Davy Crockett’s Running Frontier

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

Browsing Posts published in July, 2017

 

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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rider

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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