The 2008 inaugural Mount Olympus Wilderness Volunteer Cleanup Event was a great success in many ways, but also had a few hiccups. The field of volunteers turned out to be an incredibly talented group of local mountain athletes. Their experience proved to be useful in dealing with the difficult terrain and the near-impossible route finding during the last 3 miles, caused by a hiker who felt it prudent to remove the markers that had only been in place for several hours.
The moisture gods were kind as we had an almost completely dry event (there was a tiny bit of snow for the final volunteers coming over Gobblers). The temperature gods, however, we’re not so kind as most folks were greeted with below freezing windchill conditions on the summit of Gobbler’s Knob and the north facing terrain in Millcreek.
The group was incredibly resourceful when faced with the unmarked terrain at night. Local Arie Leeflang used his knowledge of the area to read the course perfectly despite the lack of markers and was the first to cross the finish line for the course as intended. Ryan McDermott came in second for the same course, with only minimal help from the event director, who happened to be on-top of the peak when Ryan came along. A large group at the front of the pack decided to head north off Gobblers Knob and ended up doing some bushwhacking down the west face of the peak until they met up with the Bowman Fork trail. Mike Dawson, David Hayes, Roch Horton and Erich Kuster, chose this route and then left the Bowman Fork trail to follow the connector trail over to the Alexander Basin TH finish. Pat McMurtry also went down the west face of Gobblers Knob to the Bowman Fork trail, but continued on down to the Terraces and then ran back up the road to the Alexander Fork TH for what I calculate to be the longest variation.
When super-star Larry O’neil hit the unmarked saddle between Raymond and Gobbler’s Knob he opted for a longer variation down Mill A on the Desolation trail, over to Dog Lake, down to Big Water and then down the road to the finish. Larry proved to be the fastest volunteer, arriving at the finish prior to everyone except Brendan who had done a short course.
Brendan Perkins, Catherine Mataisz, Mindy Knoles, and Jim Guilkey all opted for shorter variations of the course. Brendan and Catherine both started at the Terraces, but had different finishes. Brendan gets kudos for following the course purely based on his studying the map, having never been in the area. Mindy and Jim started at different times at the Neff’s TH, and both exited down Thaynes Canyon, which is still a great run. Jim had to get back early just in case his wife Carol was in labor. Seriously! We were all hoping that the stress of having Jim run at night would have encouraged baby Guilkey to make his grand entrance, but…. not yet….
To sum things up, it was a bit of a cluster, but I think everyone had fun in the end. The total length of the course as intended turned out to be 13.5 miles with right around 7,000 ft of gain, as verified by a Garmin etrex GPS. One positive aspect of everyone taking different routes was that it maximized the amount of trail cleanup that was performed, which is great. Be on the lookout for the next event…. potentially soon if the weather turns around….