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August 16th, 2003 – Where’s Waldo 100k

June 5, 2009

… I didn’t do this one. Part of it was the start time (3:00 AM), part of it was how I’d been feeling during my runs after Tahoe – but mostly it was the appeal of setting my own schedule and running where I wanted to run.  If I had to do it again (maybe next year?) would I have ran instead? Maybe, but I definitely don’t regret it!  Besides, it’s not like I just lounged around…

So I fly into Portland Oregon and arrive just before 9:00 PM August 14th.  It’s been a good day – I had been on the Chicago Institute of Art’s architecture tour of downtown Chicago that morning and had an enjoyable flight, talking to an executive at Frito Lay about the wilds of Oregon.  Watching Mts. Rainier and Adams from the starboard side of the plane, I was shocked when I looked to the left and saw Mt. Hood even with the plane on our descent – a perfect view of the north face – making Portland easily my favorite place to fly into!  I land, negotiate the small airport (about the size of Reno’s, and similarly laid out), hop in my rental car (Hertz number one gold is worth it!) and immediately head east.  (Incidently, the first time I’ve ever driven EAST to hit mountains!) 

Now, Portland is a fairly big city, and my natural inclination is to get out of the city ASAP.  I plan to head east and to catch a hotel somewhere around the foot of Mt. Hood.

Highway 26 meanders through a bunch of interestingly out of place strip malls and restaurants before emptying out of the Portland area – from there the road becomes pretty easy to drive, and despite the speed limit (55… 55???) I make good time.  I make it to Zig Zag and then Government’s camp in literally no time (at the base of Hood), but seeing no places with vacancy, I keep heading east.  Which now I know was a mistake (I should’ve looked harder for a place) but I was enjoying the cool night, the fresh air (lots of pine, but no sage to REALLY make the smell complete!) and the feel of the open road.  So, I keep driving.  The highway starts switchbacking fairly soon, and I hit 4000, 5000 feet quickly.  Just before I hit the pass, the black mountains parted to reveal a wonderfully gibbous moon, shining through very high, murky clouds, basking the road in an incandescent light that seemed wholly unreal but wonderfully tangible.  Ahhh.

After the pass, the road plummets quickly and I found myself plummeting downhill, with some hills to my left and a perception of a steep dropoff on my right – it was perfect, like climbing down from the pass into Laughlin, Nevada, or descending out of the east entrance to Yosemite.  The moon and stars were out, and there was basically nothing around.  And I mean, nothing.  I would hit the occasional small town (with no services) every ten or fifteen miles – but no hotels.  I eerily recall a huge indian preservation between Hood and Madras, but I didn’t realize that I had already hit it – so, I drove across it, getting into the might city (of like 5000) of Madras, Oregon.  (Oregon is not a hugely populated state – outside of Portland, I didn’t hit a city with a population of more than four digits).  I find a Best Western and hit the hay, around 1:00 AM (3:00 AM central)

I sleep in until 6:30, grab some coffee, and head south.  With the light, I’m finally able to see mountains, and although Hood is behind me, I am able to see Oregon’s second- through fifth-highest peaks:  Jefferson, South Sister, North Sister and Middle Sister.  Snow and glaciers hand on all four of these ancient volcanoes, and they all rise dramatically from the landscape – which itself is beautifully wooded, lots of rolling hills…

I make my way to Bend, and then head west on a very small highway which is marked as a residential street, through some roundabouts (yes, ROUNDABOUTS!!  What a state!) Right before I reach my destination for the morning, I turn a corner and have an absolutely stunning view – Mount Bachelor to my left, South Sister rising in front of me, and the amazingly stark and dramatically to her right.  I let out a whoop as I drive down to the trailhead at Sparks Lake for the ~7 mile hike to the summit of South Sister, Oregon’s third highest-peak.

The hike is well documented by Kevin Safford at this site:

I won’t rehash it – the hike is pretty much as he describes it, only he took a shorter route (I took a hike about a mile longer to go up Falls Creek) – this is steep but quite manageable if you’re willing to take your time – plus the scree surfing on the way down is a LOT of fun. It’s also interesting to note that at 10,300 and some feet, it was author Jon Krakauer’s first mountain – long before he wrote such books as Eiger Dreams and Into Thin Air. The summit – a dormant volcano cone – has truly amazing views, especially north, overlooking the other two sisters (North and Middle, aka Hope and Charity), Mount Jefferson, Three Fingered Jack, and, looming almost ghostlike well over a hundred miles away, the sharp point of Mt. Hood.

I hit the summit in about two and a half hours and I’m down in about two, running when possible and enjoying the other hikers and pleasant weather (80ish).  I hop back in my car and drive to the start of the Where’s Waldo 100K to pick up my packet and to say I’m not starting the race Saturday morning.  The race doesn’t look too horrendous, but I have other plans.  I talk to a few fellow ultrarunners, grab a pizza at the lodge there at Willamette (will-LAM-it) Pass, and then head west to Oakridge, where I’ve booked a hotel.  I grab some more food and hit the hay early.

Saturday – I get up at 4:00 AM and I’m on the road within ten minutes, heading back east and then south to Crater Lake.  It’s a little before 6:00 AM when I arrive at the trailhead for Scott Mountain – the highest point around Crater Lake.  I’m up the 2.5 mile trails quickly, and pass only one hiker up to the top to catch the dramatic sunrise on crater lake – Mount Scott is directly east of the lake, so the view was backlit and easily photographed.  To the south, I could see 14,000 foot Mount Shasta in California, rising like a giant white wave over the hundreds of small mounds of timber-covered hills. 

Crater Lake pictures:

While enjoying the sunrise, the other hiker catches up – he was luckier than I, and saw a black bear when he entered the park!  😦 

I run back to the trailhead, and catch another couple of vantage points of Crater Lake (overlooking the Phantom Ship, the Pinnacles, and another small trail on the east side of the crater).  I run about a mile and a half along the rim by the pinnacles (striking 40-50 foot needles) and then head to Rim Village, parking near the trailhead to Garfield Peak – the tallest point on the rim itself. I climb the 1000 feet or so over 2.0 miles (Mount Scott rose 1200 from the trailhead) and catch some absolutely stunning views of the impossibly blue and deep waters of the sixth deepest lake in the world from a vantage point 2000 feet above it!

I head back to the trailhead and grab breakfast (ham and cheese and apple omelette) before heading to The Watchman, the tallest point on the west side of the rim, overlooking Wizard Island (the volcano within a volcano).  Actually, the Phantom Ship on the southeast side of the crater is ALSO a volcano within a volcano. But I digress. The trail up to the watchman is easy – I run all but maybe a hundred yards of the 1.0 mile, 500 foot or so climb to the top.  The view is nice, showing the bluegreen of the shallower depths around wizard island nicely.  I run back down, dodge several road bikers (man, they’re THICK around Crater Lake!) and head north out of the park towards my real endeavor of the day – Mount Bailey.

A 6 mile, 3,000 foot climb awaits me – and that shouldn’t be a problem, really – but the 5000 foot climb from yesterday plus today’s running around has left me a little sore, and my pace is definitely slower and the weather warmer as I hit the soft trails. 

Mount Bailey isn’t that high (8363) but it offers a spectacular view of Mt. Thielsen – the lightning rod of the cascades, over the clear waters of Diamond Lake.  The needle of Mt. Thielsen is quite impressive, and it appears very narrow from the west, but more like a regular matterhorn (sans glaciers) from the peaks around Crater Lake and from the summit of South Sister. 

It’s not an easy climb (previous runs that weekend notwithstanding).  The first mile is easy, but the trail starts climbing pretty quickly.  Worse, the tree cover isn’t too heavy, and the heat (probably around 90) started to get to me.  I’m able to take salt tablets and goo with my water and gatorade, and have no problems with my stomach, even after breaking out of treeline.  I hit the south summit and see a spectacular view of Thielsen (if you want pics, email and let me know) – however, the north summit, described as a walkup – isn’t.  There’s a high volcanic ridge, with steep loose scree (and fine scree at that) dropping quickly.  I make my way about three hundred feet along the ridge, but decide to turn back – I’m in running shoes, and, with depleted legs, an unsteady balance and a drop to certain death facing me for a summit a hundred vertical feet above me – I turn back.  (For anyone who does this climb, there IS an amazing hole in the volcanic ridge about a hundred feet from the south summit that offers a wonderful framing opportunity for Mt. Thielsen).  I walk and jog back; running 15 and 25 miles on Friday and Saturday is enough – all that’s left is a huge dinner at an A&W (a real A&W!) and a sixpack of Obsidian Stout from Deschutes brewery.   I swing back by the start of the Where’s Waldo on the way back – only three people have finished! – and pat myself on the head for deciding not to have been running since 3:00 AM. 

Again, for any pictures, feel free to email me – I have an odd shot of me taken by a couple of women I ran into on the summit of South Sister that isn’t flattering, but it’s not too bad!  Cheers, and look for my next update in about two weeks (after my next run September sixth, when I go to Oakland and run to the top of Mt. Diablo – the tallest peak in the bay area – twice, on September sixth.  (   Cheers! – Jason

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