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The Mountain Loop Highway

20 Jul 16
Heidi Kumm
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one comments

I’m back in the van! After two weeks of hot showers, a full kitchen + easy access internet I have returned to my nomadic life in the TETON Sports #yourlead van. And…I was really excited to get back into the van. I was ready to move again. The van must have felt the urge to tone down my giddiness because it has been throwing things at me since the moment I pointed it east for the second leg of my trip.

From sharing public lands with rednecks + their assault rifles to inadvertently adopting a trail dog for a few hours to surviving a night beneath a pterodactyl nest [truth: I think they were Steller’s Jays but sounded terrifying] my first 48 hours were only a little glimpse at the chaos that would ensue when I picked up my mom in Missoula, MT. I’ll save those stories for another day [probably two weeks from now, at the rate I’m at] + flood your screen with PNW photos!

IMG_20160703_175110Boulder Creek Trail

While I was staying at Terry’s house, just north of Seattle, I made near daily trips to the Mountain Loop Highway for hikes + trail runs. Um. I’m in love. Seriously…LOVE! Even the rainy days were stunning! In the 15 or so days I was at Terry’s place I managed to hit up 10 trails along the Mountain Loop Highway + every one was worth the drive! Work managed to keep me away from the dirt ribbons a few days, but I think I made the most of my time out there!

Centennial Trail [paved, in town]
Boulder Creek Trail
Lime Kiln Trail
Round Lake Trail [partial]
Ice Caves Trail [twice!]
Perry Creek Trail [partial]
Old Sauk River Trail
Lake 22 Trail [twice!]
Heather Lake Trail
Old Robe Canyon Trail

[you can find my Strava stats on my profile — search the titles for these trail names for deets + photos!]
[get more photos of the trails in this FB album — to keep this post a bit less overwhelming!]

First off, if you are ever anywhere in the state of Washington check out wta.org — it’s the Washington Trail Associations website + it is chuck full of information. Just be sure to scroll down to the recent trip reports from the trail users, that info is usually more helpful than the overall trail description. I even attempted to fit in a volunteer trail day but my two weeks in civilization were sucked up quickly with 40+ hours of working with a set schedule so no dice…this time.

IMG_20160706_103553 Lime Kiln Trail

My game plan for tackling the trails evolved a bit as I figured out exactly what these Washington trails had in store for me. I started out looking for longer trails to run, eyeballing anything that would get me to a summit. Because, mountains. After my inability to read trip reports thwarted my first attempt at a summit [trailhead was closed] I headed to Boulder Creek + discovered the crazy beauty of the canyon-eske trails. Add to that the fact nearly every day in the PNW is at least “partly cloudy” I abandoned my quest for mountain tops + started chasing waterfalls.

Boy, oh, boy…the waterfalls did not disappoint!┬áMy ooh’ing + ahh’ing over the waterfalls started with Boulder Creek + just tripled up when we stumbled upon the wall of waterfalls at the Ice Caves Trail. Even on cloudy, wet, rainy days the waterfall + canyon hikes were incredible.

IMG_20160710_172513 Ice Caves Trail

Yea, hikes. While I did keep showing up at the trailheads with my running pack nearly every trail-venture stayed in hike-mode. The trails in the PNW were wet, slick + rocky. Sure, I could run but…hiking was easier + less dangerous. I justified all of this by perfecting my “power hike” + telling myself I train best for “time on feet” rather than miles. We’ll see just how accurate those justifications were come Saturday when I take on the Never Summer 100K.

I also discovered the lakes of the Cascade. Well, hello there, new addiction. When I wasn’t hiking along the rivers in a canyon I was tromping up a mountain side in search of a crazy clear mountain lake. I never jumped in…the sub-60 temps never got me sweaty enough to justify a dip…but I did eat my fair share of whatever-I-remembered-to-pack trail snacks perched at the edge of a lake or five.

IMG_20160707_194503 Lake 22 Trail

Like I said, I started out my trail-ventures in Washington in search of the long, looping routes that would be sure to get me lots of ultra training. That never happened. Am I bummed? A little bit. But, I’m also really happy with how much I got to see! I started planning my day around multiple trailhead visits, piling on the miles without much risk. My biggest combo day was my last day on the Mountain Loop Highway. I lumped Lake 22, Heather Lake + Old Robe together for a 14 mile/4 hour day. This little combo let me refuel + add/remove layers at the car. You know, like a roaming aid station!

I can’t say that I’ll be moving to Washington any times soon — if I’m going to live in a rainy climate I want thunder boomers, dangit — but I am really excited to come back in late August for another round of trail roaming. I’m thinking the Northern Cascades next time? We’ll see…

1 Comment

  1. Roland July 21, 2016 at 8:14 am Reply

    Love your stories and the way you write. Be safe and yes continue to enjoy.

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