Sunday, August 2, 2020

Wind Caves loop near Logan

Apparently I'm on a trend of running FKT's near where I've previously done a 100-mile race - like Flagstaff and Tahoe (just not the recent Bay Area runs, so I guess I need to find a 100-miler around there someday).  So it shouldn't surprise me that we ended up in Logan UT (site of the Polar Bear 100) for the day.

It was hotter than the last time we were here, topping out near 100 degrees in the afternoon.  We set an early alarm to try to avoid that.  My FKT loop was not too long, and I hoped to finish it up before the heat set in.  The Wind Caves Loop looked interesting - up Logan Canyon, up the side of the hill and over the saddle, down to Green Canyon and then back to the start:

Starting at the First Dam Park (and I super love that name, someone must have had fun deciding what to call it) not long after daybreak:

John makes me laugh...

Here we are:

Start/finish is the tunnel under the road, cool!

The trail was easy to follow and well-signed, a nice change from a few days ago:

Running up the road toward sunrise, with plenty of wind (like the name of the caves implies):

The Logan River is very nice, a pleasant brook to run next to:

OK, so there might be a lot of poison ivy in here?  If that's what this is... I couldn't find any reason to believe otherwise, so I chose to accept that identification and tried hard to avoid it.  I can do the "vegetation avoidance boogie", having plenty of practice with the poison oak around the Bay Area.

One of the picturesque dams as I headed up canyon:

It was a pretty morning:

My legs were feeling good, enjoying the moderate uphill grade, and I actually felt like I was getting into a groove.  Nice!  Maybe the GVRAT virtual race (or mileage challenge, depending on how you approach it) of the summer is helping.

Nearing the 3rd dam, I came upon this rather-confusing map.  Justin (the current male FKT holder) had mentioned a trail closure when he ran it a couple weeks ago.  I tried to decipher just how much additional elevation would be involved in the detour, and decided to try forging ahead with the standard route to see if the trail was still passable like it was for Justin.  Plus, what does "detoured" mean anyway?  Is that the same as "closed" or more of a suggestion?

OK, so this part is "closed", and I decided to look for a way around instead:

Happily, there is a simple (and only slightly longer) way around that doesn't involve hiking up the side of the mountain.  I ran out to the road and jogged up the shoulder, which is plenty wide.  A glimpse of the dam along the way:

If I'd known that the dirt road to the left was a pass-through I would have taken that one for an even better detour option.  Soon I was back on track, finding this trail to get back onto the route:

After crossing a couple small bridges, the campground layout was slightly confusing but I got lucky in spotting the trail sign to aim for.  And then there was this surprise - another trail closure?  Maybe I should have done more research...

I took a chance and continued along the trail, hoping that since Justin had come this way, it was passable.

Another pretty view along the river, enjoying the shade for much of the way up the trail:

Hey, there's a view of Wind Caves from here!  It's the giant rock partway up the mountain in the center of the photo:

Maybe this is why the "trail closure" sign was posted?  Seems passable enough to me:

Soon enough I was at the Guinava-Malibu Campground, yay for a trail that wasn't actually closed.  I turned left at the road and crossed the bridge, taking a moment for a LLAP selfie:

It's not totally clear how to get out of the campground, but I figured since I hadn't noted any turns I should just keep going downstream.  Yep, that eventually worked.  Crossing highway 89, I located the trailhead on the other side:

Time to climb "for real", rising up above the river and starting to get some more views:

Another excellent view of the Wind Cave rocks.  It would be nice if this FKT route actually went up there, but it would be quite a significant detour and I understand why it's not included.  Someday we'll come back and hike this so we can see it more closely (looks neat from a distance):

I didn't want to miss the turn onto the side trail, but it turned out to be pretty obvious:

Next up = climb, climb, climb.  And watch the views along the way:

On a grassy section of trail, I looked up to see the head of a small canine bounce away and disappear - possible fox?  Bonus!

Toward the top, the trail goes through several steep drainages, with nice tree shade in each one.  My legs were like, "hey, do you remember that thing you did 3 days ago?", hmm, they seem a bit tired.  Well, at least today was a lot less of a big effort.

Soon I was at the saddle and done with the main climbing.  No signs at the top, but at least it was a fairly obvious 4-way intersection.  The trail down the other side is on the right side of the little clearing through the aspens:

It dropped immediately to verify that I was going the right way.  And what a change of scenery!  No more wide open field.  Now I was in the deep dark forest.  Excellent.

With an occasional view of Green Canyon:

And later, a look back toward Logan:

It was a fun trail to run down, just being careful of the occasional rocks and roots.  My legs were like, "uh, still tired here".  Fine, I hear you, I won't bomb down the hill today.

I found the dirt road at the bottom, then the mountain bike trail that paralleled it.  Per the FKT instructions, I got on the trail as soon as I could, and enjoyed the little curves and swoops and criss-crossing of the road.

Quicker than expected, I was back out in the open and nearing the mouth of the canyon:

One last leg!  1.5 miles on the Bonneville Shoreline Trail:

Happily I wasn't in a huge hurry, because this trail did some ups and downs before it finally dropped to where I had started at the First Dam Park.  (What did the fish say when it hit a wall?)

Every FKT (or every workout for that matter) should end with a victory run through a tunnel, woo hoo!

Well, now it's warm.  Glad there's a cold pond right over there.  I rinsed my legs (and used Zanfel during my shower) - we'll see if that was enough to avoid any negative poison ivy effects.

Minion Man - and Minion Car!

Thank you John for putting up with all my FKT-related planning, running, requests, and detours!  You rock  :)

Friday, July 31, 2020

Reno to Rose run

We're wandering more than normal recently, kind of "unmoored", enjoying the freedom to decide almost on-the-fly what we want to do.  Go east, toward more mountains?  Sure, why not!  In picking places to stop for the night as we drive, I've gotten into the habit of perusing the routes on the Fastest Known Time website to see where we might pause for an extra day to do some exploring.  Because, why not!

So it was that we've been enjoying a couple days in Reno, a city we haven't really seen before.  There appears to be plenty more to do here - hiking trails, river walk, great restaurants, public art - so we will certainly need to come back.

For now, we made a brief visit downtown so I could start a 20-mile FKT run from the giant arch to the top of Mt Rose.  Jacob Cooper set up this interesting route and I was curious to try it.  There are several places where you can optimize the run by going off-trail; in fact you have to go off-trail once to make this work at all, and ideally several times of varying distance.  Seemed like an interesting challenge and a nice basic introduction to off-trail FKT's.

Two highlights before I started - a quick pop into a casino to use a bathroom (thank you, El Dorado), and a guy walking by who saw John's minion mask and laughed out loud.

John took a picture of me taking a selfie:

Thank you Mr. FKT Support Man!

Another perspective on the giant arch:

And she's off...

John did a little wandering downtown and found these:

Also a wonderful mural that I hadn't noticed we had parked under:

For my part, I wish I had gotten a picture of the large whale, also the art at the museum I ran past.  But I did get one "street art" photo:

Oh hey, it looks like I made it to Mt Rose already!  That was fast...

Actually, it's way up there, barely visible on the left side of the skyline:

Zoomed in view, behind the ridge I was going to be trekking around the back side of:

The path that cuts up to the last neighborhood of the route:

And what the heck is that??  John suggests that it might be a takeoff on the Anne Geddes dolls?

Speaking of John, he met me at the end of the pavement for my one resupply stop.  Coming up the road to meet him:

This route mostly lends itself to running unsupported, except I really didn't want to carry everything 5 miles across town when John didn't mind helping out (plus that gave him the option to meet me at the other end and accompany me over Church Peak if he happened to get up there by the time I arrived, quite optionally).  I took advantage of it by carrying a light vest at the beginning and also did a shoe change before starting up the dirt road.

I carried a lot more weight out of there, all the water I thought I might need, a "just in case" jacket, snacks, etc.  Good thing we've had some backpacking practice lately!

I used the heck out of my phone map (with saved stars for offline use) for the next several hours, way more than I ever have before.  Even if I could have found a good map, the initial maze of dirt roads was a lot easier to navigate using a GPS indicator.  After that I would have prefered a topo map, but since I hadn't taken the time to track one down, the phone would have to do.

The first several miles looked a lot like this:

I enjoyed the views back toward Reno, happy to climb to higher elevations before the day started getting warm.  When I finally got to a spot where I could see the road for a ways, I finally stashed the phone so I could use both hands on my trekking poles.  More climbing, a bit of running here and there.

I climbed straight up a switchback cutoff, one of a couple minor tweaks I made to Jacob's second track.  It went straight up and may or may not have been the most efficient way to go, but I felt like had accomplished something when I got to the top and looked back down:

I saw a flock of quail, they are fun to watch scurry around.

I would love to know the story behind this!  It is nowhere near any semblance of good road:

The 4WD doubletrack has varying degrees of smoothness and amount of rocks.  It was fine for an uphill climb, but it didn't take long for me to vow never to run this as an out-and-back - downhill running on this would be awful.  One of the worst sections of loose rocks:

One of several intersections, this one providing a cut-off from the main road to eliminate some distance (to the right):

Suddenly I was transported to Bandera with the steep rocky uphill haul:

Finally a view of the upcoming ridgeline!  There hadn't been much to see ahead of me up until this point, just occasional views of the lowlands.

Ah, there is water running up here.  I sure should have known that (and would have taken advantage of it), if I had only found the link to Jacob's first run report beforehand (my fault for missing that detail).  It's a little creek running out the far side of the meadow and crossing under the road:

Just a bit further along, another little creek goes under the road.  These 2 spots are the only water sources I found (besides one tiny seep further back), but it sure is better than nothing.  Disclaimer - I couldn't be sure these are always running, but it seems likely that they are.

Well, that rocky road sure goes a long way.  I was happy that it was occasionally runnable, but I was also ready to be done with it.

Picking out a spot to leave the road to climb up to the trail up higher:

Again I would have liked to have a map and compass, but following along on my phone did the job.  It was super easy travel, no underbrush, just an uphill hike through conifers, excellent.

I crossed one faint trail but it was heading downhill, didn't want that.  Then further up I found the real trail and started the long traverse.  It was great being in the woods for quite a while up here.

Not sure why, but I'd been expecting to be above treeline by now.  I also thought I'd see some kind of spire or cinder cone at the next corner, but all I saw was trees.  I cut off some distance by cutting the corner, so perhaps there is something to see that the trail detours for.

Eventually a view, nice!

Some of the many wildflowers:

More view:

Looking back at Sunflower/Snowflower Mountain (various maps call it different things):

I wanted to cut the next corner too (there was a tempting open meadow calling to me), but John and I had discussed how far back he might come if he were hiking the route backward to meet me, and I had not mentioned anything about going off the trail here.  I really didn't want to miss him in this section and send him way back on the traverse I'd just completed.  So I stayed on the trail, which rewarded me with a couple views, so that's something.

Also a nice look at Church Peak and Mt. Rose as I came around the corner, OK, they look rather tall:

It's easy to see the terrain and the choices ahead, also to pick out a decent spot to leave the trail and strike out cross-country.  The traverse under one hill was a tad tedious but not far (and worth not climbing over the top of the hill):

View from the saddle looking up at the rather-imposing (to me) Church Peak.  Specifically, the rocks near the top seemed like they might be challenging?  I know better than to make definitive judgments from down low, but I was kind of hoping to see a husband pop over the top and run down toward me to help figure it out:

A photo of downtown Reno where I had started (nope, not stalling...):

OK then, I better start up this thing.  There was plenty of solid ground, not too much loose dirt or rocks to deal with, and not an overabundance of talus, so it was more about picking my way and managing my exertion level.

Still, I wasn't enthused about what I could see above me, as evidenced by this face:

Each little section went fine, then I'd take a brief break and study the next bit.

Here's my "so far, so good!" face:

And in the end, I encountered no problems at all.  There were easy paths through the rocks all the way to the top.  Definitely much easier than it looked.  Yay!

Just one more thing to do - get down the ridge on the other side so I could find the trail to the top of Mt Rose:

That part seemed easy, except I kept running into little drop-offs that managed to surprise me every time (and always had a path down):

Husband ahead!  John hiked toward me and got this picture:

I told him he might want to see the fun rock scrambling on the ridge to Church, so he continued in that direction, but first snapped a picture of me heading for Mt Rose:

Easy saddle crossing, then on the summit trail - with a view of Lake Tahoe, excellent:

The first "top of the mountain" seemed like it might be the summit?  My phone map was unclear, and the second peak had a bunch of rocks stacked as windbreaks (with people hanging out there), so I decided to hit both "tops" just to be sure.  Would hate to miss the actual end point after going this far.

I stopped my watch at the second maximum, which now looks like a slight overshoot - looking back at the real summit, it's clear that's the top:

Either way, I made it!  :)

What a nice place to be, way up high in the cool breeze.  I hung out briefly and then started back down the trail to find John (and hike the 5 miles down to the truck):

Thank you FKT buddy!

I enjoyed that one a lot, and I like coming away with a couple ideas for optimizing the route (plus I could run it faster by knowing better where to go).  Might have to do that someday...