Places to Run

The video link http://www.youtube.com/watch_popup?v=8qenZ-1Coa0&vq=hd1080

A long time ago, I remember flying over the Coast Mountain Range. I stared out the window at the terrain below and the guy next to me said, “I’d sure hate to be lost down there!” I thought about how much fun that would be. I’ve been on the plane over those mountains many times since and I knew I’d have to spend some time there.

The trip I had planned required some capability so we assembled the right crew – Reid Roberts, Colin Miller, Aaron Bond, Scott Kestleloot  and Geoff Mulligan. I distinctly remember the call with the float plane company. He was a bit confused as to what I was asking.

“Six of you, going to Taseko? Oh, that’s too heavy for the Beaver. The max payload is 1200 pounds.”

“We’ll be under a 1000,” I said.

“Six guys with gear? You’ll have heavy packs. It’s a long way.”

“Our average weight is maybe 165 and our packs will be about 3 pounds each.”

“3 pounds?”

“Yeah, we’re going to run back after you drop us.”

“That’s like 90 kilometers through the mountains….”

He agreed after I paypalled the funds in advance. Not sure if that’s standard.

We all met up the morning of the flight at the Tyax Wilderness Resort. Aaron was sleeping in a kids play tent. Geoff was laughing at him with the heavy rainfall they had through the night.

We met the pilot at the float plane dock and we went over the plan. There were some tricky parts to the route and I was concerned about the snow level above 7,000′. We wanted to get as much ridge running as possible and stay to the line of mountains but some of our proposed route looked real sketchy so we convinced the pilot to fly us by those sections.

It was about a thirty minute flight to Taseko lake. We hit the beach, arranged our gear and headed for an old mining trail that would lead us into the alpine. It was about 25 km to Warner pass. We did some quick route finding and we  saw a lot of grizzly sign. This was great because instead of bear bangers and spray, we opted for gels, drink mix and food to keep our packs light. We took comfort in Geoff’s expert sounding statistic that a party of six or larger has never been attacked by a grizzly bear.

The west side of the route was dry and we steadily gained altitude, broke the treeline and hit the top of Warner Pass. It was spectacular. The large coastal mountains surrounded us. Instead of heading into the next valley, we headed up onto Warner Mountain. It was a little sketchy and then we looked over and saw Colin free climbing up a chute that scared us to just look at. He  nonchalantly met us on top, downplaying the epic feat.

Running east from Warner pass was tough. It’s a rocky, steep on both sides ridge. The group was strong, the scenery was beyond belief and we were all smiles. It took a long time with a lot of technical ridge running but we eventually hit the smoother topped Deer Pass and hooked up with some mountain bike trails. This was the Southern Chilcotin Mountains at it’s best. We dropped into the grassy alpine and made our way down into the trees and to Trigger Lake.

This was a very tough run and everyone’s strength showed. After seven or eight hours of hard running, we were still moving fast. We met up with a group of mountain bikers on a day trip and tried racing them. We leap frogged for  a while and they lost us on the flat.

We continued in the treeline, passing through beautiful meadows, crossing clean and swift creeks and ran through a landscape of indescribable beauty. As dark started to fall, we got that hit of dusk energy and made our way out to a logging road where Erin was waiting with the car to drive us to the lodge.  The six of us, caked in dirt and smelling like long dead yaks, piled in. I am not sure how Erin could stand it and I think she may have even more willpower than her husband Colin.

We ran 89 kilometers, climbed almost 3,000 vertical meters topping out above 9,000 feet. It took us about ten and half hours moving time running.

A hard run through some tough mountains with a great group of friends. Does it get any better?

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I had a work function in Las Vegas last week. Now – I have  a serious dislike for places like Vegas but I figure a positive mental attitude is an essential feature of an ultra-runner. To test this resolve, I planned on getting some serious dirt trail training in. It’s been months since I’ve run on anything but snow so I packed some warm weather clothes, summer shoes and a headlamp.

I arrived late Sunday afternoon and I headed out to the closest spot I could find with trails and hills – Red Rock Canyon. I arrived about an hour before dark, ran the Calico Tanks, up on top of Turtlehead Peak and on my way around the mountain on the  White Rock Trail it got full dark. So I headlamped it around the backside and followed the lights of the city across the open desert, sans trail, for a couple hours.

Intrigued by this spot, I was back in Red Rock Canyon at 3 am on Monday. Since the park was closed, I parked on the highway and I headed up the east side of the Red Rocks. I followed a wash into a canyon and followed it like I was caving. It is spectacular to run these canyons with just a headlamp switching up between boulder jumping, running on sand or on solid smooth rock. I went up and up until I reckoned I was on the east side of Turtlehead Peak. It started to get light just as I hit the summit. This was followed up by some very fast downhilling on the main trail and back out to the highway. I made it to the conference by 8 am.

I pretty much repeated this procedure the rest of the week except to take a different route each time. Why not? It was close and I hadn’t run much of the same trail twice. Most mornings, I think folks were perplexed to see someone heading back down the trails at sunrise in the opposite direction they were going.

On Saturday, I got to run in the full light again. A nice wide loop around the whole place. I had run six days in Red Rock, barely on any of the same trail twice but I was running out of room.

For something different on Sunday I made the trip out to the Valley of Fire. I was a little dismayed at the short lengths of trails listed on the map and in the interpretive center. To compensate, I parked and just headed due south across the desert. I followed the shaped terrain , following the winding washes towards the mountains. After about an hour, I set my sights on a big set of red rocks. As I was heading up to them, I spooked about 30 Bighorn Sheep. I got to the rocks and did a semi-rock climb up between them in large, smooth crack. Once on top, I cut back to the highway by way of a steep ridge.

I crossed the highway and I headed directly up into the gnarly ground. The top is totally non-trail but the traction is amazing. It’s either huge stable boulders or solid sandstone bedrock so one can run up and down anything. I played and played following mazes of ridges, getting cutoff a large drops then back down and back up to try and find another way. About an hour or so later, I made my way back into a canyon and came out into a large, wide sandy wash and then back to the car. What a different and diverse running experiment. I’d love to play on that kind of terrain regularly.

Here’s a couple of videos of what Valley of Fire is like. There taken from my iphone so pardon the rough footage.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3XecKLwfc4

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jHh5Hm-QM14

And 30 hours later, back on snow:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgO0kgRwN_k

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Sugarbowl Viking Ridge Loop

Access: Parking lot about 50 minutes east of Prince George. Well marked on the south side of the highway just inside the Sugarbowl Grizzly Den Park boundary. About 10 minutes past Purden.

Description:

This is a mountain trail starting with about 1 km through rolling cedar forest. It transitions to a 4 km climb to the top of an alpine ridge. The trail then follows the ridge to the peak of Sugarbowl mountain (6,003′) and continues to the saddle before Viking ridge. The trail downhills to the highway and one can run the side of the highway back to the parking lot (approx 6km of highway travel).  This loop excludes adding in the actual Viking Ridge.

There is a mix of old growth cedar, subalpine fir, full open alpine and lot of other plant  life. I have seen blue grouse and caribou on the ridge and sign of mule deer and moose. Although I am sure this is grizzly country, I have not seen any nor their sign.

This is a great all year around trail but it is only completely snow free for August. Expect heavy snow for a lot of the year.

There is water at the trailhead and at about 3 km on the trail to Sugarbowl Ridge. There is also water on the down trail on the Viking Ridge side.

As you get better on technical trail, you’ll be able to run this faster and with confidence.

This trail is sparsely marked.

Length: 22.6 KM for the full loop  with 5400′ gain.

From the parking lot to the ridge and back is around 8.5 km with almost 3000′ gain.

Difficulty:  The full loop is a lot of fun but is difficult, technical and subject to weather.

Other notes:

This is also an excellent hike. Other options are just the ridge, leaving a car at the Viking Ridge parking lot (to cut out the highway running) or just climbing to the summit and back (18 km)

Link to GPS file here

Link to Google earth file here

Beware that my wristwatch Garmin can be up to about 30 meters off.

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LC Gunn

Access: This trail can be accessed on the south-east side of the highway 97 bridge near the BCR site or on the east side of the bridge on highway 16 east near the jail.

Description:

A lot of folks really like this trail. It goes from bridge to bridge and follows the river high up on the ridge. It’s predominantly Douglas Fir, single/double track with some ups, downs and a nice little hill climb.

Length: 3.5  KM’s with 685′ gain

Difficulty:  There are some roots and a bit of back and forth but this is a relatively easy trail.

Other notes:

This can be combined with a run through Fort George Park, the Cottonwood Island trail or some road running too.

Link to GPS file here

Link to Google earth file here

Beware that my wristwatch Garmin can be up to about 30 meters off.

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The Free Running Trail

Access: Access to the Free Running Trail  is from the Forest for the World parking lot (Kueng road) on Cranbrook Hill.

Description: This is a great starter technical trail.  It’s gradual downhill with little jumps, rocks, bridges and other trail obstacles. Kids absolutely love it as they can’t really stop themselves from running the whole way with the neat terrain mixed with the descent. Last summer, all my kids ran this at least once a week including my four year old.

As you get better on technical trail, you’ll be able to run this faster and with confidence.

Length: 2.2 KM’s with 728′ loss and 232′ gain.

Difficulty:  It’s technical single track for the first 1.5 km’s and then double track or wider at the end. The last little bit is a  steep section before hitting UNBC way. However, the down hilling make it a lot easier.

Other notes:

You can combined this with a whole number of FFT routes, the UNBC Way hill or before you descend the UNBC hill you can go south to UNBC or north to the end of Crest road and loop back.

Link to GPS file here

Link to Google earth file here

Beware that my wristwatch Garmin can be up to about 30 meters off.

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Fir Ridge

Access: Access to Fir Ridge is from either of the Forest for the World parking lots (UNBC or Kueng rd on Cranbrook hill).

Description: Quite possibly one of the nicest trails in Prince George. Mostly single track with a few climbs up to the highest point on Cranbrook hill. A must do.

The map above and GPS files provided have this as a full loop from the FFT UNBC parking lot. The actual Fir Ridge trail is just from FFT Kueng Road to where it joins the Greenway – but the whole loop is fun!

Length: 7.4 km’s with about 830′ positive elevation gain if this is run as a full loop from the UNBC Forest for the World parking lot.

Difficulty:  Pretty moderate. Single track, some logs and roots and some climbing.  A bit of difficult footing. A more difficult route when compared to the rest of Forest for the World.

Other notes:

You can combined this with a whole number of FFT routes and even the Greenway.

Link to GPS file here

Link to Google earth file here

Beware that my wristwatch Garmin can be up to about 30 meters off.

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Unnamed Hart Trail

Description: Single track trail following the ridge north of the North Nechako River. One end of the trail starts at the weigh scales on the Hart Highway (Blueberry road across from Hoferkamp road) and traverses through to Foothills between North Nechako rd and the Garbage dump. It comes out near the new cell tower road.

This is a spectacular trail. Largely single track travelling through mixed forest that is predominantly Douglas Fir. The trail is well draining, sandy and there are a lot of good climbing sections to hill tops along the way. It is also one of the first snow free trails in town. There are a myriad of trails that crisscross this trail so route finding can be a little tough. When in doubt stick to the ridge tops.

Length: 6.5 km’s with about 1200′ positive elevation gain

Difficulty: Some steep ups and downs. Some difficult footing. One of the more challenging single track routes in town.

Other notes:

You can combine this with some adjacent runs like the Pulp Mill Road cutbanks climb, the Cottonwood Island River trail, Edgewood Terrace along the river or Foothills through to Pidherney. There is probably great potential to connect through to the atv trails to the north on the Hart.

Link to GPS file here

Link to Google earth file here

Beware that my wristwatch Garmin can be up to about 30 meters off.

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Overview:

The Prince George Greenway is a magnificent trail is an anchor trail in the community. It runs from Old Blue Spruce Campground near Art Naps on Hwy 16 west along the west side of Prince George past the University all the way to the Otway Ski Center on Otway Road.

Access: The trail can be accessed in several places

  1. Blue Spruce – The south side of the trail can be accessed via the old Blue Spruce Campground on highway 16 west. This is at the Art Knapps location across from Bon Voyage. The trail begins at the gate in front of the campground. It follows an old road for the first kilometer and is a popular area for dog walkers.
  2. Forest for the World  (UNBC) – a popular place to access the trail is via the Forest For the World parking lot near UNBC. This parking lot is located south-west of UNBC is accessed on the sharp corner off Tyner just past the main UNBC turnoff if heading south-west along Tyner. The main trail leaving the parking lot hits the Greenway trail several hundred meters in. The Greenway heads off to the south-west (left).
  3. Forest for the World (Kueng Road) – another popular way to access the Greenway is via the Forest for the World Parking Lot on Kueng Rd where people often access Shane Lake.
  4. Takla Road – The Greenway trail is bisected by Takla Road on the backside of Cranbrook Hill. To access the Greenway, drive about 1.75 km down Takla road to the visible gates.
  5. Otway Ski Center – There is public access at the Otway ski center on the Otway Road.

Trail length and Overview:

The overall trail length is 24 km from end to end with about 2100′ of total elevation gain. The south end is higher with a  new elevation loss of about 450′ against Otway.

The trail is well maintained, gradual in slope and runnable two or even three abreast. The trail can be a wet and muddy much of the year but there are bridges and paths around most really wet areas. Benches and even a picnic table are scattered along the path. The trail showcases the amazing diversity of the Prince George area. The west side (Blue Spruce trail) is relatively dry in the older Fir Forests. As it nears, connects and veers west from the UNBC Forest for the World area, it transitions to wetter terrain featuring birch and even cottonwood. This section follows a valley and waterway until it climbs out and into some pine forests. After it crossed Takla road, one enter the even wetter spruce forests. Devil’s Club is often visible. The trail descends into the well marked Otway Ski Area.

This trail is runable all year and is a very popular location for Prince George Runners. On summer weekends, it is common to encounter several groups. In the winter, these trails are groomed usually about once a week. The trail is very well marked and is maintained by the Cranbrook Hill Greenway Society.

This is a more remote trail for being so close to Prince George. Be prepared and inform others as to your plans. Cell coverage is spotty in the middle and north ends of the trail.

Distances:

Blue Spruce to UNBC FFT – 6 kms

UNBC FFT to Otway – 18 kms

Gps track here