Runtrails' Rocky Mountain Journal
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"If you can't fly, then run. If you can't run, then walk.
If you can't walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, keep moving."
- Martin Luther King, Jr. 


That quote might still be applicable to the Bighorn 100-milers in two days when they approach the Porcupine Aid Station forty-eight miles into the race! A lot of the snow has melted since Jim and I hiked out a mile and a half from the ranger station four days ago, but there are still plenty of what our friend Quatro Hubbard called "moguls" in the shady woods around 9,000 feet in elevation.

Tater turns around when she sees more snowdrifts!

Race managers were right when they predicted that much of the snow would melt by race day. When Jim and I were up there on Saturday, we thought the course might have to be modified. Compare the photos below with those in the June 9 entry, and you'll see a vast improvement. But the remaining snowdrifts and runoff in the marshes will still challenge runners on Friday (100-milers) and Saturday (52-milers).

Pools of melted snow near the road crossing a mile from the ranger station

It was fun to share today's run/hike with five friends from the VHTRC (Virginia Happy Trails Running Club). A large contingency of club members -- about forty-three of us! -- are registered for the various ultra distances this weekend, and they're starting to arrive in the area by plane, car, and camper.

A block from the campground, Jim stopped to use the pay phone at a convenience store. Who should we see but Quatro Hubbard and Tom Corris, two of the most active members of the club. Hi, guys! They were heading up to Porcupine, too. We laughed when we got up to the "Buffalo and Elk Jerky" salesman in the camper along Hwy. 14. They got sucked in, too! (It's tasty stuff, just pricey.)

The trip up to Burgess Junction was similar to the trip we made up to Dry Fork before the snowstorm last Wednesday -- no snow visible in the shady areas of the forest until we reached about 8,100 feet elevation. On Saturday, we could see snow from 6,800 feet and up. At 8,000 feet, it had blanketed everything. So a whole lot of it had melted already:

The most snow we saw today was at the high point with the buried sign and high cuts of snow along the road, a couple miles before the turn-off to the ranger station. It looked about like this last year, too, a low-snow year.

One couple from the club whose names we know but hadn't met yet, Judy and Gary Richwine, e-mailed us and asked if we wanted to join them at Porcupine today. Sure! They had seen our photos from Saturday and were as curious as we were about the current conditions. We met them at Bear Lodge, just past Burgess Junction, and they followed us to Porcupine. We had no idea if the dirt road back to the ranger station would be passable for their 2WD vehicle.

Four days made quite a difference on that road! On Saturday, we had to use 4WD and even then we were sliding out of the two deep tracks made by the rangers. I wasn't surprised that the snow had melted, but I expected lots of mud. Instead, most of the road was dry, even in deep shade (second photo).


That's great news for the runner buses and other vehicles (volunteers, crews) that need to get back there on Friday and Saturday. You can also see in the next photo of Gary, Judy, and Jim that the area right around the ranger station is free of snow now, too.

We started up the trail from the ranger station with the Richwines, Tater, and Cody. This is the little bridge runners use a hundred yards from the aid station. Four days ago, you couldn't see much of the ground here:

There was still plenty of snow in the next half mile through the trees, but we could dodge many of the drifts over to the side or through the woods a bit:

Cody did just fine in the difficult snowdrifts Saturday (and the previous Monday on the Colorado Trail). Tater is older and not as strong, so we left her home those days. This morning she had a little difficulty post-holing in some drifts, but got herself out of each of them OK. Otherwise, she had a great time splashing through all the creeks and pools of water. Labs are water lovers, after all.

Some of the snowdrifts were more firm today, allowing us to walk OVER them instead of post-holing:

Runners pass this pretty creek near the cabin area past the ranger station. These flowers, and many other little ones in the marshy area, were covered by snow four days ago:

We saw lots of moose tracks through the mud along the jeep road but didn't see any of the critters as we were driving in or out of the ranger station area (it's usually a good place to spot them):

Half a mile from the ranger station the course veers off to the left through a marshy meadow. This was covered with snow on Saturday when the volunteers marked it with orange flagging. Today we could see a faint trail to follow:

Judy photographs some sub-alpine wildflowers along a little creek:

Looking past the high point at the road crossing:

That was completely snow-covered Saturday. Now there are lots of pools of water where the now has melted, but we could by-pass most of them. It should be drier by race day. The dogs had fun in the little "ponds" below:


Then we got back into some more snowdrifts:

Some of the trail "trenches" were full of water, but most were already dry:

Moles have been busy! They must be pretty tough to survive the winters here.

Uh, oh, here comes trouble! It's Quatro (AKA "Q") and Tom Corris, our two fun-loving VHTRC friends:

They caught up to the Richwines and us just before the "moguls" through the deep woods (first photo at top), where we'd decided to turn around -- same place we turned around on Saturday. We stood around talking for about ten minutes in the warm sun:

L to R, above: Judy, Jim, Tom, Quatro, Gary

Quatro and Tom continued on ahead through the woods (dunno how far) and Judy, Gary, Jim, and I returned to the ranger station 1.6 miles back.

What a beautiful big-blue-sky day! I lagged behind, taking photos. Near the road crossing, David Horton came running toward us and stopped to chat a couple minutes:

David continued ahead until he caught up to Tom and Quatro. Back at the campground, he told us about the remaining snow on the course, admitting it will be a challenge to the runners on Friday and Saturday. Each day should see a little less snow, though.

Here are two more photos I took today that contrast with ones I took four days ago. It's a pain to slog through snow on the course, but it sure is pretty to look at in the distance!


Can you see why runners love this course?? I'm sorry I won't see the upper eighteen miles in the 50K. I'll have to train harder/longer next time we come and do the 52-miler (nope, I have no desire to attempt the 100-miler here again -- that's Jim's thing).

The campground is starting to fill up with runners now. My next entries will focus on pre-race activities and people.

Two days to go,

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

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2007 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil