For my birthday, I wanted to try to run the Skyline Drive end-to-end, something I’m sure no one has even attempted before. This is a 110-mile dirt road that runs from I-70 to Hwy 6, north-south in Central Utah. Most of it is above 10,000 feet. Craig Lloyd was interested in running it with me and we found a willing crew to drive along, Josh and Matt. I had scouted out and driven about 40 miles of it a week earlier. I received some good information from buddy, Bryan, who has spent many days up in that region.
We started our run at 8 p.m. on the south end. I had run a marathon less than two days before and could quickly tell my legs were not fresh and ready for this.
For the first five miles I struggled to get the kinks out and had trouble keeping up with Craig. But eventually I used tricks such has running fast uphill in spurts that finally got the kinks out.
Just as I was feeling great and ready to run fast, we ran into a major obstacle. As the road reached the aspen groves, I noticed my feet felt a little heavier. Mud! Apparently there had been a huge thunderstorm earlier in the day that dumped an inch or two on the mountains.
A little while later, we caught up to the crew and they Josh said they had a problem. The clay mud had coated his tires and he had no traction at all, like sliding on ice. They had no choice but to turn around. We would have to go to plan B. They would drive around and meet us at the top of a canyon at about mile 29.
So, we were on our own. We put on light packs to carry more provisions for the next several hours. We stopped for awhile to make sure they made it back down the road safely and then were on our way again. It was slow going. We hoped that the mud would go away in a few hundred yards, but it stayed with us for about six miles until we reached the high ridges where the wind had been able to dry things out.
Our pace was frustrating. The clay mud would stick to our shoes like cement and weigh several pounds. If we scraped off just a little bit, we could feel a huge difference, but then a few steps later it was back on. We were doing this all in the dark. At one point, Craig finally shined his light on my shoes and started busting out laughing. My Hoka shoes have a large surface area, so the amount of mud clinging to them were amazing.
Our pace was about a 20-25 minute mile through the mud. I realized that we were already significantly behind pace and I prepared myself to realize that we probably would run out of time and not run the entire route we hoped to run. Oh well, I would just try to have some fun.
Once we reached about 10,000 feet, the road became more sandy and less muddy and it felt great to really run again. But my next challenge was my headlamp. Instead of taking my trusty handheld, I used a headlamp and the batteries were going out. My light began to dim. At first it was a fun challenge to run with the dim light, light running in moonlight, but soon it was almost out and I started to stumble. Our elevation climbed over 10,500 feet and up there was starting to get pretty chilly.
At about 4 a.m. we reached mile 29. That is about eight hours to travel 29 miles! We searched the campground there and found our crew fast asleep. It was good to see them again. They decided that they would again try to follow along with us.
At mile 30, we hit thick fog right before dawn. It was almost like running with the dim headlamp again because you couldn’t see very far down the road. We reached the high point for our adventure right before dawn.
The sunrise was spectacular and eventually the low clouds cleared out.
The early morning was amazing. There is just no better place to run than in the morning at 10,000 feet. The crew had to turn around again at mile 39 because a massive snow slide was blocking the road.
Craig and I continued on and made our way around the obstacle.
I worried about the crew driving down the rough Manti Canyon road. When I worry, stress makes me slow way down and walk. I just couldn’t reach them by phone for a long while. I didn’t haul these guys out here to just get them injured or in trouble.
Craig ran on over a mile ahead of me and then waited at mile 45. Finally I reached the crew by phone down in Manti filling up on gas. They would head up Ephraim Canyon, mile 45 and drive until they found us ahead. I also called home and all was well.
The crew came up Ephraim Canyon and caught up with us about mile 50. At that point Craig’s stomach wasn’t working. I looked at him and could see defeat in his eyes. I didn’t try to talk him out of it. I made a very quick stop and told the crew to not worry about me, to take care of Craig.
I was feeling fantastic in the early morning. The mud again returned but I did my best to run near the side of the road where there was some vegetation to help keep the mud off my shoes.
I didn’t realized that Craig had indeed quit and kept looking behind me for him to catch up. But it turned out that he was getting a nice snooze in the crew car.
At mile 53.5, I noticed the crew stopped early at a sharp corner. Josh told, me, “We have another problem, look at this.” I turned the corner and saw a massive steep snow field blocking the road. I felt so bad for everyone and apologized for all these unexpected problems. Everyone assured me they were having a great time. I knew that meant that I would be on my own for the next 15 miles or so. I quickly put my pack back on. The crew would again head back, drive around and try to meet me around mile 68.
The snow field turned out to be a slippery obstacle. I quickly determined it was too steep to cross, so I went down and crossed under it in the mud. But, the mud was just as slick. I took two falls into the mud and my cell phone went flying into it. I yelled back to Josh and Matt that I may not be able to call them anymore.
Finally across, I was a muddy mess. It really took the wind out of my sails. I stopped at a creek to try to clean up a little. I looked at my hand that I busted six week earlier. The Band-Aid I wore was gone, the incision from the surgery broke open in a spot and there was mud all over it. I did my best to clean it up and worried about further infection.
On my way again, I was in a beautiful forest area. But with more trees, meant more mud. The road was protected from the wind and the mud was the worst I had seen for the entire adventure. Now there were also large puddles to cross. I noticed that there was no evidence of any vehicle tracks on the road recently. It just wasn’t travelable. But I could made slow progress and plodded on, only going about 30-minute mile pace. The scenery was amazing and eventually the road went out to the west where I had views of the towns of Spring City and Mount Pleasant to the northwest.
It was so quiet and peaceful. It was just me and nature. Birds chirped and at times I would startle a deer or two. There were deer tracks all over in the fresh mud and soon I spotted elk tracks. At one point it looked like dozens had run on the road earlier that morning, putting their tracks in the mud. I nearly slipped and fell about a dozen times but continued my journey.
Before reaching South Twin Creek, I came across a massive landslide blocking the road with huge trees, boulders, and dirt. There was no way for even an ATV to get around it. I climbed over it, making my way through the boulders and trees. Wow, that thing would need a bunch of heavy equipment to clear out. Earlier I had seen a couple other smaller slides.
At about mile 62, I called the crew. They had to stop about mile 67 and Josh said he would ride his bike out to find me, he thought he was close. I didn’t think he was close, because I had been going so slow. The further I went, the better the road became. I could start running again, but would always hit a low spot that would again cover my shoes in mud.
At about mile 64, Josh came into view on his bike. It was great to see him. He had worried that somehow he had missed me because he had to go so far. No, I was just very slow. He offered to let me ride the bike, but I still wanted to run. I now could find some better speed and tried to make good time. He pointed out the storm clouds to the west and we were both worried about being dumped on by rain and stranding the crew vehicle. So I did my best to move quickly but it still took about an hour to finally reach the vehicle before the sprinkles turned into real rain.
I had long ago decided to quit. I could have continued on, but I knew everyone was ready to go home, including me. It was nearly 3:30 p.m., great timing to get home and get a good night’s sleep. I was about 15 miles behind schedule and no way did I want to run in the rain and keep these guys out there for another night. So, my birthday run was over, at 67 miles after 19.5 hours. But that 67 miles felt like 100, the worst being the last 15 miles.
I quickly changed out of my muddy shorts and shoes and hauled my sore butt into the crew vehicle. It was nice to rest. A big thanks to Craig, Josh, and Matt for participating on this crazy adventure. They were good friends and showed great glee in watching me thrash myself on my 53rd birthday. I forgot to warn them that every single Crockett adventure run I have ever done has always been much tougher then anticipated. It had been an amazing birthday, the toughest adventure run I had ever done.
I’m still determined to one day run that entire 110 miles. I believe I can do it solo with just two food drops. Timing is a problem. It would require a nice long dry spell and also avoid hunting season.