Yesterday I went for a run up near Snoqualmie Pass in the Cascade Mountains, about an hour from our house. I’ve been trying to prepare for doing a 50k (an official, unaccidental 50k, that is).
I did a loop that I’d first heard about from a friend of mine several years back. You run past a series of the lakes, across a number of boulder fields, and then descend down at the rate of about 700 or so feet per mile to another trailhead. You complete the loop by running an easy 3 miles along a road.
I’d gotten a late start. Kris had to attend a meeting at R’s school, so I didn’t leave until nearly 2 pm. This would give me about five hours of daylight, which should have been plenty for a seventeen mile run, right?
The climb up to Melakwa Lake was quite a bit tougher than I remembered. It was steady, occasionally steeper, and often across rocks, rendering the footing iffy. You climb a bit over 2000 feet until reaching the lake basin. I stopped to check out the lake and refill my water bottle from it. Not a soul in sight, just the sounds of birds and wind.
The turn to Lower Tuscohatchie Lake is takes you to a trail that’s occasionally difficult to follow. A couple of times I had to reassure myself that I’d be able to survive a night up here if I got lost. The description from the trail running book I used (50 Trail Runs in Western Washington by Mike McQuaide) told me to follow the sound of the creek, which turned out to be perfect advice. Soon the trial opened up onto a steep green hillside, with a beautiful view of the mountains to the north, above a valley. This is one of the reasons I’d rather spend summers in the Northwest than anywhere else. I ran about a half mile or so along Lower Tuscohatchie Lake, and then found a connector trail that took me to over to Pratt Lake.
I’d run out to Pratt Lake a couple of weeks before, and so was prepared for the challenging climb up out of its basin, and across a couple of boulder fields. By then, I was feeling pretty tired, and was ready to begin descending. I was so focused that the crest out of the basin snuck up on me, and suddenly I was heading down.
Several times along the four and a half mile descent, I thought I’d trip over one of the many roots and rocks along the way. It just felt too good to make the easier progress going down though. About a mile from the trailhead I did it – caught a rock, and ended up sprawled out across the trail. I checked myself, and found that I’d only sustained a couple of bumps and scrapes, so kept going.
The harder part came after exiting the trail and running the steady climb along the three mile road taking me back to the car. I was so ready to be done, but there was no getting around it. I guess this is why they usually tell you to start with this part, but I’d left it for the end, in the event I was running out of daylight (better to run a road in the dark than the trail).
I got back to my car about four and a half hours after starting – a bit slower than I’d hoped for. But that’s the thing about running in the mountains. It takes as long as it takes, and there aren’t many shortcuts.
What a day for a run!