Friday, August 8, 2008

LAST Weekend's Adventure

Some pictures from last Sunday's adventure... I hiked Great Northern, an 8700' peak just south of Glacier National Park. The ~4 mile hike takes off from Hungry Horse Dam (3500'), making for a 5200' elevation change over ~4 miles.

Tabitha, an acquaintance from grad school whom I hadn't seen in several years, invited me to join her and her friend on this hike. I read the description and immediately said "sure, I'll do it!" I was sure that I was in good enough shape to handle all that climbing. (little did I think, however, that it would be the decending that would lick me)

The friend bailed out the night before, but Tab and I agreed to continue with our plans to meet at 7am to start hiking. It was a gorgeous morning-- cool enough that a light fleece felt good to start off, and still and quiet, with blue skies dotted with my favorite white ploofy clouds. I lbeing in the woods early in the morning! Good thing, because the glorified goat trail we set off hiking was not at all friendly. Had it been super hot, or raining hard, I would've easily bagged the trip. But there was no excuse not to walk. My lungs were working well, my legs felt strong, the day was gorgeous, and I was psyched to catch up with Tabitha, since we hadn't seen each other in several years.

Our trail shot up. Straight up. No switchbacks. No gradual gains. Nope, it was tougher than any StairMaster workout I've tried! We took a nice steady pace, though, and just continued to put one foot in front of the other for about an hour, until we popped out of the trees and got our first glimpse of how much elevation we'd gained. A few minutes later and we got our first good view of Great Northern. Holy cow, that's a big hunk of rock!!!

After the first mile and a half or so, the trail seemed to mellow out a little bit as we started following a rolling ridgeline that led to the base of the behemouth's treeless face. But we were still hiking up, continuing to feel the burn in our calves and lungs, but realizing that the views were worth every bit of work.

After another few miles we finally left the treeline behind and began a trek up the rugged ridge and across shale-y sidehills. All along the trail were piles of mountain goat poo, and clumps of rubbed-off hair hung in several of the thigh-high branches of trees. A golden eagle circled right at eye level. This was definitely the high country! Stanton Glacier hung below to our left, and a steep rocky face dropped off to the right. At times the trail was no more than a few feet wide. For the most part the footing was good, save for a few tricky places that made you slightly question your sanity.
At last we made it to the top, where 2 other pairs of hikers were already enjoying the view. We chatted with them for a bit, trying to identify the peaks of Glacier Park, then ate some lunch and took pictures. As has been my experiences hiking most any peak, the view at the top is gorgeous and you'd love to stay all day, but it's always chilly up that high, so hanging out for long is never feasible. So we started our descent, picking our way back down the rocky path we'd come up.
All was well until the last mile and a half or so-- the steepest part of the trail. My legs were getting tired. All that downhill was putting a hurtin' on my quads and knees, and I had to stop a few times because my legs were quivering so bad (luckily there were abundant ripe huckleberries along the trail, so rest breaks also turned into mini-snack breaks). We finally reached the car, and walked around a few minutes playing with the new sensation of walking on level ground. Weird. After a few minutes of yoga, we made a side-trip to the Packer's Roost for a beer before parting ways.
It was a stellar day-- great mountain, terrific company, perfect weather. If only there'd been a chair-lift to get me back down off that darn hill! As it turned out, my legs were insanely sore for about three days, then just reasonably sore for another two. So I didn't get any running in last week, and my biking was pretty lame, too. I did do a few good swims, and danced a bunch at a wedding on Thursday. But I don't regret having to take the few days off of training because of doing the hike. The trek gave me the opportunity to put things into perspective and to realize that I don't run so that I can do races. No, the
running is so that I feel good and so that when someone asks, hey, do you want to go hike X mountain, or ski Y trail, or paddle Z River, I can confidently say sure, you betcha, without having doubts of whether or not I'm in good enough shape to go along. And if doing such expeditions make me sore and take away a few days of training, oh well. I'd gladly trade a chance at climbing mountains to running around neighborhoods, if time and circumstances allowed. The running races and triathlons are a good way to get/stay in shape in a quick and convenient manner, but they're not the most important ends to the means.

No comments: