Tourist time: Oregon days 5-6

After the race on Saturday, I spent most of the rest of the day just laying around not wanting to do anything. A soak in the hot tub at the hotel and a nap definitely helped, but combined with the adventures from the previous week and a half, I was more than happy to just have a lazy night watching college football.

We did add one more waterfall viewing to the trip with a short drive to Salt Creek Falls. It was about 20 minutes east of Oakridge and was easily accessed via car which was the most important part. There was a short walk to the top of the falls.

From the top of the falls, there was a path that went further away so that you could see the whole 286′ waterfall.

After the waterfall was dinner at Stewart’s 58 drive-in which I can’t recommend enough. Part of it could have been that I was starving from the race, but it’s the highest rated restaurant in Oakridge, so something is definitely working for them. I ordered a chicken sandwich, fries and a milkshake. The portions were huge! The sandwich was easily bigger than my hand and was absolutely amazing. I took the milkshake to go (think giant to-go cup) and had to give up on finishing it after about an hour because I was so full. I would definitely recommend stopping there if you’re coming through Oakridge.

Unfortunately, my time in Oregon was coming to a close and my flight which was supposed to be at 10pm on Sunday was cancelled and I got put onto an 11am flight instead. Luckily I was able to get it switched to the 1pm flight since I didn’t know about this switch until the day before. Thankfully I’m a planner and always check in early for my flights because I never received any type of notification from Orbitz or US Airways that the flight that I had booked had been cancelled and they decided to put me on a much earlier flight. 

I ended up missing out on the Portland Saturday market since I was leaving so much earlier and ended up having to spend an extra 7 hours traveling (yay 2 hour layovers), but I got home around midnight on Sunday and was able to spend all of Labor Day unpacking, napping and attempting to get ready to go to work the rest of the week.

With my second westward adventure coming to a close, it was time to look forward to another race the next weekend – Great Smoky Mountains half marathon!

Hardesty Hardcore – Oakridge, OR (2015)

I first heard about this race over a year ago and promptly put it on my bucket list. I couldn’t resist a race featuring my last name, even better that it was going to be the hardest race I’ve ever attempted. The race touts itself as “very challenging” with 3,300′ elevation gain in the first 4.5 miles, 3,300′ descent in the next 4 and then “rolling” for the last 5.5 miles. 

I knew I would be hiking a lot of the first 4.5 miles. The only thing I could think to compare this race to was the Bear which I’ve done for the last 3 years, but that is only a 5 mile race with 1,762′ of elevation gain… so almost double the height in an even shorter distance. The check-in for the race was super easy with just a few tables set up with bibs, merchandise and some flyers for other races put on by the same organization and parking was in a small lot which also doubled as the start line. 

It was a small race, but it was also a single track trail, so it worked out really well. I was in a pretty large group near the back of the pack and we sorted ourselves out pretty quickly as we hit some major uphills. I was following a guy in his 70’s who said early on to let him know if anyone wanted to pass. I told him I was happy to stay behind him and I made it my goal to keep up with him until we got to the top of the mountain. I did my best to keep up with him, but I also stopped to take some pictures along the way as well, especially as the sun was coming up over the mountain.

The fog and huge trees made this an incredible trail to run on and I was glad I decided to stick with the full 14-mile race instead of backing down to the 5.5 miler.

Before the race, several folks were talking about a section of the trail that turned from green to black and white and I couldn’t even imagine what that would mean, but once I got to that point, there was no question I had found exactly what they were talking about.

I caught back up to the guy in front of me at the aid station at the top of the mountain and we talked for a bit as we started down the other side. I learned his name was Keith and he mentioned he was glad to have someone to run with and I thanked him for pacing me up the hill! My goal was to make up some time on the downhill section, but as we started off, it was still really steep, just going downhill this time. There were sections when I had to side step down the hill because it was so steep and while my calves were killing me on the way up, it didn’t take long for my quads to start feeling the downhill. Around the 6.5 mile point, Keith stepped off the trail and let me pass him and about this time, I was finally able to actually start running the downhill sections. My fastest mile of the day came in mile 8 at a 10:48. Most of my miles before that were averaging in the 18-20 minute range. 

I passed another girl on the downhill and then passed 3 people at the aid station that was near the start line of the 5.5 miler. The “rolling” hills in the last 5.5 milers were still enough to cause me to walk some of the uphills, but I felt good running on the downhill sections, even though I knew my quads were going to be toast at the end of the day. There were several bridge crossings on the course and the scenery continued to be amazing.

At the last aid station, I grabbed some type of shortbread cookie and ate it while I ran and at the time, it was the most amazing food ever! I caught up with a couple with (what I thought was) about a mile and a half left and just stayed behind them for awhile. About the time I was going to ask them to let me pass, I realized I could see the parking lot and even though my watch was still just over 13 miles, we were almost done. The three of us came in together, up yet another cruel (though short) hill and crossed the finish line, handed off our bib tickets, were greeted by the announcer and given our medals.

The announcer told everyone to thank me for having a mountain named after me and I happily accepted the applause from those who were still hanging around. There was free Mexican food and beer at the finish line and on-the-spot results printed for you if you wanted them. I grabbed a couple of tacos, a banana and more water and enjoyed the sunshine for awhile after I finished before the obligatory medal and trailhead sign.

I got to catch up with Keith after he finished (1st in his age group) and he said that after he let me pass him, he turned around and I was gone. I told him I had finally been able to start running and again thanked him for pacing me up those first 4 miles of hills. I know I would have gone slower if I didn’t have someone I was trying to keep up with. I ended up finishing in 3:35:30, 3rd in my age group, 7th woman and 34th overall. I might have to keep that on-demand results page just for those stats! 

I’m really glad I stuck with the 14 mile race. I was 3 weeks out from re-injuring my knee playing soccer and until I did the race in New Mexico, I wasn’t sure whether or not I would be able to run this or if I would have to move down to the 5.5 miler. Even though I was pretty dead for the rest of the day and my legs were sore for the rest of the week, I loved it the whole time. I’m definitely interested in doing more trail running in the future – it’s so much more peaceful to be out in the woods running than running along the road with car exhaust and having to be concerned about whether or not people will see you and stop. Combined with the New Mexico race, I ran almost 30 miles of trails over two weekends and I’m ready to find my next trail!

Tourist time: Oregon day 4 – Wandering the coast

One of the things I knew I wanted to do was to see the sunset on the west coast, so after the waterfall hike, we drove for a little over 3 hours to Seaside, OR. Originally the plan was to stay in Manzanita, but after a less than ideal motel in Cascade Locks and two tough days of hiking, splurging on a hotel with a hot tub was an easy decision. After a good Italian dinner, we walked to the beach. There were a few folks who had fires going on the beach, which is definitely not something you see here on the east coast. The whole atmosphere of the west coast is different than the east – the weather is cold and very windy and the water itself is really cold, so even though it was the first week of September, there weren’t any people in the water. I braved walking in up to my ankles and that was plenty deep enough for me – it was cold! The sunset did not disappoint.

Friday was a slow start, but the only plan for the day was to wander the coast checking out some of the main attractions and then head onto Oakridge for the race on Saturday morning. The first stop was Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach.

Shortly before I took off for this trip, I ran across the New Yorker article that talked about how we’re way overdue for an earthquake large enough to devastate the Pacific northwest and if / when it comes, if you don’t see the warning signs before the actual earthquake and you get caught near the coast, it will already be too late for you. So, needless to say, when I saw this sign, I had to grab a picture.

From Haystack Rock, it was a short trip to Neahkahnie Mountain where we took the south trail to the top for an amazing view of the coast. 

The trail was only about 3 miles round trip, but the elevation change (around 840′) was enough of a workout after the last two major days of hiking. Since it was early afternoon, we grabbed lunch in Manzanita and I would highly recommend Left Coast Siesta. I wasn’t sure about Mexican food in the Pacific northwest, but it was one of the best meals of the trip. Plus, who can resist a place that calls the west coast the left coast! 

The last stop on the coast was the Cape Meares lighthouse. You have the option to climb up to the top of the lighthouse, but there was a group already up there and a line for the next group, so we passed on that option. 

Instead, opting to wander around a few of the trails and check out more great views of the coast.

The rest of the day was spent driving to Oakridge, which ended up being around a total of about 6 hours since we stuck to the coast until around Newport, and then getting organized for the Hardesty Hardcore Saturday morning!

Tourist time: Oregon day 3 – Hiking for waterfalls

This was the day I was looking forward to the most on this trip – the plan was a 13.5 mile hike to see 7 different waterfalls and while it ended up as a 16.5 mile hike, the waterfalls were amazing! The trail starts at the Eagle Creek trailhead and is an easy hike that does have some elevation gain (about 1,700′ from the start to 7 mile falls), it’s fairly gradual and the scenery more than makes up for it! The moon was still out and there was still some fog in the trees at the start of the hike, but certainly nothing like the previous day at South Sister.

Some sections of the trail were just a few feet across with cables to hold on to, with varying degrees of drop-off on the other side.

Metlako Falls
We actually missed this viewpoint when we first came through, but knew that we had missed it, so we kept an eye out on our way back and it was really easy to see the second time around. Unfortunately, apparently I didn’t take any pictures of these falls. I must have been too spoiled by all of the other amazing views from the day.

Punchbowl Falls
For this view, you’ll actually need to take a spur trail down to the bottom of the falls, which added to our initial estimate of 13.5 miles – I’d say it was probably half a mile or so down to the bottom to see the falls.


Loowitt Falls
This one was the farthest away from the trail, but if you could ever get over there, it looked like a great pool to swim in under the main waterfall.

High Bridge
Sure, it’s not a waterfall, but it was a fun bridge to cross in the middle of the hike and it definitely lives up to its name, though I’m not sure it translates as well in pictures.

The high bridge is 3.3 miles from the trailhead and we were (again) following a less than ideal map, so after hiking for awhile, we got a little concerned that we must have missed the correct trail, so we did a backtrack about half a mile to consult another map before deciding we must have been on the right track all along and then met someone who told us we were just a mile or so from the next waterfall.

Skoonichuk Falls
This one wasn’t actually on our map, so it was a nice surprise addition to our hike.

Tunnel Falls
This was the waterfall that made me want to do this hike. What could be better than hiking behind a waterfall? The trail starts out by going behind the falls before coming out the other side.

After you come out the other side, you can feel the immense pressure of the water coming down over the falls and you’ll definitely get hit with the mist. Because of how the trail follows the mountain, I couldn’t even get the entire 120′ waterfall into one picture, but you can see how small the person looks as he takes the trail that winds behind the falls. 

We also made our way down to the bottom of the falls and, again, you can see how small the people are walking on the trail.

The climb to the bottom of the waterfall was a little treacherous, mostly climbing / sliding down a scree field, but I went slowly and it was actually a lot easier climbing back up than I was expecting when I first looked at it.

Twister Falls
Not far down the trail, we came to these falls and it’s easy to see how they got their name, with the water twisting around the rocks.

7 Mile Falls
We finally made it to the turnaround point at 7 mile falls, even though it took us over 8 miles to get there!

The highlight of the hike was absolutely the Tunnel Falls and I would recommend this hike just based on that one waterfall – the fact that you can pack 7 into one day hike is amazing. Oregon certainly has an abundance of waterfalls to see.

Next up – touring the Oregon coast!

Tourist time: Oregon day 2 – South Sister Mountain

 It started as a request – I want to do a summit hike – which turned into a challenge – then let’s go for 10,000′ – which is how we found ourselves just at just under 9,100′ with 40+ mph winds trying to push us off the top of the mountain and rain, sleet and snow threatening to freeze us where we stood… but let’s go back to the beginning.

After a 45 minute drive from the hotel in Bend, we got to the South Sister trailhead around 8:00 and it was only 45 degrees outside. The weather was foggy as we got our gear together and after making sure I had my trekking poles, we set off for a 12-mile round-trip hike to the summit. The initial climb had us trekking through the forest and while there were no blazes on the trail, it was really easy to follow because there was only one path. 

After being passed by a group of three 20-somethings who were all wearing shorts and t-shirts, we joked that we clearly came from the south because we were not used to the cool (cold to us) weather. We saw them once more before we exited the woods after they did a little rock climbing off trail, but we quickly lost them after that. The trees were massive and moss was growing on virtually every surface.

After the woods, we came to an exposed area where the rain and wind whipped against us and made the views off the mountain virtually nonexistent. 

The fact that it was raining really wasn’t the issue, but the wind was enough to steal whatever warmth generated from the hiking. This is about the time we passed our first person who was coming down the mountain. All he could say that it was too cold and he had to turn around. We kept moving and eventually found a spot with some tree coverage to eat lunch and tend to some blisters before continuing up the mountain. 

The terrain on the first 3-4 miles was fairly well-groomed trail with some roots and large rocks, but soon after we passed our second group coming down the mountain, we got into the really rocky trail. The second group also had to turn around because of the weather and said they made it to probably about 8,400′ before heading back down. They did assure us that the trail was really well marked and we shouldn’t have any problems following it as long as we were prepared for the cold and rain. At this point, the fog and rain which had started to dissipate came back in full force and you could see the wind blowing it over the sides of the mountain. The third group we came across said they made it to about 8,600′ before turning around. On we went… up, up, and more up. I was really glad that I had my trekking poles for this part of the climb, and it’s actually the only reason I packed them for this trip at all. 

We got to a section that was a mostly a scree field with some good ankle-busting rocks mixed in just for fun. Since we could only see about 50′ in front of us, it wasn’t clear where the trail actually went and looking straight up from where we were, it looked like it was going to be too steep to actually climb. Not having an actual trail map (fail!) made us question whether we were at the right spot, and we could see a clear trail on the mountain to the right, so we went back down the trail and ran into another hiker. Unfortunately, it was his first time at the mountain too, so he wasn’t sure where we were either. All three of us headed back down a little farther and ran into a forth person who also had never been there before. We finally decided we must have been on the trail all along, so the three of us (the last guy turned around) headed back up where we just were and slowly made our way to the top. 

I was really struggling on this section of the hike. I could go about 5-10′ and then would have to stop and catch my breath and spent most of my time thinking about how cold I was. Besides the fact I was cold, I think my biggest issue was not taking in enough calories – all I had eaten on the trail was some Cheez-Its, an Uncrustables sandwich (awesome hiking food!) and a peanut butter trail bar – definitely not enough when exerting that much effort.

When we got to the top of that section, we found the three people that had passed us in the beginning of the trail and they looked absolutely frozen! One of them had wrapped a towel around their legs and they were all using extra socks as gloves. We wished them luck as they headed back down and stole their idea of using socks as gloves since we hadn’t brought any either. We had finally made it to the point where we could see Lewis Glacier.

We pressed on until we saw Teardrop Pool, but decided that we weren’t going to be able to see anything at the summit and we were both frozen, so we made the decision to turn around. By this point, I was using my trekking poles to help keep me steady as we stood at the top because the wind was so strong it was threatening to knock me over and the fog had turned into freezing rain / snow, so it was definitely not a pleasant place to hang out.

For as hard as it was to climb up the ankle-busting rocks and loose scree, it was even harder to go down. My legs were cold, my hands were cold, the wind was blowing rain into my eyes, so it was very slow going down the steepest section near the top. We stopped again where we had lunch and grabbed some more food which that made things a bit better, along with the fact that it was a much more gentle downhill from there on out. As we passed Moraine Lake, the weather had cleared up a bit again, so there was one last photo op before we high-tailed it back to the trailhead.

After making it back to the car, I got into some dry clothes and exchanged my hiking boots for sandals to ease the pain the new blister on my heel. The rest of the day was spent finding some food (a random restaurant outside of Bend where there were only 3 other people) and driving around the other side of Mt. Hood to Cascade Locks for the night. Once we got down to our starting elevation, around 5,500′ the weather had cleared up and we were able to enjoy it, at least for a little while.

The rainy weather caught back up with us and stuck around for the rest of the evening, so our trek to see the Bridge of the Gods wasn’t as exciting as I was hoping, but it was still neat to see where the Pacific Crest Trail crosses into Washington.

After a long day, it was an early night to get ready for an even longer hike the next day!

Tourist time: Oregon day 1 – Multnomah Falls

Tuesday morning (September 1), I flew from Albuquerque to Portland via Phoenix, which is a surprisingly long flight, and started on the second-half of my adventure – Oregon! The Oregon trip was thoroughly (overly?) planned as there were so many things I wanted to do while I was there and I only had 6 days to fit everything in! There was going to be a lot of driving on this trip, with every day having at least 2-3 hours and sometimes more depending on what was next. 

First up was a drive from Portland to Bend via the scenic route around Mt. Hood. The first stop was Multnomah Falls, about 45 minutes east of Portland. It was a good place to grab lunch and stretch my legs with a short hike. It was fairly cool, so I was just dressed in jeans and a t-shirt, which was regrettable very shortly into the hike, an uphill jaunt to the top of the falls. One of the best views of the falls is easily accessible from visitor’s center, so you wouldn’t need to hike if you didn’t want to.

The good news about the hike to the top is that there are switchbacks to help cut down on the steepness, but the bad news is that there is a ton of them!

Despite what the sign says, there were definitely more than 11!
The path is also paved, which makes it a little bit of an easier walk, but I was still pretty slow during the hike and was regretting the choice of jeans as the trail kept going up.
The view from the top of the waterfall isn’t nearly as exciting as the first view from the visitor’s center, but you can see just how far you hiked (the upper falls are 542′ and the lower falls add another 69′) and how small the parking lot is. 

You can also get a good view across the Columbia River to Washington.

After the falls, the rest of the drive down to Bend was fairly uneventful. There was a ton of fog around Mt. Hood, so it was hard to see up close, but after exiting the national forest, I got a great rearview mirror look at the top of the mountain rising out of the fog. Next time I head to Oregon, I will make sure to add an actual trip to Mt. Hood to the list! There were a few more mountains dotting the horizon on the way to Bend, and as the sun was setting, the Three Sisters came into view.

Wednesday’s adventure: hiking South Sister mountain!