Sometimes you gotta get a little dirty

My shins look like midgets took razors to them, but I cian't blame anyone but myself for the twenty or thirty cuts.

The first batch I self-inflicted while gardening. Over the weekend, I built two new garden boxes. Into these I planted onions, five kinds of peppers, and tomatoes. These join the kohlrabi, broccoli, potatoes, garlic, leeks, lettuce, and shallots already growing in the other boxes. Also, bending to the inevitable, I put some flowers, primrose and pansies, into the small box by the sidewalk.

I had company while I worked at filling the new boxes with fresh soil. Miss Jane, a doe that first came to visit last year during the fires and drought, apparently has decided to make herself at home in downtown Asotin. She ate the new leaves off the Brady's apple tree a dozen feet away while I put the tomatoes in and I'm pretty sure the look on her face could be interpreted as "Are they ready yet?"

Short answer for Miss Jane, "No."

Longer answer - I need to build a fence.

None of that left me scarred. Dirty, yes, because I derive a great deal of pleasure in working with the soil. The slashes on the shins came from tackling overgrown roses. The roses need to go to make room for other plants.

Roses don't like to be messed with. They bit right through the pants I wore, stabbed through gloves, and were generally a pain to remove, but I'm stubborn and don't mind a little bleeding for a good cause. The roses and the baby walnut tree are kaput, ready to go to the recycling facility.

So to are the raspberry canes. I thinned those while I was in a blood-letting mood, removing most of the dead canes to give the new ones room to fill the void. Last year, we got quarts and quarts of raspberries, with the grandkids helping harvest. It will be more gentle on little hands with the bed opened up a bit. Meanwhile, I added innumerable tiny scratches to my forearms to the ones on my shins.

Then, yesterday, I decided - which might be the wrong word as it implies thought when what I felt was need - to go trail running instead of attending a track meet.

Every once in a while, with a force as strong as an addictive compulsion, I have to get onto trails, to feel earth and rock and leaves under foot, the slap of wet brush against my skin as I head into the woods to visit the wild. Yesterday that hit and hard. I had plenty of daylight and good running weather with cool temps, clouds, and a spritz of rain. I drove up to the North Asotin Creek trailhead, changed into run gear, and gave myself permission to play.

This early in the season the trails around here tend to be a bit overgrown. Well used ones will naturally define themselves with the increased people traffic clearing the path and edges. I tend to avoid the well-travelled paths, so I get the trail grabbing and stabbing as I pass. Sometimes I abandon the trail for a bushwhack if I see an interesting feature I can't get to otherwise. Invariably, my shins and thighs take a beating though I don't notice until I get back to the parking lot.

At least one scratch came after I elevated to avoid stepping on a garter snake. In his defense, he was hustling out of the way, too. A pretty slitherer, the snake fled but not before I dodged into a dead shrub. No harm, no foul. As the Black Knight would say, it's just a flesh wound.

The wild turkey pecked around for fodder at the end of the canyon where the basalt formations back off the creek. This is where I've encountered bears and bear cubs, elk, deer and, high on the bluffs, big horn sheep. The turkey ran at speed when I got close.

The sun made an unexpected appearance after I hit the turnaround. With no one to laugh except the animals, I ditched the shirt and let the heat baked into my back as I careened my way back. I ended up running much faster than I intended - or than I thought I could. The return trip was nine minutes faster than the outbound leg, nearly two minutes a mile faster. Most of that was in the final two miles.

The goal for the day was to stay steady, but the feel of rocky soil interspersed with pine needles and the warmth on my skin lent a sensation of pure pleasure. Since I don't train any more, I surrendered to the trail and let my stride open up.

By the time I got back to my car, I had burned that 'need' feeling out, replacing it with peace. I don't get to this point often enough. As Emerson wrote, Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air. I highly recommend it.

You don't need to run, either. Walking will do it to.

For those looking for a good book to get introduced to trail running, take a look at Lisa Jhung's book TRAILHEAD. Alternately informing and funny, she's written a wonderful book for newbies and gristled veterans alike. Hjung delves into mud and snow and how to make cleats for handling ice, the different types of trails, gear, food, first aid, animal encounters (those two chapters are next to each other), and trail etiquette. It's easily the most comprehensive yet accessible book I've read on trailrunning.

Better yet from my perspective, she counts anyone who shuffles faster than a walk along a piece of dirt as part of the club. Worth checking out.

If you're into gardening, my favorite book, written by an aerospace engineer is New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. It's designed for those of us that love fresh produce, enjoy playing in earthy soil, and are inherently lazy. I plant stuff. I don't weed. Then I harvest by the bushel. Unless Miss Jane beats me to it.

Need to figure out how to fence the garden without making it look like Stalag Thirteen.

Is It Okay to Run Just for Fun?

A recent post went up at one of the blogs I follow which extolled the virtues of Gary Taubes and Mark Rippetoe. Both have books that I own and think highly of. I commented on the blog, with a mention that I'll never be a full Rippetoe acolyte. Quoting him, "An adult male weighs two hundred pounds." My comment was that I wasn't going to haul all that extra weight around on a 30 mile trail run. Another poster, completely serious, asked, "what health (or otherwise) benefit do you think you will get by running 30 miles?"

He wasn't doing to be mean, or even critical. It was an honest question. I tried replying on the blog but the computer went wonky and ate it. So, the longer version of the answer is here.

The health benefits of running that distance are decidedly questionable. As with lifting weights or any other physical activity, there is a point after which you reach your maximum potential, whether it is speed, endurance, strength, or flexibility. I suspect, and science isn't solid on it yet, that the point for running for the sake of fitness is considerably less than 30 miles. My guess would be closer to 8-10 miles at a crack, about an hour to an hour and a half of exercise time for endurance based training.

For the folks that prefer HIIT, that seems an enormous waste of time. High Intensity Interval Training is a well-developed concept that maximizes cost-benefit ratio of exercise by performing highly stressful (physiologically speaking) intervals in relative short durations to improve overall fitness, glucose utilization, and fat burning.

Except it doesn't work for everyone. Neither does running long and slow. Or lifting under the Rippetoe program. Or Taebo, Crossfit, or the thousand other programs that promise the holy grail of personal fitness, sexual attractiveness, and eternal life. For a fee, mind you.

Nope, not cynical. Realistic.

None are sufficient on their own for a fully rounded athlete, but by incorporating elements of all of them, you dramatically improve your overall fitness. That's why I lift and have Rippetoe's book. I enjoy my time in the gym and it's nice to be able to bench my body weight, even if my arms and chest are the weakest part of me. I also do speed work, the only time I wear a watch running now. I'm not too great at the flexibility part of the equation, though.

Which still doesn't explain why I do thirty mile trail runs. The key to that answer is in the parenthesis above, the or otherwise bit.

We live in a dysfunctional society that seeks to justify exercise solely on the benefits of health. The CDC berates Americans seemingly daily with a "you eat all wrong and you don't exercise enough" message. Various state governments have declared certain food categories evil and banned them. The news is filled with stories about the obesity crisis and the cost to society of ill-health. Even fit people, who should know better, hop on the "everyone else should do x" bandwagon.

Bah.

I don't run because it's good for me. Hell, I don't do much of anything because it's good for me, whether it's exercise or eating or any other the multitude of things that the life-hackers measure. I'm not alone. Most people don't perform exercise because it is good for them. They do it because it is fun. I fall back on the advice I read long ago in George Sheehan's On Running, "We must tailor the addiction to the addict."

That 30 mile trail run? It is my way of playing outside. The run this year is in the Seven Devils Mountains in Hells Canyon Wilderness Area with a trailhead that starts at 7500' of altitude and climbs as high as 8200'. I've run here before, and seen elk, and moose, and bears. I've made wrong turns and discovered beauty because of it. I'll hurdle small logs (smaller by the year it seems.) and splash through creeks. And I know that it will hurt at the end, like the last set of a lift-to-failure deadlift, only longer.

 There is a pleasure that comes from having a body that can do things, respond to very primal urges with a surge of strength or the steadiness of endurance. I know, too, that somewhere up in the mountains, I'll renew my sense of awe and wonder. I'll finish, worn and tired, and whole in a way that I wasn't before.

That makes all the difference.

Run gently, friends, if that's your preference. For the rest, find your (healthy) addiction, and play!

  

 

Pictures from the Trail, and Stories about the Three I Missed

Field Spring State Park 1

Went running up in Field Springs today. It was snow-free all the way around my loop. On the way in, I got to see a pair of small does crossing the road. They stood watching me until it dawned on their pretty little brains that the big blue FJ might squash them. They moved before I got the camera ready. Rats.

I dressed down at the upper lot - I opted for a sleeveless shirt and shorts because the temps were in that perfect mid-50's. If it had rained, it might have been a touch uncomfortable.

The trail bore the signs of the recent rain with the occasional mud puddle, and in the soft soil, lots of animal tracks.  Lots of pine cones down. In a couple spots, the trail was blocked by dead fall. Not feeling sparkly enough to work on hurdling, so I clambered over instead.

It's too early to have the wild flowers out, but the buds were building so it won't be too long.

To match up to the deer, I saw two wild turkeys, apparently not willing to associate with each other. They were about a mile apart, running solo. Wild turkeys run pretty darned fast. Didn't get pictures of them, either.

The shot I really regret missing happened pretty late in the run. I hit the long downhill stretch toward the group cabin when I surprised a small herd of elk - or we surprised each other.

They are amazing animals, so graceful and elegant. That they can move that way in forest and disappear in five seconds astounds me. I 'wasted' a couple of minutes trying to track them to get the picture, but no dice so I just finished out the last five minutes of the run.

Despite lollygagging up the hills and diverting to try to catch up to the elk, I still finished faster than last time I was up here. The picture below is from the Puffer Butte Cabin. Hard not to feel extraordinarily lucky and blessed when I get to run here.

Trail Run, Yesterday

Took a trip up North Asotin Creek trail - had to park at the gate and run in - then racked a few more miles than I intended. Didn't see any wintering elk, or bears. Just me, the burble of the creek, and the wonder of nature.

There are worse locales to enjoy winter . . .

There are worse locales to enjoy winter . . .

Trail hurdle. Lots of deadfall up-trail

Trail hurdle. Lots of deadfall up-trail

Open views, just for a bit - then, back into the trees.

Open views, just for a bit - then, back into the trees.

Warehouse Beach - Taking a break on the drive to Portland

Once I got older, which corresponded nicely with the kids growing up and moving out, road trips became much more relaxed. Without the need to get from Point A to Point B at warp speed before one of the kids - or all three, in series or parallel - had a meltdown, I schedule with a little more driving time. I also schedule a run.

On the way to Portland, I diverted through Walla Walla and dropped down into the Columbia River Valley. Sadly, the temps dipped down with me. It was partly sunny with the mercury sitting in the 60's. Short sleeve weather in late November. Yay!

Instead, a cloying fog attached itself to the river and the thermometer showed about 42 degrees. Fortunately, by the time I got to Warehouse Beach, the sun had melted some of the fog and got it back to short-sleeve weather, in just barely.

I did end up with an audience watching as a ran up one of the sharp short bluffs. The deer posed for a picture, then dropped over the edge far more gracefully than I will ever manage.

Once you leave the old rail bed, single track extends in a dozen different directions. Some are well developed, some are not much more than deer trails, and all of them are sandy. If you're thinking of turning a fast five miles out here, forget it. Plan on a slow but pleasant five. 

Ducking down towards the river puts you on a narrow trail surrounded by scrub. 

Ducking down towards the river puts you on a narrow trail surrounded by scrub. 

If you head to the river, vistas up- and down-stream greet you. I ran out here the last time under brilliant blue skies. The view, sharp-edged with the basalt cliffs across the Columbia, combined with the sky and clouds, is worth the price of admission. Which, by the way, is free to the park. 

Warehouse Beach is about 12-15 miles east of Umatilla along Highway 730 at Landing Road. Next door is Hat Rock State Park. That's my stop on the return trip.

Hells Gate State Park

I keep intending to get pictures of Hells Gate State Park since I run there at least once a week. Finally, some follow-through. For those visiting the Lewis-Clark Valley, Hell's Gate State Park is up the Snake River about two miles from town.

Depending on your mood, you choices include single track trail, jeep trails, and even a bit of pavement.

You also get a variety of routes. I typically start at the trailhead by the archery range where the horse trailers normally park in the busy seasons. In the picture, that would be off to the right side.  If you blow up the picture, you can see my blue FJ down in the parking area. From there, I follow the single track up to the jeep trail you see.

Once you reach this little plateau, you can head up towards the power lines  or running more of a rolling hills route to the back edge of the park. For those that want all flat, all the time, stay down by the river.

The single track to the left runs at about a 30 degree slope.

The single track to the left runs at about a 30 degree slope.

I used to go up a bomber climb on the face of the hill but the Park Service decided to close the trail for restoration. Instead, you switchback up. Not nearly as challenging.  

There is also a trail that branches off the edge of the switchback to the right. Definitely a treat to run as it bops up and down on short rollers. None of the ups on that side-trail will leave you winded while the downhills encourage some fast playful footwork.

Today, I looped out to the back on the jeep trail, switching out to single track to head deeper into the park. The total distance on this run is about 4.4 miles and none of it qualifies as challenging, though a few stretches have a little bit of technical running involved. Most of the time, a second fork gets created by the horseback riders who don't want to risk their steeds. When I night run out here, I usually slide down to the easier path.

If you follow the switchback up to the top and head out on the ridge, you have a couple of choices coming back down. One is Devil's Slide which is pretty runnable if you are careful and the footing isn't wet. When the dirt turns to mud, traction drops to zero. You may find your velocity increasing rapidly though. Running up it is an adventure in a "three-steps-forward, two-steps-(sliding)-back kind of way. Fun.

Devils Slide to the middle, the technical trail tracing through the ravine just to the left, and another side trail that loops back to the jeep trail.

Devils Slide to the middle, the technical trail tracing through the ravine just to the left, and another side trail that loops back to the jeep trail.

The second choice is a technical trails that winds down through the ravine. In the winter, it gets icy. In the summer, it gets overgrown and rattlesnakes like to hide and shock the unwary.

All these trail come together at the bottom, so if you're in the midst of a group run, you can set out in different directions depending on how sprightly everyone is feeling and still meet up later for some of the other stretches.

Some day, in the not too-distant future, I want to GPS the hill version of the run and get a semi-accurate distance on it.

The views from the top of the ridge extend to Oregon. When thunderstorms roll in, you can watch the sky light up with the flashes as you trace the progress of the storm on the horizon. Of course, sitting totally exposed to weather on a regional high point is going to earn you questionable looks from loved ones.

 

The footing is pretty good except when it's wet. Most of the trails have a sandy feel to them though you need to keep your eyes on the lookout for the stray toe-catching rock. Some of the trails have deep sand. Not my favorite running surface but easy on impact force. The main trails stay pretty clear of vegetation, so you can see your footing. After a major windstorm, the trails tend to collect tumbleweeds, and the ravines capture a lot of them, too.

If you really need to have pavement, there's a paved trail in the camping area of the park that will lead you to the greenbelt levee trails of Lewiston and Clarkston. You can, if you want, get in a marathon length long run without ever having to go up a hill steeper that a bridge over the river. All sorts of variations exist.

For those interested in visiting, cabins and camp spaces are available year round. The cabins line the river. The camping spaces (shown in the picture) include wonderful open spaces. The park does allow dogs but would not qualify, in my opinion, as being very dog friendly.

Mead Switchbacks

There is likely a proper name for this trail but I don't know it - I was introduced to it by Dori Whitford, the XC coach at Mead. I did a session with her creative writing class and she gave directions to the trailhead (Discovery Pass required). From the school, proceed west on Hastings Road to the first light. Turn right.  Make the very next left and angle right to the gate. That easy.

The top of the trailhead. You start at the edge of the valley with a downhill tack from the residential section.

The top of the trailhead. You start at the edge of the valley with a downhill tack from the residential section.

After about half a mile of downhill running, I bottomed out in another residential section. I might have to knock off a bank or two, but I wouldn't mind living here. I need to slow down more when taking pictures.

After about half a mile of downhill running, I bottomed out in another residential section. I might have to knock off a bank or two, but I wouldn't mind living here. I need to slow down more when taking pictures.

Just. . . .wow.

Just. . . .wow.

There's a pretty little bridge to cross. Sidetracked by the views.

There's a pretty little bridge to cross. Sidetracked by the views.

Not all the trails lead out. . . but even the dead ends are worth the backtrack.

Not all the trails lead out. . . but even the dead ends are worth the backtrack.

Ended up doing a bushwhacked across the open ground. Yes, bonus miles were involved. Going off trail always puts me into bonus miles. Found a deer trail that finished in a pretty little clearing. The deer apparently like it. They left their calling cards.

Ended up doing a bushwhacked across the open ground. Yes, bonus miles were involved. Going off trail always puts me into bonus miles. Found a deer trail that finished in a pretty little clearing. The deer apparently like it. They left their calling cards.

Hal Koerner's Field Guide to Ultrarunning - Review

While on the flight to Seattle yesterday and back, I had a chance to finish Hal Koerner's Field Guide to Ultrarunning.

Competently written with the assistance of Adam Chase, the guide is well organized from preparation to gear, from training to racing. For those looking for an exciting read into the world of trail ultras, this book will disappoint. At no point does it wax poetic about the trails. Instead, Koerner focused on getting you there, and safely, so you can do the poetic bit yourself. Also, the less romantic bits like eating on the run, handling mud, and where to pee.

One thing that might be misleading to some - this guide is exclusively oriented to trail unltrarunning. Wait, that's not right. It's exclusively oriented to trail racing.

It does not include any ultra road races or 12/24/48 hour events and the unique challenges they pose. If you are intending to try one of those events, you'll need to seek some advice outside the scope of the Field Guide to Ultrarunning.

The book is geared towards ultra-racing more than simply ultrarunning but the principles remain. The cool part about ultrarunning is you really don't need permission or a race entry to go someplace awesome to run. If you've built out the body to handle it and learned how to handle the trails, you have all you need to do an ultra-run, even if you never do an ultra-race.

One pleasant element of the book was Koerner's willingness to use his mistakes as object lessons for the rest of us to learn from. I've maintained that the guy or woman who wins the race isn't always the best runner but the one who makes the least mistakes.

That's how I beat the great Karl Meltzer once and no, it will never happen again.

Anyway, using the real life examples, Koerner does a nice job of showing the results of bad decision-making and, sometimes, just plain bad luck. He offers good advice on how to handle it. When you get to that part of the book, listen. It may save your ultrarunning career.

If you're a marathoner looking to move up, this is a book that should land on your book shelf and be referred to frequently. If you never conceive of doing anything so foolish as an ultra, it's probably not for you.

If you're on the fence, though, get the book. Hal Koerner will lead you through the process, show you it's achievable, and put the tools in your hand to get there.

Once you have the tools, it's up to you to go out and find the poetry on the trail.

Introducing the Young'uns to Trailrunning

We took the kids out yesterday on a recovery run after Wednesday's race and someone thought it would be un to play on the verge of land between the 1st Street houses and the river. We didn't do much of a warm-up, just some light stretching mixed with intermittent shrieking when a largish spider was noted by one of the girls. She didn't do the shrieking - Carmen did. Meanwhile, the boys harassed the spider up the tree. Natch.

We also had flopping, sprinting for the beach, and all the signs that the kids needed to run. Like a puppy that just gets more energy the fitter it gets, the kids  keep getting fitter and the extra energy needs an outlet. Running helps - except they get fitter still.

Anyway, we got the kids moving, me running toward the front and Coach Cowdrey keeping an eye on the back of the pack. Maia and Carmen started up a song while they ran while Sam reverted to ‘mountain bike’ mode, chasing up and down the little bumps and dirt mounds. Everyone else pretty much just ran easily.

When the lead group reached the osprey nest, I gave them a choice – keep going and we’d play on trails or head back and maybe do some drills.

Out we went.

I had already planned to pick up the trails out in the bird sanctuary. At the beginning of the season, I only had two girls ready to handle the extra mileage. On this run, eight of the kids made it. They looked a little stunned when I mentioned to them that we had reached our original turn-around point from the second day of practice and we had plenty more time to play.

We crosses the ditch the Corps of Engineers dug, I guess to help salmon, walking across the large watermelon-sized river rock. Once on the other side, I led them out, dodging around the scrub trees, under limbs, between saplings.

They kids loved it. “It’s real trailrunning!” came drifting up. We came out of the small wooded section into the sunlight and ran for a few more minutes before it was time to head back. None of the kids wanted to turn back for the school, a clear sign that the run was a success.

There were some adventures. Coach Cowdrey and the group behind me found a rattlesnake. Wisely, no one poked at it. Still, Coach Cowdrey had them turning a little early and then went to join up with us. To avoid the snake, we came back along the alleys. I had the group that wore down and we walked back in – the kids discovered that trailrunning is a little tougher on the legs and got tuckered out a bit faster.

All in all, we arrived at the school two minutes late, a bit dusty, a bit sweaty, and happy.

 

Troy Rail Trail

Headed out to Troy yesterday to visit with grandkids, but took an hour off to run the Troy Rail Trail. I've run the length of it from Troy to Kendrick once each way. About eight or nine miles is on private land (I have permission from the owners) and I'll put that stretch up the next time I run it - probably next summer. 

This jaunt was just to the chainlink gate about three miles down the trail. The chainlink is new; I think the old rusted barbed wire didn't suffice anymore beaten nearly flat and easy to step over.

Early part of the trail, just past the gate at the trailhead.

Early part of the trail, just past the gate at the trailhead.

Driving directions: follow Highway 8 east from Moscow to Troy. Pass through Troy, go past the turn-off for Highway 99, and continue another 200 yards or so to the next right hand turn. Turn in there. You'll see the water treatment plant there. That is the trail head. Parking is limited.

The powers that be paved the first bit of trail but the gravel picks up just before the gate. If you were to head back to Moscow, you could do the entirety of it on pavement. I suspect that eventually, if the disputes with the private owners can be smoothed over, they'll pave all the way to Kendrick. Nothing says communing with nature like an asphalt trail through the woods.

The trail is slightly downhill the whole way out and there is no hill, not even a hint of one. From the open meadow were the trail starts, to the gate, the I enjoyed smooth sailing. I did have to switch from side to side occasionally on the trail to stay out of the deeper gravel. Once clear of the meadow, I followed next to the creek as it wound its way to Kendrick and the Little Palouse River. 

Troy RAil Trail 005.JPG

The steel bones of the old trestles over the creek still stand but the wood rotted way long ago. On this stretch, concrete, cold and gray, overlays the surface of the trestles, a modern interruption into a trail good for reminiscing. Between trestles, it's easy to let the mind wander and the eyes to drift to the sides, picturing the hillsides of the creek 

I took a time out to walk out on a fallen tree so I could take a picture of the creek as it quietly burbled past. The bark was slick with morning dew and mosses. The banks of the waterway were overgrown with grasses on the east bank and shaded by trees on the west. 

About two miles down trail, a wild apple tree grows at the verge on the east side, fruit well formed, and turning red. I've run this trails a half dozen times before but never that this time of year. Fresh, ripe apples are a pleasant surprise. There was another tree, closer to the trailhead but the fruit looked small and hard. Since I'm making a return trip this way, I decided I'd snag an apple on the way back. 

Tuned back into the easy lope that carries me out to the turnaround, I note another pair of producing fruit trees. It's easy to imagine an engineer standing in the locomotive, finishing the apple from his meager lunch - a hard boiled egg, maybe, with a hard biscuit. A bit of cheese if he was lucky. The coffee would be hot and black. Done with the apple, he'd fling it out the window. 

And some of those thrown away cores took root and grew. 

A half mile from the turnaround, I met three ladies out hiking, then another three, and, at the turn, a group of seven waiting for their friends. A baker's dozen ladies, all into their fifties and most well beyond, out for a six or seven mile hike. Very cool ladies and we chatted and shared a laugh, a small joke at my expense,  before I turned back.

All the downhill becomes uphill obviously. The grade is not steep but the change in effort is noticeable. The change in direction altered the perspective in lighting. It helped with the pictures, limiting some of the washing out of colors. 

The sun started to heat the air. When I rolled out at the top, temps hovered in the mid-forties. By the time I reached the halfway point, it was into the mid-fifties. Now I built a good sweat though I kept the pace down. 

Troy RAil Trail 008.JPG

As planned, I stopped at the apple tree. Windfall apples scattered across the trail, and I noticed a branch broken that I hadn't before. An impatient bear had broken a branch, not waiting for the normal release. She gorged and then marked the location as hers. I didn't think that she would miss a singleton apple, so I found one that looked tasty. 

I didn't want to eat it and try to run, so I carried it in one hand and the camera in the other. 

The only excitement arrived with a loud crack as something quite large moved in the woods next to me. I stopped to search for the animal that broke the limb. Nothing, but given I knew a bear lived nearby, kept scanning while I walked.

My best guess would be white-tail deer as my experience with bears has always involved much cracking of branches and deadfall, not a single large crack. Bears appear disinclined to dodge things. Likewise, moose tend to go through rather than around. It may have been an elk as I saw signs of them. In the end, it was something big and mysterious, a reminder that trailrunners should stay alert. 

Round-trip was a smidge over an hour but I wasn't hustling and I didn't stop my watch when I took pictures. 

I'll try to get the whole trail done next year as I mentioned and I'll GPS it as well.

Until then, run gently.

Ps. The apple tasted delicious, a bit of sweet and a touch of tart with very crisp flesh.

Ruby Creek Trail

After I got done working yesterday, I went for a short out and back on Ruby Creek Trail. I probably need more time to explore the area since it's the first I've managed to get out there. Normally, I head farther out to Giant White Pine and run there.

Directions: From Potlatch, follow Highway 6 through Princeton, then Harvard. (Fast fact - the locals say the Hoodoo Café is pretty awesome. The meatloaf is especially good.) Approximately two miles outside of Harvard, you cross the Palouse River. Right after the bridge, you'll see the sign for the Ruby Creek and Mt. Margaret Trailhead. Make the next right, and then a tenth of a mile later, the next right. You'll wind back past farms for about 1.5 miles. Watch for the cows.

The two trails share a parking lot. Plenty roomy, but no facilities.  

Both trails are OHV (Off-Highway Vehicle) trails while I prefer MTF (My Two Feet) single track. I didn't see any motorcycles or four-wheelers while I was running. The advantage of running while the Seahawks play. There was one couple hiking with their dogs. One of the dogs, a good-looking boxer, seemed to have a perpetual look on her face that said "Cookie?" Fresh out, alas.

I ran up the trails to the first fork (about five minutes up, your time may be faster or slower, with faster more likely) and went left staying on the Ruby Creek Trail. The right fork takes you up, if the sign is to be believed, to the Mt. Margaret Loops.

I ran 2.5 miles up the trail. Up is operative here, as there was little flat ground and no down to run. The trail rises at about 250 feet per mile and I didn't top out for the short ways that I went.

Lots of eagles along the trail and two large mule deer which startled as I slogged past. I saw a couple of deer trails diving off to the side but I skipped exploring for now while I got a feel for the place. I'll need to come back with a topo - I'm betting there's a way to get to Giant White Pine, staying on trails.

The view from the gate.

The view from the gate.

Ruby Creek, I presume, is a seasonal event. Still very pretty.

Ruby Creek, I presume, is a seasonal event. Still very pretty.

The gravel gives way to packed dirt. The footing is great. In the background, you can see an old burn that was logged and is regenerating.

The gravel gives way to packed dirt. The footing is great. In the background, you can see an old burn that was logged and is regenerating.

When it rains, the trails turn muddy

It rained, so I think I owe Hells Gate Park a visit. I ran there early this month but the ragweed pollinated the air, my throat, and my lungs, leaving me hacking at the edge of the trail. Most unpleasant but I did finish the run- at a walk, though.

{Update: runny eyes, itchy throat, hacking. Nope, the ragweed is hanging on . . . changing run plans.}

Oddly, I just realized I've never taken pictures there even though I run the park frequently. Heck, I can see it from my house and, if a river didn't run through, could run there in about four minutes - Paul minutes, not Roger Bannister minutes. It really is quite close.

Instead of staying on the lower rolling trails, I think I'll wander up some of the steep grades with the GPS and get them dialed in for planning later. I love those hills, especially the couple that I've never made it all the way up running. Devil's Slide will be a slick muddy mess, though a friend said the trail washed out and rutted. We'll see.

Tomorrow will be coaching at the meet in Lewiston on the same course that LCSC runs. I think the race will be chipped timed which the kids think is very cool and big-time.

Sunday, after work (seven days this week so I can take a vacation next week,) I figure on trying a new trail off of Hwy 6 in the Princeton area.  I'm only planning a short 5-6 mile scout but more pictures when I'm done. I'm also going to start adding driving directions to all the trails.

Have a great weekend. Those of you with youngster racing, cheer loud. The kids won't admit it but they need you to be their biggest fan.

For the runners, run gently and enjoy the changing season. See you on the trails.

Colfax Rail Trail

First off, this trail can be a bit of a bugger to find, so directions.

Headed westbound on Highway 26 from Colfax, you will cross over the bridge over the Palouse River. West River Road is immediately on the other side of the bridge, on the right. Turn here. Follow that gravel track as it winds through the industrial zone, past the rock plant.  Along the way, you'll pass a stick with a faded cone perched on it. You're on the right path. Follow the road as it turns into a dirt track until you reach a green gate. Easy, if you know where to make the first turn.

Now the trail.

The first gate and the trail beyond. Parking is to the right. It's wide enough to pull a U-turn or fit multiple vehicles.

The first gate and the trail beyond. Parking is to the right. It's wide enough to pull a U-turn or fit multiple vehicles.

The trail parallels the Palouse River and, early in the run, there are expansive views of the wheat fields.

The trail parallels the Palouse River and, early in the run, there are expansive views of the wheat fields.

The footing is varied but mostly good. Watch for the occasional rock. Also, bear, deer, elk, and cow poop. The Colfax Rail Trail just after the abandoned trestle.

The footing is varied but mostly good. Watch for the occasional rock. Also, bear, deer, elk, and cow poop. The Colfax Rail Trail just after the abandoned trestle.

The natural basalt provides some protection from the wind and adds texture to the vistas.

The natural basalt provides some protection from the wind and adds texture to the vistas.

The end of the line. Between this point and that tunnel is the river. A portion of the trail curls up to the south. I didn't check it out. Instead, I played.

The end of the line. Between this point and that tunnel is the river. A portion of the trail curls up to the south. I didn't check it out. Instead, I played.

From the middle of the Palouse River. Fording the river to check out the tunnel . . .

From the middle of the Palouse River. Fording the river to check out the tunnel . . .

The inside of the tunnel - or what's left of it. Native basalt is visible at the rear of the tunnel. The thin ribbon you see is the remaining concrete that didn't get taken out by the cave-in. Almost certainly unsafe for entry.

The inside of the tunnel - or what's left of it. Native basalt is visible at the rear of the tunnel. The thin ribbon you see is the remaining concrete that didn't get taken out by the cave-in. Almost certainly unsafe for entry.

I saw the bald eagles again while I ran, along with a blue heron. The heron was at the beginning part of the Colfax Rail Trail. The eagle was in the first copse of trees on the return trip. Couldn't have been more than ten yards away and thoroughly magnificent.

From the droppings, elk are frequent visitors though I only saw a pair of mule deer and a herd of cows.

I think I spent more time fording the river (don't try this trick in spring or we'll have to retrieve your body from Palouse Falls!) and exploring the tunnel than I did running. Fun way to spend an afternoon.