Friday, August 29, 2008

Wednesday night, (west) Tiger Mountain's 3 Summits

So Wednesday night, I was on my lonesome, my wife was out having a sushi/girls night and I, generally, have far too much energy to just sit around and have a quite night at home, so, it was off to Tiger Mountain for me!

I arrived at the trail head (exit 20 off of I-90) nearing 6pm and chose to park outside of the gate just in case I returned after 'dusk' (a term that really needs better defining). I headed on to the trail following the "3 Summits" run as described in "50 Trail Runs in Washington" by Cheri Pompeo (who happens to be a fellow Maniac). I had done a different version of the 3 summits back on the 15th taking the same route up but a completely different route back to the parking area, so I had some idea of what was in store.

The route starts off pretty tame, hitting portions of the "Bus" and "Nook" trials which are runnable, but "Nook" is sort of a tease, it seems friendly at first, but eventually reveals it's true self... elevation. By the time I hit the next portion of the route, the "Section Line Trail," I was 'warmed up' for lack of a better term, don't get me wrong, "Nook" isn't crazy hard or anything, but it's 600ft gain doesn't go unnoticed. Now 'Section' on the other hand, I'm not ashamed to admit that that trail is tough, gaining ~900ft. of elevation in about half the distance that "Nook" takes to gain it's 600ft. The first portion of 'Section' is particularly steep and, at times, hard to get your footing, never the less, I climbed enjoying the cool forest and the solitude that (week day evening) Tiger Mnt. provides.

I reached Summit #3, the first of the 3 summits, in a little over 40 minutes (yep, I was in no hurry) and was greeted by a hiker and his boxer, after getting a quick session of 'dog time' in quickly reconsulting my route, I headed out toward summit #2. The space between #3 and #2 feels short and easy after (that damn) 'Section' trail, the pay off view from #2 isn't isn't all that grand so I ran right through, continuing on to summit #1. The space between #2 and #1 is mainly dirt road, which isn't horrible, but I'd much rather be on trails, the road goes down about 200ft before beginning the climb up to #1.

Summit #1 is the highest of the 3 summits on west Tiger coming in at 2943ft. and, in my opinion, provides the best views. I was still really enjoying my run at this point and was looking forward to getting out on some unfamiliar trails. I took a quick break to take a few pictures, drink some water, and, once more consult my map, ~3 minutes after arriving, I headed back out.

(Up on summit #1)

This is the point where things sort of start falling apart, don't get me wrong, I had a great run and enjoyed almost every moment out on the trails but from summit 3 until I arrived back at my car, I made rookie mistake after rookie mistake, all good learning tools, but mistakes regardless.

My first issue came when I missed my turn on to "Poo Top Trail," though not a major misstep, I did have to turn around and climb back up a short ways when I recognized my mistake. After getting back to 'Poo Top' I headed up until I reached the road, I knew I was supposed to cross over and continue on 'Poo Top' but the trail seemed very over grown and appeared as though it had gone unused for quite some time. I hesitated briefly, then choose to trust my instincts and navigation and push forward, though never fully confident I was on the right trial, I continued down until I once again I came to a dirt road which confirmed my location.

'Dusk' was setting in as I made the transition from "One View Trial" (which, incidentally, has no view) onto "Poo Poo Point Trail," there was still plenty of natural light but the sun had now been engulfed by the tree line and shadows were growing long.

('dusk' approaches as I photograph a friendly face)

(Here's were the real trouble/adventure starts!) As I eased down 'Poo Poo' I suddenly felt a sharp thwack(!) to the back of my head, I turned around expecting to see a thorny black berry vine but no, nothing on or off the trail. Had someone thrown something at me? Something dropped from a tree? I was confused and continued to look around, then I spotted, up in a tree, a large owl that I suspect was a Barred Owl. I starred for a moment thinking many thoughts, seemingly all at once... 'should I get my camera out,' 'How odd... must of thought I was a squirrel' & 'I can't believe that son-of-a-bitch hit me!' then, all of a sudden it was headed at me again! Wings out, talons ready for the gouging, it swooped at me and I dove to the ground. At this point I realized this owl wasn't effin' around, I picked my self up and started booking down the trail, I made it a few hundred feet when, once again *Thwack!* right to the back of my head! I stopped, crouched down, looked up and saw the bastard perched on a fallen tree maybe 30 odd feet in front of me. I took off my camel back, grabbed it by it's handle, and swung it while flailing my other arm about and yelling in the bird's general direction. Silly me, here I thought I could perhaps scare it off, instead I was shown (what my co-worker described as) the 'owl F.U. look.' It starred me down, and, when I finally stopped my scare tactics realizing that this method was clearly not working, the owl once again, bee lined directly at me. As I laid on the ground, avoiding another gouging, I was able to watch the owl pass over my face by only a foot or so, as soon as it past I got up and started running faster than I had been all day. I ran like Cary Grant in "North By Northwest," constantly looking over my shoulder, continually getting whacked or (on the more fortunate attacks) diving to the ground with the owl barely missing. In total, I'm not exaggerating by telling you that the owl tagged me a good 5 times while attempting to at least 5 more.

After what felt like an hour, but was more likely about 10 minutes, I finally seemed to be in the clear, I continued running as if it was right behind me, fast as I could still looking over my shoulder until I finally reached a clearing at the "Gas Line Trail." It was starting to get down right dark and I made the choice to abandon my preplanned route in an attempt to get back to the car sooner. In the clearing I pulled lights out from my pack and consulted the map one final time, I looked and it seemed logical enough that if I were to get back on to the "Section Trail" I'd be able to get back to "Nook" and the car from there. This of course was a "super duper, cheery red, rookie mistake", beyond the obvious 'don't change your route mid-way through' I also failed to pay any attention to the topographical lines on my map! How could I do that!?! (Honestly) I'm smarter than that!!! Regardless of my intelligence, I did ignore them and back up I went, over 600ft.... slowly...

When I finally reached "Nook" the forest had done away with all natural light, my lights provided a good view of the trail but all that surrounded me was now lost to darkness. Trees creaked, leaves rustled, and the occasional snake darted off the trail as I approached. If I haven't made it clear enough, I'm a rookie trail runner, not a first timer, but by no means would you call me experienced and that goes double for night running. I will say that there's really only one way to gain experience night running and that's what I was doing, I'm sure I could have done it smarter, possibly with someone else more experienced, but all in all I didn't, and still don't, regret that I was on the trails at that time.

When I got back to the car I stretched quickly and then gave my wife a call telling her I was en route to pick her up, as I side note I told her "I have a stupid question for you... umm... I got attacked by an owl... do you think I need to see someone?" Her response was laughter... which continued... for quite a while... Once she gained her composure she said " mean, like, (giggle, giggle) for rabies? (snicker, snicker)" I said "Yeah.", she said "No." I told her I loved her and that I'd see her in about a half hour and off I drove...

What I learned from all this...
Stick with my plan.
Trust my navigation.
Don't dilly-dally so much.
...and, oh yeah, OWLS SUCK! (Well, honestly, it was pretty cool to once again see an owl in the wild, I just wished it hadn't been such a dick about it...)
(more pics from both this run and the Tiger Mountain run on the 15th can be seen here)

(the route... sort of...
click to enlarge)


Anonymous said...

OK, the Written Version rocks but the Live Action Version stills kicks the Written Version's Ass! You bust me up.....dian

Christian said...

You know... you're kinda funny.