Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

July 12, 2013

NOLS Outdoor Educator Backpacking Course

I'm headed off for a another adventure with the National Outdoor Leadership School.  This time it is a backpacking and rock climbing course in the Wind River range near Lander, Wyoming.  I'll be off the grid now for a few weeks, but hope to come back with lots of stories and photos.   This will be the longest backpacking trip I've ever taken so should be a blast!

July 11, 2013

Red Bull X-Alps 2013

The most amazing competition in the paragliding world is happening right now.  31 athletes are racing 1000 kilometers across the Alps from Austria to Monaco.    If they can't fly, they hike.    When they get too tired to hike, they keep hiking...or hope to get a break and launch again!   Everyone hopes to be the first one to land off the coast of Monaco, in 16 days or less.

The race only takes place every two years, and this is the sixth edition.  It seems to just keep getting longer, and harder. although there are mandatory rest periods at night so at least the tired athletes get to sleep!

Follow the competition here.  Every athlete carries a live tracking device so you can see them flying in real time.   Watch out, you may get addicted!   http://www.redbullxalps.com/live-tracking.html

And for the record, someday I want to participate in the X-Alps.  I love the idea of such a challenge.  Is this a pipe dream?  Maybe...but look for my entry in a couple of years....  :)

July 10, 2013

Time Lapse Video from NOLS Wilderness EMT Course

Last month I was up in Lander, Wyoming for a month-long wilderness EMT course, through NOLS and the Wilderness Medicine Institute.  While I'm not sure if I want to actually work on an ambulance (I can imagine myself fainting), I do think it's great training in case the unexpected happens out in the backcountry.

Here's a video I made of some of the time-lapse photos I took while in the course.   There were such great skies I could help but shoot the clouds!

July 8, 2013

Crater Lake NP and Garfield Peak Trail

We were on the road for my birthday, so my present was this beautiful view on a gorgeous sunny day overlooking Crater Lake in Oregon.   After a week of paragliding competitions I was feeling a little tired, so we picked a nice but not too strenuous hike up to Garfield Peak overlooking the rim of the lake.  If you can call Crater Lake, a lake.  After all, it's the deepest lake in the United States, and turns this really amazing deep shade of blue when the sun shines on the water.

Although it was early July, there was still snow at the visitor center on the rim, and lots more on the trail up to the peak.  The Garfield Peak trail climbs about 1000 feet in less than a couple of miles, but it never seemed too steep or difficult.  I guess that depends on your state of mind, but considering the tough hiking I did in the Wasatch of Utah around Lone Peak a few weeks before, this felt easy.  Plus there were great views to distract us...the trail runs along the rim with enticing views of the water's edge below us.  Although it's impossible to get down to the water's edge given the steepness of the cliffs everywhere.  Just the color of the water was enough to make the hike worth it.

It was amazingly hot even in the morning as we climbed to the top.  There was some record breaking heat in the West this week, and rather than shiver while staring at the lake (which is normal) we sweltered in minimal clothing while sledding down the leftover snowdrifts.  Supposedly, Crater Lake gets 45 feet of snow every winter.  45 FEET!  That's rather insane, and no wonder there were a few roads still closed in July from snowdrifts.

The out-and-back trail up to the Peak is only just over 3 miles, so a couple of nice hours of hiking before the car lured us back for some cold drinks in our cooler and a little AC.   Let me just say, that I love the heat...I've missed out on feeling really summer for a few years while living in the UK.  Bring on the sunshine and sweltering!

July 7, 2013

Prairie Creek Redwoods and Fern Canyon

Yup.  We were supposed to be at the Rat Race Paragliding competition, but when it rains, there is no flying.  And such a huge rain event came in that we actually lost almost 4 days of paragliding in the 7 day event.  That's why the events are so long...weather can be a fickle thing sometimes.

So instead of boo-hooing about the rain, we drive out to the Oregon coast, where rain and fog are sort of normal anyway, although the downpours did try and test our resolve.  We did some sight-seeing and hiking on the coast and in the redwoods.   The rain sort of petered out on the last afternoon, and we got in a nice long hike in Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park, on the northern California coast.

There are plenty of trails in the park, meandering through the tall redwoods tree groves.   Even the scenic drive through the park off Highway 101 was amazing.   We choose to do a 11 mile loop taking in the James Irvine, Fern Canyon, and Miner's Ridge trails.   The circuitous route meandered deep into the redwoods, in what some say is the best redwood trail in the area.  We certainly saw plenty of redwoods, including some really monstrous ones.  In the deep woods, there were no bugs, no wind, just a deep, damp calm.  It was really quiet and peaceful.  Even a few scattered raindrops had to fall so far through the tree limbs that we barely felt them.

The trail was amazing, winding up and down and around fallen tree limbs, while relentlessly also heading towards the distant ocean (which we couldn't see or hear until we were really close to it).  The wide trail made us look really small, especially when compared to the trees.  Our camera couldn't really capture the largeness of our surroundings with out the perspective of our tiny selves in the photo...otherwise it just looked like a normal forest.  Until you notice the little person way at the bottom.

Halfway around the loop we found the crown jewel of the trail, called Fern Canyon.  The trail drops to the bottom of the narrow canyon, where ferns grow on the sheer cliffs in abundance.  Tiny wooden planks helped us cross the creek multiple times, and we wondered how the makeshift bridges never got washed away.   But mostly we were looking up at the green, ferny walls closing in on us.

At the end of the canyon were the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean.  And a couple of tame looking elk, which paid us no mind as we hiked by them.   We stopped for a picnic near the beach, although the water was still far away from us.

We were feeling kinda lazy and almost considered begging a ride back around the grove to our car, but in the end hoofed it back through the redwoods again.  Which of course were amazing and worth every tired step to walk through again.  The return route was more on the ridge, but honestly most of the time the trail was so curvy and twisty that I had no idea where we were or which direction we were heading in the quiet trees.  I just trusted the trail signs to get us back to the trailhead again.   If I had stepped off the trail without marking the direction I had come from, the whole forest was so featureless that we might still be lost out there wondering where we were.  (Yes, mom, I had a compass in my bag just in case!)

An amazing hike in an area with many great trails.  I would really recommend Fern Canyon (and you can drive around the headland to get there if you don't want to hike the long way through the groves first).


July 6, 2013

Rat Race Paragliding Competition: Task #3

Whew.  It's hot.   A third task for the Rat Race, and our last day of competition was a scorcher.   The shade tent at launch was a popular place, until it was time to take our group picture.   Flying suits were left on the ground today, and even light layers were warm enough for climbing into higher altitudes in the high temperatures.  
Our third task seemed tough.  Up and over the hills to the south, then back to launch and over to a landing at Longsword Winery.  Everyone wanted to land there because a free glass of wine always sounds enticing after a nice flight!  

The Race group took off first as usual for their longer task.  They formed a beautiful gaggle in a thermal overhead, circling like vultures over a particularly tasty morsel.   When the start gate opened for them, they streamed out in a line on their way to a stellar flight.  

The Sprint group window opened just then, and I got busy setting up my equipment.  I was borrowing another vario from the Flymaster dealer, so my flight deck actually looked really professional with all the electronics strewn across it.   Conditions were a little light as we started off, but we all managed to get high in time for the start gate.  This time a big group of us took off together, and I was in good company as they streamed out ahead of me.  And then they showed me where the thermals were.   Yay.  

The advice from the pros in this sport is always simple.  Get high, then stay high.  For the first time, today I was actually able to do that, soaring in strong thermals up to almost 8,000 feet, where the trees below me started to look smaller and less scary.  Over the highest peak, I was able to climb to my highest elevation of the day, which made the furthest turnpoint seem really easy to reach.   Wings were circling below me but I made it over the valley easily and back to the hills.  Ok, so I was getting lower by that time, but instead of desperately circling in the weak lift, I sort of surfed the ridgeline back up to the higher spots.  Then a booming thermal took me back up to where the clouds would have been if there had been any in the blue sky.  One other pilot in a blue wing was circling up with me, with him hooting and hollering in the strong lift taking us higher and higher.  

From there, it was easy to get back to launch.  One more thermal up, and I had the LZ on glide.  No, I didn't really care about my speed, so I did a few extra circles in lift anyway, and came over the finish circle with thousands of feet of extra elevation.  YAY, I FINALLY MADE GOAL!!!!!    
Since I had height to play with, it gave me time to go fly around a little more without any stress.   Then I celebrated with about 40 deep spiral turns, which is the best part of paragliding (for me, anyway).   Landing at the winery was a busy place, with wings balled up all over the place and the hot sun beating down.  Everyone was ecstatic that they had made goal, many of them like me, for the first time ever in a competition.  

The final awards ceremony was that evening.   I was happy to come third again for the day in the women's category.   Even more awesome, I came in second overall in the Sprint Women's category!  (For those of you who are slightly confused by how I placed higher in the overall than I ever did on a single day, there is only one word for it:  consistency.  A few of the women who beat me must have done really well on one day, and then not so well the other days.)  Although the woman in first place, Julie Spiegler, made goal and came first every day, beating me by a country mile.   The prizes were some really beautiful glass vases, very cool!

The last days results and the overall RESULTS ARE HERE.

Landing at the Winery