Night Run at WS Trail

A buddy and I did a night run from Greengate to Placer High School last night. I can’t recommend it enough to WS runners. It will give you an opportunity to test all your lighting equipment, figure out how to manage your nutrition and hydration while holding on to a flash light, assess your night-time pace, etc. I recommend two small flashlights (one as a back-up) and a headlamp. The headlamp will let you check your watch and keep the trail lit when you are juggling your flashlight, water bottles, salt tablets, etc (as you most likely will).

Don’t do the run alone as falls are likely and the course is not well marked. My buddy took a bad spill and rolled downhill, but was lucky to have the bushes break the rest of his fall.

Consider stashing some food and water around mile 15 of the 22-mile run. The trail crosses Highway 49 at the quarry about a mile before the town of Cool (proceeding from Auburn). You can stash supplies at either side of the road. You’ll need two cars to do this point-to-point run, one you leave at the top of dirt road that leads to Greengate and the other at the finish line.

At some point during the run, stop, turn off all the lights and enjoy the incredible celestial show.

Encounter of the 9th kind

I was on the last stretch of a 7 to 8 hour training run, coming out of El Dorado Canyon into Michigan Bluff. It was dusk and I had not seen another soul for the past 10 miles or so. Pushing hard on the steep, single-track trail, carved from the side of the mountain, my run was interrupted by a ruckus coming from the woods along the slope of the mountain about 30 feet below me. I proceeded with caution, wondering what could be causing such turmoil. It was definitely too loud to be a snake and there were no human voices coming from it. My heart started pounding – could it be a mountain lion? Proceeding as quietly as possible up the trail, I had not even gone 20 feet when I spotted a brown bear not far from where the scuffle was taking place. This bear had not noticed me; he was busy eating and scratching himself, but he was clearly not the one causing the ruckus. “Oh my God, I am in the middle of a sloth of bears, at dusk, and with not a soul in sight,” I thought, (very) frightened. “If they come after me, I'll have to look big,” I thought. “I’ll remove my hydration pack, and raise it over my head; I’ll look like 8 feet tall!” I searched for primitive arms, just in case – grabbing sticks, stones, whatever. “Darn, I don’t even have food to throw at them if they come after me, but maybe they'll like my salt tablets.” I remembered that I had a small canister of pepper spray, which I grabbed from a pouch and held on to as if it were Clint’s 44-magnum. But before I had finished my thoughts and amassing my arsenal, my legs, smarter than my brain and flushed with adrenaline, had already hiked out of there in no time and without making a sound.

Arriving to Michigan Bluff about 20 minutes later, I recounted my tale to a local (now my friend from so many visits to his town). “Don’t worry about them bears,” he said, “they only bother you one out of ten times; just don’t get between mother bear and her cubs.” “Nice of you to say that,” I thought, “but how in the world would I know if this is one of the 9 times when it is safe to see them?” Perhaps looking for sympathy, I related the story to another runner, who responded, “you are so lucky, those brown bears are friendly… I just spotted a black bear during one of my training runs (in Washington)!”