A Week in June

Wally Waldren Tree

Wally Waldren Tree

AC100 is 6 weeks away.

I found an email I wrote someone last year 2 weeks before the race. I was complaining that without stretches sitting on the side of my bed, I could not walk at all when I woke up, and that I was in pain all day long.

I don’t want to jinx it by saying this year is better, especially since we’re 6 weeks out, not 2, but I sure feel a lot stronger right now.

Here’s a roundup of this week’s adventures:

Sam is 76 years old.

Sam on Baden Powell

Sam on Baden Powell

He is Korean. He loves to hike. He loves the mountains. Korea is all about hiking, he says, because Korea is like Switzerland, all mountains.

His wife is a city girl. He taught her how to hike, and they are hiking from Dawson Saddle to the top of Baden Powell and back. He asks me how old I am. I tell him. He asks me if I am married. I’m not. He says “Mountain girls. Very hard to find. You must find mountain girl. Young mountain girl, so you can make mountain babies.”

He took selfies with me, to show his sons. He has two sons. They are in their 40s. One does nothing but watch TV. The other is a body builder who only cares about muscles and money. Neither of these are as important as the mountains, Sam says. I agree.


Today just above Millard, a buck and two does.

I slowed to a soft walk. The second doe was just off trail, her back to me, ready to run, watching me over her shoulder. I made eye contact the whole time, I’m sure with a big smile, and apparently did not seem like enough of a threat for her to run.

Some of my friends don’t get why this is so thrilling to me. They say “Back in ____, there were so many deer that I stopped caring.” Well, apparently there are a lot of deer here, too, since this is the third run this week that I’ve seen deer in this spot. Yesterday – Wednesday – I also saw deer on Mt. Lukens, and maybe a fox, too – some kind of too-small-to-be-a-coyote canine with a big, bushy tail.

I hope I never lose the thrill of seeing such beautiful animals, no matter how commonplace it becomes. I hope that I never stop finding the sound of birds outside my window to be a wonderful way to wake up every morning, taking a lot of the edge off the alarm clock I also use, just to be on the safe side.

I hope that a spectacular sunset, a cool breeze on a hot day, a beautiful woman (even if she is festooned with unnecessary tattoos), a happy dog, the sound of water in a stream… never stop filling me with wonder at the glory of g/God/nature/whatever’s creation.


An Amen Kinda Day.

Thursday evening run, coming down El Prieto, on one of the concrete debris dams, just off trail, someone has left a Bible, conspicuously placed, open and bookmarked to Song of Solomon, or Song of Songs as it is often known, a unique Biblical chapter in that it makes absolutely no mention of God, and is instead probably the most beautiful erotic poem ever written. This was a run on very tired legs, nothing sexual or erotic about it (like a run ever is sexual), unless you count a couple of really beautiful snakes slithering across Brown Mountain road. And that might actually be enough, really. Turned out to be a real Amen kinda day. I think I like that.


First 25 Miles

The last official training run, 25.5 miles, from the race start in Wrightwood to Islip Saddle. This will be aid station #3. The race begins with a short, steep climb up the Acorn Trail from Wrightwood to the PCT. It then follows the PCT, rolling up and down, through Guffy campground, through Blue Ridge campground, past ski lifts, through woods and through tree graveyards, before dropping down to Inspiration Pt., mile 9, the first aid station. A short climb back up, some gentle rollers, and a steep descent to aid station #2, Vincent Gap, mile 13.5. From Vincent Gap there’s a 3.5 mile climb, switchbacks up to just shy of the peak of Baden Powell, named after Lord Baden-Powell, the founder of the Boy Scouts, an odd and controversial fellow whose fondness for structure made him appreciate fascism, and who was likely a closeted gay man.

After the run.  Jack Cheng photo.

After the run. Jack Cheng photo.

This section of the PCT is also the Silver Moccasin Trail, and from the top of Baden Powell we travel along the ridge, to , Throop Peak and over to Windy Gap just below Mt. Islip, through 2,000 year old Limber Pine and towering Jeffrey Pine. It’s a stunning stretch, harsh, rocky, with extraordinary views, on the north side looking down down down to the Mohave Desert. It will also trick you. The elevation is around 8,500 – 9,000 feet. Runners don’t sweat much at this elevation, so we aren’t aware of how much water we’re losing in the dry wind, and it’s easy not to drink enough and suddenly find yourself parched and on the way to dehydration. There’s a spring at Little Jimmy, just below Windy Gap, with the freshest water in the mountains. From there, it’s a nice 2 mile descent into Islip Saddle.

It’s 12 miles between aid stations here, with lots of climbing and some rocky technical running. It can get lonely, even when there are other runners (and, always, hikers) up here.

I ran it strong but easily. It had been a week of lots of climbing and steep descents, and my knees were feeling it, which is unusual for me, so I tried to run loose, gentle, but controlled on the downhills, to minimize the impact, and it worked.

We lounged around tired in the parking lot, waiting for our friends behind us. Larry was sweeping and wouldn’t be seen until all the stragglers had arrived. A lot of runners dropped at Vincent Gap and had already been ferried back to Islip by RD Hal Winton. Howie and I were hungry and headed back to town for food. The next day, I was back at Blue Ridge for more.

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