How not to taper
It wasn’t in my training plan, but when my hiking friend suggested yesterday that it was time to go all the way to Lake Angeles, I enthusiastically agreed!
We’ve been working our way up the Lake Angeles trail for several weeks now. The trailhead is at an elevation of about 1,850 feet. I’d never been to Lake Angeles before, so I had no idea of its elevation. But this trail continues up to mile-high Hurricane Ridge so I knew it had to be lower than that.
The first time I hiked up this trail, we encountered snow just over a mile out, at about 2,500 feet. I freaked out at the sight of a snow-covered log bridge and refused to go any further. Once the snow had melted at that level, we began hiking up to the log bridge a couple of times a week. We’d count the calypso orchids on the way up (I’m told that the 250+ that we saw were a “bumper crop” this year) and spend some time studying the changing water levels, which signaled lots more melting snow upstream. Once I even got to see this location in bright sunshine! A rarity in this forest any time of the year.
I credit this trail, with its continuous, moderate uphill grade, for much of the progress I’ve made with my running strength and my new ability to run up hills.
A few weeks back we tried to go further up the trail, but were stopped after another mile, at about 3,500 feet, by deep snow. We haven’t attempted it since, but my friend was eager to give it a go yesterday… which brings me back to the beginning of this post.
The weather forecast on my trusty iPhone looked great — partly cloudy and mid 50s. No sooner had we started up the road, however, than the skies turned dark and it began to mist. Being intrepid Pacific Northwesterners, we carried on. I at least had a hooded jacket, but my friend was in shorts. We did both have gloves, as well as food and a rudimentary emergency kit… we’re not totally crazy.
Lake Angeles is just over 3.3 miles from the trailhead. We hiked upwards through a steady mist. It was cool, but far too warm for snowfall. Less than half a mile from the lake, at the 4,000 foot level, we reached snow on the ground. At this point my friend would not be deterred, and frankly I was up for the adventure as well. There were lots of footprints from previous hikers in the snow, so even though it was hard to see the trail at times we knew we were more or less on course. I was wearing trail running shoes, and I found their traction to be excellent — better than the hiking boots I relegated to the back of the closet when I got these shoes.
A one point we had to bushwhack through small trees in order to avoid an area that had become an underground river running below four feet of crusted, icy snow. This was a bit scary at the time (and looking back now, it was probably a bit foolish), but we were awfully proud of ourselves for successfully getting through it.
Shortly after this spot, we did find a sign (the top was barely visible sticking out of the snow), so we knew we were still on the trail!
The lake was a mere 100 yards from here. Surprise! — it was, of course, iced over and mostly covered with snow over the ice. It was also foggy, raining rather hard, and quite cold there.
We didn’t linger. We were both soaking wet by this time.
Coming back down the trail and once below the snow line, I couldn’t resist the urge to jog a bit on the more level portions. I can now say that I’m a trail runner… or at least a downhill trail runner. I have now actually run in my trail running shoes.
According to my GPS watch, our round trip hike of 6.7 miles involved 2,900 feet of ascent and the same amount of descent. The actual elevation change was about 2,500 feet, and the rest was the small up-and-downs of a natural terrain. Subjectively, the whole way up is a constant, steady climb. But the way down was a great introduction to trail running!
No, this is NOT the right way to taper, days before a half marathon. However, it was an incredible demonstation to myself of how strong I am becoming both physically and mentally. I’ve accomplished a lot in the past couple of months, helped by a friend who is gently encouraging me to push my self-perceived limits.
Now, I think I’ll take it really easy the rest of the week. No more impromptu treks through snow fields.
Well, maybe a short, easy hike up just one mile to say goodbye to the last of this year’s calypso orchids…