Quantifying Hiking and Running Part 1

For the last eight years (2012-2019), I’ve been keeping tracking of my daily steps and miles using a pedometer.  I realize there are better gadgets to do this: Fitbits, watches, and phones that will do this job with more data and better graphics. I like to “roll my own” and I thought I would write up what I have been doing. I welcome constructive feedback; my goal is to maintain and improve my fitness as I age through data analysis.

I record my mileage data daily and analyze my results weekly, monthly and yearly.  Here is a link to my monthly and yearly mileage data in a Google Sheets file. In Table 1, I want to look at my mileage results on a yearly basis; I’ve also included my age. I can see that my mileage increased significantly after 2013, one reason for this is a greater emphasis on hiking and running. I can also see a drop in yearly mileage in 2016; this was due to some medical problems that required surgery, I had some months were I couldn’t exercise very much. In 2017 and 2018 I was training for ultra marathons and had increased my annual mileage. I find having yearly goals, such as races or long distance hikes, motivates me.

Table 1: Yearly Mileage
Year Miles Age
2019 3174 61
2018 3387 60
2017 3286 59
2016 2754 58
2015 3117 57
2014 3008 56
2013 2634 55
2012 2470 54

Here’s a summary of the mileage I’ve done month by month. Table 2 provides a monthly view of my mileage.

Table 2: Monthly Mileage
Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
2019 301 241 289 242 238 250 273 269 276 280 274 242 3174
2018 318 271 315 252 304 315 272 338 229 301 240 232 3387
2017 256 296 298 259 286 295 288 283 214 291 281 240 3286
2016 187 188 193 215 206 225 238 267 267 305 269 194 2754
2015 245 258 260 244 266 281 247 306 255 250 237 269 3117
2014 224 211 239 206 212 253 282 302 265 267 275 273 3008
2013 210 190 208 229 243 238 256 220 221 209 199 211 2634
2012 147 201 184 192 242 238 245 190 200 213 202 214 2470
Mean 236 232 248 230 249 262 263 272 241 264 247 234 2951

For example, in the first three months of 2016 my mileage was lower than usual, these were months when I was recovering from surgery. Looking at the monthly mileage data, a high mileage month for me has been greater than 300 miles. For each month, I have computed the mean monthly mileage. My mileage tends to be lower in the shorter winter and early spring (December through April); the most likely cause is the dreary Pacific Northwest winters I manage to slog through each year. There are some exceptions such as 2018 when I was training for a 100 miler in the winter and 2019 when I spent time in South America during the winter.

Another way I like to view the monthly mileage data is a cumulative view. Table 3 shows the cumulative monthly data over the course of a year.

Table 3: Cumulative Monthly Mileage
Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2019 301 542 831 1073 1311 1561 1833 2102 2378 2658 2932 3174
2018 318 589 903 1155 1459 1774 2047 2385 2614 2915 3155 3387
2017 256 553 850 1109 1395 1690 1978 2261 2474 2765 3047 3286
2016 187 375 569 783 989 1214 1452 1719 1986 2291 2560 2754
2015 245 502 762 1006 1272 1553 1800 2106 2362 2612 2849 3117
2014 224 435 674 880 1092 1345 1627 1929 2194 2460 2735 3008
2013 210 400 607 837 1079 1317 1573 1793 2014 2223 2422 2634
2012 147 348 532 724 966 1205 1450 1640 1840 2053 2256 2470

The sum of all the yearly mileage is 23,831 miles over 96 months or 248 miles per month. Now, how does this compare to my goal performance?

In 2014, I decided to set a goal of 3000 miles in a year. A yearly goal of 3000 miles works out to an average of 250 miles per month or 8.22 miles per day. Before that, I had goals but they were haphazard. Here are my monthly goals for each year (adjusted for leap years.

Table 4: Cumulative Goal Monthly Mileage
Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2019 255 485 740 986 1241 1488 1743 1997 2244 2499 2745 3000
2018 255 485 740 986 1241 1488 1743 1997 2244 2499 2745 3000
2017 255 485 740 986 1241 1488 1743 1997 2244 2499 2745 3000
2016 255 493 748 995 1249 1496 1751 2006 2252 2507 2754 3009
2015 255 485 740 986 1241 1488 1743 1997 2244 2499 2745 3000
2014 255 485 740 986 1241 1488 1743 1997 2244 2499 2745 3000
2013 255 485 740 986 1241 1488 1743 1997 2244 2499 2745 3000
2012 255 493 748 995 1249 1496 1751 2006 2252 2507 2754 3009

Once I had my goal and actual monthly mileage, I can compute the difference. A negative number indicates that I am less than my goal. Figure 1 shows the cumulative difference from goal over eight years.

Figure 1 shows five trends that are significant to me.

  1. January, 2012 to May, 2014 there is a negative slope: every month my actual monthly mileage was generally less than my goal of 250 miles per month./li>
  2. June, 2014 to December, 2015 the slope is mostly positive; my actual miles were greater than my goal of 250 miles per month.
  3. January to July, 2016 the slope is again negative; this is the period of time when I was recovering from surgery.
  4. mid-2016 until the end of 2018 I have been (mostly) exceeding my goal of 250 miles per month; the slope is positive with a few wintertime plateaus.
  5. For 2019, the slope is still positive but not as steep, I haven’t been traing for ultra marathons; only a trail marathon and lots of hiking

Keeping track of my monthly mileage difference from goal provides me some useful month to month feedback. Of course, I am motivated by numerical metrics; not everyone is. I have discovered there is a quantified self community; that discovery came just a few years ago. I welcome feedback from everyone. It’s good to learn from others!

I find that this feedback, along with yearly specific hiking or running goals such as run a 100 mile race or hike the Appalachian Trail (a 2020 goal) keep me on track and motivated.

In part 2, I will add my daily and weekly hiking and running goals and tracking methods.

Book Review Army of None: by Paul Scharre

Book Review Army of None: Autonomous Weapons and the Future of War by Paul Scharre (reviewed 8 July 2019)

We are witnessing the evolution of autonomous technologies in our world. As in much of technological evolution, military needs drive much of this development. Peter Scharre has done a remarkable job to explain autonomous technologies and how military establishment embrace autonomy: past, present and future. A critical question: “Would a robot know when it is lawful to kill, but wrong?”

Let me jump to Scharre’s conclusion first: “Machines can do many things, but they cannot create meaning. They cannot answer these questions for us. Machines cannot tell us what we value, what choices we should make. The world we are creating is one that will have intelligent machines in it, but it is not for them. It is a world for us.” The author has done a remarkable job to explain what an autonomous world might look like.

Scharre spends considerable time to define and explain autonomy, here’s a cogent summary:

  • “Autonomy encompasses three distinct concepts: the type of task the machine is performing; the relationship of the human to the machine when performing that task; and the sophistication of the machine’s decision-making when performing the task. This means there are three different dimensions of autonomy. These dimensions are independent, and a machine can be “more autonomous” by increasing the amount of autonomy along any of these spectrums.”

These two quotes summarize some concerns about make autonomous systems fail-safe. (Spoiler alert: it can’t be done…)

  • “Failures may be unlikely, but over a long enough timeline they are inevitable. Engineers refer to these incidents as “normal accidents” because their occurrence is inevitable, even normal, in complex systems. “Why would autonomous systems be any different?” Borrie asked. The textbook example of a normal accident is the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant meltdown in 1979.”
  • “In 2017, a group of scientific experts called JASON tasked with studying the implications of AI for the Defense Department came to a similar conclusion. After an exhaustive analysis of the current state of the art in AI, they concluded: [T]he sheer magnitude, millions or billions of parameters (i.e. weights/biases/etc.), which are learned as part of the training of the net . . . makes it impossible to really understand exactly how the network does what it does. Thus the response of the network to all possible inputs is unknowable.”

Here are several passages capturing the future of autnomy. I’m trying to summarize a lot of the author’s work into just a few quotes:

  • “Artificial general intelligence (AGI) is a hypothetical future AI that would exhibit human-level intelligence across the full range of cognitive tasks. AGI could be applied to solving humanity’s toughest problems, including those that involve nuance, ambiguity, and uncertainty.”
  • ““intelligence explosion.” The concept was first outlined by I. J. Good in 1964: Let an ultraintelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man however clever. Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultraintelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an “intelligence explosion,” and the intelligence of man would be left far behind. Thus the first ultraintelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make, provided that the machine is docile enough to tell us how to keep it under control.” (This is also known as the Technological Singularity)
  • “Hybrid human-machine cognitive systems, often called “centaur warfighters” after the classic Greek myth of the half-human, half-horse creature, can leverage the precision and reliability of automation without sacrificing the robustness and flexibility of human intelligence.”

In summary, “Army of None” is well worth reading to gain an understanding of how autonomous technologies impact our world, now and in the future.

Bryce Canyon 100 – Fail forward

“Focus on how far you’ve come from the starting line;
not the distance to the finish.”

I ran the Bryce Canyon 100 race on 1-2 June 2018.   My reason for trying this are to overcome the physical and mental challenges of a 100 mile run… while enjoying the journey.  I’m a 60 year old runner; quite content to run slow and steady at the back of the pack. My goal for this race was to be DFL (Dead Flipping Last) but finish. This was my second attempt at covering 100 miles; I ended up running 81 miles.  I learned a lot about myself and running, here’s my story.

Preparation
I’ve been doing trail running since 2016. I have previously done 50 km and 50 mile mountain runs along with a lot of hiking experience. My previous 100 mile shot had been to run 69 miles at the Badger Mountain Challenge in March, 2018. Coming into Bryce 100, I had learned a number of lessons from my Badger Mountain 100 experience:

  1.  Importance of electrolytes – used a 1/2 electrolyte, 1/2 water mixture
  2.  Dealing with blisters early – pre-taped my heels
  3. Keeping up with nutrition – especially after 50 miles
  4. Increase my vertical training – more mountain runs

For the Bryce Canyon race, at every aid station I used a 1/2 electrolyte, 1/2 water mixture to fill my 1.5 liter bladder in my pack. Also, I would eat a little solid food at each stop.  I should mention that I have achalasia; this disease makes it challenging for me to swallow.  I need to take extra time eating and drinking.

Since the Bryce 100 is at high altitude (7000 to 9500 feet) I knew that acclimation was important. In addition, I wanted to acclimate to the dry heat and cold nights. I spent five days prior to the race at the North Rim of the Grand canyon, camping and hiking at 8900 feet.  Since I had rolled an ankle about 3 weeks before the race on one of my mountain runs, I wanted to do a shakedown, so my friend Brenda and I hiked the Grand Canyon rim to rim four days before the race. (Yes, I know that’s a strange way to taper….)

Race Day
I started the Bryce 100 with my friend Roger. We were up at 0345, had some coffee and a little food.start

The race started in the dark at 0500. It was nice and cool, Roger and I joined the back of the pack. We ran slow on the downhills and walked the uphill sections. We reached the Blubber Creek aid station, 12 miles out,  at mid-morning. Here we earned a bonus mile, since we both walked past the well-signed turn while sending out text messages to update our status. We realized our error after about 10 minutes. We backtracked to the correct turn and got back on the course.

 

We were running along the Paunsaugunt Plateau, with lots of beautiful geology to see. This was one of the most scenic runs I’d ever done. Roger and I went through several more aid stations together as we climbed higher in the heat of the day.

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Roger running south on Paunsaugunt Plateau

We reached the Pink Cliffs aid station at mile 29.5 (9400 feet) in the early afternoon. This was a great aid station: enthusiastic volunteers, good food, and a phenomenal view of southern Utah and northern Arizona. This was ourturnaround point on the course, now we would head north again.

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View from Pink Cliffs, I’m ready to tackle some more miles.

I did a rest and refuel. Roger showed up and was feeling dismal; he was being affected by a cold. We decided to split up at this point and I continued on the pleasant downhill sections.

As I ran and walked uphills, I had an interesting conversation with Paul, a fellow engineer from the Bay area. I felt pretty decent as I arrived at the Mile 39 aid station, although I did have to force myself to have some electrolytes and food.  I headed north in the late afternoon; along the way chatting with Marcelo from Florida. I reached the Blubber Creek aid station (mile 47) near dusk. I had a problem with my headlamp, couldn’t seem to get it to provide white light; only green or blue.  I switched to my backup headlamp and trudged on into the growing darkness.

The next few sections were lots of uphill slogging in the dark alternating with some roads. I did run into a couple of runners in this section who were stopped but said they were OK. The trail was very well-marked. I was behind schedule a bit, there was a cutoff at mile 53 (Grim Reaper) which I made with an hour to spare. On the road before the Blue Fly aid station, I ran and walked with Justin from North Carolina.  The last section up to the Blue Fly aid station felt brutal. I was surprised to pass a few people.

Reached the Blue Fly aid station (mile 57) at 1 AM. I changed my clothes here and refueled. I was ahead of the cutoff and feeling a bit down. It was very tempting to stop here BUT the aid station workers were very positive and encouraging.   I left Blue Fly moving slow and steady.

On the road, it was getting cold and I was glad I had some warm gloves. I felt pretty decent although I was occasionally having some double vision. This seems to happen to me after about 20 hours of exercise. I’d experienced it before. I also had a few mild hallucinations, for example, what I thought was an owl on the ground turned out to be a reflective marker. Around mile 61, a volunteer riding on an ATV checked on me. I told him I was OK and would just keep going. He had another runner on the back who must have dropped on the road.

Came into the mile 65 aid station at 4 AM. There were four volunteers here from the Gnarly Hydrate product. They fed me broth and electrolyte. I warmed up here and recharged from the positive energy of these aid station volunteers. When I was leaving, another runner came in; she was very cold and said she might drop. I decided it was time to leave and push on towards mile 73.  Started out on more roads, through a ranch road as the sun came up. I had to stop to deal with chafing and take my blood pressure medication. I still had a bit of double vision but kept moving. I crossed into a burned forest and was feeling pretty terrible about mile 71. At that point I came across Marcelo and we walked into the mile 73 aid station together. Marcelo gave me a good lift in spirits along with some nice encouragement from the aid station captain.

Departed about 0745 for the Thunder Mountain section of the race. It was beautiful, with lots of the characteristic geology of Bryce Canyon.  This was a gradual climb up followed by a long descent. At around mile 75, I had a bout of diarrhea and was feeling blah. I forced myself to drink electrolytes. At this point, some of the 50 mile runners were passing me; many had encouraging remarks. Also, began to hallucinate a bit more. I would see people that looking like they were working near the trail. When I got closer the people turned into tree stumps! Had one more bout of diarrhea and decided I better ask my friends to meet me at mile 80. Slowly slogged down beautiful Thunder Mountain, my thought was: “Just keep moving.”

My friend Linda hiked up to mile 79 and walked with me into the Mile 80 aid station. I was abit out of it, for example, forgot to use my sunscreen but luckily Linda caught that. I started seeing some other 100 milers on the trail heading back to the finish.  I hit the chair and thought about whether to continue.  Discussed my options with my friends Brenda, Linda, and Roger. I still had some “gas in the tank” but the bouts of diarrhea were dismal. I decided I was done.  Could I have gone on? Yes, I think I had at least 5 more miles left in me. Do I regret stopping? Nope, I learned much and have decided I’ll try another 100 next year with some better preparation.

 

Recovery
After the run, had a nice shower at the Bryce Canyon general store, followed by some salad, coffee, and ice cream. After that, we went to the Best Western in Cedar City, Utah for a couple of days. The highlight was the hot tub and free breakfast… each day I had first and second breakfast. I recovered very well, I was able to go hike at Cedar Breaks with the gang the next day.

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Brenda, me, Linda and Roger at Cedar Breaks the day after the Bryce 100
  • What Went Well
    • Help form my friends
    • Acclimation to altitude, cold, and heat
    • Hill work to get ready
    • Pretape known blister areas
    • Use of electrolyte (Tailwind and Gnarly)
    • Ankle recovery – glad I did Rim to Rim Grand Canyon shakedown
    • Use of Avenza map software especially at night
    • Controlled most chafing
    • Sun protection (long sleeve shirt, hat with drape, gloves)
    • Attitude – mostly positive
    • Great aid stations (especially miles 29.5, 57, 65, and 73)
  • Things to Improve
    • Too slow, need to train to go a little faster
    • Sometimes attitude was down
    • Better head lamp
    • Diarrhea
    • Pacer plan

Acknowledgements
While we run a race like this alone; we don’t get to the starting line alone. First, my wife Mary Ellen put up with my crazy training for this race, never would have got there without her. My friend Roger had the inspiration to propose the Bryce 100; I was glad I said yes.  I did lots of training and adventures with Roger and Linda. Learned a lot about ultrarunning from my friend Jeff; he provided both basic knowledge and inspiration the last few years. My friend Mark provided me some valuable advice after the Badger 100, especially about nutrition and electrolytes. Brenda joined me in acclimating before the run and some post-race adventures; she was crazy enough to take off for 17 days in the Southwest.  Finally, my inspiring brother Gerard who said: “Focus on how far you’ve come from the starting line – not the distance to the finish.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Railroad Grade hike 14 August 2018

Railroad Grade is a hike that skirts the lateral moraine of the Easton glacier of Mount Baker. This was my first hike with the SnoKing Happy Hikers group; my friend Brenda introduced me to this fun group.  The route starts with a walk in the woods and then a stream crossing on the trail to Park Butte. Luckily, the bridge was in place! After a few miles of walking, there’s an intersection; we turned upward on Railroad Grade. After about a mile of climbing, we took a side trail to the shaded High Camp area where I had nice lunch with Carol, Brenda and Ed.  We saw lots of nature: marmots, butterflies and lots of intriguing plants.

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Route up Railroad Grade (purple) recorded by Gaia navigation app, plotted using CalTopo
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Happy Hikers ascending Railroad Grade
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Siesta view of Mount Baker from High Camp

After lunch and a siesta, Brenda and I continued up to the trail to the climbers camp at 5800 feet. We explored this alpine, rocky area. We scrambled up the rocks alongside the glacier; I eventually went up to about 6400 feet while Brenda decided to stay a bit lower. We saw lots of climbers, many of them practicing climbing skills on Easton glacier. After a few hours up high, we descended down to the high camp area for dinner. We then decided to walk out. We had a little navigation challenge after crossing the bridge but after a few minutes we spotted the trail into the woods and out to the car. This was a great first hike with the Happy Hikers,  a group I hope to do many more hikes with.

As I often do, I made a number of naturalist observationsiNat20180814

Alpine Lakes Grand Tour 2-7 August 2018

The best challenges help one grow physically, mentally, and emotionally.  The Alpine Lakes Grand Tour challenged me in all these dimensions. My friends Linda, Roger and I set out to do this tour from the Snow Lake trailhead near Snoqualmie Pass to the Snow Lake trailhead near Leavenworth. We estimated this as a 134 km (83 mile) hike, including about 31 km (19 miles) through the Enchantments region of the Alpine Lakes Wilderness  of Washington state. The elevation gain was 7,897 meters (25,910 feet) and elevation loss was 7,555 meters (24,787 feet)

IMG_20180807_082754z

We started this trip at 8 AM on Thursday 2 August and finished at 1215 AM on 8 August; a total time of 136 hours and 15 minutes. We originally planned this as a 5 day trip, about half way through we needed to add an extra day.

AlpineLakeGTroute
Alpine Grand Lakes Tour route (link to CalTopo map)

Daily Itinerary and highlights

  1.   20.6 km (12.8 mi)  Gain 1,053 m (3,455 ft)  Loss 1,151 m (3,776 ft)
    (Snow Lake, camp at Hardscrabble Creek)
  2.   20.1 km (12.5 mi)  Gain   955 m (3,133 ft)  Loss 1,092 m (3,583 ft)
    (bushwhack to Dutch Miller Gap, Lake Ivanhoe, camp on PCT above Waptus Lake)
  3.   21.5 km (13.4 mi)  Gain   898 m (2,946 ft)  Loss    943 m (3,094 ft)
    (Cathedral Pass, camp at Paddy Go Easy trailhead)
  4.   23.4 km (14.5 mi)  Gain  1,335 m (4,380 ft)  Loss 1,703 m (5,587 ft)
    (Paddy Go Easy pass, Meadow creek trail, Jack Ridge, camp at Trout Lake)
  5.   18.1 km (11.2 mi)  Gain  1,377 m (4,518 ft)  Loss 1,019 m (3,343 ft)
    (Windy Pass, camp mear Stuart Colchuck trailhead)
  6.   30.3 km (18.8 mi)  Gain  2,279 m (7,477 ft)  Loss 1,647 m (5,404 ft)
    (Asgaard Pass, Enchantments upper basin)
    Total stats
    134 km (83.3 mi)  Gain  7,897 m (25,909 ft)  Loss 7,555 m (24,787 ft)

Physically, this was a challenging backpacking trip.  There were lots of up and down.  (I’ll add a map and elevation profile once I process my GPS recordings.)  The first two days, I was experiencing nausea and fatigue, these were side effects of receiving a shingles vaccination the day before we started the trio. Also, my backpacking style is old school with almost no ultralight equipment.  I started out with a pack weight of 18 kg (39 pounds).

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One big lesson learned is to convert myself to ultralight backpacking. Lucky for me Roger and Linda are experts that can help me.

Mentally, this trip let me explore the flora and fauna of the Cascade mountains. The more I observe, the more I want to know.  This quote is often on my mind: “Each one of us adds a little to our understanding of Nature, and from all the facts assembled arises a certain grandeur.” – Aristotle as quoted by Bradford Washburn.

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Shasta Fern (Polystichum lemmonii) on Paddy Go Easy Pass

Emotionally, there were some ups and downs for me. The first couple of days I felt awful, seriously thought of turning around and walking back out.  I think my ultrarunning experience gave me some added emotional resilience to keep going.  Also, when we decided we needed another day on the trail, there were some challenges communication the delay to my wife. Eventually, I was pretty certain I got a text message out. Also, I asked a couple of folks driving away from  trailheads along the way to call her, happy to say that both of them did this!

There were some real ups as well, such as looking back from slogging up Asgaard Pass and seeing beautiful Colchuck Lake or sauntering trough the wildflowers on the Meadow Creek trail. It made me appreciate my place in the Universe.

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Colchuck Lake from Asgaard Pass
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wildflowers on the Meadow Creek trail

Many thanks to the  designer of this excellent 2018 UltraPedestrian Wilderness Challenge route  and for Linda and Roger putting up with my grumpiness when I was sick the first couple of days.

 

Easy Pass UPWC 28-29 July 2018

With a name like Easy Pass, it must be easy… perhaps in a relative sense.

Summary

On 28 July 2018 I set out with my friends Linda, Roger and Rob on my third UltraPedestrian Wilderness Challenge EasyPass.  We fastpacked the route, starting at Easy Pass trailhead and camping overnight at Junction camp. We finished the next day at Colonial Creek campground. My elapsed time was 28 hours 51 minutes. Overall, it was a wonderful 40 km trip, despite hot weather and a plethora of flies.

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Easy Pass to Colonial Creek Route

Easy Pass route

Details

We set out from the Easy Pass trail at 8:01 AM on 28 July.

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Intrepid UltraPedestrians John, Linda, Roger and Rob

Our route up the Easy Pass Trail climbed up steeply for about 6 km, until we reached  2100 meter Easy Pass. Near the top, there was an observation camera from the Cascade Carnivores project; situated to look for wolverines, martens and other rare carnivores.

After a nice rest and a bit of exploring at Easy Pass, we headed down switchbacks  into Fischer Basin. During the day, I made more than 40 botanical observations.  This entire section had some spectacular views.

 

Had a nice brekky and some great views of the mountains.  Around 8 Am, we started descending down the Thunder Creek trail. The forest ecology during the descent was quite different and I made about 30 botanical observations on 29 July.

 

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Thunder Creek was raging

 

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Forest ecology on Thunder Creek trail

I was out at the Colonial Creek trailhead at 12:51 PM, elapsed time was 28 hours 51 minutes.  Overall, this was a great two day fastpack trip and another fun UltraPedestrian Wilderness Challenge. Not running allowed me to observe the ecology closely while enjoying the company of three excellent companions. Next UPWC trio is

Lessons Learned

  1.  First time using Gaia app on my phone.  Gaia worked well and I was able to download .gpx and .kml files.
  2. Decided to use a bear vault, added several pounds of weight. My base weight was about 11 kg. without food and water. I am going to lighten up a bit for nest backpack.
  3. Brought a battery pack and was able to recharge my phone. Unfortunately, forgot the correct adapter for my camera so my photos were mostly lower quality cell phone images. I had been hoping to obtain some high quality macro images with my new Olympus TG-5 camera.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Looking East from Easy Pass
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Looking West from Easy Pass

As we walked through the Fischer Creek basin we moved from alpine to  meadow and then forest ecosystems.

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Fischer Basin alpine meadow descending from Easy Pass
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Forest Ecosystem

About 2 km east of Junction Camp we encountered a gnarly section of trail. There was a poor run-out if one should slip and the trail was eroding as we walked on it. Looking back, we light have been better to climb up and around this segment.

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We reached Junction Camp, having walked about 23 km from the Easy Pass trailhead. Along the way, we took a number of breaks due to the heat. I didn’t bring a thermometer but I’d estimate it was more than 31 degrees. I had a leisurely dinner and a good nights rest. I borrowed a bear vault from the Parks Service to store my food.  (Concerned about bears and other creatures getting into my food).

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Mountain View from Junction Camp, maybe Tricouni Peak, with hanging glacier?

Had a nice brekky and some great views of the mountains.  Around 8 Am, we started descending down the Thunder Creek trail. The forest ecology during the descent was quite different and I made about 30 botanical observations on 29 July.

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Thunder Creek was raging
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Forest ecology on Thunder Creek trail

I was out at the Colonial Creek trailhead at 12:51 PM, elapsed time was 28 hours 51 minutes.  Overall, this was a great two day fastpack trip and another fun UltraPedestrian Wilderness Challenge. Not running allowed me to observe the ecology closely while enjoying the company of three excellent companions. Next UPWC trio is Alpine Lakes Grand Tour starting on 2 August 2018, 4 days after the Easy Pass challenge.

Lessons Learned

  1.  First time using Gaia app on my phone.  Gaia worked well and I was able to download .gpx and .kml files.
  2. Decided to use a bear vault, added several pounds of weight. My base weight was about 11 kg. without food and water. I am going to lighten up a bit for nest backpack.
  3. Brought a battery pack and was able to recharge my phone. Unfortunately, forgot the correct adapter for my camera so my photos were mostly lower quality cell phone images. I had been hoping to obtain some high quality macro images with my new Olympus TG-5 camera.
  4. Instant mashed potatoes are delicious.
  5. Made sure to keep drinking plenty of water with electrolytes, I felt great on this hike.

 

 

Southwest Spring 2018 Road Trip 

 

Southwest Spring 2018 Road Trip  (22 May to 7 June 2018)

“Tomorrow is a good day to do everything”

I signed up to do the Bryce Canyon 100 mile run in early 2018, along with my friend Roger. Since the run was at high elevation (7000 to 9500 feet), I wanted to go down to the Southwest early to acclimate to high elevation, sunny days and cold nights.  Brenda was the only one of my friends crazy enough to want to do this. They did some initial planning in March, but decided they would be flexible and would try to explore places they hadn’t seen going to and from the Southwest.

The theme of the trip came from an Andy Griffith show where Opie says: “Tomorrow is a good day to do everything.” This proved true from the start of the trip which was delayed by a day so I could get a temporary crown installed on a tooth that broke that weekend. We packed up Brenda’s new Subaru on 21 May and set out on the road the morning of 22 May. Brenda was the driver for the whole trip; John was the navigator. With one or two exceptions that worked out well. Brenda’s Subaru was a great road trip vehicle and she is now a master of all the new electronic systems – they worked well.

Our first stop was the Whitman Mission National Historic Site, just outside of Walla Walla, Washington. After a picnic lunch, we climbed up the hill to view the grave site of the missionaries who were massacred here. The view was spectacular. We thought a bit about what life must have been like here in the 1840s.

We camped the first night at Minam State Recreation Area campground, along the Wallowa River in northeast Oregon. It was a pleasant site and we enjoyed walking along the river and seeing some wildflowers. We slept out in cots most of the night, except for a brief thunderstorm interruption. In the morning, I fired up the JetBoil stove for several cups of coffee… we did this every day. After all, we don’t have a problem with coffee; we just have a problem without it.

IMG_20180522_181523Minam State Recreation Area and Wallowa River

We drove down along the Hells Canyon Scenic Byway into Elgin, Oregon. We had a nice breakfast at the Cowboys and Angels restaurant. We continued down to La Grande for a brief resupply. We talked to the local high school cross country coach who recommended visiting the Mt. Emily Recreation Area trails just outside of town. We headed southeast on Interstate 84 and after just a couple of miles, CRACK – a rock smashed into the windshield. It immediately started to crack. Luckily, the crack never crossed into the driver’s field of view.

Originally, we planned on visiting Craters of the Moon National Monument in central Idaho.  We called ahead and asked about the weather. The ranger said 70% chance of thunderstorms that night. Uh oh, neither of us are fans of thunderstorms. We looked at some other possible sites in southern Idaho, it was even worse. So, time for some quick replanning; we decided to drive into Salt Lake City a day early. Brenda put the pedal to the medal, we cranked up some tunes on the CD player and I got on the phone to change our reservations at the Salt Lake City bed and breakfast. (By the way, that was the only planned reservation the entire trip). We arrived at the Ellerbeck Mansion B&B about 8 PM, where we met our hosts Tara and Scott. We found our rooms and then got in a nice walk of Temple Square, the Utah State capitol and Memory Grove Park, returning after dark.

 

 

 

Salt Lake City Evening Walk to State Capitol

 In the morning, I got in a nice 5 mile run around downtown Salt Lake City; it’s quite peaceful at dawn. We had a great breakfast at the Ellerbeck B&B, and then packed up for the Grand Canyon area. After breakfast, we had another nice walk around the old section of Salt Lake City.

 

Morning walk around Salt Lake City

On Wednesday 24 May, we left Salt Lake City in the late morning so that we could avoid the traffic mess around this hectic metropolitan area. We drove on Interstate 15 for about 200 miles and then cut over to Highway 89 via Highway 20. On the way down, we decided that we’d do a Grand Canyon Rim to Rim hike, so we booked the Trans Canyon shuttle to get us back from the South Rim to the North Rim the following Monday. Brenda has become the master of the cruise control; her new nickname is Flicker Finger. We proceeded south until we reached Kanab, Utah where we stopped for a nice Mexican meal (and some Polygamy Porter) at Nedra’s Too restaurant, an old favorite of ours. We then headed towards the North Rim of the Grand Canyon.

We drove out to the East Rim viewpoint of the Kaibab National Forest, along the Arizona Trail where we set up camp. This location was about 8 miles from the Grand Canyon National Park entrance. John had camped here previously. Our location was along the rim and about 0.4 miles roundtrip from the car and bathroom. We slept out on cots; it was cold and windy but very beautiful. There was no one else camped here. We kept our camp set up in this area for 5 nights.

We woke up early (and cold) on Friday 25 May. We decided that it was to be a no driving day so we explored the Arizona trail. We just had a mellow day hiking and relaxing while also getting used to life at 8900 feet elevation. Saw lots of flowers, deer and a Greater Short-horned Lizard.

 

 

 

 

Sunrise and Sunset on our East Rim camp

On Saturday 26 May, we headed over to the North Rim area. Along the way in, we saw a bison herd in the meadow. We parked at the campground store and then walked the Transept Trail over to the lodge for breakfast.

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Hiking the Transept trail beats driving

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American Bison in Grand Canyon meadow

  Afterwards, we hiked back and then spent several hours hanging out at the porch of the store while John organized his gear for the upcoming race. We met Gunter from Austria, who was quite an adventurer. He once rode a bike from Tibet to Austria; he was also going rim to rim the same day as us. We talked to a couple of bicyclists, Bill and his wife from Tucson. They were in their early 70s and gave us some tips about staying fit. Bill recommends Elete Electrolyte Drops and Vitacost ROOT2 BioCell Collagen Hyaluronic Acid for joint health.

After another walk of the Transept trail, we came back to the campground and met a nice couple from Russia who we traveling the world in their car. John was able to use a bit of his rusty Russian to say hello. They had many adventures as they traveled through Iran, Pakistan, Australia and lots of other places. They were heading south to Mexico.

Here is their YouTube channel Mirvmeste (It’s in Russian) https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmEgTvZv_JE7rFAt82dU2Wg

 

New friends from Russia, they are world travelers

  On Sunday morning 28 May, we were up very early for our rim to rim hike. We drove in to the North Kaibab trail head about 4 AM to get a good parking space. On the way in, the temperature was about 25 degrees. We arrived at the trail head, had coffee and breakfast and took a little rest. We left around 7 AM and head down the familiar North Kaibab trail.  We stopped at Coconino Overlook, Redwall Bridge, and Roaring Springs for a while. We made a longer stop at the Manzanita rest area where we met a three generation hiker family from Georgia (72 year old grandfather, father, and 17 year old grandson.) The grandfather told us he hikes Rim to Rim, takes a 3 day break at a lodge and then hikes back Rim to Rim. While we were talking a rock squirrel almost chewed a hole in my pack to get at our peanut butter!

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Coconino Overlook, on our way rim to rim

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Kaibab Agave Agave utahensis ssp. kaibabensis a favorite plant of mine

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Brenda at Roaring Springs junction

We continued journeying toward the Colorado River. We took a several hour siesta at Cottonwood campground, where we found some nice shade from the 92 degree afternoon heat. We had a great conversation with four young people from India who were in the US studying computer science. They were very interested to hear Brenda’s impressions of traveling around India. We were fascinated to hear their opinions of the USA. We also met some young Americans from the Midwest. They were pretty surprised to hear that we were doing a one day rim to rim hike.  While we rested, we both consumed quite a bit of electrolytes. We used the Tailwind and Nuun brands of electrolytes on this hike.

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Desert Spiny Lizard Sceloporus magister

We left Cottonwood about 5 PM and sauntered down to Phantom Ranch. It was hot, but tolerable. It was us and lots of lizards on the trail. We made it down to Phantom Ranch just after dark. While fine dining was happening at the restaurant, we had a feast of peanut butter sandwiches – we even gave one away to a fellow hungry hiker. We fired up the stove and had some hot coffee and cocoa.  We rested a bit and left Phantom about 10 PM, using John’s bright headlamps. We encountered a couple of ring tail cats and a weird hiker; we sent him the opposite direction from us. We crossed the silver bridge and walked along the moonlit Colorado River. We started upward and had a nice rest as we climbed out of the basement layer of rock.

 

Our night time route finding went fairly well with one exception. We hit an area of high grass or reeds in the area of Pipe Creek. We lost the trail for a few minutes and had to scout around to regain it; more excitement than we cared for at 2 AM! Having a paper map and a GPS helped. We reached Indian Garden about 3 AM and had a nice long rest along with some food and electrolytes. It was about 60 degrees here. The entire walk out we never had to add extra layers. We left Indian Garden about 4 AM and walked the rest of the way up the South Rim, with 15 minute rest breaks at 3 Mile and 1.5 Mile rest houses. We reached the South Rim about 7 AM

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View from South Rim Looking back to North Rim

 As always, it’s a little disconcerting to walk out of the canyon into the crowds. We headed to the Bright Angel Lodge to cleanup and have breakfast, which was delicious (and reasonably priced). We walked over to the Backcountry Office to ask the rangers a few questions and then rode the shuttle around the South Rim complex (Grand Canyon Land). We rejuvenated ourselves with some large ice cream cones and then made our way over to Bright Angel Lodge to wait for the Trans Canyon Shuttle back to North Rim.  I did some napping on the 4.5 hour shuttle ride, having been awake for about 36 hours… perhaps with a little shut eye during rest breaks. We got back to our East Rim camp in the early evening, tired but happy.

On Tuesday 29 May, we broke camp at East Rim. While packing up, we met a mountain bike camper who was heading out for a couple of days along the Arizona Trail, this looked like a nice adventure. We headed back in to the North Rim for breakfast. On the way in and out of the park, we saw the bison herd, this time there were some newborn bison calves.

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Baby bison calves, Grand Canyon meadow

We left Grand Canyon behind and headed towards Kanab, Utah. On the way, we stopped for several hours at the Jacob Lake Trading Post. We had quite a long conversation about sand paintings, Navajo rugs and creation myths with John Rich Jr. We wanted to go to John’s lecture that night but we were pretty tired when we got to Kanab.

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Hand woven rugs, Jacob Lake Trading Post, Arizona

We stayed two days at the Purple Sage Inn, which was a hospitable bed and breakfast just one block from downtown Kanab. We had a nice dinner at Nedra’s Too restaurant and then had a walkabout through Kanab.

 

 

Purple Sage Inn Kanab, Utah and book shopping at the Thrift store

On Wednesday morning 30 May, we started with an hour long breakfast feet at the Purple Sage Inn. We spent the morning walking through downtown Kanab. One highlight was the Thrift store, we spent several hours shopping and talking to some interesting local people. I bought four interesting books for $7.  We had a pleasant afternoon napping and hanging out on the back porch of our inn.  Tory gave us some great insights into mountain lion behavior.  We had an excellent dinner at Wild Thyme restaurant and then a nice long walk around Kanab, including a visit to the local library. That evening, we had a wide ranging conversation at our bed and breakfast with Cathy, Tory, John and Lavonne about politics, religion, travel to China, hunting, and hiking.  The think I remember most came from Cathy: “Hands that help are holier than lips that pray.”  While we all came at our conversation from different approaches, it was a pleasure to have an intelligent exchange of views.

 

 

Relaxing day exploring Kanab, Utah

 On Thursday, we had another great breakfast at the Purple Sage Inn. We got an interesting view of immigration from Manny, a Korean- American who spent a lot of his childhood in Mexico. His view towards immigration was very conservative: “Stand in line.”  We spent an hour after breakfast on some last explorations of Kanab. We visited the Best Friends Animal Shelter downtown info storefront. In a future trip, we both thought visiting the large Best Friends complex just outside of town would be worthwhile.  We headed north to Hatch, Utah in the early afternoon. A few miles outside of Hatch was Proctor Canyon, the starting point of the Bryce Canyon 100. We set up our dusty camp and then met Roger and Linda, who had flown down from Seattle. We attended the pre-race meeting and went to bed early, anticipating the race start at 5 AM.

On Friday June 1 we were up at 345 AM; time for some coffee and a quick bite to eat and then off to the Bryce Canyon 100 mile race start at 5 AM.  There’s a whole separate story about this run. I ran with Roger but his cold caught up with him at Mile 34.  I went on to finish 80 miles; it was memorable.

 

 

Roger and John running near Bryce Canyon

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Mile 80 was the end of the line for me!

Brenda and Linda were able to explore Bryce canyon National Park while Roger and I were out running around. The next morning (Saturday 2 June) I connected up with the gang at Mile 80. We headed up to Bryce Canyon General store and after a shower (I needed to use the handicapped shower) and some salad, ice cream and coffee I started feeling human again. We headed back and packed up our dusty camp at Proctor Canyon. After that, we headed into the Best Western in Cedar City, Utah for a couple of nights. The hot tub was AWESOME!

On Sunday 3 June, we all had a leisurely breakfast at the Best Western (and some of us hit the hot tub). Afterwards, Linda, Roger, Brenda and I got in some short hikes at Cedar Breaks National Monument.

 

Cedar Breaks National Monument

On Sunday afternoon, we cleaned up our gear and repacked Brenda’s Subaru. We could carry an impressive amount of gear in this car but it sure helped to have it organized. We had a nice dinner at Sizzler, the salad bar was a great deal and we ate copiously.  We went for a nice walk after dinner through the Veterans Memorial park and on the trail along the river.  The hot tub was a good end to a fun day.

 

 

Cedar City trails and Veterans Memorial

After breakfast the next morning, Roger and Linda headed back towards Seattle.  Brenda and I spent a few extra hours in Cedar City, which is the home of Southern Utah University. We had some great coffee at the Grind Coffee House. In the early afternoon, we headed up to Great Basin National Park. The driving was on some out of the way roads, we saw quite a bit of open range cattle and some pronghorns.  At one point, Brenda was racing a wild turkey! We stopped for nachos and beer at the Great Basin park café and the headed up to the Wheeler Peak campground at 9900 feet. After setting up camp, we hiked to the Bristlecone grove. We also determined that going to the summit of Wheeler Peak (13,060 feet)  wasn’t going to be possible for us due to snow (we didn’t bring crampons).

 

Brenda racing a wild turkey; View of Wheeler Peak from our camp

On Tuesday 5 June, we were greeted at dawn by Wheeler Peak. After some coffee and breakfast, we hiked the Bristlecone and Rock Glacier trail on the upper slope of Wheeler Peak. We climbed up to near 11,000 feet on a sunny morning hike. We spent a little time exploring and did a glissade down a small slope. We had a great time among the bristlecone pines and exploring the upper reaches of Wheeler Peak.

 

Bristlecone Pine grove and Rock glacier, Wheeler Peak Nevada

We packed up camp and made the fairly short (80 mile) drive to Ely, Nevada. We stayed at the Hotel Nevada – a classic casino hotel. We had a very good Mexican dinner at Juanita and Chava’s Taco Shop. After dinner, we walked about downtown Ely, including a visit to the local library. Downtown Ely seems to be slowly shutting down but there are a couple museums that might be worth seeing on a future trip. We had a free frozen margarita at the hotel bar; they were worth what we paid for them.

On Wednesday morning 6 June, we had a last walk around Ely and then breakfast at the Denny’s restaurant in the Hotel Nevada. We drove north 140 miles on Highway 93 to Wells, Nevada where we explored the town a bit. We had a nice talk with Jessica, the librarian at the county library and walked a bit through town. When you get away from the main road facade, there’s a lot to learn in these small towns. After a nice break in Wells, we headed up to Twin Falls, Idaho.

At Twin Falls, we parked and walked into town across the Perrine Bridge, which spans the Snake River canyon. We watched base jumpers leaping from the bridge to land 470 feet below. After, we had a good Mexican dinner at La Fiesta restaurant, an old favorite. We than made the drive from Twin Falls over to Baker City, Oregon.

In the morning, we explored Baker City. The downtown area is somewhat revitalized. We were both impressed with the beautiful Baker County library; it was our favorite of the trip. We spent some time reading in the quiet room along the river. After some exploring, it was time to head homeward.

 

Baker County library branch in Baker City, Oregon

Our last stop on the way home was Ellensburg, Washington. We had a late lunch and walked around downtown, looking at some of the art… and visiting the local library.

 

 

Art in Ellensburg, Washington

Brenda put the pedal to the metal and we made it back to Seattle around 7 PM. We drove a bit over 2700 miles on our 17 day adventure. We had a great time but it was great to be back home!

Itinerary

 

22 May 2018 Leave home Seattle, Washington
22 May 2018 Whitman Mission National Historic Site Walla Walla, Washington
22-23 May 2018 Minam State Recreation Area Wallowa County, Oregon
23 May 2018 Hells Canyon Scenic Byway
23 May 2018 Cowboys and Angels restaurant Elgin, Oregon
23 May 2018 La Grande, Oregon
23-24 May 2018 Ellerbeck Mansion B&B Salt Lake City, Utah
24 May 2018 Nedra’s Too Kanab, Utah
24-29 May 2018 East Rim Viewpoint camp Kaibab National Forest, Arizona
25 May 2018 Hike Arizona trail Kaibab National Forest, Arizona
26 May 2018 Hike Transept trail twice Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
27 May 2018 Hike North Kaibab Trail Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
28 May 2018 Hike Bright Angel Trail up to South Rim Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
29 May 2018 Jacob Lake trading post Jacob Lake, Arizona
29-31 May 2018 Purple Sage Inn Kanab, Utah
31 May – 2 June Proctor Canyon camp Hatch, Utah
1– 2 June 2018 Bryce Canyon 100 Hatch, Utah
2-4 June 2018 Best Western Cedar City, Utah
3 June 2018 Cedar Breaks hiking Cedar Breaks National Monument, Utah
4-5 June 2018 Wheeler Peak campground Great Basin National Park, Nevada
4-5 June 2018 Bristlecone and Rock Glacier trail (twice) Great Basin National Park, Nevada
5-6 June 2018 Hotel Nevada Ely, Nevada
6 June 2018 Explore Wells, Nevada
6 June 2018 Explore Twin Falls, Idaho
6-7 June 2018 Rodeway Inn Baker City, Nevada
7 June 2018 Explore Ellensburg, Washington
7 June 2018 Home