Sunday I finally made it out to the gorge for a run this year. I have to admit that I was a little gun shy. The last time I ran in the gorge (almost a year ago!), I fell and gashed my eyebrow, which required about 9 stitches. This time there were no falls, and the only blood shed was from the few scratches on my legs from running through the prickly oregon grape and climbing over downed logs.
I picked up Sharon at 6:30 and we drove out to the Herman Creek trail head. We planned to run the Herman Creek Trail
and hoped to make it to the Mud Lake turnoff, at least, and maybe go on farther to Wahtum Lake, another 2+ miles up the trail. I have never been on this trail, but it looked like a good challenge, with moderate elevation gain but nothing too terribly steep. (Talk about steep: last weekend, while we were in central Oregon, Sharon ran the Nesmith Point trail, aka Nessie. Go Sharon!) It turned out to be a great trail-running trail, with a few steep sections, but mostly very runnable.
I had my bigger hydration pack with me which holds something like 120 oz. I didn't fill it all the way, but nevertheless, it was heavy! So I decided to not carry my camera. In hindsight, I really wish I had taken the extra weight because it was quite a picture worthy adventure. The first four miles were fairly uneventful, but after that we encountered a lot of stream crossings and quite a few downed trees. Many of the crossings were super easy and just required an extra wide step. But at least four presented bigger challenges. At one of the crossings we must have spent 15 minutes pondering the best route. I was starting to think it might be the turnaround for our run, but Sharon's bold lead got us across. That is one of the things I love about hanging with and running with Sharon. She's always up for a challenge and she encourages my adventurous side.
Route finding was relatively easy since we were staying on the same trail and then just planned to retrace our steps. However there wasn't a lot of signage along the way to give us an idea of our location. Our last known landmark was at about mile 7.5. We kept moving along and eventually hit some spotty snow on the trail. After a few steep switchbacks, we reached a snow covered bowl-like clearing. At this point we lost our trail and decided to return. Where were we? How far did we run/hike? I have no idea and we spent much of the return trip pondering these questions. Unfortunately none of the topos I have are detailed enough to give some clarity. We never did see the turnoff to Mud Lake. But that doesn't mean we hadn't passed it. Or we may have been close to reaching it.
I would like to know our exact mileage. I finally decided to count it as 18, but when all is said and done it doesn't really matter. Breathing the fresh air, crossing the streams, moving through the forest, enjoying the company of friends, feeling alive. Those are the important things.