I had one hell of a run yesterday out in the coastal mountains near Tillamook, OR.  As part of a Reed Outing Club trip, I rode out only about 40 minutes from Portland to the middle of forest nowhere near a minimum security prison work-camp.  The original plan was to travel a ten-mile loop up to and across the summits of Elk mountain and Kings mountain, my cohorts planned to walk while I ran the loop.  When we arrived, the weather was a very typical rain forest drizzle, so it seemed very appropriate to dress fairly lightly.  I had on my trusty new pair of LaSportiva Wildcats, and I was looking forward to giving them what-for on a wet trail, as Portland has been far too dry lately.  I also had with me a nice new no-bounce lumbar pack from GoLite, the HydroSwift, to carry my water, gels, camera, and spare layer.  Thankfully, I also made the prudent choice to start out my run in my patagonia shell.

The trail climbed a few switchbacks from the trailhead before it made an abrupt right turn up some rocks and kicked off a steep climb up the ridge.  Here I said goodbye to my group and trotted away.  The trail quickly grew even steeper, and the burn worked its way deep into my calves and had me near panic-breathing for most of the climb.  It would alternate between 20 foot stretches of relatively flat trail, and outcroppings of rocks or tree roots so steep that hands were required.  I think that I ran at least half of the way up on all-fours, doing more of a speed hike/climb than a run.

Trail map and elevation profile.  I still feel it in my knees and quads.

Trail map and elevation profile. I still feel it in my knees and quads. 4.53 Miles, 1800ft elevation gained.

All the while that I was slowly dying my way up the ridge, the weather was growing quickly worse as a storm blew in off of the coast.  I watched through the occasional gap as cloud rapidly moved in to obscure the mountain, flying up its flanks with rather astonishing speed, and bringing with them a serious volume of rain.  By the time I reached the summit of Elk’s mountain, it was raining sideways and gusting like hell, and my shell was totally overwhelmed.  My legs and shorts were just running with water from all of the shrubs overhanging the trail, but I was happy to be done with the climb, and I was ready to head out along the ridgeline and hopefully find some more open and flat territory to open up the legs and go.

Just below the top on my way down.  Very, very wet.

Just below the top on my way down. Very, very wet.

The trail rounded the summit slightly below the top to reveal why very few people actually make the full loop.  The trail dropped a good 30 feet or so on 3rd to 4th class terrain, covered in mud and running water.  Not to be shut down, I downclimbed and continued on, but the trail disappeared into a messy tangle of shrubs in short order.  I realized that there was no way that the rest of my group would consider traveling down the 3rd-class, and would likely return to the van, so given my drenched and beaten state I decided to turn around and make it a nice 5 miler back to the van and maybe squeeze in some extra along the river before they returned.  On the descent, the trail had turned into a chute of running water, and I splashed my way down quite carefully before I met the group about 2/3rds of the way up.  I explained the state of things and they seemed to be on the same page, so I trucked it on down to the van, really enjoying the last half mile when I was allowed a gentle enough slope to really stretch my legs out and run.  With time to kill, I stashed some of my things and headed up a nice, flat trail that followed a river surrounded by downed timber, wet moss, and vine maples.  I made it back to the van in time to listen to a little Car Talk and grab a nap before the group returned.

All of my gear performed most admirably, even though some of it was certainly stretched beyond the limits of what it was designed to do.  After I get a few more miles on the GoLite pack, I’ll put together a review with some things that I’ve noticed about it.

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