Friday, July 3, 2015

An Early Idaho Summer

Summer is in full swing in McCall, and has been for several weeks.  Currently, we are stuck in a continuous stretch in the low 90's.  One day was 97F in town.  This melted out everything pretty early and made June quite productive for getting after it. As usual, my early season is comprised of lots of peak bagging and ridge running.  This gives way to more proper running, once the fitness comes along and the body hardens to the rigors of our brutal trails. 

Today, I connected several obscure and forgotten trails around the French Creek and Little French Creek drainages making a memorable new 25 mile loop.  For the first time in my life, I had a predator react aggressively towards me.  I was moving downhill on a rough trail covered with alder branches.  I was only able to run about 10 minute miles downhill, because my hands were always in front of my face pushing the alders away.  I heard a small rustling just ahead.  I thought it was a squirrel.  I popped into a tiny clearing and came right up to a medium sized black bear.  We both jumped back a bit, startled by the encounter.  My momentum continued to carry me downhill and as I caught a quick look back, the bear was growling and charging.  I hit an opening in the alders with smooth trail and after just a few steps with a surge of adrenaline, the pace went to an all out sprint.  My arms went up to make me bigger and I growled and barked loudly to attempt to intimidate the bear.  I heard her pounding the ground behind me for just a few seconds, then I was gonzo hitting sub 4 pace as I screamed down the trail.  I think the bear only charged maybe 20 yards at most, but I kept hammering a solid mile down into French Creek, which at around 4000' was nearing 100 F today.  I plunged into the icy water and let my heart slow and relax.  I believe I surprised a sow with cub and put her into a tough situation.  Nowhere to go.  The cover was too tight to get out of there with baby, so she held her ground.  I have encountered many bears up close, including those with cubs, and have never seen anything but fear and avoidance from them.  I am grateful to learn from her in her lair, and live to fight another day.  The remainder of the run was uneventful, besides the mild bonk brought on by many hours in the heat and only 400 calories in the belly.  I am beginning to feel my summer groove. 

Pics from our upcoming McCall Trailrunning Classic 10/20/40.

Climbing The Lady Bug Peak.  The Long Valley is below, containing the towns of McCall, Donnelly and Cascade. 
Traverse from The Lady Bug to Jughandle Mountain.  A 1 mile cross country traverse through grass, Lupine and Fireweed.  Ends with a section of talus, then steep trail descending to Louie Lake.

Talus.  Pretty rare in races these days. 
Back down from Jughandle Mountain, crossing the Louie Lake Dam.

BJ Haeck and Matty Tock descending from Buckhorn Summit towards Boulder Lake.  Irene and Karl and their famous pack goats will run an aid station just a quarter mile below this point. 

Scrambling Adventures
Brandi approaching the summit of Rapid Peak 8300'.  This is a great ridge traverse between Kennally Creek Pass and Buckhorn Pass.  Using the trails to these passes and the ridge that connects them makes a fine loop from Boulder Lake.

Nick Peak with Matt, Katie and Brandi.  Sadly, my phone/camera had a clear sticker over its lens, so all shots on this day from my camera were blurry.

Katie Tock on the final summit block of Nick Peak.  Definitely no-fall territory.

Still some snow above 9,000' on Nick Peak.  Probably gone by now.  It was 93-97F this week.

Idaho Batholith Granite.  On the ridge near Beaverdam Peak.

Anatomy of a great elk spot.  You can't tell from this picture, but there are many elk in this area, visible only with binos.  I have been carrying them on most of my ridge running/scrambling adventures.  This little area has everything an elk needs to spend summer through fall rut.  First of all, the meadow is high (7500') and right against the alpine zone above.  I took this photo from a summit at 8600'.  This means it will stay cool.  There is water in that meandering stream which is essential for the spot to hold elk through the summer.  The water also keeps the surrounding grasses green and nutritious.  There are multiple timber stringers running away from the meadow giving the elk multiple escape routes when attacked by wolves and other predators.  The timber is thick enough in the top of the photo to provide shelter from winds and to allow them to bed in the cool shade on hot days.  The smaller ancillary meadows are substantial enough that smaller satellite bulls may even take up residence here and attempt to lure females away from the main center meadow as the dominant herd bulls are exhausted in late-September.