Up early, prepped, and out the door. Still dark but light was a comin'. I anticipated 25 minutes or so to the trail head parking area. Wait - why didn't I know exactly? I have been there before. But it's been a while. As I exited the highway, I saw the mountain I would be climbing. Another 9 miles of driving parallel to this ridge. It was hard for me to keep my eyes on the road as I continually gazed at the snow topped ridge line. What an amazing sight to see the lower half of the ridge bare and the upper half painted with white icing! The butterflies were fluttering in my stomach. How I longed to get out on the trail. This is a feeling I will never figure out. I don't understand this anticipatory anxious yet excited feeling for a date with the trails. Maybe it's a feeling that shouldn't be figured out. There it was - the dirt - no mud drive up to the state game lands parking area. No snow or ice to worry about getting up this hill - just mud. What a mess! But there it was. The trail head beckoned me to come quickly. I did not let her down.
Off I went. Down and up the trail. Spots of snow and ice but mostly bare. I entered shortly after a good warm-up to the first climb. Up and up it went. There were no switchbacks. I followed the gas line clearing up Second Mountain. But were was first mountain? I don't know. I just know this is called Second Mountain. Halfway up and I met snow - such beautiful fluffy, fresh snow. The rain we got the night before was snow up there. I was first on the trail today - of a human kind anyway. Lots of tracks but none of the homo sapiens variety. This is why I run trail.
On the other side I bombed down the hill but shortly down the snow turned to crunchy ice. Such a beautiful winter wonderland I thought. There were many moments I just took it all in and appreciated the beauty of nature. I did not know it yet but for the duration of this run, I would experience dry trails, wet muddy trails, icy trails, snowy trails, and really snowy trails. This is why I run trail.
I made my way over the rolling logging trail down to the valley floor. In the middle of two beautiful ridges was a creek and a rail trail. It's quite a sight to the eyes to view the corridor of nature all around. Quickly I made my second ascent. This was the big one - 1000 feet in one mile and most of that in the last half mile. It is a lung burner. The water tank trail follows a trickle coming off the mountain. It was below freezing out, but this water still found a way to keep moving. Once in the middle of this climb I had two choices - continue straight up the Water Tank Trail or veer to the right up the Janie Trail. I went to the right knowing it was slightly less streep but would add a little distance to my trek. At the top I bushwacked my way through low lying rhododendron and thickets weighed down by the snow. It was so thick I almost lost the trail. My legs were cold and cut up from making my way through this winter wonderland jungle. I made it to the top. Before me was a jeep trail that traveled the ridge line. I looked down to 4 or 5 inches of snow. Glorious! This is why I run trail.
It was here that the adventure started. I had read about a fire tower at the top of this mountain but had never been there. It was a side trail that only led to the tower. The snow seemed to be getting deeper. Probably only my imagination. But then before me appeared the tower. As I approached it, I marveled at such a simple concept - a fire tower in the middle-of-nowhere. Probably more contact with the animals than humans. A 9-foot fence with barb wire with signs that said
"Authorized Personnel Only". Hmmm....but the gate leading in is wide open. I can't pass that up. So I carefully made my way up the tower. Ok before I go on - I do not condone trespassing or vandelism or houlaganism but THEY LEFT THE GATE OPEN! I just had to see what I could see. I got some great views. Too bad my minor fear of heights (and being stranded in the wilderness during the winter) kept me from going to the top. I estimated the tower to be 100 or maybe 125 feet high. I could tell the tower was rusty and with the snow cover, it was hard to tell how rusty. So I went as far as I felt comfortable with. But the views I saw were worth what I could do. This is why I run trail.
The trip down the mounatain was incredible. One mile of snow top mountain followed by 3 miles of glorious downhill. Once back in the valley again, I knew the trail went through the creek. NO other choice but to wade through it. On any day of the year, this mountain fed creek is cold but in the middle of winter - well you get the picture. Thankfully my Salomon shoes and drymax socks work wonders with getting rid of the wet. Half a mile up the trail I never would have known of the ice cold soaking my feet took. This is why I run trail.
The rest of the journey was mud filled followed by my last climb up to the snow again and finished with more shoe sucking mud. In the end, I finished 17+ miles in just over 4 hours. One human sighting, multiple white tails, too many tracks in the snow to count, ice, snow, mud, single track, jeep road, logging road, rail trail, steep ascents, long downhills, flat, snowing, sunny, cloudy, windy, calm, cold, warm...This is why I run trail.