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The Next Big Adventure

The natural question everyone has for you after you race is “what’s next?”

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Which I’ve heard a lot lately. On runs with my friends. From coworkers (usually paired with some variation of “crazy thing.” Because that joke never seems to get old for them. Second only to “did you run here?”) And on the Lake Sonoma course, well before I’d even crossed that finish.

As of this moment, the only other race penned into my calendar for the year is that 100 mile shuffle through the Cascades. Which is kind of crazy. There’ve been weekends when I’ve run more races than I have scheduled for this entire year.

CC100 Start

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I definitely wouldn’t mind inserting another tune-up race into my schedule before Cascade Crest. Especially since I realized just how rusty I am at the racing thing when I was pulling stunts at Lake Sonoma that you’d expect to see at someone’s first 5k, not their 17th ultra. Changing my shoelaces in the car on the way to the start, trying to strap my heart rate monitor on during the first climb (which is harder than it sounds when you’re wearing clothes and strapped into a hydration vest), and stopping to fix the hose on the aforementioned hydration pack at mile five so it could actually be used for drinking water and not just as an H2O storage device.

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But, I have something else on the calendar that’s making it a little difficult to schedule anything else into my summer.

The Wonderland Trail!

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I don’t remember exactly when this adventure run rocketed to the top of my bucket list, but I do know it was within 30 seconds of the first time I ever saw a shot of #trailporn from the loop.

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There’s a reason (or two) (or seventeen), that this route is consistently included on “BEST HIKE EVER” lists. And a similar number of reasons why it receives rave reviews from anyone who’s ever set foot on it. And I’m excited to discover all of those reasons for myself in July, when a crew from Eugene will head up to Washington to run it.

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Some fun facts about the Wonderland Trail for those of you who haven’t spent an embarrassing number of hours internet stalking the shit out of this thing:

  • It’s 93 miles of circumnavigating Mt. Rainier, a rather majestic and rather tall peak in the state of Washington. That bump in the ground stands a solid 14,410 feet above the sea.

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(The one on the right. Looks small from 187 miles away. Google assures me it’s not.)

  • It’s got just under 24,000’ of elevation gain and an equal amount of loss. (Which, to give you a little perspective, is actually more upping and downing than trekking to the top of the mountain’s summit 2.5 times. #math). You’re also stuck running several thousand feet above sea level for the majority of the run. My lungs are struggling to share my excitement for this trip.

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  • The fastest anyone has ever run the entire loop is just over 20 hours. Most hikers take nine to 12 days. We’re going for three. Days, not hours. Which should be a short enough window to offer a challenging amount of mileage every day, while long enough to leave us plenty of time to run at a leisurely pace and actually enjoy the scenery (read: ‘gram the shit out of it). And, most importantly, we should still get to each of our campsites early enough to lounge in the wilderness with a beer in hand.

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  • You pass through pretty much every variety of trail scenery. From mountain views, to alpine lakes, to glacier crossings, to open meadows full of wildflowers, all in front of an audience of mountain goats, elk, cougar and/or bears.

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  • The ideal season to get your feet on that dirt is from mid-July to mid-September since it’s a pretty snowy area. We’re going July 1st, which is a little early, but the rangers we’ve chatted with seem to think it will be fine since snow levels were at 39% of their normal volume this year. Considering that (slightly depressing) fact, it should melt down a lot earlier. We’re also going mid-week in hopes of avoiding crowded trails and getting spots in the first-come, first-served campgrounds so we don’t have to beg a local bear for a horizontal surface to sleep on.
  • Our current group is six strong. If everyone on the roster ends up going, I think it will be an ideal mix of personalities and paces. It’s mostly the same cast of characters that traversed the Grand Canyon together last year, and if that trip was any indication of how well this one will go, we’re in for an obscenely good time. We’ve managed to surround ourselves with people who remain refreshingly positive and committed to fun, even when the going gets tough. Which is key with this style of run, since the going tends to get tough rather frequently.

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  • This fun run requires a crew. Unless you want to fastpack it and carry all of your own food and gear. Which, is not exactly the ideal situation. The beer would get entirely too warm entirely too quickly. While there are many campgrounds along the route, the majority are backcountry sites which require a substantial hike in. But there are three that are easily accessed by a car. Considering our crew is going to have several tents, food, and gear to carry, it didn’t take a lot of brainpower to choose our lodging for each night of the trip. The one tricky thing is that two of the three don’t accept reservations ahead of time. So we strategically booked the one that did for the busiest night (Friday) and plan to run with our fingers crossed for the other two. Wonderland map
  • It’s guaranteed to be mind-blowingly awesome. And I can’t freakin’ wait.

If you’re interested in reading about treks around this trail that people have actually already run and done, here are a couple of solid trip reports (warning: may cause you to pack your running shoes and join me):

Running the Wonderland Trail Around Mt Rainier

Wonderland Trail Unsupported Speed Record

A Day in Wonderland (Joe Grant’s solo/unsupported attempt that got thwarted by a mountain lion with 10 miles to go. Mom, maybe don’t read this one.)

20 Responses to The Next Big Adventure

  1. This is so freaking awesome! I wish I could be in your hiking crew for 24 hours…and then be airlifted back to suburbia!
    Can’t wait to watch you ‘gram the shit out of it!!

  2. Are you retiring from the marathon distance??

    • I don’t know about “retiring”, but I’m certainly not in a rush to run one any time soon. But it looks like you’re gearing up for an awesome one! (Also, I’ll be in DC in June, I haven’t booked the trip yet, but when I do, I’ll definitely be hitting you up for a run and/or beer!)

  3. No going to lie, I’m pretty excited to see your trailporn (and no, I’ve never said that to anyone before). Such an awesome bucket list item. Can’t wait to read all about it.

  4. This will be EPIC!! I’m excited for you. Please, go wild on the sharing trailporn on Instagram :-) At least, I’ll be able to have a small look at what you’ll be able to run in :-)

  5. I can’t wait. Your pictures are always amazing and I know these will take the cake.

  6. Hey Emily. Saw some traffic from your site. You will love this loop. I definitely want to do a more casual three-day trip like the one you’re planning. Magical place.

    • Thanks, Brian. I can’t hear that enough. I actually very clearly remember seeing a picture after you guys ran it that pushed the trail even higher up my wishlist of destination runs. So thanks for that! I’m beyond excited that our crew is actually making it happen this summer. If you have any tips to share (for a casual jog around the mountain), feel free to share!

  7. So Awesome!

  8. It’s going to be awesome – I’ve been there twice, only did day hikes but what a beautiful place – can’t wait to see your pictures!!!

  9. This looks so awesome! I would love to do this run someday. For now I will live vicariously through you :)

  10. I have such topography jealously when I see your runs and races. Looks like it’s going to be an amazing run and I can’t wait to read about it!

  11. this looks so awesome! We are camping that weekend too, but at a Yogi Bear campground with the pool about 20 feet from our campsite as well as the ranger station, running water at our site as well as electricity

  12. This is gonna be a more epic journey than R2R2R! Remember to take lots of pics to share with us.

  13. Sooo out of my league, but I can’t wait to see your pictures!!!

  14. Looks like an amazing way to spend a few days! Outside, doing what you love with amazing views. Looking forward to the insta-feed for this one.

  15. […] break for my worked quads, I craved hill repeats and hours in the mountains to ramp it up for Mt Rainier and Cascade Crest. Which were urges that seriously threatened the health of my recovery […]

  16. […] happened! 31 miles and 5200’ of climbing, with a pretty unbeatable profile for the upcoming run around Mt Rainier (and by “upcoming”, I mean next week. (!!!!!)) and the jog through the Cascades in […]