I have a great opportunity next week to run the famous Wonderland Trail (93 miles/23,000 of elevation gain and 23,000 feet of elevation loss), around Mt. Rainier, in two days. The run (or more accurately-run/hike) will take place Tuesday and Wednesday (August 4-5).
This is something that I am really excited to do...the Wonderland Trail fast.
Why would I want to do this?
A moment in time-the planting of the seed #1: I remember a long time ago (early 80's I suppose), I was hiking the Wonderland Trail with my family. A man trotted past us, and as he did so, he mentioned to us that he was doing the complete Wonderland Trail in only a few days. I remember how I was so blown away at the fact that he was doing such a improbable feat! I was very impressed but didn't consider for a moment it to be possible for me to do something like that. Somehow, I never let go of that image of him moving past us with barely any belongings, moving quickly, while we were walking slowly with large, back straining, packs. Witnessing this moment, forever changed my view of human limits and the huge expanse one can cover on ones feet in a short period of time.
The adventures of my life-The planting of the seed #2: My parents have taken me, from an early age, to the mountains of the Cascades to explore the wilderness. Some of our most memorable adventures have been hiking on the Wonderland Trail and on the trails around Mount Baker, close to my childhood home of Bellingham, Washington.
After high school, the seeds of exploration and adventure grew to include rock climbing. Climbing and the exploring for new cliffs and boulders consumed me for much of my early adult life. Be it on towering mountains, athletic sport crags or powerful boulders, I climbed, climbed and climbed some more.
Climbing is the reason I moved to the southwest and found my home in Flagstaff, Arizona. The long winters of rain and snow was too much for me. I wanted to climb year round on world class stone. In Flagstaff, I could.
In the last few years, I started to look for more. I had climbed many of the routes that inspired me and I was having to search more and more for new climbing areas (I was never one to sit around an repeat routes all day). I needed more new adventures.
Running, trail running to be exact, was the answer. I crept up on me, but after a few years of doing it and getting in better shape to do bigger runs, I was realizing that there was BIG adventure and exploration in trail running. Especially in the mountains and desert canyons of the west. I was able to travel lighter, cover huge amounts of wilderness, and feel more free and at home than with anything I had done before.
I still love to climb and I always will. Climbing is now a part of me, of who I am. But trail running...that is something completely different and NEW. It is where I find my real adventure at this moment. It is where I test my true limits.
The final straw-the planting of the seed #3: This summer, my mom told me about a video about an attempt to run the Wonderland Trail in less than 24 hours. I watched it and was immediately inspired. Here was another example of how it is possible to do the Wonderland Trail fast. From the moment the video ended, I was thinking about how cool it would be to do the Wonderland Trail again. I didn't think I would have a chance at doing it in 24 hours in my present conditioning, but I did know that I could do it fast, none the less. It was on...I had another run to add to the list of sick runs I would like to do. Maybe this summer...
It all played out well and I found some tickets a couple weeks ago that would be in my price range. I purchased them and sealed the deal. I was committed now. An attempt was going to happen. Who would have thought that something I witnessed, on some random hike, when I was a kid would have such a lasting impression and now I am going to attempt that feat that I thought was so impossible.
The plan: Grant it, I would love to do it as a single push (that is always my ideal) but this trip is going to be a recon mission. I will be doing it in two days (hard enough!) but I will be camping half way through. I really don't want to push it to hard by traveling at night on a trail that I don't remember very well. It would suck to get lost or go the wrong way when I would be so far out from help. The two days of daylight travel and camping in the middle will allow me to move fast and really, really light during the day and get a good night sleep so I can get a fast time in and also enjoy it a bit. I am going to save a single push attempt for some day down the road after I have gotten a better feel for the trail.
For those who like to look at the map and figure out where I am starting, camping, etc...I will be starting at Box Canyon, traveling about 45 miles and then camping at Mowich Lake. The next day I will travel about 45 miles and finish again at Box Canyon. In the end it is about 93 miles with about 23,000 feet of elevation gain and 23,000 feet of elevation loss, completely on trails, with only 3 or 4 access points for support or to bail, in one of the most beautiful trails in the world!!! Sweeeetttt!