At least the Bighorns didn't get the twelve to eighteen inches of snow
Jim has been in contact several times this week with Rich Garrison
about helping to clear the course for the Bighorn races, which begin in
a scant six days. Even before high winds and several inches of rain and
snow hit this area on Wednesday and Thursday, race officials had warned
runners in an e-mail update on June 3 that this year's Bighorn Mountain
Wild and Scenic Trail Runs would be even more wild and scenic than usual
because of "more winter" than in recent years.
Karen Powers, Rich Garrison, and other race officials and volunteers
had already been moving trees and boulders off the course, checking the
footbridges, and generally scouting out course conditions before this
week's storm arrived to further complicate their formidable task.
Because Hwys. 14 and 14A through the mountains were closed for a couple
of days until road crews cleared the deep drifts west of Burgess
Junction, they weren't able to see the highest portion of the course
near the Porcupine Ranger Station until today.
These roads are critical during the races. Hwy. 14 carries traffic
west from Dayton, WY across the Bighorn Mountain Range. Hwy. 14A splits
off from Hwy. 14 at Burgess Junction. The road to Dry Fork, a major aid
station in the race, intersects near this junction. Buses carry runners
here to the start of the 50K and 30K races, and the 52- and 100-milers
also go through the aid station at least once. Access to Porcupine Aid
Station, the turnaround point in the 100-miler and start of the
52-miler, is twenty-one miles west of the Junction on Hwy. 14A. There just isn't
any other way for runner buses, crews, and volunteers to reach these
important aid stations except driving up Hwy. 14 and 14A.
We were already up to Dry Fork for a training run/hike on Wednesday,
and we've been planning to drive up to Porcupine to acclimate and run or
hike there like we did last year. We figured we may as well help Rich
and Karen while we were there, so we made arrangements to meet them
out on the course this morning. They planned to leave Sheridan at 6:30.
We slept later, leaving our campground in Dayton at 7:45.
HIGHER AND DEEPER
I took most of these next photos through our buggy truck windshield
going 60 MPH on the way to Porcupine instead of asking Jim to stop every
five minutes for me to take a picture. (I edited out most of the bugs!)
We started seeing snow on the
hillsides around 6,900 feet up - about where the guy sets up his beef
and elk jerky trailer (if you've been there during the day, you've
probably seen the bright sign shown in my entry on June 6). The snow got
progressively deeper as we approached Burgess Junction at about 8,100
feet and the turnoff to the Porcupine Ranger Station twenty-one miles
Notice the buried sign below:
Jim spotted these two moose past Burgess Junction and took their
picture out his side of the truck:
Although Hwys. 14 and 14A were clear and dry this morning, the dirt
road three miles back to Porcupine Ranger Station was dicey even with
4WD because of the snowdrifts and mud. We could have easily gotten stuck
if we'd slid off the tracks made by Rich and another volunteer whose
vehicles were parked at the ranger station when we arrived. No ranger
vehicles were present.
Several trees had fallen across the road and been cut by someone yesterday or
This is the building used for the aid station at Porcupine. It's an
oasis in the middle of the 100-miler, a vortex like the Brighton Lodge
at Wasatch or Bill's Barn at Vermont whose warmth sucks runners in
during the cold night when their tired bodies just want to lie down and
DEJA VU ALL OVER AGAIN
We each got a snow shovel out of Rich's truck and headed off into the
snow with Cody, following the footprints of the three volunteers ahead
of us. Although it appeared "only" about eight inches of snow fell,
there were numerous two- to three-foot drifts across the trail. We weren't post-holing as deeply as we did
on Segment 4 of the Colorado Trail on Monday, but we did go into the
existing holes or made our own holes up to mid-thigh. This snow was more dense
and already crusted some on top, not like the very soft snow we went
through on Monday, and
in many places it was very wet underneath. I think our feet got cold
more from the icy water than the snow.
After about a quarter mile we could see that one or two of the folks
ahead of us were wearing snowshoes. Great idea! We have snowshoes, too.
Guess where they are?? Answer: at home in Virginia, where it was
90 degrees when we left. We didn't bring our snow gaiters, either.
There was no need for them out here last year, so why bring them this
year?? Another lesson learned the hard way. We're probably going to run
into more snow than last year in Colorado the rest of the summer, too.
It took us nearly an hour to posthole through the drifts and slop
through the marsh water as we climbed to the high point on the course
(approximately 9,100 feet) about a mile out of Porcupine and another
six-tenths beyond. It was easy to follow the prints and bright orange
course markers, but we still hadn't caught up to Rich and Karen and the
other intrepid volunteer ahead of us. We had no idea how far in they
were or how we could possibly help. There was certainly too much heavy snow to
We turned around. It took only 42 minutes to come back down to the
a note for Rich and headed back to the main road where we saw a sedan
with Virginia tags but no one near the vehicle. There was an Appalachian
Trail sticker on the bumper. Hmm . . . wonder if it's someone we
know?? We left him (size 12 shoe print, according to Jim) a note but no
contact info for security reasons, so we may never know who it was.
WONDER WHAT DRY FORK LOOKS LIKE??
Then we headed to the Head of the Dry Fork to see how different it looked after the
snowfall. We were discouraged after seeing Porcupine. This is a
very tough course even under ideal conditions and he has dnf'd the
times already. How could the runners possibly make it through this area
under the cutoffs
after being out on the course so long, AND partly or mostly in the dark? It was hard
enough to walk through the snow. No one could possibly run in it
I was very curious to see if Dry Fork, at 7,500 feet,
was any better. It was, as you can see from the photos below. Compare
them with the ones I took on June 6. Freeze Out Road was clear and dry all the way
back (about fifteen miles) from the main highway:
Runners in all four races use Freeze Out Road either coming into or
going out of the Dry Fork AS:
This photo shows both Freeze Out Road on the right and
the jeep road at the start of the 50K on the left:
This is another view up the road at the 50K start (I
have a vested interest in that road):
We didn't drive up to the Camp Creek drainage today, but could see
from Dry Fork that it had snow on it. It was very wet and muddy on
Wednesday, and will definitely be messy on race weekend.
The jeep road down into the Dry Fork drainage on the way to Cow Camp still had some snow on
it but, barring any further snow this week, it should be melted by
Friday when the 100-milers go through. Right now it's very muddy. It's
in full sun and just might dry out in six days.
Jim took a nap while Cody and I walked around the Head of the Dry
Fork in several directions for half an hour. I took photos of flowers
and the overflowing creek across the road, typical of all the creeks in
this area with the spring run-off:
Even though we didn't get in many training miles today, we did
acclimate at 7,500 to 9,100 feet for over five hours. We're both in rest
mode anyway. We have a race in six days! (Seven for me.) We drove 121
miles today between Dayton, Porcupine, and Dry Fork and back to Dayton.
Pity the folks who are crewing 100-milers - that doesn't include even
longer miles to get to the Footbridge AS!
Last year we saw several moose at Porcupine when we trained and
acclimated there. This year the only ones we saw were along Hwy. 14. I
photographed these two critters on our way back down to Dayton from Dry
Fork but didn't crop in close as both had their heads in the
Race management faces a myriad of challenges on this
course in a GOOD year, let alone a year when Mother Nature dumps this
much late-season snow on the course only a week before 600 runners show
The weather prediction for this week is "warm and sunny." Rich
course will be wetter than usual but is confident most of the snow should be gone
by race day. Jim talked to him after he got back. He and
the other volunteers (there were actually five of them, not three) got
in four and a half miles from Porcupine to Elk Camp today.
Rich is sending us some photos he took of the course yesterday. I'll
post them in another entry soon.
We're looking forward to seeing a bunch of our VHTRC and other
friends as they arrive in the area in the next few days,
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and
© 2007 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil