Saturday, August 22, 2015

Trap Kings and Queens - Fat Dog 120

Chapter 1 – Delayed With the Stars
The silence was broken by the click of the overhead speaker. The mundane voice that we have all come to expect drifted across the airwaves and filled the cabin of Flight 5315.   
“Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen... this is your captain speaking...” 
That was my cue. I slid my 1st generation Ipod out of my North Face Pinyon pack and thumbed the old school wheel dial in a clockwise direction to pick out the next hour’s playlist. My Chemical Romance’s “I Brought You My Bullets, You Brought Me Your Love” was the winner. About half way through “Honey, This Mirror Isn’t Big Enough for the Two of Us” I saw the girl sitting next to me perk up and remove her ear buds. 
“Sorry folks... looks like there is some inclement weather just outside of Birmingham. We are going to be delayed an hour.” 
Great. I only had about 40mins to catch my connecting flight to Seattle when we landed in Charlotte and this delay basically meant I had no chance of even catching my flight. The flight attendant explained that the delays are pretty much across the board, so the flight in Charlotte would more than likely be delayed as well. My adventure mentor Greg had messaged me saying he was actually in route to Charlotte from the Sunshine State... so there was a slight chance of meeting him for a beer. The delay immediately turned from an unfavorable strike out to a single up the middle. 
I pulled out my phone and clicked the tweety bird icon on my home screen. I needed entertainment… and not just the normal stroll through your feed and laugh at a few Vines kinda entertainment. No sir!  I was in need of some bona fide Dancing with the Stars level entertainment... and since there was a celebrity on our plane... I thought why not?

Now most of you guys know the Noah Galloway that is entertaining millions by cutting a rug inside your television set…
Or you know the  "Ultimate Guy"  Noah Galloway that graces the front page of Men’s Health... 

But a lucky few (me being one of those lucky ones) know the super friendly, down home, laid back, sincere, always encouraging Noah Galloway from an Alabama YMCA. 

After a fun back and forth with Noah… the 1hr30min delay was over and we set off for Charlotte.
In college... I always had a knack for falling fast asleep as soon as the baseball team loaded the bus for weekend conference games. It was my super power. Obviously it still was.  I awoke to a swarm of people grabbing their bags from the overhead compartments and pushing towards the exit. I wasn’t about to fight the crowd so I pulled out my phone and checked the status of my next flight. It had been delayed 45mins... which meant absolutely nothing because my first flight ended up being delayed a total of 1hr30mins. I calmly grabbed my bag and strolled over to Gate B. 
“We can get you on the 10pm flight to Seattle. You’ll be in Seattle a little after midnight.” 
My original flight was long gone, so I had no choice. I grabbed my ticket and headed to the airport bar.
I was greeted with a smile, a hug and an empty seat. What were the freakin odds that I would run into a member of our local BUTS running group at a layover in Charlotte? Well... I’m sure if I really wanted to know... Greg could whip up some intel and give a damn accurate probability of our meeting... that’s just the kinda guy he is ;) 

We ate, drank and were well into merry storytelling when our waiter swung by and said his shift was ending. We tabbed out... but not before G ordered us one more round (thanks again G)! We promptly packed the beers away into a bag and quietly exited the bar. Power vultures I know.. but our lifelines were dying and we needed a charge! Plus... terminal beers are the best beers. 
As midnight quickly approached (our flights were delayed 2hrs more)... we said our good byes and parted ways. I crawled onto my 5hr flight and situated myself in my window seat. Once we got up above the clouds the night was calm and beautiful. Unbeknownst to me at the time… there was a meteor shower that God had scheduled for the night. I had counted upwards of 17 shooting stars before falling fast asleep for the rest of the flight. Originally Brandi had planned to pick me up from the airport… but since there was such a massive delay for my both flights…  I went the Uber route. As soon as the plane landed I booked a driver.
My Uber pickup was like a scripted scene straight from a movie…
Like a boss… I casually walked out of the airport, slipped through a crowd of 10 people waiting for taxis, handed my bags to a sharply dressed man, entered through an already opened back door, and slowly rolled away into the night via a blacked out limo tinted Chrysler 300. Like. A. Boss.
Tselus was my driver…. a sweet and funny man with a very thick Middle Eastern accent. We chatted as we cruised through the empty 3am streets of Seattle. He pointed out Boeing and other various companies that call Seattle home.
Tselus pointed.
“Over there… all those buildings. They amazin.”
I didn’t see anything too impressive about the buildings.
“Yea… they look pretty cool I guess.”
Tselus chuckled.
“No! They are amazin!”
Again I took a look. Still… the buildings just looked like normal city buildings.
He laughed harder.
I took one last look…
We both busted into laughter and continued until we reached the apartment. Tselus retrieved my bags and shook my hand in the sincere two hand handshake kind of way. I creeped through Brandi’s  apartment door as if I was a high schooler… sneaking in hours after curfew. She greeted me with a sleepy hug and a couch. I was out like a light.

Chapter 2: Formation of the Trap Crew
Originally the game plan was simple. Me, Brandi and Brad go run Fat Dog 120 crewless. Simple enough. Well… you know what they say about best laid plans…
I ended up getting hurt and have been down since practically April. Since I was in recovery mode I opted out of running the race because I didn’t want to further hurt my foot and slow down my recovery in any way. I decided to still make the trip up to the Pacific Northwest to crew Brandi and Brad with hopes of getting some good runs in between crewing duties. Somewhere along the way… a crew full was created…
We set out of the apartment complex to pick up Highwater (Bryce). Brandi met Highwater during a weeklong hike on the PCT a few weeks prior. Highwater was dealt a bad hand and had hurt his foot along the trail, so he had taken a few weeks off to recover in Seattle. We were going to give him a ride up to Manning Park where he had planned to hop on the trail and head Southbound to finish his thru hike. I liked Highwater immediately. He’s just one of those genuine souls that constantly expelled good vibes to those around him.
We then picked up one of Brandi’s BFF… Violeta. Though I had never officially met V before… I felt like I had known her for forever thanks to social media and common friends. Once we had the entire crew aboard and our bags situated…

We made a quick stop for lunch and beers… boats of beers…

After sinking our boats… we set our sails for the great land of Canadia. We all instantly bonded over some good ole rap... and after multiple listens of Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen”…  we dubbed Brad “Trap King” and Brandi “Trap Queen” and just like that the "Trap Crew" was formed… #traplife #heywhatsuphello #trapcrew.


Chapter 3: Frosty Mountain Hornets
We checked into our room at Manning Lodge and I immediately changed into a pair of shorts and started stuffing my Mountain Hardwear vest with snacks and water. I was dying to get into the mountains. Everyone else had planned to nap and to have dinner. I handed some cash and a credit card over to Highwater and with simple instructions… “cheeseburger and a bottle of whiskey.”

I got dropped off at Lightning Lake at 5pm and headed towards the trail head. A trip to the summit and back would be roughly 14.5 miles with a bout 4000ft of gain (I’ll save my American friends the conversion of kilometers/miles and meters/feet)… so I figured 4hrs would be plenty of time to snap some pictures and truly enjoy a run in the mountains before the sun set. I started to fall in love about half a mile into the first climb.

I love to climb. It’s probably my favorite part of trail running. There’s just something so ridiculously satisfying about climbing to the top of a mountain. Don’t get me wrong… blasting down a mountain is a lot of fun as well… but climbing is just so much more enjoyable to me for some reason. Within minutes I had beautiful views at my disposal…

British Columbia is literally what my singletrack dreams are made of…

I mean… just look at it… perfection… and it also smelled like Christmas.

Eventually I passed a shelter and a camping area. I was in a good groove, so I decided to hold off and stop for a picture on the return trip. I waved to a father/son duo that was setting up camp in the area and continued up the mountain. A few switchbacks later the trail opened into a field and Frosty Mountain came into view…

I got to the end of the field and stopped at an overlook to take a quick peek at the ridgeline…

The trail quickly turned into mostly rock as I started my final ascent to the summit…
I finally got to the Windy Joe/Frosty Mt intersection and gazed up at the setting sun and rocky ridgeline…

I took my time navigating the loose rock… mainly because I wanted to stay on this trail forever.

The view from the summit was incredible…

When my body started cooling down… I decided to start my descent back along the ridge…

On the way down… I noticed a little bright orange speck in a field where the rocks started…

The orange speck turned out to be a tent and I waved to the campers as I cruised by. I eventually passed by the shelter and stopped for a quick picture… and apparently I picked up a passenger here…

A few minutes later… something sharp pinched my right buttocks. Like a perfectly normal and calm human being… I stripped off my shorts, threw them 10ft down the trail and screamed out every single foul word I could possibly think of at the time. There I was… naked from the waist down, clinching my right ass cheek, and screaming curse words into the beautiful British Columbia wilderness. My mother would be so proud.
I walked over to my shorts and watched a hornet crawl out. In 29yrs I had never been stung by a hornet… and I’ll be damned if I hadn’t been stung twice in the past 2 weeks. I kicked some dirt towards the hornet, grabbed my shorts and shook them out. The only thing that took my mind off of the sweltering pain in my ass was the beautiful glow of the final moments of light over Lightning Lake…

Chapter 4: Patience in Princeton
We slept in as much as possible before heading over to the lodge diner for a fantastic waffle/bacon/coffee breakfast. It was mandatory pre-race meeting day and we had a lot of things to get ready before heading over to the gymnasium. But first we drove up to a lookout to check out a clear view of Manning Park mountains.
Frosty Mountain is the highest mountain in Manning Park, so it was really cool to see a different perspective of the mountain I climbed the day before.
The Trap Crew dropped me off at a trailhead near the lookout for a quick run while they went down to pack and grab a campsite for our tent for the next few days. I had planned on running a bit longer but a late start left me with only an hour to get a run in.

30mins out went by waaaaaaaaaay too fast…

Unfortunately I didn’t make it out to the alpine meadow that Brandi spoke so highly of… but held out hope for another trip up to the area to tag the 3 Brothers. When my hour was up… Highwater picked me up at the trailhead and we headed back down the mountain to pick up the crew for Princeton.
After eating a delicious pizza at a local eatery, we checked into the hotel and made our way over to the gym for the pre-race meeting.  It’s always cool to people watch at these types of races opposed to the smaller scale local races because there are representatives from all different countries. I believe there were people from USA, Canada, Italy, Hong Kong, Australia, Great Britain, Mexico, Switzerland, etc. We overheard a fella behind us talking about going sub 24hrs. This was a pretty hefty goal… so I turned around to check this guy out. It was later determined that although he sounded super serious about it… he was probably joking (I couldn’t tell he was joking). Regardless… we referred to this guy as “Sub 24” for the remainder of the trip. The pre-race meeting ended up starting about 45mins late and lasting a lot longer than I anticipated. The sweet mayor spoke briefly welcoming everyone to Princeton. He said that the merchants of the city were aware that we were there for the weekend and that they would be ready for our business. We determined that to be a lie. We spent a looooooooooooooong time waiting for food after the pre-race meeting was over… but nothing a few local brews couldn’t fix.

Chapter 5: Releasing the Fat Dogs
Finally… the day had arrived to release the Fat Dogs into the wild for an epic 120 mile adventure. We arrived at the starting location an 1hr30mins before go time.

The forecast called for some weather for Friday night… but it started clouding up a little earlier than expected. This is when we were introduced to Brad’s true identity… Sir Bradford Poppins…

After a quick Trap Crew picture… we walked our Trap King and Queen down the half mile gravel road to the starting area.
There was a colorful array of runners gathered at the bottom. The Trap Crew immediately started naming our favorites (ie: Mr Universe was the man with the brightly colored spandex pants). This would continue throughout the entire race.  We watched the 200 (of only which half would actually finish) or so runners head over the bridge to begin their adventure.
I ran into my Instagram friend Solana who is a Vancouverite that was up crewing some of their runners. She was incredibly sweet and it was so good finally meeting someone I’ve followed for so long! Most all of the people that I’ve become friends with via IG have turned out to be genuine and authentic people. Their accounts actually represent who they are as a person… which in today’s world of phonies and posers… is welcoming and very encouraging
Chapter 6: All Hail Ashnola
After a quick trip back into town for Indian food and wifi… we made our way over to the first crew access point at the Ashnola River aid station (mile 18). It was good seeing Kilian and the rest of the Salomon crew out supporting the Fat Dog race…

The Trap Crew all had slight injuries… so we relaxed in the chilly river to pass the time.

We were basically trolls… cheering runners crossing the bridge above us all while continuously handing out silly names to them. “Big Bird” looked strong as she crossed over the bridge in her bright yellow attire. “Sub 24” was most definitely not at a sub 24hr pace… “Fist N Cuffs” was the manliest of all men. The old brute strolled into the aid station shirtless with his pristine silver chest hair and long curly mustache. He only had one nipple clamp (aka a band aid). Why just one? Real men only need one nipple covered. This is fact.
We eventually resurfaced from our under bridge dwelling and went to get supplies from the car. And by supplies… I mean a bright gold letter “B.” Only the presence of gold would lift the spirits of our Trap King and Queen.

Brandi finally emerged from the woods looking strong.

A quick snack and we saw her off.

Now Bradford Poppins mentioned that we didn’t necessarily have to wait for him at the crew access aid stations… but the Trap Crew was having none of that crazy talk. We would be by our Trap King until the end! I hiked into the woods a bit to try and grab a few photos of Brad as he came into the aid station. The weather worsened the further I hiked in… 

By the time Brad crossed the bridge… there was lightning and thunder.

Brad was all smiles at the aid station and was in and out fairly quickly. We wished him a safe trip as he headed down the road and up towards the exposed ridge.

By the time we got situated in the car… the weather took another turn for the worse. The rain picked up… as well as the lightning… and of course... the hail. I shot a few prayers up for the safety of our Trap King and Queen as they traversed the high exposed ridge through the storm. We had a lot of time to kill since we didn’t have to meet them again until Bonnevier (mile 40).  We stopped in Princeton again to grab some food, stock up on beer, and update the social media world of the status of our Trap King and Queen before making our way towards Bonnevier.
Chapter 7: Beers, Bonnevier and Bad News
Before heading out to the Bonnevier aid station... we made a quick stop at the campground where we set up our tent. We had set it up a day early so we would have a spot but we couldn’t prepay. The ranger at the campground would come around to collect our money. Well… since we were off doing Trap things… we hadn’t spent any time at the campground…. and when we arrived at our site… everything was gone. We quickly made a Trap Pact to keep this under wraps until we figured it out… there was no need to put any additional stress on our Trap Queen.

We grabbed a beer and walked over to the Bonnevier aid station to await our King and Queen. The moment we walked across the road we heard an aid station worker yelling for “Brandi’s Crew! Are you here?!” Ugh. We were not “Brandi’s Crew”… we were the “Trap Crew.” I immediately walked up and slapped the peasant of an aid station worker and pointed in her face…  “No. That’s not our name.”
**For the record… I am joking of course. No slapping or finger pointing happened… the aid station workers were unbelievably amazing throughout the entire race.**
We were so elated to see our Trap Queen that we sorta, kinda rushed and overwhelmed her.
After discovering we had left the one bag that she needed in the car… Highwater headed back to grab it while Violeta grabbed Brandi food/drink and refilled her pack. I started cleaning and doctoring up her feet (which actually were in really good condition considering the wet conditions that she’d been fighting for the past hours). We sent Brandi into the cold, wet night and started the wait for our Trap King. Our wait consisted of huddling under a tiny umbrella, drinking beers and singing Disney tunes and the "Cup Song" with the occasional playing of “Trap Queen” and Rich Homie Quan's "Type of Way" to keep our minds right. Yea… we were that crew.
A little after 1am we saw Bradford Poppins emerge from the darkest road known to man.
Brad was all smiles as we brought him food, his drop bag and of course… the sweet nectar of the trails gods…

We watched Brad disappear into the night before we headed back to the car.

Since it was so late/early in the morning… we made the decision to head out towards Manning and just find a place to sleep near the back of the park. Highwater had all of his gear for his PCT adventure so once we found a safe spot to park… he slipped off into the woods to set up camp.

Chapter 8: The Cold Cascades Retirement

Let me tell you… I got the best night of sleep I’ve ever had curled up in the front seat with the steering wheel. #allthelies.  I tried my best to keep warm by using my hammock as a blanket and was doing a fairly decent job until I had to get out of the car to use the outhouse. All the warmth I had worked so hard to keep disappeared into the cold, foggy mountain air. Highwater brewed some coffee and passed out Blue Raspberry Pop Tarts for breakfast. I was simply trying to enjoy a peaceful fruit filled breakfast when “Anger Bird” dive bombed me trying to apprehend my fruit! Silly bird…

Before heading over to the Cascades aid station (mile 78) we headed down to the campground to investigate the disappearance of our tent. We rolled up in our whip sitting on 24s with our 9mm heaters drawn demanding answers. Or we may have just rolled up in a blue Ford Edge with Georgia license plates politely asking nearby campers (the lack of sleep makes it fuzzy). After talking with campers in the area we concluded that sometime between 5pm-6pm our tent was taken down. We called up to the visitor center to see if anyone had turned in our stuff… but no luck there. We were out of time. Our Trap Queen would most definitely ask how we slept and V could not keep this secret for the last 40 miles she was to pace Brandi… so I was tasked to give a cool, calm explanation when she arrived.

The relentless and cold rain pitter pattered on the popped trunk of the SUV as we waited for our King and Queen to arrive. The rain had been going strong for the past 24hrs. Highwater set up the tent for Violeta. She didn’t get a good night sleep the previous night and she had to pace Brandi 40 miles through the second night. After V laid down… Highwater and I indulged…

Eventually V woke up and Highwater packed up the tent and we all sought refuge and warmth in the car. I was feeling antsy so I decided to throw on some shorts and a rain jacket and go for a run to see if I could intercept Brandi on the trail. A few moments later I took off down the trail in search of our Trap Queen. Every single runner I passed had a smile on their face and something nice to say. It’s really true… Canadians are the nicest people on Earth. By the time I started to really enjoy the wet, slick, techy trail… I bumped into Brandi. She was soaked but in high spirits. Before I sprinted ahead of her... I grabbed 2 layers of clothes that she had strapped to her pack.

I repassed most of the runners I had originally seen and stopped to take a few pictures for one runner. I got back to the car and put the heat on full blast to dry out Brandi’s clothes. By the time she got to the aid station most of her clothes were completely dry. We went into full Trap Crew mode… and I calmly explained the tent/pack situation.

We started to send Brandi back onto the trail when a volunteer van pulled up. Bradford Poppins hopped out smiling. After a very long and extremely harsh +70 miles of crazy weather and technical terrain… our Trap King retired. We all wished Brandi off and we left Highwater and Brad at Cascades for the time being. I drove Violeta down the road a few miles to meet Brandi at the next aid station.

From there I wished the best of luck to Violeta and the Brandi as they got somewhat of a break and set off for the flattest 20 miles of the course.

Chapter 9: No Hope on Hope Mountain
Since we now had Bradford Poppins in our presence… we headed to the city of Hope to find a room for the night. Brandi and V wouldn’t arrive at the Skyline (mile 99) aid station until late… so we had time to kill. After many failed attempts at local hotels… we finally landed a spot at the Slumber Motel. Thankfully we got there when we did because they only had a few rooms left.

Highwater and Brad opted for a nap. I craved a mountain run. I picked up a brochure in the front office and decided on a trip up to Hope Mt summit. It was the #6 maple leafed destination out of the top 10 things to do in Hope, so I figured it had to be good. The brochure simply read:
“Drive 7km outside Hope heading East on Hwy 3. Turn on Hope Mt Forest Road and follow for 8km to the trailhead parking lot. You will need a 4 wheel drive or high clearance vehicle.”
I didn’t have a 4x4 but I was in an SUV. I turned off onto the forest road and started making my way through a very narrow road full of muddy holes. 

 About a mile up the road… it started to get really rocky and vertical. I finally got to the point where my tires were spinning and the SUV started sliding. Since I was basically following a road that was hugging the cliff side with nothing guarding a fall…  I decided to not chance a tumble down the mountain. I parked on the side of the trail and set off for the remaining 4 miles to the trailhead on foot. NO WAY IN HELL I WOULD’VE MADE IT UP THAT TRAIL IN A VEHICLE!!! You literally needed a jacked up 4x4 jeep or truck to make it to the top. I think they need to revamp their brochure a little. The road was a consistent climb uphill which made for a fairly slow but steady ascent. Though a jeep road… it was still a pleasant run passing a few small waterfalls and good overlooks.
The further up the road I ran… the more restless my soul became. There was a ton of bear scat and trampled brush indicating there had been a lot of recent activity. The sign at the beginning of the forest road flashed in my mind…
“You are now entering bear and cougar country. Be prepared.”
I was not prepared. Nonetheless… I continued up to the trailhead.

It was roughly 4km up to the summit from the trailhead. I thought for a few moments that if the trail was somewhat groomed… I could make a hard push to the summit, check out the view and blast down the trail back to my car in time to easily get back and make it out to Skyline. I was wrong. I maybe got half a mile into the trail and still had that same uneasy feeling. The trail wasn’t marked and was overgrown…

I had zero service, Highwater and Brad knew where I was in a general sense  but would have no way of contacting me or even reaching me, and the amount of bear evidence was just too much to risk. I've learned to always trust my gut in these types of situations, so I promptly turned around and chalked Hope summit as a loss. The summit quickly left my mind as I started the fast descent down back to the car… even the gravel roads in British Columbia are fun…

Chapter 10: Magical Sleeping Bags at Euphoric Skyline
I showered up and woke Highwater from a deep sleep. He sprung up and stared at me in silence for a solid 10 seconds without moving. I froze. For a brief moment I thought he may attack me. The lack of sleep had taken it's toll on everyone! Eventually he snapped out of it and we loaded up the car for our final crew access point. We made it out to Skyline (mile 99) and walked up to find Violeta sitting in a chair and Brandi curled up in a sleeping bag on a cot inside a tent.  We came bearing good news! We had found the Queen’s tent/pack. A ranger had taken it down and turned it into the visitor center.  After a brief chat with V… we started getting everything prepped for their final night while our Trap Queen slept. After an hour or so nap… Brandi awoke in a euphoric state. She was just so blissfully happy… it was almost as if she had smoked a pound of weed and was riding a floating unicorn through a sea of rainbows. I’ve honestly never seen anyone so happy and content in my entire life. Note to self: find out who makes that sleeping bag.

Just before midnight we wished Brandi and Violeta the best as they ventured into the final night and final leg of the race.

Chapter 11: Lightning Sunrise
We left the Slumber Motel in the wee hours of the morning in order to get back to Lightning Lake at Manning Park to catch Brandi’s finish. We drank coffee and chatted until we caught a glimpse of Brandi running through the finish!

After 45hrs36mins… our Trap Queen had finished!

Brandi’s performance and determination was such a huge inspiration. To battle +24hrs of constant cold rain… hail and lightning… on one of the toughest courses on the planet… speaks so much to Brandi’s character and to the type of girl she is. I’m so damn proud of her and honored to have been a part of the crew that got her that buckle!

After grabbing some bacon/eggs/coffee for Brandi and Violeta… we started preparing to say our goodbyes to Highwater. He decided to go ahead and hop on the Pacific Crest Trail up in Canada and head southbound to where he left off. He made us all friendship bracelets before we said our goodbyes. I’m so thankful I met Highwater. Days prior he was a complete stranger… now… he’s a good friend who shared an unforgettable adventure. There’s no doubt in my mind that the trails will bring us together again one day…

Chapter 12: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Pizza
Brad and I drove out to the airport to drop off the last remaining member of the Trap Crew. We said our goodbyes to Violeta and headed back to Brandi’s Seattle apartment hungry and thirsty. Both problems easily solved with pizza and beer. After no convincing at all… Brandi’s roommate Stephen suggested we get one massive pizza from the place down the road. Stephen and I strolled down the street, placed an order for a pineapple-bacon pizza, and carried on a good conversation over a local beer. I looked over at Stephen when the waiter brought out our pizza…
“You weren’t kidding man…”

After furniture carrying the pizza down the street... we devoured its gloriousness while we watched Harry Potter. And now… I must watch every single Harry Potter (thanks Brandi).
I had every intention of getting out and having a few beers at the local breweries… but It just wasn’t going to happen. I was too sleepy. Instead… I sipped on whiskey and fell asleep to what Brad and I deemed the loudest neighborhood in Seattle. Who the hell parties that hard on a Sunday night!?!?

Chapter 13: Defiance at Mason Lake
Blueberry pancakes and coffee were the perfect start to my last day in the PNW. Bradford Poppins and I had planned to head out of Seattle to the Snoqualmie Pass area to scope out some alpine lakes. We parked at the Ira Spring trailhead parking lot and started up the trail. The plan was for me to run ahead and tag Mt Defiance’s summit and then meet him at Mason Lake. The out and back to the summit would be 11 miles with roughly 4000ft of gain. If I made good time… I was going to make a short side trip and tag Bandera Mountain on the way back down… but Bandera didn’t happen. The trail started out more or less a logging trail that gradually climbed up towards the singletrack… but once you were out of the tree cover… the trail steepened and opened up to amazing views of Mt. Rainier…
Not a bad backdrop for a Monday morning run…

The trail dove back into the trees and cruised along a soft, pine cushioned trail…

I passed Mason Lake and started the steep climb through the hemlock forest up towards Mt Defiance…

After a series of extremely steep switchbacks… the trail left the woods and entered into open alpine slopes… 

I was so stunned at the beauty of this trail that I completely missed the turn on the spur trail that lead up to the Mt Defiance summit. Instead… I bombed a super steep descent and after losing 1000ft in what seemed like no time at all… I quickly came to the conclusion that I was in fact not on top of a mountain. For some reason… I continued across the flat valley and began to descend even further.
I eventually snapped out of the PNW hypnotic state I was in and turned around and grinded up the steep climb back to the spur trail. Of course the trail was as clear as day when I was paying attention. I climbed the steep spur trail to the summit and relaxed for a few moments.

It was amazing to see multiple alpine lakes that were sitting below at 4000ft…

My camera couldn’t pick it up… but the sky was clear enough to even see Mt Hood to the left of Mt Rainier!

After a quick snack I started the trip back down to Mason Lake to meet Brad.

Because of the 1000ft of gain/loss bonus I received from missing a turn… I didn’t make it back in time to chill with Brad… and apparently I missed a very revealing lake scene. I caught up to Brad and we chatted all the way back down to the car.

Chapter 14: The Land of Humidity
A long, sleepless overnight flight had me curled up in my bed most of the day Tuesday. I was exhausted from time zone hopping and the lack of sleep that came with our crazy adventure. It was good being home. I had missed Kati and Wobbles something fierce. 

I gave it a day before venturing back into the land of humidity. My foot is feeling much better. The slow recovery and time off has paid off tremendously. I’m still nowhere near 100%... but progress has been made and I feel like it won’t be long before I’m back training at full speed again. Fat Dog and the PNW were inspiring to me on so many levels. Seeing Brandi and Brad’s grit and determination to push through ridiculously bad mountain conditions towards an amazing goal will be on my mind for some time. I had so much flipping fun with the Trap Crew! It’s amazing how a complete group of strangers can come together without quarrel or any drama and enjoy each other’s company while working together towards one goal. The trail brings people together in the most magical ways.  I’ll forever be honored to be a part of the Trap Crew! SHEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEP!

The Pacific Northwest was incredible and I can honestly say I’ve never seen such beauty. I felt more at home there than I have anywhere I have traveled so far.  Who knows… maybe we will end up there for good one day? I don’t know much… but I am certain of a few things… the mountains feel like home... the mountains excite me... the mountains make me feel alive... the mountains make me feel wild and free... and in my book... that's a damn fine way to feel.

Run long, run wild, and howl loudly.








  1. As always, a very nice post. Enjoyed it very much.

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