Monday, October 11, 2010

dawn patrol

the early buzz of the alarm. i don't know if it's the odd hour, or the anticipation of what lay ahead that prevents me from feeling my usual early a.m. grogginess. i think it's the fact that the remoteness of the location makes dawn patrol more of an adventure. packing. what to take. what to leave. it's serious, this business of starting your runs in the dark while not knowing what the weather will reveal to you once the sunlight opens up the mountains to us. those first looks, kinda like listening for the crashing of the waves while walking in the dark down to the beach front.

forecast was calling for 50's in town and 90% chance of rain. i knew it was raining in eugene and heading this way. the run was going to be on the west side of the sisters mountain range, where the storms usually back up before pouring over into the high desert. the sisters protect us, for the most part, so heading towards the field of play where they do battle with mother nature was intimidating.

meeting up. "mornin ya'll's" and early words. then silence, except for sipping coffee while driving up the mountain in the dark. coming to the parking lot at devil's lake, the silent gathering and kitting up was mixed with comments about what to take and what to leave.

the run began below the clouds, but no sooner had we started ascending did i notice that bronco's glasses were fogging up. and moisture was accumulating around the ankles of my socks. the dew on the eyelashes kept betraying my sense of comfort, but the conversation and occasional quoted beastie boy's lyric kept the mood light. a few quick stops to readjust laces, pee and shed layers, we finally popped out to sunrise and the junction of the pct at the edge of wickiup plains. most of the big mountain peaks were shrouded in cloud cover and i could see the storms forming on those cones. the plains are like badlands and serve as a conduit to join us up with the west side of the run off. i imagined that the sisters put down many a weather front here, and the landscape reflected the scars of the killing fields.

the beauty about alpine singletrack trapped in the clouds is that you don't get to see what is ahead of you. it's like turning a page in a book and having the story reveal itself to you, slowly. twists. turns. climbs. descents. climbing up on the pct towards race track meadows we passed by the james creek shelter with two red tailed hawks sizing up our crew to figure out which one of us they could take the easiest. dipping in and out of the misty clouds only to see an occasional mountain lake, you realize it's eerily quiet up here. even the softest step is noticed. the lockstep rhythm of friends who have run many miles together is punctuated by the fact that we are speaking without saying any words. respecting the experience with our silence.

3 hours in, survival instinct comes into play. searching for mountain springs to replenish water. carbohydrates and salt for the muscles to continue to sustain the experience. the landscape provides the fuel for our spirit, visually. whether karma or good luck, we find all that we are looking for trickling out of a rock. korima in play as fuel is split amongst friends preparing for the last hour. the gps is on, but nobody is paying attention to the data.

the clouds opened up with more rain and cold wind and we were forced to high tail it. patagonia provides us with nice gear and the appreciation of such was reflected in the enthusiasm that remained despite the weather's attempt at souring the experience. i remember the quote about "there there being no such thing as bad weather, only bad gear" or something along those lines, and i smile.

the final 1200 ft descent was followed by a cloudy 600 ft climb back to where we started. the clouds remained above us like a quilt used in a 6 year olds fort, and we played beneath it, dry and 15 degrees warmer. the ravine protecting us from the high mountain wind. passing through the pipe that serves as the snow tunnel in the winter, the run sadly comes to a final end. knuckles. smiles. the anxiety of the day subsided, and we emerge back at the trail head healthy, stronger and wiser from the day. happy to have been able to share the experience with one another. dawn patrol.

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