Tag Archives: bridges

Slowed but not stopped

A habit, once formed, can be a tough thing to break. I like to think that CFL’s and my activity streak is a good habit! I’ll confess that when I first broke my arm I had a tough time motivating myself to get outside and do something. But once I got used to my new temporary “normal,” I stopped feeling sorry for myself over my inability to run or cycle. I discovered that I enjoyed the challenge of finding interesting new ways to move for several miles each day.

During the first several days after my injury I was happy just to walk on a flat paved surface. Together we walked several sections of the Olympic Discovery Trail. I know that trail very well from many hundreds of running miles, but it’s been nice to slow down and share it while engaging in long, slow conversations.

Although I wasn’t able to capture them on camera (I struggle getting off quick one-handed shots), at the Morse Creek bridge we saw three adult bald eagles and a river otter. As a consolation prize I’ll offer you a long, slow look at the shadows on the bridge.

Morse Creek bridge

After five days and 28 miles of this leisurely walking, I was ready to try a bit more.

First up was a short hike to the always-spectacular Sol Duc Falls. It’s only 1.8 miles round-trip on a mostly level trail. Thanks to all the recent rains, we passed several raging streams on our way to the falls. The scale is difficult to capture in a photograph because the trees are so huge, but this stream is about 20 feet across.

IMG_1468

 

IMG_1469

Sol Duc Falls itself was as high as I’ve ever seen it, with four cascades instead of the usual three.

IMG_1472

I must thank CFL for the spiky hairdo he gave me when he put on my headband for me.

IMG_1475

Sol Duc Falls served as a warm-up. That same day we also hiked several miles on a new (to us) and mostly level trail not far from this one.

The next day we chose a trail that soon turned into an impassible marshy puddle. We were disappointed with our low-mileage day, so the next day we covered 12.5 miles on the ODT before rewarding ourselves with local craft beer downtown.

Over the weekend we hit the hiking trails again. On our 11.5 mile meander along the Spruce Railroad Trail, we enjoyed the impossible-to-photograph deep ultramarine blues of Lake Crescent. We also spotted our first calypso orchids of 2014!

IMG_1478 - Version 2

Yesterday we drove way out to the Pacific coast to hike the Ozette Triangle. This trail starts at Lake Ozette and runs west 3 miles through the forest to the beach, then 3 miles south along the beach, and finally 3 miles back through the forest.

I did fine on the first leg. When we got to the beach, I felt like I had just stepped into a calendar photo.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

We stopped to snack and enjoy the view. There were many kinds of waterfowl, including dozens of black oystercatchers with their distinctive whistles. We heard sea lions barking at a near-shore island. We saw several gray whale spouts just beyond the surf line.

We then set out to walk along the beach. At first it was mostly sand and cobbles, but we didn’t get far before we found ourselves stepping from boulder to boulder and scrambling over driftwood logs. I quickly realized that this was going to be too tough to navigate with my arm in a sling. We reluctantly turned back. By the time we got back to the car, we’d covered 7.5 miles, but I was very tired. Still, it occurred to us that we were the oldest people out on that trail that day — by far. I was also the only person out there with a broken arm! So we congratulated ourselves on our attempt.

All told, I’ve walked (on pavement) and hiked (off-pavement) nearly 72 miles in the first ten days since breaking my arm. I may have been slowed by this injury, but I shall not be stopped.

One slow happy step at a time!

 

The Providence Bridge Pedal: Portland, Oregon

A week ago CFL and I rode the Providence Bridge Pedal in Portland, Oregon. I first learned about this ride last year when we happened to drive through Portland a couple of hours after the finish, but CFL has had it on his wish list for years.

With an estimated 18,000 riders, it’s billed as the third largest community bike ride in the world, behind first-place Montreal and then New York City.

The Portland ride essentially shuts down traffic through downtown Portland on a Sunday morning and early afternoon. The route encompasses all of the major bridges that cross the Willamette River — including two freeways. Yes, they close parts of freeways for this ride!!

There are several variations of the ride, ranging from a few miles and a couple of bridges, to 30+ miles and 10+ bridges.

I’m still rather new to cycling, having logged fewer than 200 miles in my adult life prior to this event. But CFL encourages me to dream big! In early June we registered for the 33-mile, 10-bridge ride.

I figured that two months to train would be enough. As the big day approached we did several easy rides of varying lengths on generally rolling trails and roads. I was terrified at first of riding on roads with cars whizzing by, but installing a rear view mirror on my handlebar helped. Our longest ride was 26.3 miles ten days before the event. I was confident that I could go the distance and that I could ride up the uphill approaches to each bridge. But I was very anxious about riding in close quarters with others. What if I did something stupid and caused a multi-bike accident?

On Sunday morning we were up very early to drive the ten miles from our motel to downtown Portland, find a place to park, unload the bikes, and ride slowly to join the masses at the starting line.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

From the starting line the route would take us immediately onto a ramp and up and over our first bridge. Although we were released in waves every few minutes, it was crowded and slow going over the bridge. I did my best to keep my balance while wobbling along at a mere 4 MPH while surrounded by other wobbly bikers. After a few minutes it dawned on me that I wasn’t the only nervous, inexperienced biker. We were all in this together and nobody wanted to crash! Gradually I began to build some confidence as I gained experience in not crashing.

Once we were over the top of the bridge, we all picked up speed and spread out. I was able to relax and enjoy the ride, the scenery, and the encouraging shouts from spectators and fellow riders.

This pattern of bottlenecks and spread-outs continued for the remaining nine bridges. In a few cases the crowd approaching a bridge was so dense that everyone got off and walked, but on most of the bridges there was room for both through riders and those who stopped to rest or take photographs. We mostly fell into the latter camp.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The views were amazing!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Some of the aid stations were set up in the middle of bridges, which encouraged people to take their time enjoying a snack while taking in the views. There were also bands on a couple of the bridges — it was all quite festive!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On the freeway sections we were able to spread far apart and whiz down the long, gently curving roadway. I managed to dislodge my twitchy fingers from my brakes and actually got going more than 25 MPH a few times. My GPS watch recorded one sub-4-minute mile. I felt like I was flying! It’s hard to imagine that there are many humans alive who can run that fast.

The ninth bridge was the toughest. After nearly 20 miles of criss-crossing the Willamette in the center of downtown, we tackled a 10+ mile loop to the north, crossing the St. John Bridge before heading back toward downtown. This bridge ramp was very steep;  lots of people around me got off and walked but I managed to ride all the way to the top. And I was still smiling when I got off my bike for the photo opportunity!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

From there it became a freight train as we all seemed to pick up speed for the final push back to the 10th bridge and the finish line. I was finally fully relaxed and beginning to feel rather proud of myself. The ride finished only a block from where it began, but those 33 miles were transformational for me. I felt like a triumphant cyclist!

There was one last crush at the finish line. We all lined up with great anticipation for the ice cream bars and other snacks that awaited.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The ride was not officially timed, but I timed us at a leisurely four and a half hours. That’s okay! I finished feeling strong and — most important — staying upright. No crashes by me or anyone around me!

CFL had a great time also. We vowed that we’d come back and do it again someday. Actually, we are already talking about coming back in 2014. It was that awesome.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Of course, while we were in Portland we also visited a few brewpubs. We finished our ride day at the Deschutes Brewery Public House, where I enjoyed vegan mushroom shepherd’s pie paired with a delectable Black Butte XXV. Another Portland standout was the tiny Tugboat Brewing’s amazing Chernobyl Imperial Stout. Our Oregon trip also included beer tasting stops in Astoria and Eugene. I think we hit about a dozen brewpubs and taprooms overall. And we haven’t scratched the surface of all that Portland has to offer!

Yes, I think we’ll be back next year.

How about you?

Daring to do more: Our activity goals for 2013

The other day I wrote on my running blog that I’d barely met my 2012 running goal of 600 miles, and that I planned a modest increase to 650 miles in 2013 (my intention was to increase the running miles while still making room for more hiking this year). Well, the other morning CFL and I got to talking, and wouldn’t you know it, we ended up challenging one another to some rather ambitious activity goals for the year.

I’m not sure which numbers he finally settled on, but here are my goals:

  • Run 730 miles (an average of 14 miles per week, 61 miles per month)
  • Hike, walk, and bike an additional 470 miles (an average of 9.1 miles per week, 39 miles per month)
  • All of which totals up to 1,200 miles (an average of 3.3 miles per day, 23.1 miles per week, 100 miles per month)

The last I heard, he was talking about 1,000 miles total plus 100,000 vertical feet. This time of year he climbs 1,000 vertical feet of stairs (111 flights) every 2-3 days, and in the warmer months he likes to ride his bike up to Hurricane Ridge, a 5,000+ foot climb in 17 miles. So as daunting as it sounds to me, 100K vertical feet is actually realistic for him.

We started out the new year with a nice easy 1.5 mile hike to Marymere Falls and back. As usual we stopped to take photos of a bridge. This one is over Barnes Creek, just below the falls.

Here we are at the falls. Yes, it was COLD.

Yesterday I walked downtown and back, which is about 2.5 miles. I was, therefore, a bit off my planned 3.3 miles-per-day pace when I went out to run today. After an overnight low of 29 and a heavy frost, I wasn’t all that eager to get out there and run. I finally made it to my favorite trailhead around 2:00 PM, when it had warmed up to a positively balmy 37. At least the sun was shining! I was wearing brand new trail running shoes. I don’t normally use trail running shoes on pavement, but it feels like a prudent choice for this time of year.

Sure enough, today I ran through both mud and ice, and I was very glad for the extra traction that those knobby trail shoes gave me!

I ran just over 6 miles, giving me 10 total for the year so far and putting me right on track for my goals.

Meanwhile CFL put his bike on his car rack today, drove to meet a friend, and rode 21 miles with him. Arggghhh! He’s ahead of me! The race is on.

I’ll try not to bore you with too-frequent status updates, but I will try to post periodic updates on how we’re doing with our activity goals.

One mutual goal that we’ve discussed at some length and agreed upon as a “must do” this year is the hike across Olympic National Park — 44 miles of steep trails and stream fords from the Quinault River to the Elwha River. With training we think it’s realistic to do this in three days. As I have never done an overnight backpack trip before, there will be quite a bit of training needed on my part.

Of course we also have this time-consuming but very enjoyable goal of brewing 25 batches of beer in 2013. I think it’s going to be a busy year. But I’m not going to stress out about it.

In fact, right now I think I’ll relax and have a homebrew. Cheers!

Running to the Elwha

In prior posts I’ve written about hiking up the Elwha (here and here) and riding to the Elwha. Well, yesterday I ran to the Elwha! With just a few days left in 2012, I’m only a few miles short of my goal of running 600 miles in 2012. From our prior experience of riding our bikes 6.6 miles on a nearly-level trail to the Elwha River bridge and back, I knew it would be an easy, beautiful out-and-back run.

The skies were gray but there was nothing more than drizzle in the forecast. CFL loaded up his bike and we drove out to the trailhead just west of town. He completed two out-and-backs during the time it took me to do the run, so we had several chances to say “hello” to each other along the way.

It was a perfect day to be outside and active. As usual for this time of year, my feet went numb in the first half mile but I was toasty by the time I’d completed my second full mile. The piles of big-leaf maple leaves that I’d enjoyed running over on my bike were long gone and the paved trail was wide open and non-slippery. With all the leaves off the maples, I could see middle-distance views toward the river.

I stopped to take a photo of the two-level bridge as I approached it. Runners/bikers/walkers use the lower level; the upper level is for cars.

Then I stopped in the middle of the bridge to take photos of the river. It’s still extremely muddy. I read the other day that only about 10% of the century’s worth of silt has reached the mouth of the river since the dam removal process started, so there is a lot more mud yet to come!

Elwha River

After a slow, refreshing several minutes of gazing down at the river, I turned around to head back. The ever-so-lightly uphill trail led me back through the trees, past the airport, and toward town.

Olympic Discovery Trail near the Elwha River Bridge

I picked up the pace for the last two and a half miles, as it was beginning to drizzle. CFL’s post-ride grin was as big as mine! We both enjoyed our exercise highs for the rest of the day.

I’m learning that at this time of year we have to go out and grab whatever exercise we can get, whenever the weather offers a halfway decent chance. This time of year it’s all about seizing the best moment to run, or bike, through the raindrops!

Wherever you are, whatever your weather, I hope you find your ways to enjoy your mid-winter moments… slowly and happily!

Riding to the Elwha

I keep coming back to the Elwha River, it seems.

And why not? It’s a beautiful place in the midst of an astonishing transformation, as the two century-old dams are being taken down and removed.

I’ve written here several times about our hikes up the Elwha, upstream from the dams where the river has always run free. I’ve written elsewhere about the changes already taking place at the former Lake Aldwell after the lower dam was removed earlier this year. The removal of the upper dam has been slower and more painstaking due to the immense amount of silt that has accumulated behind the dam in Lake Mills. I have not been able to show you photos of the process of draining this lake because the construction company has kept the site well shielded from the public. I have managed to catch glimpses through trees and construction barriers, however, so I have had a general sense of the declining water level.

A week or so ago they announced that the river was finally falling free over the last few remaining feet of the dam, and that the silt would soon be flowing downstream and muddying the lower reaches of the Elwha.

This sounded like an interesting thing to go and see. Yesterday we decided to ride our bikes to the Elwha. We started a mile or so west of downtown, at an access point to a newly-paved section of the Olympic Discovery Trail (ODT). We guessed it would be about five miles each way, but were surprised to see a sign indicating it was only 3.3 miles! Given that we had the afternoon free, we decided to ride at a leisurely pace and enjoy the sights.

This new section of the trail was absolutely beautiful, nearly flat and mostly straight through fields and groves of big leaf maples. Once I got over my initial caution, it was great fun to aim my bicycle wheel toward the biggest piles of leaves I could find!

This being the rainy, wet Pacific Northwest, we got to cross another stream on our way to the Elwha. I couldn’t get a decent shot of the oddly-named Dry Creek — it was running freely but was almost hidden by the thick trees. Maybe that’s the joke? In any case, the bridge was terrific! This style of bridge is typical of most of the small stream crossings on the ODT.

After Dry Creek the trail headed gently downhill toward the Elwha, but it never got steep because it follows an old railway grade and crosses the Elwha at the top of the ravine. I was able to relax and not worry about having to ride up steep hills on the way back!

The bridge is very impressive. It’s a new double-deck bridge with a road on top and the ODT below. CFL laments the loss of a beautiful old bridge that was taken out when this one was built. I remember that bridge – I even drove over it once or twice. It was a bit scary! I’m glad the new bridge is there and I appreciate its human-friendly design that encourages leisurely river watching. Doesn’t this beautiful bridge make you want to ride your bike across it — stopping along the way for a long slow look?

As for the Elwha, yes it is muddy!

Looking upstream straight into the sun the view was difficult to photograph, but the river looked like a roiling cauldron of mud. We spent a long time watching the patterns that emerged in and moved through the cross-currents. The flows, ebbs, and whirlpools are somehow easier to see than they would be in clear water.

In contrast, the view downstream seemed serene. Even here, however, the water was obviously thick and murky. I like the shadow of the bridge in this photo. If you look closely you can see us standing there!

The silt flow is expected to continue for weeks to months. The dam removals were planned as a slow and careful process to prevent too much silt rushing out all at once — but no matter how slowly you take down a 100-year-old dam, everything behind it does get up and move downstream eventually.

We plan to keep coming back to check on the river’s ongoing transformation. We’ve heard that the stark lakebed of the former Lake Aldwell, which we last visited in May, is now lush with new growth as the forest comes to reclaim it. It’s definitely time for a return visit!

Further upstream, perhaps once the leaves are fully off the trees, I hope to be able to sneak a peek-a-boo photo of the former Lake Mills.

You can expect to read more here about the Elwha River… It is a place/time event that does, indeed, keep me coming back.

Up the Elwha!

Before I dash off into writing about our gentle autumn weather here, let me pause and say that I am thinking good thoughts for friends and former co-workers affected by Sandy.

++++++++++++ 

The other day we returned to one of our favorite areas to hike: the Elwha River watershed. We caught a brief respite from our two weeks of drizzle and managed to hike for five hours through a rain forest without getting wet! Although we never saw the sun, it was a glorious day.

There are two main trails in this area, both of which eventually cross a bridge and head far up into the mountains. On this trip, we took the trail that we did not take on our most recent hike up the Elwha.

The aptly-named big-leaf maples showered the trail with foot-wide, golden leaves.

Besides the maples, the trees in this forest are mostly conifers… Douglas fir, Western red cedar, hemlocks, and others. The understory is lush with ferns, salal, and in some places an inches-thick layer of moss. The ferns are beginning to fade, mostly turning brown but in a few places ghostly white.

One deciduous tree stood out with its graceful slim leaves that glowed pinkish orange. I’m not sure but I think this may be a Pacific dogwood.

Up close, the forest revealed another set of delights. Here is a patch of lung liverwort (sort of a giant moss) clinging to a boulder.

I had to look closely to spot this interesting specimen. I believe it is a variety of coral fungus.

Despite all of the fabulous photo ops we did manage to actually hike to somewhere. Our turnaround point was Lillian Camp, almost five miles up the trail, on the Lillian River just above its confluence with the Elwha. I want to camp here someday — imagine going to sleep under the trees with the sound of the river close by!

The trail crosses a bridge over the Lillian River here, and you know what that means — bridge inspection! The bridge itself is humble, but I love the diagonals in this view — they pull me in and make me want to hike further… maybe on a long summer day next year?

The view of the river from the bridge is nothing short of idyllic.

I was taken by the leaves on that boulder in the foreground, and the water rushing around the boulder. It’s tough to photograph moving water in low light without a tripod, but I did my best to balance myself against a bridge post. Not so bad for hand-held?

We lingered at Lillian Camp for half an hour, but as the sky began to darken we knew we needed to start back if we hoped to beat the rain and sundown. That didn’t stop me from taking a few more photos of those glorious autumn leaves… they’ll all come down overnight as soon as we get the big windstorm that always seems to come this time of year. But until then, this is a place to be enjoyed and savored. I’m privileged and proud to live here.

After a perfect autumn hike, we celebrated with a homebrew. Our “Angeles Porter” exceeded our expectations and we’ll be brewing this recipe again. Its creamy-sweet maltiness is, I confess, easy to drink and tough to resist. Yum!!!

The next batch of homebrew after the porter is an English style Extra Special Bitter (ESB) – think Bass Ale. “Bass” makes me think of “fish,” and of salmon swimming upstream – up the newly-freed Elwha past the old dams now coming down. I’ve named this beer “Up the Elwha ESB.” We’re bottling this weekend, so in a couple of weeks I hope to report to you that it’s as rich and heady as a hike up the Elwha on a crisp autumn day. Cheers!

Hiking up the Elwha River

Autumn is definitely coming here in the Pacific Northwest, after a late but glorious summer. There’s still no rain in the forecast, but the temperatures are dropping and the leaves have begun to turn colors. The other day I (LKS) wanted to take a long but easy hike to gently keep my muscles working during the time between the Rogue Run half marathon on 9/23 and the upcoming Victoria half marathon on 10/7. The complex of trails in the Elwha River watershed provided the perfect opportunity to get out and enjoy the natural beauty surrounding us in this place and time.

The trails are mostly level except for sections that lead down to and back up from the river’s edge. For a good part of the way, the trail we chose meanders through flat, open forest and mossy glades.

The maples were still in the early stages of their autumn glory, but everything was highlighted beautifully under the azure sky.

 

CFL had suggested that we hike as far as “the bridge,” which he’d seen once before, but I really had no idea what to expect. I soon learned that the bridge in question is a suspension bridge that crosses the Elwha at a point where the canyon becomes too deep for hikers to continue directly alongside the river. The first glimpse of it through the trees is not all that impressive.

Even the signs acknowledge that it’s quite human-scale as suspension bridges go.

It may not be the tallest or longest suspension bridge, but it fits its location perfectly. It gracefully and efficiently spans the river. We spent some time studying it, and CFL explained the structural engineering details to this non-architect. I’m still bemused at what it must have taken to build it here. All that steel had to be hauled three and a half miles up a narrow trail, from a trailhead that is five miles up a steep, narrow dirt road that branches off a small road that is at least five miles off the highway, many miles out of town. Now here it sits on a lightly-traveled trail that most people will never see. This bridge is now one of my favorite places.

From this angle, it’s clear why hikers are forced to cross the river at this point — there is nowhere else to go!

In a couple of weeks, once my last half marathon of 2012 is behind me, I’d like to go back — get an earlier start and continue up the trail beyond this bridge. The other side beckons.

The big news about the Elwha is the ongoing removal of the two dams downstream, but up here the Elwha has always run free and the bridges are humble. What an extraordinary privilege it is to be in this place!