Sunday, August 7, 2011

Week Summary (Aug 7) - Feeding the Bears

TRT - Brockway West OB: 10.0 mi (+1,683 ft); 10:44 pace
Emma Quarry OB: 5.6 mi (+483ft); 9:12 pace
Ophir Grade OB: 8.1 mi (+1,145 ft); 9:48 pace
TRT - Mt. Rose to Relay Loop: 15.7 mi (+3,671 ft); 13:08 pace
Water Route - Ophir Grade: 12.0 mi (+1,165 ft); 9:40 pace

Weekly Totals: 51.4 mi (+8,147 ft); 9:31:48 on trail

It's days like these...
The needle's in the groove, somewhat stuck, over and over, but slightly different tunes; that is, another great week on the trail. Having re-discovered Lake Tahoe and the Tahoe Rim Trail, I've been kicking myself for years of avoiding the nearby beauty of the Lake of the Sky.  I'm almost half-way around the lake, visiting each weekend for some cool altitude and the fantastic TRT. We had to wait for the late Summer to open things up, but it's all been worth it.

Started the week with a repeat of my out-and-back run from Brockway Summit, a bit longer than the usual Tuesday (RFP Week #10) but I felt good and wanted to verify the route and distance with the Garmin (my mapwork was nicely close for last week's summary but the elevation required an additional 1,000 feet of gain!).  The evenings are starting to cool just so slightly, a luxury to be stopping by the TRT mid-week.

Visited Emma Quarry for the typical Wednesday night out-and-back. Still just love that trail. It set the stage for Thursday when I tried for some higher intensity on the climb of Ophir Grade. Although I hit the trail at noon-time, the temps were relatively cool (probably because I'm planning fieldwork in the Mojave Desert for later in the month).  I didn't keep the pace up as planned, but it remains a good lunchtime effort to the top of the grade where I could see my goal for the weekend across Washoe Valley.
Mount Rose from Ophir Grade

I had to grab a jacket in the pre-dawn of Saturday morning; I even considered the heater in the Yota as I stopped by Steven's house. We were meeting Darren at the Mt. Rose trailhead for a summit run. Great to have Steven join us; we'll work him in slowly!

Darren was waiting on our arrival, as was Stan from the Silver State Striders.  He's also headed to Leadville as a pacer, and today he was heading south with his racer, though she hadn't yet arrived at the trailhead. Letting Steven head off for a hike, Darren and I took to the trail across Tamarack Ridge. This trail is about eight years old, but it was new to me as I realized I hadn't been on Mt. Rose in more than a decade. The trail is well-used and we passed several hiking parties working their way toward the summit. We skirted waterfalls and lakes I'd never seen before.  I'd climbed and skied this area from several directions, but the TRT was exposing me to new sights in a place I thought familiar. I kept a moderate pace knowing the elevation would add up, and Darren pulled away as we turned at the wilderness boundary and began the rise to treeline. Above me to the east, the summit ridge was backlit by the yellow beams of the morning sun. Darren was a loping shadow now working through the sheets of light. It was an inspiring view, but by the time I grabbed my camera, he was gone. I noticed the summer fog of Truckee below me and pointed the camera downward.

Fog at Prosser, near Truckee
The final switchbacks push me above treeline, this is true mountain running. A single track climbs toward the sky and each side tumbles to valleys thousands of feet below. In the thin air, I move better it seems, or maybe it is simply the acuity of light that brings focus. I've always felt this way up high; it's why I long to return time after time. And again I'm astounded that I've avoided the quick escape provided this beautiful peak. I'm on the summit in 1 hr 15 min, about 9 minutes behind Darren who's looking around for the summit register. As busy as this trail is, they'd need something more like a big-city phonebook. We loiter for a few moments taking in the views and naming prominent geographic points for the other summiteer of the moment (he took the opening picture of Darren and me on the summit; thanks man!).

Darren on the Summit

Lake Tahoe beyond Tamarack Ridge
Once upon a time I considered Mt. Rose a day hike, now, if I thought of it as the only goal of the day, I could likely make the summit in under an hour. Maybe someday I'll try that, or not. Why hurry days like these?

We soon begin the drop back to treeline, fetching stares from the several hikers working their way up. May be some contempt there, are we altering their experience in our apparent haste? Many still consider us "gluttons for punishment" to quote one passerby but most simply offer a kind "good morning" in response to our greetings. I enjoy asking people why they didn't trip the faster guy just up the trail! Anyway, I'm improving on the descent and I stay pretty close to Darren, though he's going cautiously in the final weeks before Leadville.  Back at the wilderness boundary we split from the Alp-like crowds and head along an unproven trail to the north. This is the approximate line of the future Rim to Reno trail but it sees little use right now. The springs are fully charged and water flows from the smallest of seeps. We head this way to add some mileage to our loop, but soon Darren turns back, he has a camping trip with Carrie and Chloe to finish the weekend. I'm going to continue down the trail to gain a mile more so that I can easily get to my planned 14. Darren is primed for Leadville. I think his challenge rests in the mental game of going 100. His work is paying off, and we'll take it with us to the high country of the Rockies in two weeks.

I'm barely a quarter mile in when I see movement on the trail ahead of me. It's certainly the biggest coyote I've ever seen; no wait, thick fur is moving in red-brown waves as it begins to increase it's gait. In a few steps I notice that it is herding two other smaller-scale red-brown balls of fur through the closely scattered trees. These are bears in full stride now, thankfully heading downhill just ahead of me. Momma bear looks at me once and I quickly change my plans for that extra mile down this trail. Today this wilderness is theirs, thanks for sharing. I'll go now.

I probably had my best uphill pace of the day making my way back to the main trail. I only glanced over my shoulder a couple times knowing I couldn't go much faster anyway! Regaining the trail, I knew a few of these people would be slower than me (it only takes one) so I settled in to complete my run. Feeling the rush and joy of the encounter I decided for more elevation gain and headed for the Relay Station on the section of the TRT toward Brockway. I ended with 15.7 miles and a nice cushion of elevation, a worthwhile Saturday on the TRT.

Sunday morning brought the second segment of this week's scheduled B2B (back-to-back). This is part of ultra training meant to get the runner used to running on tired legs. Well, I notice that just about every Sunday after a good Saturday long one; sometimes I have the pleasure of experiencing it on other days as well. But today would be different. I started on the Ophir Grade just above town and soon the weariness of getting the muscles and joints back in the flow simply faded away. Maybe this isn't the practice I'm supposed to do, but it felt great to be back on the trail. Maybe it was the few extra carbos I got from the beers at Larry's place yesterday evening.  My pace was steady in the cool morning and I extended my usual Ophir Route out along the waterline that is our town's connection to the Tahoe basin.

I like the many desert runs as much as I enjoy the forest trails of the Sierra. But desert has its own share of beasts that demand my attention. Rattlers are much nicer than the copperheads and moccasins I grew up around; at least these guys let you know they mean business if you aren't careful. This big boy was only a few hundred yards short of my six-mile turn-around, so I thanked him for posing and moved on. But when I came back moments later, he was gone. Of course, I heard him in every grasshopper, buzzing bee and rush of grass for the next three miles. I've run into a dozen or so rattlers this year, encounters that are thankfully brief if a bit jumpy for yours truly.

The Washoe Valley side of Ophir Grade
It would be nice to connect the waterline along Ophir Grade to the TRT via the trail at Hobart Reservoir. Feeling like I did today, it isn't hard to imagine that this will come pretty soon. I had been a little haunted by the B2Bs on my schedule, though I'm happy to say that I've met the challenge of the first few along the RFP. Finished with my best week of total mileage, elevation gain, and time on the trail.

This week I work in Truckee where I'll explore some new trails before returning for my longest day yet on the TRT. I can only keep going.


  1. Last weekend on the TRT for me for a while, at least until Lake of the Sky. I wonder if we can complete the whole loop this year? By next for sure.


  2. I love this post :)... and it makes want to rush toward greater elevations and distances myself, though a smart person (me?) would be more prudent. What will happen is that my legs and lungs will determine things-are they not wisest in the end? I will listen to them.
    Your descriptions of both terrain and affect here are vivid for me and readily tap my inner eye (some of it imagination and some of it memories of high elevation long ago in a different state on different mountains). Let me at that trail!
    Last week Steven and Lily and I encountered a relatively small rattler about a mile or so out on Ophir. It makes me nervous for Lily who is often off leash out there. How curious/cautious is she?
    Adrenaline + thin air---IWWD.