Author Archives: Brandi

Trail truths on the Cooper Spur

It was a shitty hike. There are a lot of things I could probably blame for it: a restless night of sleep, an even earlier than my usual ass o’clock wake up call, more altitude, more exposure, more wildfire smoke turning the horizon to opaque haze. I won’t though because it could have been a flat trail on a clear day at sea level after waking with the sun well rested and I still could have had a shitty hike.

Sometimes it’s just like that.

I say that now of course, it’s hilariously dramatic in my head as I’m chugging my way up the trail though. Oh the challenges I have to epically overcome. The first draft of this post was equally emo.

Sometimes I’m just like that.

The truth is, sometimes I would like to be better, faster, stronger. More adept at elevation, more versed in the mountains, less prone to injury. I wish I wasn’t so hung up on getting out on the trail because that would mean it wouldn’t be so crazy making when I can’t. I wish I was as passionate about something that came easier to me than this thing that I can struggle with so much sometimes.

This is actually one of the shorter excursions I’ve taken in awhile at about 6.5 miles round trip but also one of the more challenging. It’s pretty much entirely uphill with about the last mile off trail and picking your way over rocks without even the benefit of switch backs.

You start at the Cloud Cap trail head which is at the end of 8 miles of crappy gravel road and the skeletons of trees turned white by a forest fire, 5800 feet up the mountain. There’s a chemical toilet there, in a building with a door that locks and actual toilet paper, something I legit said a prayer of thanks out loud to baby Jesus.

From the trailhead, you’ll see Timberline trail in front of you, Tilly Jane to your left and then Timberline continuing downhill to your right. Go straight ahead on Timberline and make sure you fill out a form at the box as you enter into the Mt. Hood Wildnerness.

This trail is almost entirely uphill and that starts the minute you hit the trees before coming into Tilly Jane canyon then continuing to climb uphill through soft volcanic sand that is the bane of my existence. You will not see shade again until you are at this point on the way back to your car so stay on top of your hydration. Soon you’ll come to a junction with a sign for Cooper Spur. Go right onto Cooper Spur trail. The trail increases the incline a bit and the sun will be hitting your shoulder blades with all it’s might. Sun protection is key here.

cooper1

Soon you’ll come up Cooper Spur shelter, which has apparently stood for 70 years and somehow continues to survive the elements. Onward you go, the trail switchbacking and continuing to climb, sometimes following the ridge line that will give you incredible views of the glacier.

cooper2

cooper3

All those wishes swarmed between my ears as the trail disappeared into a field of talus and scree and I started just picking the most direct route I could to hit the top of the spur.

Finally, finally, a deep breath as I top out and stand for a moment at the highest point on the mountain you can reach by trail.

In front of me, a stone circle, about thigh high and a large rock cairn. Buzzards circled overhead. I remember joking with a runner friend during a trail race that they probably smelled us and thought something was dead and thinking it was probably true at that moment as well. To my left, the magnificent Elliot glacier. Behind me, the spur dipped down from the point I was standing on to form a saddle between my feet and the terrifying north face of Mt. Hood. I followed it down for a bit and then felt that moment where I became unbound from my body and was no longer all the stories I tell myself.

I’m like that too.

And I think that’s the trick of all of this. To figure out how to live with all the contradictions that reside within you without the labels of good or bad, dark or light. Somehow we need all of it to carry us up the trail.

*

Trail head: Cloud Cap

Elevation at start: 5850 feet

Length: 6.4 miles (ish)

Elevation gain: 2800 feet

Difficult: Yes

Mt Hood Meadows: a dramatic recreation

I’m alone on trails a lot.

And the aloneness is bigger the higher up the mountain I go.

I mean this literally but I think it is true of all our journeys, the ones that lead us up the corporate ladder or deep within ourselves.

At some point, maybe we all have to break from what we know.

Stand alone on our mountain tops.

Our soul so round and full it seems to press against the sky but the body of us, still an insignificant speck on shaky talus. Meant for ridge lines only wide enough for one person to traverse.

The truth is, sometimes it really bothers me. I am blessed with great friends and a fantastic husband but to do the things I want to do, there has to be a drive and a passion for it and their passions lie elsewhere. Plus not everyone thinks sore IT bands, hours in the heat or rain or cold, dehydration and double digit miles are a good time. Apparently. So up the trail by myself I go.

******************************************************************

I am alone on trails a lot.

And it is the fullest and freest I ever feel. The most complete. The most comfortable with myself. There are no labels, no schedules, no expectations.

I am not even a separate body on the trail, I am just as much the sky and rock and water as I am anything.

The ‘I’ of me disappears because it is meaningless, a construct I have to act out during business hours. Does that mean that I found God?

hood meadows2.JPG

********************************************************************

Both of those experiences are true and real. Both are ones I’ve had many times, sometimes within a mile of each other. Hell, 5 minutes of each other. Both have been on my mind since I did the Hood River Meadows excursion. It’s right at 10 miles and starts at 4k-ish feet up the mountain and climbs another 2000-ish from there. You see wild flowers and waterfalls, cross mountain streams and spend a good deal of it on in the sun on the Timberline Trail.

It is the epitome of why I moved here.

hood meadows1.JPG

But you don’t really get to decide how your body and brain are going to respond on any given day on the trail so I spent my morning conflicted- lonely and free, unsure and completely at home.

It’s been a week and I still haven’t resolved how I feel about the time I spend by myself on the trail. The trail has given me enough patience to just be conflicted and know the answer I need will come soon enough.

But if you decide on this particular hike, I’d like you to not be conflicted about where you are so I offer a few extra details not included in the link I used above:

  1. When you cross the bridge at Umbrella falls, the trail will appear to go straight ahead or to your left. Go left. The path straight ahead just allows you a better look at falls from above.
  2. As noted in the link, you will soon cross a paved road and pick up the trail on the other side. The trail entrance is small and inconspicuous (and had a car parked in front of it when I was on it) so it’s easy to miss. It is just to the right of the gated parking lot and has a pole in front of it. It will kind of look like an animal trail but it’s the right place to be.
  3. When you come down into Clark Canyon (that’s the talus-y, grey, rock strewn moonscape you’ll hit about 6 miles in) the trail will peter out at the creek. Look for the set of cairns that I assume give you the approximate place to cross the river (like most of the rivers and streams you will cross, there’s no bridge). I actually crossed a little downstream from that area. Use your best judgment.
  4. Once on the other side of Clark Creek, look for the pile of rocks with the stick in the middle of them and then look to your right to see the trail climbing up the ridge. Yes, ‘look for the pile of rocks with the stick in them’ is an official direction.
  5. Once at the top of the ridge, you’ll see Newton Creek on the left. The directions on the website said I would turn off on to Newton Creek trail but I didn’t turn off on to a separate trail once I crossed at Clark Creek. I was just on Newton Creek trail. To be fair, this point is the one I am least sure of because runner brain was in full effect by that point.
  6. Regardless, follow the trail with Newton Creek on your left and it will soon connect with Elk Meadow Trail which will take you back to your car.

hood meadows3hood meadows4

Trail Stats:

Trail head

Length-10 miles

Elevation gain-a smidge over 2K feet

Bathroom sitch-porta potty with no toilet paper. Prepare accordingly.

Tom Dick and Harry Mountain

So yeah it’s been a rough few weeks.

But writing out last week’s post allowed for some closure and I was ready to do some exploring.

First, a word on how I decided which trail to explore: I dunno. Whatever sounds good and fits within whatever I’m feeling for mileage and elevation gain.

And something in the Mt Hood National Forest sounded good.

The good thing about the trailhead is that it’s right off highway 26 right before you hit Government Camp. This also makes it a popular spot, especially since about half way up you hit mirror lake which is one of those spots so picturesque it doesn’t even seem real. So get up and get your coffee early to get ahead of the crowds.

mthood3.JPG

seriously

It starts switchbacking through old growth forest fairly early on but since you gain about 1700 feet in about 3-ish miles, the grade is enough to get your lungs working but not make you feel like you want to punch yourself in the face.

I started thinking about labels as I continued my uphill trek. I like labels. I like defined situations and starts, middles and ends. I like plans and bullet points and steps. The last four years of trail running/exploring/climbing have taught me more flexibility but it is still a default setting to seek defined parameters in most aspects of my life. Especially when life feels unsteady.

What was on my mind that morning was who and what I am these days. You know, nothing major. When I found trail running, I found not only a missing part of myself, I found an identity and a community. Thanks to a knee injury that’s sort of been up and down for awhile now, there’s been periods of no running and now a sort of mixed bag of running/hiking/shuffling that has me trailing behind most runners but outpacing most hikers and doesn’t really seem to allow room for me to fit comfortably into either category or community. And the truth is, I don’t know if I will ever race again, something that at one point was pretty damn important to me.

I was contemplating all this just past the lake when the trail gets less switch back-y and more gradual uphill grade. The trees gave way to slide of talus and Mt. Hood came into view. Maybe one day I’ll stop being amazed by the sight of mountains looming over me but…actually I hope that never happens. I stopped and breathed and smiled, loop in  my head broken for the moment.

mthood1

A little further up the trail, you hit a big pile of rocks that I’m sure has some sort of purpose or meaning. Look for the arrow that will have you hanging a sharp left and continue on. Once you’ve reached that point, you probably have a half mile to go before topping out on a talus-y, treeless peak. From there you can see Hood looming large with St Helens and Adams on either side, Rainer peaking out in the back and Jefferson in the other direction. It was brilliantly sunlit and blue and open on the peak. I feel weightless in that environment. Groundless and floaty.

mthood2

But not unsteady, despite the lack of definitions to orient me.

Huh. Interesting. The thing about being in the mountains is that for me, it is effortless joy. My limbs and lungs may feel all sorts of effort but all the defined edges of my soul disappear and becomes part of a deep current of joy. Joy that feels like it is as old as the mountain. Joy that doesn’t need a label. That just is. I just am in that environment. Part of that same current, no beginning or end. I’ve been there as long as the mountain has too.

That’s the answer I always come back to, every time I visit these questions. It doesn’t matter what I call myself (or what anyone else calls me for that matter). Just go where your soul goes and forget the rest.

Trail Stats:

Trailhead

Length: about 6-7 miles round trip

Elevation gain: 1700 feet or thereabouts, with the high point being 4900ish feet

Difficulty: not super douche-y

bathroom sitch: porta potties at trail head (yet another reason to get up early and beat the crowds)

 

Keely: final words

I remember when I first picked her up from that shelter, knowing I was getting a dog that would need a lot of help and care.

Then I saw her and she looked even worse that the pictures and my heart stopped but she ran to me, straining on her leash, ready for what was next, despite how weak and hungry and in pain she must have been.

I remember standing in the vets office, mouth agape, as he outlined all the treatments and pills and instructions and my ears started ringing with the overwhelm of it all but he looked at me and said very calmly, ‘This the best time because it will only get better from her. It will never be this bad again.’

I remember having to carry her upstairs so I could bathe her because she was too weak and freaked out to navigate them and her legs stuck out at all angles as I clumsily tried to carry her as gently as I could. How I thought she couldn’t possibly look any worse until I had her in the tub and she sat there, bedraggled and naked and even skinnier somehow as the water ran brown with the layers of dirt and neglect washing down the drain.

I remember the time, about 4 days in, when I took her outside to do her business and a leaf fell or something and she pounced on it and I started crying because it was the first time she did a normal dog thing.

I remember when her hip bones no longer became prominent and people stopped asking me what was wrong with her and when our wonderful vet put his hand on hip at her one year appointment and said, chucking, ‘I didn’t expect her head to get that big.’

keely then and now

I remember around that same timeframe when she jumped up on the couch with us for the first time and we both just looked at each other, not daring to move lest we startle her and ruin the moment.

I remember mundane, silly, sweet, sleepy moments that don’t mean anything to anyone but right now are my most treasured memories.

a face

Like her squeaky bark and how she liked ‘to be her own dog’ and spend time alone out in the yard and how she was the boss of everything and anyone that walked into our house was required to give her belly rubs.

keely bird

I remember when she started limping two years ago and we took her into the vet thinking it was arthritis or something but he walked into the examining room with a grim look and X-rays and a box of tissues. How he said it’s usually osteosarcoma and gave me some articles so I could prepare myself. How he patiently and kindly let me wipe my tears before he said, ‘Don’t count her out though, she’s a fighter.’

I remember eating lunch with Jason when the specialist called with the biopsy results and said it wasn’t osteosarcoma, it was chondrosarcoma which had a much better prognosis and we cried together in Burrito Jimmies because our girl had been given a fighting chance.

I remember the day I picked her up from the leg amputation and clenched my jaw until it ached as I tried to help her walk so that I wouldn’t scare her with my tears.

Then blessedly, there were more mundane, silly, sweet, sleepy, somewhat slower moments where things sort of went back to normal and life went on. We moved across the country. We settled into new jobs and a new home. We continued to give her belly rubs and peanut butter and fall asleep to the sound of her snores.

keely black and white

Until a few weeks ago, when I noticed she was licking her remaining front leg a lot. And her breathing sounded weird. I quietly told Jason that we needed to make a vet appointment for her because I knew what that could mean. Cancer in the leg so easily metastasizes into the lungs.

And I remember all the air going out of my lungs as I looked at the Xrays. That knowing that this might be the diagnosis hadn’t prepared me in the slightest for the sucker punch to my chest as I looked at a death sentence.

I remember our kind new vet letting me know what pills they’d give me to keep her comfortable and how her breathing would change and that’s when we’d know it was time.

Then last saturday night, it did. I sat next to her on the floor as she labored to breathe, sounding like she was trying to suck air through a hole in a wet plastic bag and she looked at me, staring at me for a long moment right in the eyes and I understood.

We said goodbye to our sweet, spirited princess Monday, July 3rd.

You know what the messed up part of it is? Not the abuse and neglect she endured before we got her, not the cancer and amputation and then cancer again. Not that towards the end, every step hurt and she couldn’t move without gasping for air. It’s that no matter what she was going through in her life, she kept running towards it. She WANTED to be here, even when she was scared or skinny or sick. Running towards life. Right to the very end.

And I’m mad, I’m so fucking mad that cancer overtook her spirit and that it backed me into a corner where the kindest thing I could do was make her leave.

Keely taught me to keep going even when I was scared or unsure. She taught me to live completely in the moment. She taught me not to tell myself stories of how things ought to be but instead keep looking forward. Maybe she’s just a dog to some but she was the bravest creature I ever knew.

And I’m hurting and grateful and grieving and relieved and appreciative and mad as hell and don’t know what to do with all of it.

So I guess I’m going to do what she would do and keep running towards life.

The Kings-Elks loop that didn’t happen: apparently crying in the woods is a thing I do now

It was about the third switchback, not even that far up from the Kings trail head when the tears started.

My dog is dying.

We are almost two years past the cancer diagnosis and the surgery that took her left front leg. We knew then that we were borrowing time and it seems to have caught up to us. Cancer in her remaining front leg has metastisized to her lungs. The vet said we’d know when it was time and all that’s left for us to do is keep her comfortable until then.

I’m already sick of crying and she isn’t even gone yet.

For anyone who thinks that because there aren’t any tall peaks in the coastal range surely no trail could be that challenging, come hang out with me sometime. The trail up Kings gains 2500 in only 2.5 miles making it’s grade somewhere between this shit is ridiculous and kiss my ass hard.

I’d originally set out to do the loop from Kings to Elks mountain, a total of eleven miles and about 4000-ish feet of gain between the two mountains. It’s on my bucket list of stupid hard crap to do and right about now, I’d really like to experience something physically uncomfortable enough to get me out of my own head.

I don’t think there are enough switchbacks in the world to do that right now.

With every pounding heart beat, I thought about Keely’s journey. From skinny, starved, abused shelter dog on the kill list that I met in December of 2007 to cancer survivor in Sept of 2015 to where she is now. Her life has been unfairly difficult. And I worry, always worry, that we haven’t given her enough good moments in between to make up for what she’s had to go through.

Dammit, now I’m crying again.

The thing about the trail, that I’ve heard plenty of people say, is it’s a metaphor for life but I think it’s a little more than that. I could escape my life pretty easily if I wanted to. We humans have found so many ways, many totally legal, to distract us from ourselves. I think the trail is a fun house mirror of life that you can’t escape. Even if you decide to bail a few miles in, you’ve got to get back to your car somehow so you are forced to face every crappy thought your scared little brain throws at you. It’s not pretty.

And that’s why I like it. Because it doesn’t give me easy. I’ve had too much of easy and never gave me anything but an ache for what was missing. So I go out there and find stupid hard things to do because then I can live completely in myself and every time I’ve face the scared, mean, angry parts of myself and managed to get back to the trail head, I’ve also found a little more empathy and compassion and forgiveness. Peace. I could use some peace right about now.

trail1

But my time with Keely is shortening by the minute.

So I decided to shorten the hike and only get to the top of Kings and back so that I could spend more time with her, even if that meant just listening to her snore. One day in the very near future, I am going to desperately miss those snores.

Right about then was when I looked up and noticed the 2000 ft elevation sign nailed into a tree. That meant I only had about a mile and 1200 feet of gain to get to the top of the mountain. The last time I was there, it was raining and the entire area was shrouded in mist which gave the sense that the ground just dropped away to nothing once you get out of the tree line and I wanted to see what it looked like when it was clear. I can now comfirm that is absolutely true.

trial3

At the top I said a prayer to the winds for peace. Not for me. For her.

trail2

And then I went home and sat in the sun with my dog and didn’t miss the trail for a minute.

Trail stats: (Kings trailhead to summit only)

Trailhead

Difficulty: So this is funny. Tillamook state forest calls this trail ‘challenging’. Oregon hikers call it ‘moderate’ which is complete bullshit because they also called Cape Lookout moderate and having been on both of those trails, I can assure you, they are not even remotely the same grade. I’m sticking with my personal grade of ‘this shit is ridiculous’.

Distance: 5 miles round trip

Elevation gain: 2500 feet in 2.5 miles

Bathroom sitch: chemical toilet at trailhead.

 

It was supposed to be a rest hike but I ended up crying in the woods

Rest hike (n): coined by friends, these are the hikes I take on weeks where I’m decreasing mileage because I want to give my legs a break but still want some time in the woods. In general, they are no more than 5-6 miles at the most, are an actual hike and not my patented run/hike/death shuffle combo and don’t have significant elevation gain. They are also the only hikes those friends will go on with me because apparently I’m ‘crazy’.

As I drove towards the coast and my decided rest hike at Cape Lookout trail, I randomly started thinking about the dark times I’ve had on the trail. Those times when I’ve been in pain or fatigued or just beat down by the heat and how I have had very few moments like that since moving to Oregon. I guess it’s kinda hard to fall into such a negative space when you still are new enough to the area that everything seems like some magical Rivendell to you. The fact that it’s not 85 degrees by 6 am also probably helps. And I fully expected this hike to be in the same vein. Beautiful, enjoyable, maybe I see some whales.

Oh expectations. I should know better by now.

The hike to the Cape was wonderful with the requisite outstanding views and big, old trees that remind me how small I really am in the grand scheme of things (no whales but I did see a bald eagle).

cape lookout 1cape lookout 3

On the way back, I texted a happy birthday greeting to a friend back in Texas and he responded with some very good news regarding he and his significant other that had happy tears stinging my eyes because I could clearly remember holding his hand 2 years ago when his world was falling apart, helpless to do anything but remind him to keep hanging on because I’d been there too and the roles had been reversed then as he’d been the one that helplessly watched me crumble.

Haha. Oh there you are dark spot.

We moved to Oregon because I’d felt the calling in my soul for years to move to the mountains. The calling started as just a ping, a ‘wouldn’t it be nice’, and slowly grew over several years. By the time we started seriously looking into a move in the summer of 2016, the calling had increased in volume and grown insistent. It was time to go.

Paulo Coelho said: When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you achieve it.

In our case, the universe didn’t conspire so much as it came clambering, rushing, tripping over itself to greet us. The time between when we started looking for jobs and the time we landed in Oregon was 3 months. The time between when I accepted a job and the time we started driving across the country was 17 days. SEVENTEEN DAYS to pack up our entire life, get the house ready to sell, sell the house, find a new place to live and somehow say goodbye to the friends and family that have been hard fought constants in our life.

My family moved all over the country when I was a kid. Including Oregon, I’ve lived in eight states and on Guam (a US territory). The roots that were planted in Texas took years to grow for someone unused to consistency and almost a year after our move to Oregon, standing amidst 300 year old fir trees, I felt that same grief and confusion at how quickly I pulled them up.

cape lookout 2

How could something felt so right to me also leave me so conflicted?

The tears were no longer happy so I finished the hike as quickly as I could and headed into town to get some food (I am notorious for being calorically underprepared on my excursions).

After a valiant attempt at consuming a slice of pizza bigger than my head, I knew I wasn’t quite ready to go home so I headed to the beach.

Standing there with my feet in the cold pacific ocean, I remembered the other times in my life when the universe had pinged me and I’d ignored it, even when the soft whisperings had turned to desperate screams. How I’d scrabbled and clung to the way things were despite blatant signs that life as I knew had fissures getting closer and closer to my heart every day until finally, they gave way and the ground beneath me caved and buried me alive. How I still wonder sometimes how different things might have been if I’d listened and how I still sometimes feel like I’m scrambling to make up all the lost ground from having to dig my way out of the aftermath.

And how we are all so short sighted while the universe plays the long game and that every transition I’ve ever had in my life, no matter how painful, has lead to something better and deeper and stronger that I never in a million years would have guessed and that I’d committed to myself years ago that I wasn’t going to ignore the callings of my soul anymore which meant I am where I’m supposed to be, even with the confusion and longing for the people I’d left.

I do love this place.

cape lookout 5

Trail stats per the internet:

Trailhead

Trailhead bathroom situation: Porta-potties. I’ve been spoiled, apparently, with the luxurious chemical toilets at other trailheads. I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed.

Length: 5 miles round trip

Elevation gain: 930 feet according to the internet but maybe that’s how high is above the ocean because I know I didn’t climb that much. The trail head is at 840 feet so maybe there’s a couple hundred feet of elevation change or something.

Difficulty: the internet says moderate. I probably need to learn how the grades are determined. It felt easy to me.

Mud level: Yes.

cape lookout 4

 

 

Indian Point loop: basically just 8 miles of switchbacks

Alternative title: nothing says good morning like clearing cobwebs with your face.

When I first started running* in Texas, the majority of the trails in my area were managed and frequented by a local off road biking club. No matter how early I was hitting the trail, I almost always saw other cars in the parking lot which meant the biker guys were already out there to clear the cobwebs for me.

I really missed those guys last weekend.

The Herman Creek trailhead is a tiny parking lot that doesn’t seem nearly as popular as some of the other hikes in the Gorge AND it has a bathroom** which earns it huge points in my favor.

The thing you need to know about this trail is that if you hate switchbacks, this is probably not the trail for you. After a very short initial decline, this trail starts climbing up and continues pretty much the entire time you are on it.

indian point 1

Per the internet’s instructions, I took Herman Creek until it connected with Gorton and then started climbing in earnest. Gorton is entirely within the tree line so you don’t really get any views but I stayed cool as I swatted away cobwebs and tried to keep my mouth shut so I wouldn’t swallow any bugs. Once at the top, you hop on Ridge Cutoff trail which literally just crosses the top of the hill before connecting you to Nick Eaton (take the trail heading down and to the right) where you catch those promised amazing views on the other side as you head back down to Herman Creek and heading home.

indian point 2indian point 3

Trail tip # 1: Love all the crap that isn’t an instagram worthy view. The sore quads, the cranky IT band, the dehydration, the heat or cold or rain, the fight with your brain once it gets bored 15 minutes into the excursion and tries to get you to turn around and go home so you can sit on the couch like a normal person.

Because if you don’t love that stuff first, I kinda feel like the views won’t mean much.

Anyway, after taking a break in the sun, I started down and soon encountered several hikers on their way up. Nick Eaton is a bruiser of a trail, super steep even with the switch backs to help you out and my quads were shaking by the time I made it back to Herman Creek.

Trail tip # 2: Take the harder trail up. Yes, I know that sounds counter intuitive but I promise it’s always easier to take the steeper portion up than it is down. Your knees will thank you.

Once back on Herman Creek, I caught up with another hiker and chatted with her the whole way back to the car. She was a wealth of info and super nice (I find that most people you encounter on the trail are) and left me with tons of ideas and feeling super inspired.

Trail tip # 3: Always pay attention to the people out there old enough to be your parent. They have the best stories, the most insider info and can kick your ass.

I’ll end with this little bit of info which I think tells you everything you need to know about this trail: that nice hiker I ran into at the bottom said it was her favorite trail to use as training for mountain climbs. So there ya go.

Trail stats (per the internet, not a GPS system or anything because I don’t even wear a watch):

Length: 7.6 miles

Elevation Gain: 2800 feet

Difficulty: Strenuous

*Not that I was ever very fast to begin with but thanks to several injuries and a body that is still getting used to trails that go up, what I do these days is less running and more ‘running’. Meaning sometimes I run, sometimes I hike, sometimes I stand around and curse switchbacks.

**It was a chemical toilet but it was in a building with a door which is luxury accommodations as far as I’m concerned.