By Karen Krieg
Recently, I decided that I needed to do more mountain running and training if I am ever to consider doing more than a 50 miler (that in and of itself is another story I guess for another time) so after e-mailing Kerry I was thrilled to find out that there was a planned run starting at White Canyon Trail featuring Sophie, Quatro, Mike W, Scott Crabb. It sounded like a great run AS ADVERTISED, approximately 20 miles, great views, good company, with a finishing time of about 6-7 hours. Being a novice at these particular trails, it sounded perfect to me, and something that I might be able to do without too much trouble and bother to everyone else, since I tend to be a back of the packer... Kerry, Mike and I left DC at just about 6 AM for the long drive, and after a quick stop at the Sheetz for some great breakfast (really, whoever thought that you could really get a quality meal at a gas station? I love the breakfast there, but I digress) continued on.
We arrived at the parking lot a bit after 8- Sophie, Quatro, Vicki, Farouk, and Barb Isom and her husband Charlie were all already there. And barb had her new puppy with her, he is absolutely adorable and sweet from what I can tell. I am already plotting ways that I can steal him from her. Barb, Vicki, Farouk et al were doing some hiking with the puppy, so after some simple chatting we all took off on our respective trails. I believe we started up White Canyon, and the views of the water falls were absolutely spectacular, it was a relaxed start for most people, and as we climb, Scott Crabb came into view after having spent the majority of the night crewing for David Snipes at OD, he had come out to meet us and parked in a different lot and came down to find us. Finally we began the climb again.
Climbing up to Hawksbill was pretty nice, the view terrific, and a short snack break ensued. We then began the climb back down or around the mountain, or however we went, I am a bit clueless. We all passed a hiker, who Scott noticed wearing a Western States shirt, turns out he is a VHTRC'er named Eric who is doing Western States this year (sorry, I can't remember his last name) after a mostly uneventful climb down, I lost the cap to my Camelbak. I've officially decided that platypus bladders SUCK. I had problems the majority of the first part of the run. But, when the cap came off, so did most of my water. I finally found the cap, put it back on and hoped there was enough water to get me to the Stables where we were all meeting. Nope. I never thought I would consider attacking a boy scout before, I was out of water for about 45 minutes as the day heated up. I came across these boy scouts hiking and thought, hmmmm I can take them, steal their water and continue running...but my sensible side prevailed. I finally started to see some piles of Horse Dung on the trail, and I am happy to say that is the first time I appreciated it, because it told me I was getting close to the stables.
By the time I pulled in, most were waiting for Scott who had become the mobile aid station. Sophie, bless her, shared some of her water with me and Scott had an abundance of food, from pizza to mini-cokes, ice, water, quality top notch stuff. Western States Eric caught up to us at this point and some chatting about his race plans, training etc. ensued. After enjoying the break, Scott had to leave, which is a very sad part of the story, because there went all of the water that we would see for the rest of the day. Of course, Scott leaving was sad, but not as much as the water being gone. (sorry Scott ;-( )
Sophie also had to get moving for some family stuff, so she and Mike took off and Kerry, Quatro and I climbed up after them to Stony Man or some point (I told you I was clueless) the view was amazing yadda yadda yadda We get moving and Quatro informs us that we are going down to Nicholson Hollow, which is mostly downhill. Now, I had contemplated heading back to the car at this point and sitting in the creek and waiting for everyone, boy, I should have listened to myself. Although feeling good we take off down the hollow for a good couple of hours, with a brief stop by the cabin. Nice place, a little buggy, but okay.
We continue on across some creeks, which I found were great opportunities to try and cool off to try and preserve my water which I had rationed starting at the beginning, just in case. Well, we get to some kind of crossroads and Quatro is like hey, we can take this shortcut rather than turning left off Nicholson. My ears perked up at the thought of a shortcut. My first thought is I need a snack to get this moving - so as Kerry and Quatro climb I consume some pop tart and then some water and try and catch up or at least get them back in sight distance. it was not to be. the bugs began to swarm on this climb, which was partially unshaded and extremely hot and humid. I knew it was about 4.5 miles to the top, and realizing I was starting to dehydrate, I tried to take it slow. Each creek crossing was a blessing for it's moment to cool off, dip the bandana in the water.
Then I run into the weed whacker guy. At first I thought I was imagining it, until he said hello. I know I must be pretty far behind Kerry and Quatro, and ask him how far it is, he said "Far from what? You're pretty far from anywhere!" he must have seen the look on my face and said to me, well there's a flat section after the next creek crossing- all of maybe 10 yards, but he was trying to be pleasant, but he had a weed whacker in the middle of nowhere, so I figured it was best to continue on, thanking him and off I went.
That climb was like 3+ hours, every time the trail dipped down I was ready to cry (but too dehydrated, so no tears) because it meant having to reclimb all that I had accomplished. I continued to ration my water, and would take short breaks to try and cool down a bit. After numerous false beliefs that I must be close to something, a fire road, the parking lot, anything, I finally came to the fire road, which Kerry had marked with hash marks telling me which way to go. Now, it's been maybe 4 hours since I was loaded up on water and I am down to the last portion of the extra liter bottle I had tossed in my pack. So I start down the road, stopping occasionally at a creek when I could to cool off. After descending this monstrosity FOREVER I was out of water officially. And the water in the yucky creeks was starting to look pretty damn good. I gotten to the point where the fire road split up to old rag and saw on the map that I had another couple of miles to go. by this time I had been shivering from dehydration and was wondering why the park service couldn't see fit to put out some water fountains in the park. damn them.
well another small creek is on my right, I cool off a bit, and now I've been without water really for maybe 2 hours- I fill my liter bottle, knowing it's a bad idea, but desperation will make you do crazy things, and I figure I know a few doctors, someone can fix me later right?
Well just as I am about to start running down the hill again, Western States Eric shows up and splits a water bottle with me- thank god for him, it was the best tasting water ever. He started to tell me all the bad things I could get from drinking the creek water, particularly Giardia, but I just continued thinking that I could kung-fu him for the rest of his water bottles. We run down the hill towards the parking lot, and there is Kerry and Mike with a huge thing of Gatorade with Quatro bringing up some snacks. We all walk down the hill together chatting and me guzzling. After looking at my watch it had been at least five hours since I had last filled my Camelbak- and I am a SWEATER, I am no lady when it comes to perspiration. I find out Kerry and Quatro had also been out of water but had been able to not die off as I had.
Now, I survived my first Quatro organized death march. As Kerry said, I only told Quatro I trusted him once, and maybe that was too much.
But a great day despite all of the problems I encountered. A quick stop at the ever expanding Five Guys burger joint with some top notch grease was a great topper to the day.
Thanks again to Quatro for organizing, and for everyone who (esp. Kerry and Quatro) for being so kind to wait for me at turns, or marking them, sharing water. I am home alive and my mother said to thank you all.
We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face ... we must do that which we think we cannot. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
Along the Stream: Scott, Kerry, Quatro, Sophie, and Mike