It was time to move on to the next park. I left Glacier feeling much more upbeat after the run. Your mood is always better after exercise. This is a huge reason to get out and move regularly. And imagine how good your mood is after you run in the beauty of a National Park!
I knew nothing about North Cascades except for the little I read in my National Geographic Guide to National Parks of the United States, 8th Edition. This is a must have introduction to all the parks.
I stayed at the North Cascades Mountain Hostel in Winthrop, WA. Winthrop is a western themed tourist focused town which serves those coming to hike, mountain bike and in the winter, cross-country ski in the Methow Valley. The Methow Valley boasts the largest number of groomed Nordic ski trails in the country. In the summer they double as hiking and running trails.
Paul and Audrey run an exquisitely well maintained, friendly and perfectly located hostel one block from the main road through town. It is easy to walk to bars, restaurants and shopping. It was a perfect location for me having come off a more remote experience at Glacier. The guests were varied. Many were through hikers on the 1,200 mile Pacific Northwest Trail which goes from the Continental Divide in Montana in Glacier National Park to the Pacific coast in Olympic National Park. There were also individuals and families there to kayak the local rivers, day hike and see the National Park.
People who live in Winthrop are very welcoming and proud of their town. They are enthusiastic proponents of the Methow Valley. On more than one occasion in hearing about my project and future plans to settle in Colorado, people from the area they asked me why I don’t move to Winthrop instead. In contrast to those who want to “keep it to themselves”, the people I met there want to share the Methow Valley with everyone. It was a really refreshing attitude. If it wasn’t so cold in the winter and they had a baseball team I would consider it.
On August 25th, the 100th birthday of the National Park Service, NBC News launched their final piece in their series about the National Parks. It was about me and my marathons!
I mentioned in an earlier blog that NBC News had sent a reporter to cover me when running at Badlands National Park in South Dakota (special thanks to Jennifer Weiss for not making me look like a moron). The story was on the front page of NBCnews.com and featured on their official Instagram and Twitter accounts. It has helped me connect with people to run with and help support my project.
I am very grateful that they picked up the story. I hope it will lead to more people realizing that taking a break from corporate or professional life is possible and that the National Parks are meant to be experienced not just photographed from a car window. Get out and move!
The story was also picked up by the Today Show web site at today.com. However, the angle was a little different. The premise was that I’m also looking to meet new people and hopefully find love on the trail. I think that’s great. Hell, I’ll take any help I can get. So far it hasn’t worked but I’m not giving up hope. Any outdoorsy gals (as they put it) out there?
In talking with the locals and rangers I learned that North Cascades is a “backcountry” park. There is no loop road. In fact, there is no road through the park at all. The only way to get to a park boundary in a car is via the 23-mile Cascade River Road which dead-ends at the Cascade Pass Trailhead.
The last thirteen miles of the road are not paved and have narrow switchbacks as you climb from several hundred feet to over 3,500. Otherwise to access the National Park you have to hike in via a trailhead that starts in a National Forest, National Wilderness Area or National Recreational Area.
Working with the rangers at the visitor center they suggested to experience the pure beauty and power of the Cascade mountains and the lush beauty of the Stehekin valley I run a 13.1 mile out and back on the Cascade Pass Trail and the Upper Stehekin Valley Trail. This also allowed me to start and end in the park and not have to add extra distance in one of the surrounding areas.
For this run, I had energy, lots. It was partly because of the good interactions with people at the hostel over the week. It was partly because the news article had me feeling all semi-famous. It was partly because the today.com article would help me find true love (right?). And it was partly because North Cascade National Park fed me. The mountain scenes impressed me as much as anything I’ve seen to date. North Cascades National Park has the most glaciers (over 300) of any U.S. park outside Alaska and a third of all the glaciers in the lower 48 states are located in the park. They were visible all around.
The climb to Cascade Pass was slightly under 2,000 feet in the first 3.5 miles and then the decline was down 3,000 feet for the next 10 miles. Of course, what goes down must go up especially if you want to get back to your car. So, I turned around down in the Stehekin Valley and started the climb back up. It was a gradual climb but I thought it was going to feel more difficult. I felt consistently good the entire time.
Despite it threatening I only got a couple of instances of a fine mist in the valley. I find out after talking to some climbers at the parking lot that it was windy and rained so heavily at the pass it turned them back from even starting their climb. One said, “it was raining in my ear”. By the time I reached the pass on the way back from the valley the rain had ended. I must admit I was lucky. At the pass the temperature was in the low 40s, high 30s. While I had my rain shell I would have been miserably cold had I got caught in the rain.
That evening after the run I attended the Winthrop screening of the Telluride Mountain Film Festival. The North Cascades Mountain Hostel was the producer and main sponsor. To sit outside and watch a series of excellent short films under the stars in a park in idyllic little mountain town after a run through the Cascades couldn’t have capped the weekend off any better. Now on to Olympic National Park…