So, I wrote the other day about some great runs that I took in the middle of last week. Well, it turns out that they were just precursors to something even bigger and better. On Friday evening I got a call from Anders Brooker inviting me on a long trail run on Sunday morning. Here's my summary of the run.
Epic. Awesome. A couple of words that are used all too frequently too describe events and activities are more than likely to be ordinary, routine; or, even mundane. But, yesterday (Sunday, August 2nd) I was fortunate enough to take part in a truly epic trail run in the Bitterroot Mountains east of Superior. Leaving Plains at 6:00 a.m. with Tim Brooker, we met up with Anders Brooker (Tim’s son and the owner of Runner’s Edge in Missoula) and Casey Jermyn a little after 7:00 at the Fish Creek exit on I-90. (Interestingly enough, all four of us are current of former residents of the small town of Plains.) After about 30 minutes of driving, we arrived at the Clearwater Crossing campground just upstream of the Hole in the Wall Ranch.
At 8:00 sharp, we headed out up the North Fork of Fish Creek. Temperatures were perfect to start the run. High 50’s, no wind, clear skies. We knew that things would heat up later in the day; but, we were going to enjoy the conditions for as long as we could. The first 6 or 7 miles followed the creek and had nice, open trail conditions with a relatively slight grade. We traveled through old-growth larch and cedar groves seeing trees that were super tall and up to 5’ or 6’ in diameter. At that point we hit an old mining or logging camp and shortly thereafter began a several mile and 1,000+ foot climb up and over the MT-ID state line and into Goose Lake at approx. 5,800’ elevation. The climb featured several open meadows that were carpeted in wildflowers.
From Goose Lake, we began an arduous climb of about 1,700’ over the next couple of miles to the Stateline Trail along the ridge-line that separates Montana from Idaho. We then had about 5 or 6 miles that followed the ridge line across multiple peaks. The scenery was filled with wildflower and multiple alpine lakes. The cool breeze along the ridge made the temperatures pretty comfortable, in spite of the mid-day sunshine. The views from some of the peaks were endless, 360 degrees vistas of ranges far into both states. Truly spectacular. Part of the run also traversed the Great Burn of 1910. The bear grass was thick; but, what was super unique were the ghostly, bleached out snags that still remain standing almost 100 years after this devastating fire.
We then had a fairly steep descent into Fish Lake; and, unfortunately, some of the trail was a bit rugged and overgrown. But, after a couple of hours of dry, sunny, ridge-top running, we were happy to finally hit the West Fork of Fish Creek and pick up some water and some shade. Again, we had some terribly overgrown trail areas (the wild flowers and alpine willows were super thick). Our big surprise of the day came after about 24 miles when we suddenly came upon a section where the trail was clouded in dust and the bushes on both sides of the trails were shaking. We were pretty nervous thinking that we had come upon some bears. Rather, it turned out to be some wolves that had been spooked by an outfitter’s pack train that was heading up to Fish Lake. Not every day that you run into wolves on a trail run, even in Montana.
By this point, we’re into the run about 5 hours and fatigue, dehydration and hunger are all starting to kick in big time. We were at the point that coming back through the cedar and larch groves wasn’t nearly as exciting as on the way up. About another hour down the trail we come to a beautiful, wide spot in the creek with a natural swimming hole. We all dipped our water bottles (using a filter of course) and washed off our faces and drenched our hats. Tim and Anders thought a little dip was in order to cool off a bit. On the other hand, Casey and I figured that one of two things would happen if we hit the water: 1) We wouldn’t want to ever come out; or, 2) (and much more likely) our legs would stiffen into wooden stumps and we would be forever getting through the last 3 miles. So, we stayed on the bank and waited for the Brooker boys to finish up.
Then, it was a gentle down slope on a wide open trail for the last 25 minutes back to the car. 6 ½ hours run time (and 8 ½ hours total time) and 30 some miles later and we were back to the beginning. Yes, it was time to stick the forks in us because we were done and had all pretty much had our asses kicked. But, as Anders said, that was as much fun as you can have beating yourself to a pulp for almost 9 hours. Can’t really think of a better way to spend a Sunday. 3 friends, an open trail, scenic vistas and amazing landscapes. Epic. Awesome. These two words certainly were appropriate for the occasion.
See you on the roads, tracks and trails
The Muddy Buzzard