Short version : This route is a truly inspiring, challenging, rugged, and is easily one of the most beautiful long distance mountain runs in the country. On August 21st, 2010 Ty Draney and I left the Green River Lakes TH, bound for the Big Sandy TH some 80 miles to the southeast. We ended up altering the route slightly and cut it short due to slower than necessary progress, ending at the Boulder Lake TH after roughly 60 miles.
Long Version : Well, I should start off with some whining and excuses because everything else about this journey was simply fabulous. The prior 3 weeks for me had been pretty frustrating from a running standpoint. In a very foolish move I pulled my hamstring again, something that I’ve done all too many times, by simply not warming up or stretching and then running uphill. I had taken it very easy for the few weeks leading up to this journey in an attempt to let it heal, but history has proven that time off does essentially nothing for my major injuries. What I needed was some “shock therapy”, which is code for just get out there, dealing with the pain and going for a long time at a relatively slow rate, and my injury will likely feel better afterwards. Yes, I know it’s a messed up theory, but it seems to work for me….
When I first saw Ty on Friday in Pinedale I gave him a very serious disclaimer that my hip/hamstring injury could very likley shut down our journey. Being the gentleman that he is he told me to call the shots and that he was simply along for the ride. He reminded me that I am running Wasatch in several weeks and that I shouldn’t totally mess myself up….
Saturday morning we’re off at just after 5:30 AM. The first 12 miles are very flat and consequently we moved along at a pretty good clip. Ty laughed at me because I kept tripping as I ran behind him. Because of the hamstring/hip pain I couldn’t lift my leg very high nor could I straighten my leg as one should while running. I felt like a complete gimp and right from the get-go had to come up with ways to deal with the pain. I told myself, it’ll only last about 30 miles, then things will loosen up. Yah that seems reasonable, right?…
The surroundings were so beautiful that it took my mind off the pain. Just after we turned off the headlamps we saw two enormous moose that ran across the valley floor paralleling us. All four of us were headed towards Square-top Mtn. After 12 miles we finally started some climbing, which meant we slowed down a bit, which helped the pain. After several turns were were in the boulder-strewn canyon NW of Dale Lake and Cube Rock Pass. All the sudden I felt at home hopping and scrambling over the large granite boulders. It brought me back quite a few years to when the majority of my activity was scrambling up such gullies en-route to some climbing objective. This peaked my interest and I started to get pretty psyched! We dropped down to Peak Lake and then entered the drainage to the east of it, heading towards Knapsack Col way off in the distance. There was essentially no trail, but it was obvious where we needed to go. As we climbed up to the pass at roughly 12,200′, the views were jaw-dropping. It is places like this that fill me with life.
After taking it all in for a few minutes, we began the decent off the col on the fairly steep (initially) Twins Glacier. Ty was wearing 9 oz AdiZero shoes with Zero traction, but he did really well. We joked about how Adidas probably didn’t have this type of terrain in mind when they designed the shoe. Eventually we arrived in upper Titcomb Basin and filled up our packs at one of the many streams of glacier melt.
The run down Titcomb Basin was stellar. Ty was very nice and didn’t seem to be too frustrated with his slow partner. I did feel bad though because I could tell he wanted to open up the throttle. Once at Island Lake we had a decision to make, left (presumably faster) or right (as originally intended). We chose what we thought was the faster route because we were behind schedule. In hindsight I think we should have stuck to the original plan. From here up to Lester Pass and down I dropped into a rather low-point as the pain management was taking its tole on me. I got really quiet and Ty started to worry about me.
Eventually we made it to the pass east of Mount Baldy and we stopped to fill up water and for me to collect myself. Just off the pass we took a wrong turn and after losing 500′ we realized it and didn’t want to climb back and do it the correct way so we pressed on knowing that we could hookup with the correct route.
The scenery over to North Fork Lake is incredible and could be very fast had I been able to turn it up. But, I couldn’t so we plugged along rather slowly. At North Fork Lake we had a decision to make. We were a couple hours behind schedule so we decided to call it and take the exit to the Boulder Lake TH. I hit the “custom message” button on the Spot tracker which sent a note to Mindy and Ryan that we were bailing and instructed them them to watch our “tracks” (updated every 10-15 minutes online) to see where we were headed. From this point forward Ty and I relaxed and had fun just chatting and appreciating the surroundings. At sunset we realized that Ty’s headlamp was dead and he didn’t have spare batteries. So, for the next 8 miles I jogged behind him trying to illuminate the ground so he could see where he was going. When we finally arrived at the TH I hit the “Okay” button on the Spot. Within 3 minutes Mindy arrived. Lesson learned, Spot Tracker is AWESOME!
We slept the night in the Boulder Lake campground, woke up and went into Pinedale for breakfast. It was a fabulous journey, a bit frustrating from the hip/hammy, but one that I already look back on fondly. It was a good experience for Ty and I and is another step towards us being ready for the JMT next year.
The full “Crest Route” is unbelievable. The high country that we experienced in the beginning of the journey is just my thing. What we had in store for the last 1/3 of the route would have been even better. We will be back!
Below is an image showing the Continental Divide Trail (only a section of the entire CDT obviously) in Green, our intended route in yellow, and our actual route in red.