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Runtrails' Rocky Mountain Journal
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            THURSDAY, JUNE 8: PART 1           
"Joy is not in things; it is in us."
- Richard Wagner


This was a joyful day for Jim and me for several reasons. Read on to find out why!

First, Jim got good news from Dr. Snyder yesterday when he saw her for a follow-up visit at her Sheridan family practice regarding his rattlesnake bite. Dr. Snyder was happy to see that the swelling was nearly gone in his ankle, there was no tenderness any more, and the tissues around the puncture wounds were healing nicely. There should be no tissue necrosis, although Jim may experience swelling during the 100-miler. Dr. Snyder re-emphasized that Jim must use good judgment during the race and stop if the swelling is worse than what usually occurs.

By this morning, the swelling was all gone. Here's a picture of the ankle with the bites:

You can still see the two puncture wounds. Today Jim felt like testing his body out on the trail again. He planned to walk two or three miles to see if the effort caused any pain or additional swelling. He felt so good, he even ran part of the distance.

Other reasons to be joyful today: The weather was great - sunny and cool at the lofty elevations we enjoyed for several hours, a nice respite from the heat in the valley. There was even some snow! We chose another beautiful place in the Bighorns to hike/run today (I don't think there is anywhere unsightly in this huge national forest). We saw lots of big wildlife and reveled in the amazing wildflowers. And I visited the sacred Native American site called "Medicine Wheel." In order to do this archaeological site justice, I will write about it in Part 2.

Our goals today were to get in several hours of acclimating at the highest elevation on the course and to see the trails going into and out of the Porcupine Ranger Station, site of the aid station at the turn-around for the 100-miler. It helps us prepare mentally for races if we can visualize part or all of the courses. It's been three years since we've been in this location:  time for a reminder.

It's a 55-mile drive from our campground in Dayton to the ranger station. All of it is on paved Hwy. 14 and 14A until the last couple miles on dirt FSR 13. Elevations reached about about 9,500 feet on Hwy. 14a, and we saw some snow along the road: 

There are only tiny patches of snow remaining at the elevations found on the Bighorn course (about 4,000 to 9,100 feet). Until recent rains, this has been a warmer and drier spring in the area than average. It appears there has been more rain on "top" of the Bighorns than down in the valleys.

Early on race morning (about 4 AM), buses leave the park adjacent to our campground in Dayton and take about a hundred runners in the 52-mile race up to Porcupine for their 6 AM start. Instead of riding the bus, Jim and I will be RUNNING up there in the 100-miler. Our cut-off time is an hour before the 52-milers begin their point-to-point race.

Here is one of the beautiful vistas we enjoyed on the drive up there today. It may be too dark on race day for the runners to see this view:

This is the entrance to the Porcupine Ranger Station:

We got a treat just before the ranger station - we saw our first moose of this trip! He hightailed it across the road before I could get the camera out, though. Since it was about 11 AM, we didn't expect to see much wildlife. 

There are several buildings in the Porcupine complex. The building used by the race volunteers is crowded during the race, uncomfortably hot from the blazing woodstove, and like a vortex to be avoided by the 100-milers. The next photo shows Jim checking out the venue:

Like Bill's Barn at Vermont or Brighton ski lodge during Wasatch, this aid station can suck tired runners in and make them want to stay instead of finishing the race. Our plan is to know exactly what we need to do at that aid station 48 miles into our race and get out of there before our brains tell us how nice it would be to s-t-a-y there.

Visualizing the area before the race helps with that process. Now we just gotta remain firm and resolved in the middle of the night during the race!


Porcupine Ranger Station sits at approximately 8,800 feet. The high point on the Bighorn race course is about a mile out, at about 9,100 feet. If you look at the elevation profile of the 100-miler, you can see the two little humps in the middle of the course. The "low point" between the humps is Porcupine.

Our plan today was to run the first mile or so from the aid station until the trail crosses a forest service road, then return to the aid station. We'd get to see part of the course and be at elevation, acclimating some more.

I thought I knew my way for the first couple of miles, but even after reading the course description, we think we must have missed a turn somewhere because we didn't reach that crossroad and the scenery just didn't look right to either of us. It's been three years since I ran this part of the course, and the last two times Jim did it in the dark.

I'm pretty sure the next photo is part of the course near the aid station . . .

. . . but we're not so sure about this one a mile up the road:

Jim was more concerned than I was about going the "right way" to help with visualization. The scenery was so beautiful I really didn't care! I was still getting in some miles and acclimating at elevation. We turned around at 1.3 miles and returned to the ranger station. I followed another road for a quarter mile, but I'm certain it wasn't right.

Oh, well. It was a nice little three-mile run for the dogs and me, and Jim did nearly as much on his healing snake-bitten leg.

This is a new plant we saw today, the Western Pasque Flower:

Next, we drove back out to Hwy. 14A and went west about half a mile to the entrance to the Medicine Wheel, a sacred Indian site. I will write about it in the next entry. I took this photo down toward the Porcupine Ranger Station from the ridge on Medicine Mountain. It shows the mountains in the distance that we'll be climbing near the turn-around during the race:

After visiting the Medicine Wheel, we drove back to the Porcupine Campground near the ranger station to relax in the shade at a campsite for a couple of hours. It was a great place to acclimate. Jim set up the computer so I could do some writing in the journal while he read and took a nap. I wish I'd gotten a photo of the set-up. We had to use the (quiet Honda) generator to run the computer, which was sitting on a picnic table. No one else was around, so we weren't disturbing anyone. We stayed until it began to rain late in the afternoon.

Sometimes we go to great lengths to get on-line since we can't get easy access at the campground. Here's a photo of Jim accessing the internet this morning with one of our cell phones. We were in the truck on the way up to Porcupine and stopped a couple miles from Dayton where we can get a Verizon signal. We go to the same spot to make phone calls. Tater's waiting patiently to see if she got any e-mail:



I mentioned we saw a moose on the way into Porcupine this morning but I didn't get a picture of it.

Moose are one of my favorite large animals. Jim and I used to see them fairly routinely on our training runs in the Beartooth Mountains and in Yellowstone National Park when we lived in Billings. I've also seen them at Crater Lake in Oregon and on the Appalachian Trail last summer. They are magnificent creatures, always a pleasure to observe.

As we were leaving the area late this afternoon, we saw four more moose near the ranger station and I was able to photograph three of them. What a thrill! Here are some of the pictures:


Those two were smaller and less apprehensive about us than the big guy below:

We also saw several deer feeding in the high country as we made our way back home, but we didn't see any little fawns today.

More in the next entry re: the mysterious Medicine Wheel . . .

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater

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2006 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil