Thursday, March 22, 2012

Ropes and 'biners

Never in my nearly 40 years of running have I ever thought about the need for technical climbing gear.  After my 16 mile run last Saturday, I can no longer say that.  More about climbing gear later.

Saturday I was especially stoked.  It was a Bluebird day, not a cloud in the sky. It had been reasonably dry and warm (making for less mud on the trails) and Danielle was coming home that afternoon.  I was fired up.  At the trail head, the temperature was mild with very little wind, so I opted for compression shorts, a LS techie T-shirt and gloves.  No wind pants or wind jacket (Yes, with a fist pump!)  I quickly settled into a decent pace (for me) and after 4 miles had the first stream crossing of Otter Creek.  It wasn't bad.  Water was cold, but not numbing.  After making it to the far side, I was back on the trail.  It's crazy, but I passed a campsite my wife Cindy and I used back in the mid '70's. 

One of the memories that came flooding back was about a mixed breed hound we had named Moonshine.  Moonshine was what you could call a piece of work.  She would bark at her own reflection in the water and bark at jet contrails in the sky.  We always thought she was brain injured.  At any rate, on that long ago backpacking trip, Cindy, Moonshine and I passed a camp along the trail.  About a half mile further, we found a nice site and set up our camp.  During this time, we had Moonshine on a long leash.  We ate dinner, cleaned up and when it was time to turn in, we let Moonshine off the leash.  She immediately took off, hell bent for leather, back toward the other campsite.  Of course, Jim was hot on her trail.  When I caught up with her, she was about 25 yards away from the other campsite, just standing in the middle of the trail barking.  You talk about being embarrassed.  I apologized profusely, thinking all the while how I was going to kill Moonshine and tell Cindy that it was a horrific accident.  We kept "Moon" tied the rest of the night, and if I recall correctly, that was the last time we took her backpacking with us.

After passing the ancient campsite, I again had to cross Otter Creek.  This time it was deeper, wider and  swifter than the first crossing.  I picked the most shallow, slowest part of the ford (not the most direct route) and started across, thinking "one mis-step dummy and you're history."  I made it across uneventfully and continued on down the trail.  I crossed Moore Run and then the trail began to run 40 or 50 feet above Otter Creek.  It was absolutely gorgeous.  I ran through a couple of beds of young ramps (a ramp is a kind of wild mountain leek; Allium tricoccum Aiton)  I longed for a camera, but then thought I would probably just break it when/if I fell.  The water was Gin clear and I could imagine the Native Brook Trout rising to my #16 Royal Wulff or a Little Black Stone Fly.  There are several sets of pretty significant water falls ending in deep pools so clear you can see the gravel on the bottom.  Not so in the preceding weeks when the stream was off color and high due to the snow melt and spring rains. 

So, totally lost in the beauty of it all, I'm "truckin" on down the trail when all of a sudden the technical climbing gear issue raises its ugly head.  The trail is high against the edge of a steep hill, 50 feet or so above the water.  The trail had washed out and was blocked by a tree that had fallen during the washout.  It was steep and slick.  I had a couple of more miles before my turn around point and I "had" to get across to sound trail again.  That's when I really thought a fixed line would be nice.  Hand over hand, down and back up and on my merry way.  Nah, that wasn't gonna happen.  I tried to crawl over the downed tree, all the while knowing I was going to end up in the creek, or worse.  Hand over hand, grabbing protruding roots and branches, I made my way back up to the trail.  The Otter Creek Valley was getting wider and the creek getting larger.   I passed several very nice campsites and suddenly there was my turnaround.  I could see a large rock cairn on the far side of Otter Creek, marking the beginning of the Green Mountain Trail.

As I began making my way back towards the Condon Run Trail Head (my starting point) I ate part of a peanut butter sandwich and drank 5 or 6 oz's of water.  I've begun experimenting with different foods for the Ultra.  Call me a garbage gut, but so far everything seems to work just fine.  Better to know that now than to find out something is causing stomach problems during the race.  Then I was back at the washout.  It may have been my imagination, but it seemed more difficult to navigate going back, than it was coming in.  The footing was terrible and had I not been able to use my hands to grab branches, I wonder if I could have made it.  (We are supposed to get fairly heavy rain on Saturday, so I am skipping that part of the trail this week.  I just don't want to 'out dumb myself') 

All in all, it was a great day.  I must have nicked my ankle because it was tender on Sunday.  I definitely favored it and was thankful I only had to do 10.  By the way, I fell once on the Saturday run.  Just carelessness.  I guess I'm still doing better than a month ago when I was falling multiple times every time I went out.

                                               "Never argue with an idiot.  They'll bring
                                                you down to their level & then beat you
                                                with experience."

1 comment:

  1. Awesome Jim. I could visualize each of the spots along the trail that you mentioned. OC is a special place. See you next weekend at Dolly Sods.