Davy Crockett’s Running Frontier

I like to Run Insanely Long & Crazy Distances                                                                                                             Pony Express Trail 100
                                                                                                                                                                            www.ponyexpress100.org

 

The Uinta mountain range in Utah is one of the few ranges in North America that runs east to west. This mountain range contains all of the Utah peaks higher than 13,000 feet and it is the most remote mountain range in the state. The highest continuous established trail in the Uintas is the Highline Trail (#025) that runs the length of the mountain range. This very remote trail is one of the most remarkable trails in the nation. In its entirety, the trail is more than 100 miles long.  An 82-mile stretch from Leidy Peak on the east to Hayden Pass on the west is generally recognized as the end-to-end expanse of the trail. The rest of the trail is through mostly forest outside the wilderness area.

Previously in 2007 and 2010 I had successfully ran the Highline Trail (the first to run it solo), documented that experience, and shared my GPS data and waypoints for others to follow. Others have tried and succeeded in running the trail, but many have failed. This is a difficult, rugged experience that should not be taken lightly. The effort is very similar to running a tough 100-miler with no support. The reasons for difficulty are:

  • Thunderstorms are frequent in the high Uintas. If the trail gets wet, if becomes very slow and difficult.
  • The Uintas are known for its boulders. Much of the trail goes up and down boulder-strewn drainages between passes. Trail maintenance is performed infrequently because it is so remote and they don’t try to divert all the streams from going down the trail.
  • High Altitude. Much of the trail is above 10,000 feet.
  • Bail out. Once you get into the heart of the mountain range, any trailhead is about 15 miles away down rugged, difficult trails.
  • If you go in a group, there is a very, very high probability that at least one of you will need to bail out.
  • You need to take everything you need with you. The trailheads are too far away to go in and drop things off.
  • For long stretches the trail is faint or non-existant, only marked by occasional cairns. If you don’t know the way, you will get off trail, especially at night. That really slows things down. Following a GPS track or waypoints can help. Getting lost is pretty impossible for ultrarunners. All the trails heading down valleys eventually get to a trailhead with campers.

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The fastest 100-mile ultrarunners during the 1970’s, 80’s and 90’s

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I am always drawn toward the stories of the early pioneers of ultrarunning. I think it is important to take time to appreciate the history and accomplishments of the runners who paved the way before us. The birth of the 100-mile trail race has been attributed to Gordy Ainsleigh, who in 1974 wanted to see if he could run a 100-mile horse race in California, the Western States Trail Ride, on foot, instead of riding a horse. He was successful, finishing in 23:42, proving that a person could run 100 miles in the mountains in less than a day.

But ultrarunning, including 100-mile races, did not start there….

This started out to be a blog post, but turned into a free online book.

Download the entire book (PDF) here: Swift Endurance Legends

More than 2,700 downloads since May 3.

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rangeFor years as I would drive south on I-15 by Fillmore, I would gaze up at a particular mountain range after passing the small town of Scipio, Utah. This range presents a peculiar flat horizon on top and I would wonder and dream of running along the top of that mountain range end to end. In 2016 I accomplished this run from Scipio to Richfield, a journey of about 58 mies. This mountain range is named the Pahvant Mountains, after the Pahvant tribe, a branch of the Ute Indians. The Pahvant Range merges into the Tushar Mountains on the south.

The Pahvants are rarely visited, mostly by ATV or horseback riders. A section of The Pauite ATV trail runs along a portion of the range. The range is about 44 miles long and 10 miles across. There are a number of peaks along the range over 10,000 feet high. In 2009, an ancient high-altitude Indian village site, named Pharo Heights, was discovered on the range top at 9,465 feet. The village was occupied between years 450-1300 A.D. It was likely a summer residence when the ridge was snow-free. continue reading…

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Squaw Peak 50 is a classic and tough 50-mile race held in the mountains above Provo, UT. During the early miles, the course climbs the slopes of Squaw Mountain (aka Squaw Peak) a prominent peak that rises above Rock Canyon, frequented by day hikers and rock climbers. It received its name back in the 1800s for “Big Elk’s squaw” who died in the canyon following a battle with pioneer settlers.

For years I had wondered if running a double Squaw Peak 50 would be possible and how tough that might be. I succeeded in 2015, running a double Squaw Peak in 29:32. I ran the first 50 loop solo and then joined the race for the second 50 with a couple hours head start. It all went very well and I was able to run with my son during portions of the second 50. that year was a mild year temperature-wise with no snow. Last year, I again attempted to run a double, but the weather was very hot and I wisely aborted after finishing the first 50.

A week before the 2017 race, I finished Pigtails 100 near Seattle, Washington. I recovered fast, so a couple days before Squaw Peak 50, I contacted John Bozung, the race director, and again received permission to run a double. Why, I’m asked? Why not? Back in 1981 I hiked up to the course for the first time and it deeply inspired me to one day explore that Wasatch back country. Little did I know. . .  continue reading…

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I returned for the third time to run the Pigtails Challenge, a lesser-known ultra, near Seattle, Washington. There were five distances, 50K, 100K, 100 miles, 150 miles, and 200 miles. I ran the 150 in 2014 and finished the 100-mile race last year. Each time I had a great first 100-mile time of around 21 hours so I looked forward to try again.

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The Pigtails Challenge is held at the Lake Youngs watershed in Renton, Washington, which is only about 15 miles from where I grew up and went to high school. The 9.4-mile loop trail runs around the perimeter of a very protected reservoir that supplies drinking water for Seattle. Along the trail, there is only one place where you can get a glimpse of the lake. The course is very easy to follow because you simply run on the outside of the high fence that guards the property. It always reminds me of the movie, “The Village” where a society lives secretly in the woods behind high walls. continue reading…

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The early trail 100-mile races, including Western States 100, Old Dominion 100, and Vermont 100, all have their roots in horse endurance rides. The parallels from those rides to 100-mile ultras are many. Much of the experience and practices of those rides became part of trail 100 mile runs that were established in the 1970s and ‘80s.

In 1955 Wendell Robie, a successful businessman and outdoorsman from Auburn, California had a discussion with an associate about whether a horseback rider could cover 100 miles in a day. He got riled up about it and vowed to prove it could be done. He wanted to conduct the ride on a trail he had particular interest in, a historic trail used by miners in the 1800s between the California gold fields and the silver mines in Virginia City, Nevada. Wendell named the trail, “The Western States Trail.” It went through little old gold towns between Lake Tahoe and Auburn, Califronia, crossing over the crest of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Wendell made plans, established a committee, and worked to get support from the city of Auburn. A stated purpose of the ride was “to determine if Western horses are bred today as tough as those of the Pony Express era.”

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The journey to becoming an ultrarunner has many varied paths. I personally never dreamed to be a runner of any kind and in fact most of my life, pretty much despised running. But along these unexpected paths, running somehow evolved. This story is mostly for me, to look back and understand where I came from, but it also may be of interest to others as they too become an ultrarunner.  Perhaps this is my runner memoirs.  It is a attempt to bring together many of my experiences and lessons learned over the years. Recently updated (3/17)

Full book, download PDF here: My Path to Ultrarunning  to read off-line. 268 pages, 18 meg. 13,100+ downloads to date.  

To be continued…

Buffalo Run 100

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I ran the Antelope Island Buffalo Run 100 for the 4th time. Antelope Island is the largest island in the Great Salt Lake, covering 28,022 acres. It is home to bison, bighorn sheep, pronghorn, mule deer, coyotes, bobcats, upland game birds, and waterfowl. In 2006 Jim Skaggs established the first ultramarathons held on the island and in 2011 introduced a 100-miler.

In 1848, Fielding Garr established permanent residency on the island. He grazed his own herds there as well of massive herds for the Mormon Church. At times there were nearly 1,000 wild horses roaming the island. In the 1890’s, John E Dooley owned land on Antelope Island. He bought buffalo and transported them to the Island. By 1900, the small herd had multiplied to over 100 head. Recognizing the recreation potential of the island, the north 2,000 acres were acquired by the state in 1969. In 1981 the state purchased most of the rest of the island thus preserving it as a state park for all the people to enjoy. Today the number of bison on the island number about 750. continue reading…