Reunion With Nathan
I'll apologize ahead of time for the length of this post, but this was a trip of a life time and I was excited to try to capture a lot of it in a story. If you're a runner and want to just read the race report, scroll down, otherwise relax and enjoy our journey. I'll do my best to not make this a modern day web version of making you sit in my living room and watch my family vacation home movies.
Five years ago, Nathan said to hell with college, packed a backpack and headed west. Beautiful Mt. Shasta in northern California was in his sights and the rest is history. He's currently living and working mostly in Southern Oregon just North of Mt. Shasta so we targeted Ashland Oregon (Medford Airport) for our coming and going. We made almost no plans for this trip, we were to visit Nathan and I was entered to run the Headwaters 50K in the hills outside Mt. Shasta; otherwise we were winging it.
|Mt. Shasta From The Plane|
|Me and the tall kid.|
While Ashland reminded us of a western mountainous version of State College Pennsylvania, Mt. Shasta (incorporated in 1905) is tiny and seemed barely evolved from its roots. Many buildings are turn of the (last) century western US architecture and the shop we visited for my race registration was no different. At the last minute I changed our lodging from a Best Western near the interstate to the Mt. Shasta Resort which was much closer to the race start. Not knowing the place, it was a roll of the dice and we were pleasantly surprised at how nice it was. We were in a one room chalet in the forest, high on a hill above Lake Siskiyou with just an 8 minute drive to the start line. It was 83 when we landed in Medford and in one day it changed from summer to late fall with chilly temperatures in Mt. Shasta.
Janice caught rainbows before the start.
I took it as a good sign.
When Nathan first came to Mt. Shasta, of course I checked out the local trail running community. It's a vibrant one, fed by runners from Southern Oregon and Northern California and host to numerous trail and ultra events throughout the year. The Headwaters Trail Runs is my kind of race, a small grassroots event. There's a 30K and a 10K offered as well and the 50K which had a small field of just 35 runners. We started at the same time as the 30K which just about doubled the pack. After two years of looking forward to this race, I had trouble believing I was actually standing at the start line. It started raining lightly at sun up and as go-time drew closer, the passing showers became more frequent and some were steady. The rain coupled with the cool 39° temperature, made for an almost winter feel at the boat launch.
|Ditching my Suunto wind jacket.|
Thanks to Cobi Krumholz for this photo.
(Love the rain drops captured by the shutter speed.)
The race started at the Lake Siskiyou Camp Resort boat launch area and we immediately found ourselves running on nice wide trails covered in Pine needles as we wound our way down to the lake. At the lake the trail took us through a very rocky area strewn with large "river rocks" and in a couple of places we crossed metal temporary bridges. This entire path looked as though it was the actual lake bed and probably submerged at other times of the year. On the other side of the lake the first climbing began, starting off gently on wide forestry/fire roads and those gentle climbs became more roller coaster-like as we got further into the forest.
Somewhere around 9 or 10 miles, reaching the top of a climb, the trees opened up and I was quickly reminded that I was running maybe the most beautiful 50K on the planet. The view of Mt. Shasta and Black Butte was over powering, it seemed that I could reach out and touch them (or they could touch me). It was also rather windy at that spot, ensuring my rain and sweat soaked clothing was quite cold by now.
Simple Elevation Profile
Go Up To Go Down
I was wearing the Ultimate Direction Race Vest, minimal, but enough storage that I could carry Huma Gels, Pickle Juice and 2 600ml bottles of Tailwind. The course essentially had 3 aid stations, 2 of which you visit twice; so really 5 spots to refuel. It was a brisk day so I was sure to thank all the volunteers hanging out at these remote spots, just so slow old men like me can enjoy a run through the woods. After reaching the second aid station around 13 miles, we were treated with an immense downhill, where part way down, the 30K runners made a left turn and bid us farewell. For the 50K we continued to drop till we hit water, the Headwaters of The Sacramento River and that's where the day's real climb began. I somehow missed the mention that we'd be crossing water, man ii was icy cold. I ran left past a sign that said "Right Turn", thankfully I was not alone here and another runner yelled to me and got me back on course. (Yes, of course it was a big yellow sign with ribbons showing where to go; some times you're just in the zone and running with your head down. I'm just thankful another runner was there to snap me out of my trail trance.)
|Going up while the headwaters flow down.|
My first visit to the aid station,
happy as hell to see Janice.
Janice resupplied me at the aid station, as both of my bottles were empty and I was out of Huma Gels and Pickle Juice. There was watermelon at this stop, which is my all time favorite aid station fruit. I swapped out my wet Suunto Trail Hat and kept moving. From here, the climb continues to its summit and after a five mile loop you come back to this same aid station for a repeat visit. As the climb disappeared back into the forest, significant snow was visible on either side of the trail on the trees and just about anything else that was in the shade. Very near the top, I saw a lizard lounging in the sunshine beating on the trail which was bordered by snow, an odd contrast. Soon I was back around to see Janice the second time. This aid station was manned by Ski Patrol folks and I mentioned the snow up above and one of the volunteers said it was dumping so hard earlier in the morning that running the race was in question.
After a 5 mile loop on top of this beautiful mountain,
I'm back for my second visit...both bottles empty.
I no sooner left that aid station (with about 7 miles to go) and that stuff called Graupel began to fall. (looks like Dippin' Dots - mix between sleet & snow) As I reached the short climb to the next aid station, first I saw a basketball size rock roll off the hill side. Rock slide signs were common along the highway, but actually seeing one was kinda' cool. Then I saw an extremely dark black cloud over the rise. As I reached the top and saw the aid station, I realized it was a huge black cloud. High winds picked up and what was wimpy Graupel was now a legit snowfall. I asked which way to go and one of the aid station volunteers said, "that way, unless you want to get a ride back with me". I wasn't interested in his offer of a ride, I hadn't come here for a DNF. I was sure to thank them all and went the direction he pointed.
|Snow Up High|
|Out of the forest and heading for the finish line.|
Thanks to Cobi Krumholz for this photo.
Soon I was retracing the opening steps of the race and returning back around the end of the lake to the finish at the boat launch in the rain. Unfortunately the post race party was pretty well quashed by the difficult weather and considering I was the next to last finisher, hardly anyone was around. Janice was there though and there were a few crazies in cars cheering like nut jobs as I came into view. I had an awesome plate of Lasagna and a couple of tasty beers, thanked the race director and we were off to get me out of my soaking wet clothing.
Haven't run many ultras that made it to the downtown bulletin board.
(outside Berryvale Grocery)
|The day started out sunny.|
We followed Nathan out of town and soon found the road that climbed to Castle Lake a mountain lake at about 5400' above sea level. With all the cars at the parking area, it was obvious this was a popular hike. Janice was snapping photos and one of us asked "so where's Heart Lake?" and Nathan pointed straight up and smiled.
|Castle Lake at lake level.|
We hit the trail toward the Mt. Bradley Lookout that climbed gently away from Castle Lake. The easy walking path soon changed to rocky technical steep hiking and each time we thought we knew which rock was our destination, Nathan would point out one that was even higher.
|Castle Lake down below.|
|Black Butte in the distance.|
|The ever present Mt. Shasta in the clouds.|
Nathan in his favorite spot.
Janice and I needed no explanation.
We had decided that because the weather was taking a foul turn that we'd spend the afternoon driving and visit the Redwoods near the coast the next day. After a quick trip to downtown Mt Shasta to get souvenirs and a stop in Weed for Weed souvenirs we were on our way to Ashland again.
Crescent City & The Giant Redwoods
The Redwood forest we wanted to visit is the northern most in California and right next to the Pacific Ocean near Crescent City, CA. To get there from Mt. Shasta meant driving north back into Oregon to head west across Oregon and around the mountains just to re-enter California and end up at the coast. As we got closer to Crescent City the winding road in the dark and fog/drizzle was unnerving. Towards the end of the drive, the road was cutting right through the Redwood Forest and the massive trees were looming in the darkness as our headlights hit them. Their size was just astounding and somewhat spooky in the dark illuminated by our lights.
Eventually our 2+ hour drive was done and we found ourselves at the Oceanfront Lodge, another roll of the dice hotel reservation that didn't turn out half bad. The sound of a coastal warning horn and the smell of the sea made it obvious even in the darkness that we had made it to the coast.
With Tsunamis as recent as 1964 & 2011,
this sign in the hotel was a bit foreboding.
The foggy morning brought amazing views of the sea and of course I had to go down on the beach. The quaint old lighthouse is a sightseeing focal point of the town and we were within an easy walk of it. I thought that I was seeing clouds lifting as the sun became higher in the sky, but later while walking with Janice it was evident that what I thought were clouds was actually the outline of the nearby mountains through the fog. The mountains and the sea in one view isn't something I'm used to seeing. We had left the enchanted Mt. Shasta to visit yet another enchanted land, tribal home of the Tolowa and Yurok, and another tiny town brimming with history and endless natural beauty. Janice and I were able to walk over to the lighthouse, but when Nathan finally got out of bed the tide had closed off the walkway and it wouldn't be accessible until the next low tide.
|Zoomed in, in hopes that you can make out the shapes of the Sea Lions.|
|Dwarfed by a mammoth dead fall.|
The famous Stout Redwood Tree.
Height 325' Width 16.7' Volume 12.966 ft3
|Climbing on a dead fall.|
A Nurse Tree - the dead supporting new life.
Fresh Powder After The Race Day Snow
(Mt. Shasta from the plane on our way home)
|💚 See you soon Nathan! 💚|