles. I think 44 loops in all. I enjoyed it all. I wasn't loopy one bit. 

Here's a look at the first go-around. 

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The World is Supporting Me: Dry Tortugas National Park Logistics

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The World is Supporting Me: Dry Tortugas National Park Logistics

I knew Dry Tortugas was going to be logistically challenging. It involves a ferry ride from Key West to the island and then camping is limited by space. In addition, camping is fully rustic - you need to bring everything including your drinking water.

I may have been a little lax in researching the availability of the ferry and camp spaces. My friend contacted me and said he was going to be there in June and maybe our dates would overlap. Yea, exactly. How often do you know anyone visiting Dry Tortugas National Park much less close enough to the dates you are thinking of going there?

Unfortunately our dates are not going to overlap. By his date in June I will be all the way back to Colorado and approaching completion of the parks in the lower 48 states. But, he prompted me to call the concessionaire that runs the ferry and coordinates the campground for the National Park Service.

Here is an example of where the world is conspiring to help me. I would have likely waited for some other day. I might have even waited until I got to Florida and was running in Biscayne and Everglades to think about booking Dry Tortugas. But, my friend reached out and I am grateful.

When I called and told Val at the ferry service about my marathon project she was very enthusiastic and supportive but when I told her my dates of late April she said that the ferry and the campgrounds are booked until July. I thought a bit and I said I could be there as early as April 8th. It would just mean I would run Dry Tortugas first and then Everglades and Biscayne instead of the reverse.

She said, wait, we must have had a cancelation. I can get you to the island on April 8th for two nights of camping and the ferry returning to Key West on April 10th. She said, “that has your name written all over it”. So, that’s what I did. I wrote my name all over it (well, she did it over the phone and into her computer but you get the idea).

If you notice these events then you will see that the world is aligning to support you. But, if you only notice the challenges that life can bring then you will think the world is against you. This trip has really helped me see and believe that the world is out to support me. I just had to open my eyes to see it.

How about in your life? Are your eyes open to how the world and the people around you are supporting you?

Are you willing to connect a random instant message, call, conversation with a friend which was perfect timing?

Are you willing to make the effort to do what really feeds you and believe that the world will support you?

Because it does.

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On the Plant Trainers Podcast with Adam and Shoshana Chaim

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On the Plant Trainers Podcast with Adam and Shoshana Chaim

I was recently a guest on the Plant Trainers podcast with Adam and Shoshana Chaim (www.planttrainers.com). This was a huge honor for me. Their podcast is one of the leading sources of information for leading a healthy and active life through a plant based diet. Their past guests are educators, doctors, professional athletes and other leaders in the plant based community. They were gracious to invite me to talk about my project and how I'm keeping myself in shape to run a trail marathon a week on a plant based diet while living out of my car (Yes! It is possible!).

We touch on my decision to make a change, the mindset of possibility and of course what I eat. I enjoyed talking with Adam and Shoshana and I look forward to meeting them in person when we attend HealthFest in Marshall, Texas in March. 

Listen here on iTunes https://itunes.apple.com/ca/podcast/the-plant-trainers-podcast/id957883184?mt=2&ls=1

or on their web site at http://planttrainers.com/wordpress/169/

I would love to hear your comments. Thanks!

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On the Go Hunt Life Podcast with Todd Nevins

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On the Go Hunt Life Podcast with Todd Nevins

I was honored to be asked to join Todd Nevins (@todd_nevins on Twitter) on his excellent podcast Go Hunt Life (www.gohuntlife.com) He interviews people who "pull the ripcord" on life and make a big change. We discuss everything from how I felt before I made the change, how I've changed and what I still struggle with. We also touch on our fabulous National Parks and even running form. I hope you enjoy and would love to hear your comments. 

Listen Via iTunes - https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/go-hunt-life/id1130031805

or directly on the Go Hunt Life web site - http://gohuntlife.com/e037-lifestyle-reboot-running-59-marathons-all-us-national-parks-bill-sycalik/

 

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Vblog: Interview with George Rehmet after marathon run at Pinnacles National Park

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Vblog: Interview with George Rehmet after marathon run at Pinnacles National Park

Welcome to my vblog about my time at Pinnacles National Park. This video contains a lively chat with George Rehmet, Western Regional Director of the Road Runners Club of America (www.rrca.org) and photos and video of the park.

George joined me for the marathon to celebrate our National Parks and his last day in his 40s! We talk about beauty and challenge of running at Pinnacles and why more people should run at the parks. Watch out for the caves!

I hope you enjoy. I thoroughly did. 

Interview footage by Jennifer Weiss

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Vblog: Isle Royale National Park

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Vblog: Isle Royale National Park

I'm getting back to my videos. Here's a short one about my time way-back-when at Isle Royale National Park. It gives you an idea of what it is like on that old island. Trust me though, my photography and videography has improved since then. Keep watching.... and #runningtheparks.

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My Marathon Quest Podcast

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My Marathon Quest Podcast

I was honored to be invited by Juan and Stephanie Pena to be on their podcast, My Marathon Quest. I'm their third guest after duathlete Chris Mosier, the first known openly transgender athlete to earn a spot on a U.S. men's national team. You may have seen Chris in Nike's Unlimited Courage commercial. You can check it out on YouTube here. And Oscar Kemjika athlete and entrepreneur who is training for a spot on the 2020 Olympic Team in track. Then, little ol' me. 

In the podcast Juan, Stephanie and I talk about the genesis of my project and what it takes to be ready to run a marathon a week. We also discuss the mindset it takes to leave the city and a good job, living a minimalist lifestyle, learning about living an experiential live as well as some of the challenges of living on the road. And, in support of with the title of the podcast we talk about my tips for a novice or first time marathoner. 

Juan and Stephanie are wonderful and I enjoyed spending time with them. I hope you enjoy the discussion as well. 

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Finding My Way: Guadalupe Mountains National Park

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Finding My Way: Guadalupe Mountains National Park

The marathon run at Guadalupe Mountains National Park was hard. It was only four days after the run at Petrified Forest National Park. Unexpectedly, Guadalupe challenged me with the third most total elevation ascent of any park (6,080 feet) and several trails which just disappeared.

My original route started at the Pine Springs campground, and followed the Tejas Trail to the Marcus Trail. From there I would follow the Bush Mountain Trail back to the Tejas Trail, the Juniper Trail, Bear Canyon Trail, to the Frijole Trail and return to the campground. It was a nice loop which minimized overlap and was just a shade over 26.2 miles. Unfortunately, that is not what happened.

Marcus Trail Disappears!

The route to the intersection with the Marcus Trail was tough climbing but clear. About a half mile into the Marcus Trail it just vanished. It shows on the GPS results but I couldn’t find it. Rather than get lost I went back and reconnected with the Bush Mountain Trail which, while longer, would connect me back to the Tejas Trail.

Lost on the Bush Mountain Trail

After about five or six miles that trail also disappeared, this time into the Chihuahuan desert. Once again the trail shows on the map in the GPS results but it was not obvious to me. I was spending a lot of time route finding and not a lot of time running.

At that point I had completed about 12 miles. I decided to turn around and go back. I felt better, not about the upcoming climb out of the canyon, but that I knew my way back to the car. Between my fatigue and the challenge of the terrain I didn’t want to run any extra if I could help it.

Overall, despite being a bit sluggish, I felt good on the trail. The terrain made me pay attention and be in the moment. That concept is very popular right now; being in the moment.

On the Bush Mountain Trail: I see the cairn. Do you see the trail?

Even after seven months away from the big city and corporate life I often find myself fighting to focus on now. Sometimes when I’m running I’m thinking of taking photos, posting photos, editing photos, videos, writing and how I am “behind” with my blog. I still put a lot of pressure on myself to turn this project into something when I’m done; some sort of job, some sort of career. Should I even be doing that? Sometimes I ruminate on it so much that I fail to enjoy the project. Then I get mad at myself for failing to enjoy the project.

How do I stop the spiral? I try to be grateful. Cultivating the feeling takes work. I’m not the best at it but I am improving. When I get to spinning, I think about how grateful I am to have this opportunity. I am grateful for my education. I am grateful for my past employment which has allowed me the financial means to go on a trip like this. I am grateful for my supportive friends and family who don’t think I’m crazy. I’m grateful that we have these great National Parks set aside for our enjoyment. I am grateful for my health. I am grateful for many things big, small, those seemingly insignificant and those absolutely necessary. Usually a few minutes of focus brings me back around. You could call this a meditation if you want. I call it an admiration of life.

If you start to twist up just think about one thing you are grateful for. It could be a family member, the sky, your favorite tree, a warm breeze, the sacrifices of others for your benefit, your pet; it doesn’t matter. Just put that thought in your brain and focus for a few minutes. The feeling will grow. Other things you are grateful for will present themselves. It takes practice but as I have found, I think you too will realize how rich we are in life.

I was grateful the Carlsbad RV Park & Campground had this game room so I could do some e-work. I also played a few pinball games. I'm terrible. 

 

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Campsite Wisdom: Love Yourself and Treat Yourself Well

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Campsite Wisdom: Love Yourself and Treat Yourself Well

My marathon run at Zion National Park was fabulous but my body took a pounding. I left my car at the park visitor center and took a private shuttle to the Hop Valley trailhead. I ran the Connector Trail to the Wildcat Canyon Trail to the West Rim Trail and down to the Grotto trailhead. From there I followed along the Virgin River until the trail ended on the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive. I ran on the road to shuttle stop three at Canyon Junction and took the bus back to the visitor center. Total distance was just under 27.5 miles and offered me the best views of Zion Canyon in the park.

It wasn’t the little extra distance that beat me up. First, I fell at only 0.7 miles into the run. I wasn’t paying attention on a nice flat section of single track trail and caught a toe. I landed on a rock which bruised my right hip. Luckily it wasn’t bad enough to make me stop. It did leave a nice bump and blue mark later. This is only the second time in 20 trail marathons that I’ve fallen.

Second, while the route had 2,913 feet of ascent which is modest, it had 5,233 feet of descent much of that at the end. All the breaking during steep downhill beat up my quads. I was sore.

Almost two solid hours of downhill running! Ouch!

After the run I was relaxing in the clubhouse at Willow Wind RV Park and Campground in Hurricane, Utah. I was icing my hip and watching World Series game five with two other guests, Jose and Frank.

In between innings we chatted about where we were from, what brought us to Utah and other similar topics. Frank is a retiree on his way to California from Montana to visit his daughter. He loves the Zion area and comes often to mountain bike.

Jose has been living at the RV park for almost four years. He is originally from Washington Heights in Manhattan. We chatted about NYC for a bit. He’s been gone from the City for close to 30 years and has no plans to go back. I also got the impression that he was retired.

Frank asked what I eat when doing all this running. This is a common question. I explained that I eat vegan – as much fresh produce as possible and a hearty amount of rice and beans.

Jose jumped in to say that he loves to cook: it is a passionate hobby. I mentioned to them that I believe eating simply is healthy but I also said that when back in NYC I didn’t prepare anything complex because I didn’t believe it was worth the effort for only one person.

Jose emphatically disagreed. He said that even though he lives alone, every day he prepares himself a fully cooked dinner, eaten on nice plates with a glass of wine. He said with full conviction: You need to love yourself and treat yourself well. If you don’t who will?

You could see that lived by his words. He was a very happy, laughing man. He loved himself. It didn’t matter what things he has or doesn’t have. It didn’t matter that he lives in an RV park. He didn’t care what other people thought.

Since then I’ve recounted his words many times.

I admit that I get caught up in using external comparisons to measure internal happiness and that makes me, not happy. I don’t always love who I am. I beat myself up for not earning more, moving up faster, having “nicer” things. I compare myself to my business school colleagues who are more “successful”. I still get caught up in the American cultural expectations for more, for bigger, faster, better, fancier, but funny enough, not happier.

I had started a physical and mental purging before I left New York City and I’ve continued it on my trip. Not being as worried about what people think is liberating. It is not an easy habit to break though. I often have panics that “I have nothing”. I don’t own a house. I’m not renting a nice apartment. I don’t even have a job. What the hell am I doing?

In comparison to some, I don’t have a lot. In comparison to many, many others here and around the world, I am very well off. So instead of continuing to beat myself up, I try to turn it around.

My abilities and prudent planning have allowed me to take a trip many only dream about. I am physically and mentally able to complete a marathon a week in the most beautiful places in our country. I am being very cautious about the money I spend on this trip (I’m typing this in the common area of an $11 per night hostel in Moab, Utah) but I try to make sure I treat myself well. I rarely eat at restaurants but I don’t scrimp on the quality of food I buy at grocery stores. I acquire solid gear when needed. I have an audible.com subscription (which is totally worth it for all the ass time I have in the car). I meditate at least 30 minutes every day. And, every time I enter a National Park, I am in awe.

This trip is treating myself well. This trip is showing self-love. This trip is expanding my belief in what is possible for me and for others. What I have or don’t have compared to the rest of the world is irrelevant.

I encourage everyone to periodically stop and check how they feel about themselves. How’s your self-love? Are those feelings genuine or contingent on some external measure?  Are you waiting to treat yourself well until you’ve bought, achieved, created, or earned just that bit more? Recognize if you are caught up in it. That little bit more won’t change things. You are worthy by being who you are not by what you have. Ask people who care for you. They will let you know.

Treating yourself well can take many forms. For Jose it was cooking for himself.  For me it is this trip. What is it for you?

GPS capture of the route - http://www.movescount.com/moves/move129908291
Photos from Zion - https://goo.gl/photos/PhA1XDYwhVgmNk9q6

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Hippie Shaken: A Missed Opportunity

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Hippie Shaken: A Missed Opportunity

I wanted to leave Arcata, CA.  I was uncomfortable there. I was staying in a hostel a few miles from Redwood National Park.

I have never seen more hippies in one place in my entire life. I felt uneasy talking to them. I feel more comfortable talking to the suits than I do hippies, especially young ones. I admit I come with preconceived notions. They are stoned all the time. They make no logical sense. They are physically dirty. They have no focus or purpose in life. They seem to care about the environment and the world but don’t seem to do anything productive to make it better. They talk a lot about preservation and conservation but spend a lot of time getting high. While in Arcata I saw hippies living in vans, cars, converted school busses and on the street. It was unsettling to me that in a project where I am trying to free myself from typical “corporate America” I couldn’t bring myself to talk much with those who claim to be most “free”.

Maybe they have a backup a plan. Maybe there is a hidden hippie support network they can tap into at any time. What I did see reinforced many of the stereotypes. At $40 per night the hostel in Arcata was for the slightly more well off hippies. Many were from outside the US. Regardless, there was a lot of pot smoking, random people sneaking in to sleep on the couch in the common area and scrounging of the shared kitchen for whatever has been abandoned. After some quick research I come to find out that Arcata is one of the top destinations for hippies in the U.S. (https://www.thrillist.com/travel/nation/the-most-hippie-towns-in-america)

However, I feel like I missed an opportunity to learn more about their lifestyle and values. I am all for minimalism, conservation, environmental stewardship, travel, life experiences and having a good time. It just seems unfocused. Maybe that’s the point?

As my trip continues I will not miss opportunities to learn again. I need to expand my comfort zone. Now time to learn from the everyone. We can all learn from each other.

Now, I’m sure many of my friends are thinking, Bill leaves his corporate job to visit our country’s most unspoiled natural locations and spend hours in the outdoors running long distances for no apparent reason. He lives in a tent on top of his Subaru. He sold or donated almost everything he has. He wears the same clothes for a week. He wears Birkenstock sandals, sometimes with socks. He spends his “free” time meditating, reading, writing and contemplating life and fate. I thought Bill was a hippie.

Wait, maybe I am.

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Mount Rainier National Park: Excited, Worried, Longing for Lodging, & Wonderrun

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Mount Rainier National Park: Excited, Worried, Longing for Lodging, & Wonderrun

Excited

I was excited for Mount Rainier National Park. I was meeting a group of runners and their “support crew” for a few days of camping and running. I connected with them through the Seven Hills Running Shop in Seattle. Dana, Jessie, and Tim were planning to run the entire 93 miles of the Wonderland Trail in three days starting on Friday. I was going to join them on the last leg which was around 29 miles for my park marathon. The rest of the time I was part of the crew consisting of Mark, Luke, Ryan and Andrea.

On the way to Mount Rainier I made a detour to Mount Townsend in the Buckhorn Wilderness of the Olympic National Forest, managed by the U.S. Forest Service, for an official photo shoot. Professional photographer Nick Danielson contacted me and offered to take some action photos and get in a trail run. We did a 10 mile run where he captured me on the trails with low clouds hanging close. The weather wasn’t the best for majestic mountain vistas but I really like the effect. For those who may be photographed running in the future Nick offered me some advice. Remember “high knees” when running (which is good advice regardless) because it makes for a more dramatic photo. Seemed to work.

First day of the three-day Wonderland Trail run started at the Cougar Rock Campground and went clockwise to Mowich Lake Campground. The second day was to go from Mowich Lake to the White River Campground and the leg I was running on the third day was from White River back to Cougar Rock. The support crew saw Dana, Jessie and Tim off on the first leg around 8am Friday morning. We packed up and headed to Mowich Lake. Mowich Lake is a “walk-in” campground. While I’m sure they exist at other parks this is the first one I’ve seen. Basically, there is a parking lot for your car but you have to carry all your camping gear a very short distance into a designated area for tents. You are not allowed to camp in the parking lot or sleep in your car. It was very clearly described in the posted campground rules. We will come back to this because many of you know I have a rooftop tent which is permanently affixed to my car. There is no walking it in.

Worried

Our ultrarunning trio expected the first leg to take them 10 to 12 hours. That would put them into Mowich Lake between 6:00 and 8:00pm. The support crew got the sites all set up and the food prepped. Mark left at around 5:00pm and ran the opposite way onto the trail. He was going to meet up with the group and run back with them. He returned around 8:00pm alone. It was getting very dark. At that point there was barely enough light to see your footing and we knew only one of the three had a headlamp. We were all a little surprised that they weren’t back yet knowing the strength of their running abilities.

As it got darker and colder we obviously started to worry that something went wrong. I was the only runner that remained in the group so I got out my pack and stuffed it full of emergency space blankets, water, headlamps, and other first aid items. I strapped on my headlamp and started down the trail at 8:45pm. We made an agreement that I would be gone three hours. Even in the pitch black I could cover a reasonable distance in that time which would hopefully let me meet up with them.

Luckily within only two miles I reached two of the runners. They had run on ahead to let the crew know what was happening. One of the runners was experiencing dehydration and stomach problems. The two were using the flashlights on their cell phones to see the trail as they ran. Our other friend was unable to keep anything down, even water. I gave the two their headlamps and they continued up toward camp. I went the other way toward the ailing runner. They were only another four-tenths of a mile down on the trail moving but very slowly. I offered water which was accepted but shortly thereafter spat up on the trail. We walked slowly together. I tried to offer words of encouragement without being overly exuberant. About 30 minutes later Ryan arrived. He supplied a pair of hiking poles which greatly assisted out friend’s ascent up to the campground. The last two miles, incorporating several stops to rest, took over two hours.  

Longing for Lodging

I mentioned earlier that I was unable to use my rooftop tent at the walk-in campground. I had decided before all of the activity that once the runners arrived I would leave to find another campground or inexpensive motel. Some encouraged me to set up the tent in the parking lot and take a chance. I decided against it. It was a violation of the rules for that campsite and as a National Park advocate I want to follow the posted guidelines. I do believe that law enforcement rangers regularly patrol all the campsites. The last thing I wanted was a rap on the tent at 2:00am telling me to pack it up and leave.

Once everyone was safe and resting I left. It was around 11:30pm. I was feeling good and remarkably awake. Between Mowich Lake campground in the park and Enumclaw, WA, a one hour and twenty-minute drive, I saw little to no lodging. However, in Enumclaw there were a number of inexpensive options. I stopped at the Econolodge. I chatted with the front desk staff. The hotel and most in the area were booked. It seems there was a concert at the local casino. Damn you Hall and Oates! Failure #1.

I continued toward the White River Campground. I figured there had to be another motel along the way. Um, no, not really. The first thing I came to was the Alta Crystal Resort. Alright, I’m tired. It is after midnight. I’ll splurge. Well, at the Alta Crystal Resort there is no night desk or posted contact number I could find. Failure #2. 

At that point I was only about 20 minutes from White River so I figured I would just stay there. I arrived and did three loops of the grounds. Full. In the back of my mind I had a feeling that would be the case so I wasn’t completely surprised. Failure #3.

OK, now it is a game. And surprisingly enough, I wasn’t frustrated yet. 

Morning at the Dalles Campground

I remember passing the Crystal Mountain Ski resort which had several lodging options. I drove the 30 minutes from Mount Rainer National Park out and up the switchbacks to the resort. Now I was just being stubborn. I arrived to the same result as Alta Crystal which I really expected. No one was working the front desk even though I would bet they had lots of space available. I even rapped on the glass quite a bit. Failure #4.

On the road to White River there are three National Forest campgrounds. Silver Springs is the closest to Mount Rainier followed by Buck Creek Recreation and then The Dalles as you move away from the park. I headed to Silver Springs. I drove around the site twice. Full. Failure #5.

Now I’m a little more frustrated. And damn is it dark.  

I drove next to Buck Creek. When I turned in I couldn’t see the camp site within the first few hundred feet and I didn’t know how far back on the gravel road I would to have go to find it. I wasn’t in the mood for a long bumpy drive so I turned around. Failure #6. 

And, on to The Dalles campground in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Finally, space. I pull in and set up the tent after 2:30am. I found the slot to pay the $18.00 fee so the caretaker wouldn’t wake me up at 7:00am and went to sleep.

Wonderrun

When I arrived the next day at White River the group was already there and had scored two campsites next to each other. All the runners were fine and resting. They had made the decision to forgo the second leg of the Wonderland Trail run. Dana still planned to join me for the third leg the next morning. So we all relaxed and chatted like we’ve known each other for years. It was very comfortable. 

I made an upside-down campfire which I saw online. I told everyone it would either work or be a total disaster. Luckily it worked. In fact, several said that it was the best campfire they’ve ever had. Score one for the aspiring outdoorsman. It was still roaring at 9:30pm as I went to bed in order to be ready for the next day’s run.

At the s

Dana and I started on the Wonderland Trail at 7am on Sunday. Our route from White River back to Cougar Rock allowed us a touchpoint with the group around mile 18.

What an amazing run! We were wrapped by beautiful forests, wildflowers, glaciers, streams, snowpack, fog and sun. We ran through the meadows of Summerland and over Panhandle Gap the highest point on the Wonderland Trail. For those planning this trip please note, the National Park Service has done extensive work on the steep portions of the trail to mitigate erosion from the foot traffic and weather. The installation of logs created stairs which lead up and then down. Practice in your house, apartment building or office. There are a lot of stairs.

The natural beauty of Mount Rainier seemed to have no end. We admired the views but kept a nice solid pace. We both talked and talked and talked.  Dana acted as my PR rep promoting my project when we met hikers along the way. Pretty funny. This what it is all about - getting out in nature and enjoying it with others. I was lucky to have such a strong runner with me. At mile 18 Tim joined and got to listen to us playfully bitch about all the stairs for the next few hours. At mile 26 we met Jessie, Mark, Ryan and Andrea who ran the rest of the way with us.

At the trailhead near Cougar Rock we rested, took photos and prepared to leave. While Dana and I were out running the group planned to stop for dinner at the Copper Creek Inn & Restaurant right outside the park. In celebration of marathon #14 of my project they offered to buy me dinner. I was honestly touched. I just met these people three days ago and I can say with all conviction that they are now lifelong friends.

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