A year ago today, Damai Chiri Sherpa and I were making our way down from the top of the world.. What a trip! And, as best I can tell, Damai is gearing up for what will hopefully be his seventh summit attempt as I write this – best of luck to him and all of the other climbers. I’m trying to get better access to expedition dispatches and will pass on what I hear.
Damai Chiri Sherpa
It has been 6 days and 196 miles of hard running from Jackson Hole to Shoshoni. Maybe the craziest part was running over the continental divide while the sun set, a can of bear spray in one hand. More on that later. But I will try to make this post quick.
The run from Jackson Hole was one of the most scenic road runs I have ever done. It was a ~41m run to the ill-named Hatchet Resort and my pace was measurably slowed down by all of the photo opportunities. The majority of the run is alongside the Grand Tetons. The fact that I was running mostly north instead of east didn’t even bother me. The penalty for dawdling was getting in after dark. I was lit up like a Christmas tree when I finally rolled in. Huge thanks to Ron for saving a dinner for me and putting it in my room, Pat the manager at the Hatchet Resort for giving me a free room. And also to Sam Bixby for setting it all up through her super Wyoming connections.
Leaving the hotel the next morning I was warned that there was some serious construction further up the road. And at the nearby Black Rock Ranger Station, I was encouraged to be careful near the pass because there had been numerous recent sightings of a female grizzly and her cubs. So noted on both counts.
Encounter 8? with the law…
A handful of miles later, around 10:30am, I pulled up to a construction flagger. A small line of cars had formed in front of him only to take off behind a small pickup with a ‘follow-me’ sign on the tail gate. They were being led through the construction zone. I pulled up to the flagger and he said that they would ferry me through in the back of a truck. They did this routinely for cyclists who were trying to bike across the country and it was for my own safety. I explained that having a continuous journey was important to me and that I was happy to take my own safety into my hands and make my own way through. Things just escalated from there, soon I was talking to his supervisor Sue and not long after, a highway patrol officer who deferred completely to Sue and said that he would arrest me for failing to obey a flagger if I tried to run through. Wow. Everyone was very nice but the only options seemed to be getting a ride through the 3 mile section or waiting until they quit for the day at 5pm. Bush whacking three miles along the highway with everything on my back didn’t seem feasible. And all three made repeated references to the woods being thick with grizzly. After a little sulking, I stashed my stuff in the woods and managed to find an old forest road that somewhat paralleled the highway. With a can of bear spray in one hand, and singing as loud as I could, I ran down it for an hour before it dumped me in the middle of the construction zone. Close but no cigar. I tried everything I could think of and by then it was 3:30pm and I just gave up, admired the view, and waited for quitting time.
Sunset at the pass
When 5:00pm finally came, I hauled ass as best I could. The altitude seemed to suck all my energy but I needed to get about 20 miles done including getting over Togwotee Pass (elevation 9,658) and down the other side before dark. I didn’t make it before dark – but I got to see an amazing sunset every time I looked back. There was a ton of snow at the pass, but the shoulders were clean. Bombing down the other side with my headlamp on – the fact that I had crossed the continental divide and 1000 miles of running started to sink in. So did the fact that I was still in grizzly country. After mistaking too many highway reflectors for animal eyes, I started running with my can of bear spray in one hand again. I finally stumbled into the Falls Campground a little after ten; the entrance was locked and somewhat covered in snow drifts, but I had already been warned about this by the ranger earlier in the day. I picked out three snow-free camp sites and ate my dinner by headlamp at one picnic table, camped at another, and left the jogger at a third with the justification that it probably had food crumbs all over it. It really is just a rolling snack cart.
Doing a wheelie the next morning – cold!
From there, I ran to the small town of Dubois – seeing quite a few strange sites and finally crashing in a nice motel room.
Yes – the tree is growing out of there…
Home sweet home?
For the first time in many days, a dog slipped under its fence and charged me. I already had my bear spray ready but it was hard to miss how fast the dogs tail was wagging. It looked a little like his tail was shaking his whole body. This sweet guy really wanted to go for a long run. Sorry!
Sweetest attack dog ever
Trail magic, thanks Glen!
The landscape was amazing
Flat tires don’t make my day
Nice horses make my day
The last hundred miles has been very sparsely populated. I ran through the Wind River Indian Reservation and camped behind the Volunteer Fire Department, one of the only two structures in Crowheart. The other was a small grocery store that I almost cleaned out. From there – I ran about 42 miles yesterday and camped near Ocean Lake within the wildlife refuge. On the way there, I found myself agonizing at a cross-roads around mile 30. Signs advertising cold beer were pointing to a store that was a mile away, a mile in the wrong direction. In the end, the decision was not really that hard. The beer last night was especially tasty and I toasted Damai Sherpa.
This morning I called my mother and sister and wished them both happy Mother’s day. The run today was pretty uneventful except that it is starting to get hot again; temps are expected to be in the 80’s for the rest of the week and I am determined to get on the road by 6am for the rest of the week. The next 100 miles to Casper are described as desolate with two small grocery/bars at mile 50 and 60, nothing else. Bjorn Suneson (more on this monster runner from Sweden who is currently doing his 3rd transcon) ran this section during his 2007 run and described it on his blog, “Today I am running on ‘Death Highway’, Highway 26 between Shoshoni and Casper in Wyoming. This approximately 150 kilometer stretch where there is hardly a house is mostly semi-arid, the landscape the most barren I have ever seen. The road rises slowly, slowly the whole time — I am at about 5,500 feet; it is hot and my running shoes leave prints in the chewing gum-like tar between the cracks in the asphalt. The road is covered by road-kill rabbits, small birds and rattlesnakes (I hear that it is a sport among drivers to flatten as many snakes as possible).”
Wow – something to look forward to! So, time for sleep for me. G’ night!
Total mileage to date: 1,144
Total days (including 2 rest): 39