When my friend Marvin said he was would be flying up from L.A. to see his sister I got a smidge excited.
“Heather,” he said, “Maybe we should go trail running.”
Make that giddy. Marvin, you see, is awesome. He’s an Ironman Triathalete, Boston Marathoner and he flew his own plane to Portland. He also wears Crocs with little tiny L.A. Tri Club cuff links attached. Like I said, he’s awesome. So it was only natural that I took on the challenge to not only impress Marvin with Oregon trail running, I wanted to positively overwhelm him.
Here was our weekend rundown:
Eagle Creek Run Saturday:
Distance: 13 miles
Challenges: Treacherous cliffs, snakes on the trail, slippery rocks.
The weekend of overwhelming running adventures started tamely enough. I picked Marvin up from his sister’s home and drove east to the Columbia Gorge. “It’s SO green here. Everything in L.A is brown!” Marvin remarked. For non-Oregonians, the Gorge is kind of like a very lush version of the Grand Canyon. With steep ridges, acres of forested land and beautiful waterfalls, it is a trail runner’s dream.
Our destination was Eagle Creek – one of my favorites – it’s a narrow ravine featuring no fewer than five waterfalls, a gentle grade and some very rocky sections. The trail can be quite technical, but the views and the proximity to the gushing waterfalls make up for for it. As an added bonus, you get to actually run behind a waterfall. Surely, I thought, you can’t find those kinds of trails in L.A.
As we put on on our running shoes in the parking lot I pulled out an extra hand held water bottle for Marvin, “I’ve never run with one of these. In L.A. there are water fountains near the trail.”
HA! In Oregon, we do not need water fountains!
With water bottles in hand we made our way onto the trail. We rounded the first bend and Marvin exclaimed, “WOW!! This is so beautiful.” I silently congratulated myself. Good job, Oregon. Way to impress.
After the first mile the ravine drops, the trail narrows, the ravine wall on the left rises vertically and drops steeply to the right. I won’t say it’s dangerous… but it’s certainly steep and if, for example, you have a fear of heights you might feel distinctly nervous. And that is when Marvin said, “So I feel like I probably should have told you. I have kind of a thing with heights.”
NO way! This man just flew a tin can for eight hours at 10,000 feet and he says he has a little problem with heights? Was he joking? And if he wasn’t joking, I wondered if I should tell him about the Indiana Jones-like foot bridges we’d have to cross. Would I tell him that one is rightly called the High Bridge and another one is called the Narrow Bridge and that after we cross those bridges we’d have to run along a narrow slippery cliff side with only a metal cable to guide ourselves?
No, of course not.
I am a terrible friend.
So we on we ran. We passed over the bridges and we high-fived each other for surviving. We ran behind Tunnel Falls and negotiated the ridiculously slippery rocks and cable walkway. While it wasn’t a steep or fast run, it was tiring!
We finished back at the trail head and drove onto Hood River for micro brews and lunch.
But just in case Marvin wasn’t impressed I had more Oregon trail running tricks up my sleeve. . .
Multnomah Falls Sunday
Distance: 12 miles
Challenges: Lung burning uphill climbs, exposed roots and tough downhill switchbacks
I wanted Marvin to come out with my trail running group (Trail Factor) for our weekly run. “There will be more waterfalls!” I said, hoping that would be enough to convince him. He caved and I rejoiced. We met up with my usual group and traveled back up The Gorge.
This run was steep! It started at largest waterfall in Oregon, ran up a series of wicked switchbacks that left us giggling breathlessly and saying things like “well, it’s a good thing it’s not too steep.” Then we ran behind the falls, up a slow grinder, followed by another slow grinder before we turned left for a final two mile ascent to a place called Devil’s Rest. I assume it was named that because of the hellish, lung-searing switchbacks. My legs burned something fierce.
No amount of typing will do the run justice. I’ll just say it was steep, grueling, and absolutely beautiful The crew of Trail Factor runners made the run even better.
After two days of hard running I figured I had also better show him Oregon’s other claim to fame: Micro Brews.
Sunday Evening: Brew Tour
Distance: 2 miles
Challenge: Deciding which breweries to visit