Returning to write soon!

Things have been quiet here for the last year or two but life has been going on. Since my last entry I’ve scouted and hunted Elk in New Mexico, run a couple of trail races, remodeled a house (ok, still in process), and shuffled around some things in my personal life.

Maybe getting back into the swing of writing will help me pick up where I left off. Kind of a fresh start I guess!

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Running the Mountain

The following words were written after a rainy trail run on Taylor Mountain, a 2.4 mile ascent gaining 1152 feet to the summit.  It is a run I like to do weekly on Tuesday mornings.  The time I began running it coincided with my divorce.  In fact the first ascent I made was the morning after I’d filed the paperwork at the county courthouse.  Each time I do this run I think about how it is the perfect metaphor for the challenges we each face in life.


I sat in the warm cab as the rain beat down on the windshield. A hot cup of coffee sat in the console and I knew my work colleagues were either still in bed or just getting up. I was at the trail head, it was 5:45 am, nearly 2 hours before official sunrise, and I had 2.4 miles of vertical trail I would cover twice taunting me to come out and meet it’s challenge.

As I exited the truck and shrugged into my hard shell rain coat in the downpour, I briefly questioned why I was putting myself through this. Before I could talk myself out of it my feet began pulling me up the mountain. Truth was I didn’t have to be out here. No one was depending on me to go out in the storm and perform some heroic measure. But it was the vision of what lay ahead that drew me up the mountain.

Despite the knowledge that I was going to be cold, wet, muddy and tired, I knew this was an investment in my future. Fourteen weeks away from a trail race with 300 other hardy souls, Eight months from a high mountain elk hunt that would test my lungs and legs and extract a hefty sum from my fitness bank account. Today was about making a deposit in that account. The deposit slip would detail the sum of vertical ascent, viscious weather, missteps and mudslides. Like pennies, nickles and dimes, they added up to a paltry sum at the moment, but I was depending on frequent deposits in the upcoming days, and the compounding interest of early saving to be my solution when the mountain and its four footed collection agents handed me the bill.

As I picked up my stride and found my pace with the wind pelting me with raindrops, I thought how this climb seemed to mirror my last year in its challenge. Not happy to sit idle out of the weather in a 20 year marriage, I kicked open the door and took on the elements and rooted rocky trail that is divorce proceedings. At first the residual warmth from my stored up heat kept me comfortable, but that faded with time. The effort of propelling myself forward though kicked up my internal furnace, and as the chill of the first mile crept in, my internal core pushed back the cold.

While the dark was daunting, my headlamp cut through to illuminate the trail ahead. Just far enough to plan my next few strides. Some puddles and rocks showed in the meager light, but others became only obvious under my feet, requiring a path adjustment and a shortening of stride. Much the same way that letters from opposing lawyers, court orders, and legal bills were obstacles in my path. I continued onward as the trail steepened and became rougher. I looked ahead and saw the trail flattened as it passed through a grove of oaks. I imagined the trees would provide some relief from the wind and rain, and my stride lengthened as I entered the cover of the forest. But the trees merely concentrated the precipitation into big soggy drops that found their way down my collar and challenged the heat from my core. What I thought was a haven from the storm was merely a different challenge to my resolve. Shocking at first, the drops mingled with my sweat and equalized the temperature and I soon relished the cool dampness.

“Relentless Forward Progress” I told myself. “As long as you are moving forward, you are making progress. The summit will still be there, whether you are walking or running.” I let my breath become ragged gasps, reminding me to moderate my pace on the steep pitches and pick it up on the more level sections. Pitches and benches, ruts, rocks, roots, and down branches. Each step was challenged, then rewarded with progress. Even the slick muddy section took away progress as a foothold gaveway but my fingers grabbed the turf and pulled me back to my feet. Rocks that were once obstacles became footholds as I scaled the steepest and most treacherous section.

Once I’d reached the bench the narrow singletrack that skirted the hillside gave me firmer traction and I picked up pace despite the rain clouds and fog that obscured the trail ahead. This was the final pitch that would take me to the summit, a quarter mile of treacherous trail that came to a stop at a bench at the summit. There a rock cairn greeted me. A sign that others had been here before me, and the stack of igneous stones stood as testament that I was following a path blazed by many before me. I could ascend no higher.

As the wind drove the rain into my exposed skin there at the summit and my heat rose out of my scalp as steam, I shouted to the gods of weather, light, fog and darkness to let them know I’d penetrated their defenses. That they could not hold me back, like so many other home snug in their beds who wouldn’t even challenge their reign. For a brief moment the wind and rain surged in defiance then slackened as if to acknowledge my claim.

As I began my descent, I knew that the same trail sections that challenged my climb lay in wait to trip me or slip my feet out from under me, and my vigilance was heightened. My destination was the trail head below, and I had to negotiate those sections with care. Where I’d slipped climbing up before, my feet quickly went out from under me and I slid on my hip, negotiating the rocks as I slid. Like the new relationship that took me by surprise, I was getting where I was going faster than I’d intended. Despite the startling fall, I steered my way to my feet, and continued the descent, each time falling, sustaining a minor scrape, but continuing down the path to the ultimate goal.

Below, coming up the trail I could see headlamps bobbing, my fellow runners following the path I’d left. Their mountains were different, and they negotiated the obstacles in different manners and at different paces than I did. But we recognized the kinship in each other and greeted one another as brothers and sisters in arms. Nods, grunts, smiles and hand gestures were exchanged as we each continued along our respective paths. It wouldn’t be the first or last time we crossed paths in life and some meetings would be marked with a hug or handshake. And each time we met, we gave a little bit of ourselves and collected some from the other. Another Karmic exchange of goodwill.

As I dropped below the clouds, I didn’t seem to feel the wind and rain any more. Perhaps I’d become immune to it, or it had actually lessened. Morning twilight, muted by the iron grey sky, illuminated the trail slightly and my pace quickened as the trail smoothed and widened. I could see my finish ahead as I kicked up my pace and lengthened my stride. On the final flat section I found more endurance and sprinted to the gate, jubilant in the effort and result.

I’d done what I’d come here to do. To conquer the weather, the trail, the dark and the elevation. As I reached in my pocket I could almost feel the jingle of the coin of conditioning I’d collected, while the currency of confidence filled my other hip pocket. A few brief moments later savoring the hot shower with my warm comforting cup of coffee, I washed the mud of the mountain off my legs and watched my worries and troubles go down the drain. I emerged cleaned and happy and entered life with the rest of my colleagues though the door that morning with a spring in my step. Because I had conquered the mountain this morning. And they never knew what they missed…

Categories: Running | Leave a comment

Colby and the Cash Money bull

After dinner one day with my uncle, my kids commented that Colby’s elk steak was nice and tender. I explained that the elk we were eating was a young bull. I then coined the term “Cash Money Bull” to denote a bull that is “Legal and Tender”.

Western Wyoming, September 2015.  Transcribed from Colby’s tale…

In the late afternoon on our third day of hunting, Jace, Paul and I left camp and headed east up the creek basin to the southeast when we spotted a bull elk about a mile away up on the rocky face of the continental divide.  Jace in his awesome hunting spirit decided to give him a bugle, just to see if he would hear it.   First bugle…nothing; second bugle….I’ll be damned if a bull didn’t chuckle in the timber to our south about 500 yards away (guessing).

We immediately set up with Paul on the east side of a row of trees and Colby on the west side watching the back door.  More of Jace’s bugles and the chuckler was moving west.  Just before  dusk, the elk started coming out about 400 yards away on the opposite side of the meadow……a cow, another cow, yearling, cows & calves, and three young bulls, the best of which turn about half way into the meadow and retreated to the timber.

Since the sun was setting in the west and I was scoping in that direction the sun blocked out my scope ever time I tried to get my sights on the bulls.  By this time the elk made their way down toward the creek in behind a small stand of timber.  Something spooked them at that point and back they went toward the dark timber.  One young 3 x 4 bull stopped to take a look at the us across the meadow.  His horns stood tall for a young bull.

Jace asked “Do you want him?  He’s about 200 yards.”

“You bet” I responded as I rested my Model 70 against a small pine tree.

Just as he turned near broadside I squeezed the trigger….boom, good double lung shot just above the heart, but that didn’t stop him.  Off he ran quartering away at about 250 yards.  The second shot dropped him in his tracks.  While there was some mild ground shrinkage as we came up to the downed bull, I recognized that I had some great eating elk steaks as no meat was spoiled by the shots.

The flask came out and we toasted the harvest of a majestic elk. The downed bull was only about a mile and a half from camp, so Jace went back to camp to get the pack horses while I dressed out my bull by using the gutless method under Paul’s supervision.  It was late by the time we got back to camp, but the taking of an elk is every bit worth the effort and energy to hunt, field dress and packout a prized bull elk from the wilderness at over 10,000 feet…..spectacular country, spectacular elk.



Colby displays the celebratory flask as he and Paul break down his bull by lantern light.


The Retrieval Crew. From left to right Paul, Sally (pack horse),Jace, Colby, Wes, RC (pack horse)

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Two years to kill

Wyoming has been very good to me in regards to drawing elk tags and being successful on those hunts. Since 2007 I have drawn 7 elk tags with a maximum of 2 preference points. Up until the Fall of 2014 I was 100% on my success on branch antlered bulls in Wyoming. I knew that these streak was untenable and that October I was faced with my first skunk. It stung, and it has taken over a year an a half to talk about it publicly.


Paul and Colby Martin mounted on CD and Wings

Wes Morris

Wes Morris

Dee Morris

Dee Morris

We had hunted beside the Morris family for the previous 3 years with them as our resident guides, and had some memorable close encounters with elk. In 2013 they began operating a lodge near a major trailhead into the wilderness some distance from our previous hunting country. Through the summer Wes, the eldest son, led pack trips into new country and found a basin with lots of elk sign. It was beautiful country with trees, large meadows and rugged topography.

We trailered our saddle horses to meet them where they had their summer seasoned pack string at the ready. The thunderstorms followed us menacingly across the Nevada and Utah high desert. We rode in the day before opening day under mixed freezing rain and snow flurries.

Hunting in a snow flurry in 2014











The next two days it snowed. On opening morning we saw numerous tracks pointed downhill, and I caught a glimpse of an elk headed “down and out”. The rest of the hunt we never came across another elk or any fresh sign. We relocated lower, and found old sign, but no shot opportunities. The elk had outsmarted us.


Last Sunset before pulling out of Elk Camp 2014

Our application strategy for 2015 was to take the long shot chance and apply for a unit specific earlier season tag. Drawing that tag gave us a 5 day earlier opening day and more of a chance to get to the elk before Fall snow pushed them to lower ground. Sure enough, my father, uncle brother in law and I were drawn as a party. My brother in law, was delayed and wouldn’t be able to join us on opening day. He would come a week later.

We arrived in Wyoming a couple days early to news that the thunderstorm that had accompanied us had laid down a couple inches of snow in the high basin we had planned to hunt. The clouds had cleared though and snow was melting fast. We could see the snowline receding from the surrounding peaks, although crunchy snow still lingered in the shade.


Riding into Elk Camp 2015 under blue skies with the remnants of a snow storm from the week before on the peaks and in the shade

We rode in under blue skies and finished setting up camp. The evening was eerily quiet, and not a single elk bugle was heard. Thoughts of the year prior were creeping in, despite the better weather. We made plans for the morning, watered horses an had a fitful, night before opening day sleep.

Night before opening Day.  Camp is set.

Night before opening Day. Camp is set.

I’d been fighting a cold-turned respiratory infection before setting off on this trip. I had antibiotics at the ready, but my doctor wanted me to hold out until day 3 of my hunt before taking them. The combination of the high altitude, and sickness had me panting for air at the slightest exertion. I know it had my companions concerned as I hacked and coughed each morning. But I did my best to keep up with my acclimated Wyoming partners.img_8722

Day One was eventful as my father and Dee were able to have a bugle exchange with a bull up the draw. unfortunately it attracted the attention of some other hunters down slope and that distracted them from pursuing the real elk in the trees above. Wes and I circled the basin to a saddle that looked promising and the number of elk bones bore tribute to the volume of elk that met their demise there. We posted ourselves with a good view of the saddle, only to have the group from below walk through our setup. We spent the rest of the morning working through the trees, finding elk tracks and sign, but nothing live.

That afternoon we looped through the trees above camp. The elk sign was there in scat and tracks and trails. A few distant shots at dusk way down below had us thinking we might be above the elk.

Day Two was more of the same. Boot leather and unanswered bugles. As the sun set though we heard bugles in the dusk to the east. I thought to myself that another hunter had moved into the basin and was trying to locate a bull. We made plans to go the other way in the morning.

On the third morning I awoke wheezing and coughing and sore. Dee assured me we would work up the ridge slowly, calling through the trees. As grey dawn came we paused to readjust clothing and Dee made a few soft cow calls. As we continued along the game trail, I heard a grunt off to our left. We paused, then a squeal and hoofbeats. I motioned to the tree I was going to try to get behind while Dee hissed “don’t think you have time, he’s coming. ”

The tree was twenty yards away and I was ten when I saw the tan body of an elk flashing through the trees less than a football field away. I froze as Dee began his seductive cow calls, and the bull answered as he trotted from our left to right seventy yards away. I saw branched antlers and flipped off the safety. First elk of the hunt was ok with me.

As he cleared a tree I held the crosshairs behind his shoulder and fired. He flinched and jumped and turned, now coming from right to left. At fifty yards he stood there. I squeezed off a second shot, reloaded as he still stood there. A third shot didn’t seem to phase him, and I moved the crosshairs forward to the shoulder and shot number four folded him like a wet tent.

Day 3 of my 2015 hunt with the first elk I saw.

Day 3 of my 2015 hunt with the first elk I saw.

Dee’s whoops and hollers echoed through the basin as we made our way through the downfall to where the bull lay. Six tines to a side, dark with sap and bark, and ivory tips curling up at the ends. We just sat there in silence as the sun rose and filtered through the trees, and the jays began talking once more.

Dee ponders my bull

Dee ponders my bull

After telling each other our interpretation of the events, and our thoughts as they were happening, we got out the knives and skinned and quartered the bull in preparation for the packhorse, 1.3 miles away at camp. We bagged each quarter, tender loin, loin and neck meat in game bags as the flies began buzzing in the warming day, and positioned the bags in the shade for retrieval later that day.


Packing out My Bull later on Day Three.

Packing out My Bull later on Day Three.

With my bull back in camp the energy was one of renewed hope. Dee and I told the story with about three different variations. Suddenly my respiratory function was much better as I breathed a sigh of relief to have filled my elk tag.

There is more stories to come from our 2015 Elk hunt.  Check back to read about Colby’s “Cash Money bull”, and Dad’s Skunk Breaker.


Categories: My Hunting Stories | Leave a comment

Race Report: Annadel Half Marathon 2015

2015 is the sixth year that the Annadel Half Marathon has been in existence. Born out of a desire to showcase the park and raise funds for park improvements, it has become a running community rally point. The funds raised from the race have been directed to a number of projects, the most visible of which are trail improvements performed by the Sonoma County Trails Council. A boardwalk to protect a boggy area trail crossing, rock causeways in erosion prone areas, trails routed for better visibility and weather resistance, all are the result of funding from the race which has raised between 18 and 20 thousand dollars annually.

My connection to the race started in 2009 with my participation in the Fleet Feet Santa Rosa training group. I have been in the group, and entered the race every year since. In that time I’ve seen a range of finish times, with my Personal PR of 2:14:00 in 2013.


Ridge run

Training run in March. Photo by Marc Strozyk.

ridge group

Hanging out with a squad of my fellow Training group runners. Photo by Marc Strozyk

This year I was coming off of a six month lay off from running. In that time span I’d lost nearly all my fitness, and gained body mass in the process. Restarting the training runs in December was a daunting task, as I struggled to regain the frequency and distance of training I remembered from years prior. I found routes that in my memory were “easy runs” pushed my limits when I restarted the training process. As a result, I toned down my distances during my midweek runs, and my pace during long trail runs. Even then the motivation was hard to find when winter colds made running miserable. As a result my training mileage, from December thru race day, was a fraction of years prior. Looking at the numbers it was 25% less than I ran in 2014, and 70% less than 2013 when I had my Personal Record. With that in mind, I adopted my mantra of “Better Performance Through Lowered Expectations”.


A February training run over South Burma. Photo by Marc Strozyk

As per my usual Annadel Race day procedure I arrived early to setup my 12×12 wall tent to serve as a first aid station.  While the majority of the injuries treated are scrapes and sprains, it provides a place for privacy if needed.  The activity of setting up the tent keeps my mind off of the upcoming race and  butterflies to a minimum.

After opening remarks, the race began under clear skies and mid 40’s temperatures.  I already had my race plan of walking all significant uphills.  The trails were well packed from the rain the week earlier, and the 260 plus runners spread out as we climbed the first hill a mile into the race at Rough Go Trail.  My race was uneventful from a running perspective.  I made it a point to drink in the beauty of the park that I so often overlooked while negotiating the rocky trails in pursuit of a race pace.  A sleek blacktail doe watched our multicolored line of runners ascend Rough Go as turkey gobbles echoed off the oak trees in the valley.  I began seeing friends manning the course monitor positions and aid stations.  Each one shouted encouragement and called me by name.  After about the fourth one, the runners immediately in front of me commented about how everyone knew me by name, and I demurred saying that they were all people I had trained with.

Early in the race, it was nice seeing friends along the trail.  Photo by Susan Kelleher

Early in the race, it was nice seeing friends along the trail. Photo by Susan Kelleher

We continued past the Live Oak aid station where I refilled about 12 oz. of water in my handheld, and followed a rolling trail for the next two miles through open meadows, and into a north facing shaded section before turning up North Burma and hitting the Richardson Fire road and the Third Aid Station.  After a quarter mile we turned back onto the singletrack and began the mile and a half climb up the South Burma Trail crest.   There I was greeted by our training group coach, Marc Strozyk as he shouted, encouraged, and cajoled runners with platitudes like “It’s all downhill from here!”, “Less than 5 and a half to the finish!”, “if you were a woman, you would be in 14th place!” etc….

Top of Burma

At the High point of the Course 7.6 miles in, at the “Top of Burma”. Photo by Marc Strozyk.


At this point, I’d made a conscious effort to conserve my energy on the 1300 feet of climbing so far.  In previous years, I would have turned on the jets and bombed the downhills.  This year I found myself stiff and cautiously passing a few runners before the Buick Meadow Aid station.  As we descended Marsh trail, and the ground became less technical, some of those cautious runners were able to gain ground.  What years prior had been a stretch where I picked off other runners, I felt my endurance slipping.  My stride was stiffer and shorter.  Here was where I was going to pay the debit created by lack of deposits in my training miles account.

When the aid station attendant shouted “Just two and a half more miles!” when I turned onto the Canyon trail, I felt my inner motivation drain.  I knew it was just under 3 miles.  The last 2 miles we refer to as the “Fire Road of Despair”.  After three and a half downhill miles on the twisty singletrack with ever changing visual horizons, the flat wide exposed stretch seems to drag by. This is where strong mental fortitude makes a difference for the runners who are racing for age group and over all placings.  I was running against the demons in my mind telling me I wasn’t worthy of a good time, the demons in my stomach telling me I’d taken in too much water, and the very stark reality that I was writing the final chapter in what would be my slowest race in six years.


Free download of the Finish line photo. More races should offer this perk.

I slogged the final stretch conserving my energy to shout thank you’s to the Girls on the run group manning the aid station a mile from the finish.  As runners passed me I remembered when it was I doing the passing in previous years.  Nevertheless, as I rounded the final turn to make the last stretch across the grass to the finish chute I managed to smile, thankful that I was able to continue my 6 year streak of training for, and finishing the Annadel Half Marathon.

After the race I was greeted by my friends with smiles and hugs.   I soon found my way to the refreshment area and recovered with a complimentary finishers meal consisting of Lagunitas IPA,  a plate of pasta, bread and salad.   We recounted our races and enjoyed the sun and 70 degree temperatures as the final runners trickled across the finish.  I was reminded of my ultimate running goal of a lifetime of being active as I got to watch my 74 year-old training mate Jerry Kibler win his age group , and local runner of reknown, 78 year old,  Darryl Beardall cross the finish.  At that point I reassured myself that if  could just outlive my competition I too may see some age group awards…


If you want to read a story of pure toughness from this race, check out the Press Democrat coverage that mentions Al and Anna Myers.  Anna finished the full course under her own power 10 weeks after sustaining  a broken ankle.  They are a couple I truly enjoy knowing and epitomize what is great about the running community in Sonoma County.







Categories: Running | Leave a comment

2014 Nevada Pronghorn

In May I learned I had drawn a Pronghorn tag for “Horns longer than ears” in the Northwest portion of Nevada. I was shocked because I thought it was a long shot tag that was statistically unlikely to draw. I immediately planned a scouting trip with my running buddy Leigh for the 4th of July Weekend.
Scouting the Unit

Over 3 days we covered the unit main roads to get a feel for the area. I was struck with the feeling that antelope densities were not high as I had experienced in Wyoming and Colorado. Many waterholes were dry, and the animals we saw were pretty skittish.

Curious Does and Fawns

Curious Does and Fawns

We were fortunate to make friends with a local cowboy who gave us names of landmarks to check out. This was the biggest part of why I chose my specific part of the unit. We only saw about 25 animals total and small bucks. It was then I decided I would need at least two full days of scouting before opening day.

A rare sight in the desert.

A rare sight in the desert.

Opening day was on Friday, August 22nd. On Tuesday, I took the kids to school and finished packing the truck for the trip to the Black Rock. After various stops along the way I was at my home on the range in an aspen patch just an hour before dark.

10623434_10204550162822740_3560637822518568106_o - Copy

That night I could hear the rodents rustling all around the underbrush and edges of the tent….ALL NIGHT, rustle, rustle, rustle…They were bold. They would grab food off the table with you right there. I made sure to keep the tent zipped up and I was glad I had hard sided lockers for my dry food. A nearby camp caught 18 in traps one night resetting them. I watched one get caught 30 seconds after they set it.

Wednesday morning (Opening day -2)

I woke up after daybreak for my first day of scouting. I found a little buck right off the main road. About 3 more miles up the road along the Wilderness boundary, I found another better buck with 9 does. I watched him push them around the lower draws. I never did relocate them the rest of the trip.

Midday was uneventful on antelope sightings.

At 6:00 pm I started seeing antelope again. It was on a bench that had good grass, and the rancher was hauling water to cows on a 10 mile two track circuit. Saw total of 5 small bucks and 7 does and fawns before dark

Days total: 7 bucks, 16 does and fawns. Also saw a few Feral Horses.

Thursday morning, (opening day -1)

Woke up to find 3 mule deer bucks checking out my camp. Nothing monster, but I had heard them come down the trail and drink water behind my tent that night.

Drove to the area I had seen the majority of antelope and pushed into a wilderness access road. Right at the turn I found where the deer and the antelope play. There were 6 antelope does and fawns, and 4 mule deer bucks at 7:15 in the morning. Further along I saw a decent buck with 2 does , then I found a Spring 1 mile in from the road that had a good buck and his does at it, along with a herd of Feral Horses. I liked how he looked through the spotting scope and decided I would be there on opening morning. I hiked in a dead end road to look over some more big country in the wilderness. A decent buck and 2 does busted me 300 yards from the road end. Found their trickle of water and a huge roadless canyon that fed into the main canyon. It was pretty but I wrote it off as not good antelope country.

Napped through the midday at camp.

Went back to the cow trough circuit. Spotted a buck with does that I decided was my back up buck.

The "back up buck" at 200 yards.  The night before the season.

The “back up buck” at 200 yards. The night before the season.

Further down the road just before dark, I watched a 70 inch buck chase off a rival from his does. Headed back to camp happy I had a plan for opening morning.

daily total: 7 mule deer bucks, 6 Antelope bucks (2 shooters), ~27 antelope does and fawns, More Feral Horses (quit counting and a lot of repeats)…
Opening Morning

10570447_10204550178423130_3235091884594128235_n - Copy

I headed out at 5:00 am for the hour drive to my spot and was near the springs at daybreak. In the Wilderness I saw one buck hightailing it over the ridge, and another with a doe out in a big open bowl that looked unstalkable. Neither was my target buck at the springs. I snuck around through the draws with the wind in my face and set up 80 yards from the springs with a commanding view of the basin for 3 miles in a 90 degree direction. Nothing moving except Feral Horses. Had a total of 40 of them come into the springs. They got as close as 35 yards but never spooked or showed any signs of seeing me. That grey sweatshirt was great camo.

That afternoon I had no action at the springs so after a walkabout (where I had a doe and 2 fawns at 108 yards), I went to my back up buck’s location to see if I could find him. I parked the truck by a draw and he and his does came out of the draw behind me at 300 yards on the skyline. No shot before they took off. I bumped them twice more and pretty much blew ’em out of the country. Spent the rest of the evening glassing in the wind and saw nothing….nada , zip , zilch. I was feeling pretty down.
Days total: 3 bucks, 8 does, 40 feral horses. One blown opportunity.

Opening Day +1

I decided to head back to the springs but vowed I would stalk any buck in a good position I found on the way. Right at daybreak I parked behind a rise and glassed the valley I would have to drive to to get to the trail that would take me to the spring. I found the unstalkable buck from the day before chasing a doe. I watched them feed around a big hill and then drove my truck down to a draw a little closer, by the Wilderness boundary and loaded my pack and flanked counter clockwise around the hill.


When I crested the hill I saw the antelope had moved another half mile to the next rolling finger. I backed back down the ridge and looped counter clockwise again for another mile around to the next saddle. The antelope had not moved through the saddle when I moved up to the crest, so I hugged the rim rock along the top, and peaked into the valley. I spotted three antelope does, as they saw me, and all looked in my direction. After a minute I finally located the buck 30 yards behind them quartering toward me at 311 yards. I took a rest over the rock and held the crosshairs at 7x just in front of his withers. At the shot he jumped and ran about 30 yards toward me and stopped broadside. I put the crosshairs on his neck and dropped him there. The .300 win mag 150 grain bullet had hit in front of the shoulder and exited in front of the hip. These critters are tough!


All this time I had an idea he was a mature buck , but when I walked up on him I was pleasantly surprised. I looked at my watch and it was 7:09 am. It took me an hour and a half to take pictures, and then break him down for the hike out to the truck.

10393543_10204550183303252_4690671783132896309_n - Copy

Now that I have had time to reflect on the hunt, I’m glad I did this hunt solo.  I put a lot of pressure on myself, but I found I was able to find more antelope during the hunt than during scouting.  I also think that now I’m more comfortable with the area and terrain. I could enjoy taking someone else with that tag to that area.

Categories: My Hunting Stories | Leave a comment

The Morris Boys Know Elk.

Since 2011 my family and I have been honored to know the Morris Family. These folks have become an integral part of our Fall Hunting Trips to Western Wyoming.

This was the first year that all four Morris men had Wyoming General tags for Elk.

Wes was up with the first opportunity. On opening day they had a great deal of competition from other hunters. At one point they could hear someone talking not 100 yards from their setup. On Day Two, brother Jase was able to sweet talk this five by five bull into range, with brother Matt assisting.

Dee narrates:
Wes , Matt and Jase followed the bull and about 15 cows calling them along the way for about half a mile. Jase did the calling and the bull was very responsive turning back several times but not close enough to shoot. Finally at the dark timber line, the bull had enough and turned back to face the pesky young bull. Wes took him with one shot at 40 yards.


If that kind of Elk Hunting action is your cup of tea, I’d recommend you talk to my friends at the Big Sandy Lodge.

After packing the Bull back to civilization, It was a first come-first serve for the remaining elk tags amongst the clan. A couple days after Wes scored, Father Dee called this heavy, wide 5 point bull into rifle range and downed him on a bench on a ridgetop.

2013-10-04 11.44.28

I was honored to be able to assist, with Mokie, my uncle’s 24 year old gelding who packed the hind quarters , and hide, while I packed the boned out loins, tenderloins, and trim meat in my Badlands 4500 internal frame pack. I joked that I “wouldn’t ask Mokie to do anything I wouldn’t do” as he jogged back to the ranch with a vigor that belied his age. Jase and Wes each carried a front quarter while Dee packed out the head and rack.  Mama Kay even came out and packed rifles back up the treacherous trail.  It was a true family affair

2013-10-04 12.16.42

My family and I hit the road the next day , but I soon received notice from Matt that he had connected.

The message said:

5×5 at 401 yards

and then the picture loaded.

IMG_8623Matt continued the story…

Awesome hunt. Not the bull we were after but he had about 40 cows with him.  Jase is going back after the stud in the a.m. The two herds merged and put on a HELL of a screaming match. 

Even 500 miles away I could feel the excitement that must have been felt in that household.

The next night I got the Update…

I asked:

Any Action for Jase yet?

The Reply almost immediately was :

“Ohhhh YEAH”

And I knew it was going to be good.


And the final Morris man to connect gets a heavy, symmetrical 6×6 bull.  Earlier in the bowhunting season  he had called in a 5×5 bull but passed.  That discerning nature seems to have paid off.

All in all, the Morris Family has proven that the elk hunting gene runs strong.  I know it has been my pleasure to be in the woods with them and that we share a kinship, that I have felt with few others.


Categories: Horse and Mule Packing, My Hunting Stories | Leave a comment

2013 Wyoming Mule Deer

When our group didn’t draw Non-resident Wyoming elk Tags, we looked into the Deer and Pronghorn Draw.

I looked at the Draw odds for a limited entry unit, and determined that my odds were reasonable if I applied for the higher priced “Special Tag” With five preference points, I was able to draw my unit. The problem was, I’d never set foot in that country until I set up camp on September 23rd.

2013-09-23 19.54.02
After setting up my wall tent and stove, I climbed a mountain I’d decided to focus on that sat ringed by a pretty well traveled road. i assumed the road would cause the deer to be concentrated at the highest point, far from the road at 10,000 feet elevation. What I did find was plenty of elk sign, but very little deer sign, or deer.
2013-09-23 16.23.55
At a secluded lake I was fortunate to witness a six point bull elk with his harem as they ghosted into the timber. I also spotted three more small bulls at a distance, but returned to camp without a single deer sighting. I began to doubt my deer spotting ability.

The next morning I glassed the side of the mountain as daylight spread across the mountain. One lone pair of deer were skylines briefly so I went to that side to see if I could find more of their ilk. Sign was more prevalent, but downed trees and steep side hills funneled me back down before I could reach the summit. I slunk back to my camp, and was surprised to see a small branch antlered buck watching me from the roadside. I attempted a stalk , but the wind was wrong, and the deer had vanished by the time I returned.

That afternoon, I watched a tiny spike feeding unconcerned along the treeline, and began to re-evaluate where I was looking for deer. After chatting with a local glassing for bear, I headed to another nearby area for a different angle to glass the mountainside.

When I arrived at my location I busied myself getting a tripod set up to glass. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a deer eying me. It was a buck! I ranged him at 27 yards then came to full draw. Looking at his forked horns then back at his clear vitals, I said “Whack, you are dead”. Then his small 3 point companion tempted me, and I “counted coup”, and let down.

As I turned to go back to glassing, I spotted another buck. I ranged him at 99 yards. He was bigger! He had me pegged but seemed unconcerned. Soon he was joined by another, then a third, and a fourth buck. Between the four of them they began to act a little spooky, but more inquisitive.

Eventually they high stepped into cover. A few minutes later I saw them heading back up the mountain, towards a decommissioned road, I made plans to venture onto in the morning.

2013-09-25 12.11.34
I awoke to a dusting of snow, and clouds that promised more. The intensity increased as I walked up the road that now was a game trail. Along the way I bumped numerous does and fawns, but the visibility disintegrated as the morning wore on. The swirling winds caused a nice buck to spook out 200 yards ahead of me, too far for a shot or even a clear photo. At 11:00 am I called it and headed back to camp.

As I walked back to camp I made the decision I would go to lower ground for the night then return when the weather cleared.   As I packed up I could see there was going to be significant accumulation.  I ended up packing tent, stove and all my gear as a foot of snow came down in two hours.  It was a butt puckering drive down the 18 miles to the highway.  I broke the drivers side windshield wiper.  With big wet flakes piling up on the windshield I did not want to lose momentum by trying to stop and repair the wiper.  So I alternated wiping away the snow with my left hand and looking through the passenger side that the wiper was barely keeping up.

I was able to wire the wiper blade on when I reached the highway, and at that point I’d decided I was done for a day or so in the high country.  I headed for town, bought a new wiper blade, and a pair of Pac Boots (Kenetrek Grizzly’s) and spent the night with some friends in a warm, dry bed with sheets.

The next four days are covered in the story of my Antelope hunt….

After tagging out on my antelope hunt, we established our base camp at our friend’s place and commuted to the deer unit.  Monday’s evening scouting trip did not turn up any deer, so we tried a new spot in the morning based on some conversations with the locals.

2013-10-01 09.49.25Tuesday- Opening day of Rifle season

My father and uncle came along to add extra eyes.  We saw does and small bucks early just after daybreak, as well as a bull , cow and calf elk.  Then we covered six miles on foot before lunch, as we peeked into bucky looking niches surrounded by aspens on a glacial carved bench. We surprised a band of pronghorn at 150 yards and throughout the day we bumped them repeatedly.  We chuckled as a young buck brought a potential girlfriend within 30 yards of us in the open.  Finally, the boss buck ran him off, and we watched him cast aimlessly about looking for company the rest of the afternoon.

Another highlight of the evening was watching a cow and yearling elk feed out on our right while four does fed out on the tree edges on our right.  We walked off the hill at dark, and had dinner in town.


The next morning we returned to where I’d had my archery season encounter with the six bucks.  Almost immediately I saw a buck on the skyline.  I attempted a stalk, but he busted me and ran off into the thick timber before I could get him in my sights.  I felt like I’d blown my only opportunity I’d have and i began doubting my decision to pass on the little bucks the week prior.

After talking with a couple of road traveling moose hunters, we used the time remaining of the morning to still hunt along a treeline paralleling a road.  At 10:00 am my father convinced me to return to the truck.  I remember him asking me.  “So what do you want?”  meaning did I want to hike to the top of the mountain, or glass from below.

My smart aleck reply was “I want a buck to step out in front of me near the truck ” in a joking tone.

As we reached the pickup parked along the road, a buck stood up and ambled toward the treeline.  I could see deep forks and long lines with my naked eye.

I sprinted into the trees and he locked eyes with me like a kid caught with his hand in the cookie jar.  His antlers were obscured by branches, even at the bow close range.  When he moved his head, I saw antlers, and put the crosshairs on his shoulders and jerked the trigger.   Once again I obliterated a shoulder as he crashed through the trees and fell dead just steps from where I pulled the trigger.

Upon closer examination I saw he had long tines and a huge body.  I was glad to be done hunting even though I knew there were monster bucks in the unit.

2013-10-02 10.41.44 2013-10-02 10.42.48 2013-10-02 10.53.44

He joined my antelope at Fetzner Taxidermy for the European mount treatment, and I look forward to the final mount.  His 130 pounds of hanging weight became steaks and breakfast sausage at Hog Island Meats.

Categories: My Hunting Stories | Leave a comment

2013 Wyoming Antelope Adventure

My Father, Uncle and I all had Wyoming Antelope tags. In addition I also had a limited unit deer tag, 80 miles from the Antelope unit.  Our Antelope hunt was scheduled for the last weekend in September, before my Deer rifle season opened.

One complicating factor was the fact that a freak Fall snowstorm blew in and made travelling the roads challenging.

2013-09-26 17.57.27

We spent a couple days enjoying the warm fire, and hot coffee of Big Sandy Lodge while we waited for the weather to break.

2013-09-27 07.10.49

When it finally cleared we drove down to the desert on Saturday with our good buddy Tony, to find some speed goats.  Tony is a long time Wyoming resident who was getting ready to go in for a hip replacement surgery.  He couldn’t run the hills with us hunting for deer, but he was able to help us navigate the maze of two tracks on the High Desert.

2013-09-28 13.23.48We were happy that the lower elevations did not have as much snow accumulation.

2013-09-28 17.48.43After some adventures that involved a large flock of sheep, some slimy two track, a couple groups of antelope we passed on, and an arroyo that tried its best to capture us, we were driving towards some distant antelope that held promise.  Another large herd diverted our attention, and I got out and got ready to shoot if the buck met our standards.

Now, remember, I’d been bowhunting deer for 3 of the 5 prior days.  I was feeling a little uncertain about whether I was going to leave Wyoming empty handed.  While it was a far cry from “Last Call”, I was not holding out for a Booner buck.   While Tony, my father and uncle debated the merits of the buck, I saw prongs above the ears, good mass, a nice curl and decided I could look at him for the next few years.

I announced:  “I like the buck with the herd”

No response, and no objection from the rest of the crew, so I took up the slack in the trigger, and the shot broke to my surprise.  I re-centered the scope at 7x and saw him run off with the herd, slowing and stumbling and finally cartwheeling as the 25 does ran off over the horizon. My 150 grain bullet had passed through both shoulders and the heart from 350 yards.  the bullet hit a good 6 inches from my point of aim, confirming the distance estimation.

My uncle and I took care of field dressing and photography chores as my father and Tony tried to make a play on the original buck we’d sighted, to no avail.  We returned to the Big Sandy Lodge that evening to finish the skinning. A rough taping measured his horns to be 14 inches over the curl, with 5 1/2 inch bases.  We estimated my first pronghorn to be about 70 inches total.

2013-09-28 16.41.36The next day we dropped down into the desert to see if we could fill a couple more tags.  We had narrowed down our search area to an area around an artesian well head that irrigated a patch of desert and attracted numerous groups of antelope.  Almost immediately we saw a heavy lone buck  my father was intrigued by.   This buck was very wary, moving out the moment our truck stopped.  My father got out to try to stalk into range as we backed off to watch from afar.  From the movements of the buck we decided to put my uncle Colby in a flanking  position to the East that would give him an opportunity at the buck if he did not pass in range of my father.

As it happened, the buck spotted Colby and spooked off in a North by  Northwestern direction.  We collected Colby to try a play on a group of three antelope further East.  Meanwhile my father is still pursuing the original buck on foot.

We were able to get Colby into position 287 yards from the buck in the group.  He fired once hitting the buck, but he refused to go down.  Shortly after we heard multiple shots to the West.  The sheer volume made us think it was Sage Grouse hunters we had seen earlier.  While Tony and Colby watched his buck, I drove back to where I’d left my father earlier.

I arrived back at the spring, and did not see my father in the immediate vicinity.  Then on the farthest Northern Horizon, I saw him waving his blaze orange hat.

I navigated the two tracks until a slick clay bottomed creek stopped my progress.  I continued on foot to find him deboning an antelope.

It turns out that he had doggedly pursued that original buck, and Colby’s shot had actually turned the buck into his direction.  The multiple shots we had heard, were indeed from him, and although lighter in the ammo department, he did collect his buck, all the while on foot.  It was a real testament to commitment, as he was over a mile and a half from the original drop off point and had zig-zagged all throughout the coulees in pursuit.  Not bad for a 71 year-old Californian.

With Dad and his Antelope in the truck we drove back to where Colby had his buck bedded.  A quick followup shot (through a shoulder) ended the chase, and like that we had filled 3 antelope tags in less than 24 hours.

2013-09-29 15.06.41This was our first Antelope hunt as a family, and I’ve gained a new appreciation for this style of hunting.  It gave us a chance to get out and pursue big game animals with our good friend Tony, but was not a grueling backcountry ordeal, as some other adventures have been.  We saw lots of animals, lots of country, and had plenty of opportunity to fill tags.  If you are considering a first time Western hunt for a youngster or mobility limited individual, I think antelope hunting provides an alternative to a traditional “Stand” hunt.   However if you want to “walk one down” , like my father that is always an option as well!

We all three took our antelope to Steve Fetzner, of Cora Wyoming to be made into European mounts.  I will share those results when they arrive.

We took the meat to Hog Island Meat Co.’s mobile facility in Pinedale.  After hanging for a few days, Bill had it in Cryovac packages the next Saturday, ready for our trip home.

Categories: My Hunting Stories | Leave a comment

Western States Crew Report 2013


When my running mentor, 52 year old Lori Barekman, was selected to run the Western States 100 mile Endurance Run, I immediately volunteered to do whatever she needed to assist in her successful completion. Our mutual friend Liana Hibbard served as the chairman of our crewing committee, while 28 year old Ericka Jennison took on the pacing duties. She and Liana had successfully paced/crewed Lori to her 50 mile qualifying race at Firetrails in the previous October.

In the months preceding, Lori had lined up a training plan and included us in many of the training races. Lori and I both ran the Grizzly Peak 50k, where she took 2nd in her Age group, and was 2nd woman overall. At the Miwok 100 K Liana and I crewed Lori. I was honored to pace her the final 12 miles from Tennessee Valley through Muir Beach, up to Cardiac Aid Station and into Stinson Beach. The course was shortened to 60 K due to fire concerns. Once again Lori won her age group. However, she had planned on a 60 mile race to determine her endurance over 50 miles. Without time to schedule another 50 mile plus race, Lori forged ahead with her training plans.

Between races I would meet with Lori and some other ultra-runners for a Thursday night run in our local state park. In the early Spring, we could run by headlamp over technical trails for a 4-7 mile distance to prepare for the running in the dark the race would require. As summer increased the day length, our evening runs soon did not require headlamps anymore and it became just another run.

Soon Lori had outgrown my pace and distance ability. Her weekends became 30/20’s, 30 miles on Saturday, and 20 miles on Sunday. Thursday night runs got to be longer distances in shorter time periods. In April, she checked the Annadel Half Marathon race course markings before the race, and then lined up with a race number to run it a second time. Memorial Day Weekend she and Ericka ran back to back runs from Robinson Flat to Foresthill on the WS100 course, and From Foresthill to Rucky Chucky the next day. We knew she was constantly improving in condition, despite the inky unknown of the mileage above 50.

Soon we all met to discuss our Crewing Strategy. We determined we would meet Lori at 5 points along the course that were crew accessible. Lori and Ericka made up drop bags for aid stations we would not be attending and coordinated fueling strategies. Lori’s friends and family made plans to meet along the way to cheer Lori on.

Runner and Crew: Lori in front of Myself, Liana, and Ericka.  Friday afternoon before the race.

Runner and Crew: Lori in front of Myself, Liana, and Ericka. Friday afternoon before the race. photo by J. Barekman

Race Day -1
I met Erica, Lori and Lori’s mother, in Squaw Valley the Evening of June 27th . The next morning Lori and Ericka checked in and delivered drop bags while I participated in the Montrail Uphill Challenge that goes from the base of Squaw Valley to the High Camp Tram station near the top of the Squaw Valley Property. It took me an Hour to cover the 6 kilometers and 2500 vertical feet. Speedy ultra-runner Chandra Farnam was there to greet me at the top with a hug and photo op. After catching my breath, she suggested we run back down, so we descended in less than half the time it took to climb, chatting along the way.

Hanging out with Chandra On the Montrail Uphill Challenge

Hanging out with Chandra during the Montrail Uphill Challenge. Selfie by Chandra

That afternoon I picked Liana up from Auburn where we had positioned her car close to the finish. We did not want to be driving an extra 120 miles to retrieve it after 30 hours on our feet. We all enjoyed pizza that night and prepared for a 3:00 am wake up before the 5:00 am start. Liana and I both had difficulty sleeping with a next door neighbor noisily Skype-ing in the middle of the night. After the second request she quieted down, but morning still came with a vengeance

Race Start

Just Before the Start at 5:00 am.  This smile was on Lori's and Ericka's faces 95% of the time.

Just Before the Start at 5:00 am. This smile was on Lori’s and Ericka’s faces 95% of the time. Photo by J. Barekman

The Start line of Western States is similar to most ultras that start before daylight, with the exception of people (runners and non-runners alike) getting their photos taken under the start line, and the volume of the crowd, the excitement in the air is electric. Flashes are going off, with the Eastern horizon turning grey. What is particularly impressive is that the starting gun is a shotgun.  After the runners have stretched out along the trail, discussion turns to whether to go back to bed for a couple hours or get a coffee and stay up.

We chose to get another 2 hours of sleep before we packed the car and headed to Robinson Flat for the first of our Crew Accessible Aid Stations. In the Trailblazer SUV, we had Ericka, Lori’s Mom (Hereafter referred to as “MOM”), Liana and I along with all our luggage, and crewing supplies that included 27 pounds of Ice. The day had already begun to heat up as the sun stretched across Squaw Valley.

Our guide to reaching the Crew accessible aid stations.

Our guide to reaching the Crew accessible aid stations.

Robinson Flat
We made our way down the highway and turned off on to Foresthill Road that narrowed down to a narrow undivided paved mountain road for the last 18 miles. Near the end we encountered the volume of crew traffic lined up to park at the Forest service trailhead that served as an aid station. Not wanting to miss Lori, I went ahead with a pack containing the essentials and a chair, while Liana parked the car, and followed after. At the aid station I met up with Alan Marshall and Becky Wells who were already ready and waiting. Shortly after, Lori’s husband Wade, and his family arrived on scene.

Next to us were the family and crew for another renowned local ultra-running veteran, #51 Kelly Ridgeway. When Kelly came in I watched them as they tended to her with an efficiency and speed I admired. It was clear they had done this before. I asked them a couple questions and they were very helpful in quieting my anxiety about crewing a 100 mile runner.

We discussed the check point updated that we had received via and expected Lori in the time period that reflected a 27-28 hour pace. She was on schedule and pretty jubilant as she passed through the medical check. Lori even stopped to take pictures of her family before she came far enough down the line for us to tend to her. It was clear she was having fun in her first Western States Race.

When Lori arrived a little after noon, we packed her bottle with Ice, changed out her Hydration pack with ice and Tailwind solution. Her seven year old daughter, Mariana, sprayed her arms and legs with ice water, and reapplied sunscreen. As a final step we gave her a chocolate Ensure, and a frozen Ensure in her run vest for further along the trail. Lori left, snapping photos of us, 29.7 miles down with 26 miles before we would see her again.


A frozen bottle of Ensure to go at Robinson Flat. Photo by Shawn Wallace.

Liana got Mom Barekman transferred into Wade’s vehicle for the remainder of the trip, and the three of us made our way down the hill towards Michigan Bluff, where we expected Lori between 6:30 and 7:30 in the evening.

Michigan Bluff

Since it was mid-day we headed into Foresthill for lunch. The most popular place other than the School which served as the checkpoint and aid station was Worton’s Market. The coffee and deli counter fueled us up as we looked over the Canyon carved by the Middle Fork of the American River. From there we made our way to a side road near the Michigan Bluff Checkpoint where we connected with Shawn Sullivan. Shawn is another local trail runner who had made the trek up in the morning. He had been inspired during Memorial Day weekend training runs and hoped to pace a runner along the course. Ericka Shawn and I pulled up sleeping pads in the shade for an afternoon siesta, while Liana checked in with Wade and the rest of the clan who had also stopped to eat in Foresthill. Liana collected us at 6:00 pm to hike down the ½ mile long, steep road to the aid station. Mom Barekman stepped lively along with 7 year old Mariana and the rest of the family.

Now Liana had collected check-in times while we were napping and Lori’s pace looked especially fast going into Millers Defeat at mile 34.4 and Last Chance at mile 43.8. These downhill sections are followed by a steep climb up to Devil’s Thumb with 1500 feet of gain followed by another deep canyon known as El Dorado. Michigan Bluff is at the top of the 1800 foot climb out of the hole that can be as hot as 110 degrees F. Lori had mentioned that this hot section could be her toughest stretch, and expressed concern about the heat.


We arrived in Michigan Bluff and surveyed the runners coming in. None of the runners we saw ahead of Lori looked “good”. We even saw one we thought was close to getting pulled from the course. Volunteers were dousing runners with water and few were running in or out of the aid station. Crews were spending 20-30 minutes getting their runners cooled off, and fed. As Lori’s early arrival time passed, I found myself getting nervous. My mind began manufacturing disturbing scenarios. Shadows began growing long when Lori came walking into Michigan Bluff at 7:02 pm.

Mariana giving us instructions on what Lori needs.  Photo by J. Barekman

Mariana giving us instructions on what Lori needs. Photo by J. Barekman

No longer did she have a goofy smile or joke with us. I could tell she was perturbed that she had gained weight in some of the aid stations and made us remove her hydration reservoir that held the Tailwind solution. She even ditched her tiny mp3 player “because it was too heavy”. She sipped on a cup of chicken broth as we applied insect repellant. Even Chandra our friend encouraged Lori to eat before the next aid station. We shooed Lori out of the aid station with two Ensures, and began the long hike back up to the car.

Lori had left her drop bag for this section with us, and in our hurry to attend to her, we neglected to give her the headlamp intended for this section. Granted there was enough light to make it to the next checkpoint, but the fact we had slipped up caused me some consternation and Liana chided me on my outburst. On the 20 minute drive to Foresthill I stewed about not sticking to the plan. Luckily we found a parking spot close to the aid station, and Liana kept my mind and hands occupied as she sent me to change into running gear to accompany Lori from the Bath Road aid station 1.4 miles away.

I walked/jogged about a mile and a quarter and met Lori flanked by Becky and Alan hiking with authority up the hill out of the Bath aid station. Lori was chattering excitedly and both Becky and Alan were all smiles. I immediately realized my worries had been unfounded. Lori was BACK! We ran the last half mile into Foresthill at 8:39 pm as passing crews shouted encouragement and commented on how good she looked. The evening was cooling and Lori was certainly perked up despite not having her headlamp. I peeled off as she entered the aid station and met up with the rest of the Crew where Ericka waited at the pacer pick up point. We rigged Lori with light and she said good night to her daughter and husband before jogging off into the sunset with Ericka alongside.

Liana applies bug dope while I rig the headlamp that Lori wore around her waist.  photo by J. Barekman

Liana applies bug dope while I rig the headlamp that Lori wore around her waist. photo by J. Barekman

At this point we sent the family off to dinner in Auburn. It was before 9:00 pm. Just then a race official called out asking for volunteer pacers. Our friend Shawn stepped up and accepted. We then spent the next 30 minutes getting Shawn ready to pace. Liana took charge of his car, and dead cell phone, and sent me ahead to dinner. Liana then made contact with the runner’s crew, the wife and son of Gregg Holst, a 54 year old from Pennsylvania. After she got Shawn matched up with his runner, she met me in Auburn, along with another couple (Ryan and Kim) that knew Lori and came to watch the race on a whim. We four ate a late dinner at the Auburn Alehouse and convoyed to the Green Gate Aid Station shortly before midnight.

Green Gate
I was warned by another past crew member that Green gate was where “things happen”. The combination of a long hot day, and the late hour make normally rational people forget things. Keys get lost, supplies get dropped, exhaustion sets into the crew.

Despite the late hour the parking along the road above Green Gate was crowded. It was 1.7 miles to the Aid station from the end of the road, and I had to park nearly a mile from there. We fumbled in the dark with supplies, and I worried we might miss our runners. (I had mistakenly thought they would arrive an hour earlier). I ran down ahead to Green Gate, leaving the three behind and found they had not come through yet. So I sat down in the dark to wait.

Somehow, Liana and I missed one another in the dark and crowd at the Green Gate Aid Station. While I waited there, she hiked all the way down to Rucky Chucky (another 1.7 miles down the canyon). Cell service was spotty at best, and we had no good means of communicating. After Lori and Ericka came through I hiked out, while she waited there for Shawn and his runner until 4:00 am (another 2:25 hours). Behind the headlamps they looked good. The aid station had topped off their water, and I changed our Lori’s Ensure once more. They trotted off into the darkness with 20 miles to go to the finish and 13 miles before I caught them at Highway 49.

Here is where it got crappy. Liana hiked out 3.2 miles of steep uphill to return to a Shawn’s car with a dead battery. Now after 24 hours with no sleep something like that really upsets people.  Once Liana got a jump start she rallied and continued on to No Hands Bridge four miles from the finish.  I had been waiting in Cool where the shuttle was taking people to Highway 49.

Highway 49 Crossing and Robie Point

Highway 49 crossing is an Oasis of Light after a long dark night.

Highway 49 crossing is an Oasis of Light after a long dark night.

The Highway 49 aid station is a work of art. It has more amenities than some race finish lines I’ve been to. Pancakes, smoothies, eggs, hashbrowns, coffee, and hot chocolate. They announce the runners before they cross the highway over a PA, so sleepy crews can shuffle to tend to their runner. These volunteers from Shadowchase Running club from Modesto know their stuff!.

When Ericka and Lori came into Highway 49 they both were smiling and chipper. Ericka remarked that the aid station volunteers would look at Lori and come alive. I suppose it was a welcome relief from cranky runners. One other crew member for another runner said “My husband has been an absolute a-hole since mile 60. Your runner is in a better mood than I am!” Lori drank 2 smoothies and some Coca Cola, and I gave Ericka her Starbucks Frappaccino for the final push. The crowd of Crew and Volunteers roared as they trotted out of the aid station where others had plodded.

I hustled to get back to the car and then to Auburn. As I walked to the Robie Point aid station I found myself welling up with emotion when Liana texted from No Hands, two miles away: “They’re out!”

The Finish

Forty minutes later Ericka and Lori strode into view around the corner and barely broke stride through the aid station. I joined them hiking the final uphill section and nearly broke down in tears as Lori’s family joined in the last quarter mile before the stadium. Ericka and I joined hands with Lori and her daughter Mariana before we ducked off to the side to let Lori and her daughter finish together as the clock hit 26:59:15. A moment I will remember forever…

Mariana and Lori cross the finish together.  photo by Chandra Farnham

Mariana and Lori cross the finish together. Photo by Chandra Farnham

The rest of the morning was kind of a blur. Liana and I tried to find Shawn and his runner and missed them by seven minutes at No Hands Bridge. During the night we were sure he was going to DNF, he had come alive in the morning hours. I rushed back to Robie Point and accompanied Shawn and Gregg the last 1.3 miles, and Gregg’s first WS100 finish in 29:42:22.

There was two hours between Shawn and his runner finishing and awards. At this point the adrenaline and emotion of the moment are mixed with the 30 hours of no sleep. You find your patience thin, and thought processes jumpy. As a crew member I felt an obligation to tend to Lori but the family had her completely taken care of. Our pacers Shawn and Ericka accepted our services though. Ericka’s parents were kind enough to leave a cooler with some Lagunitas as they retrieved Ericka’s car from Squaw Valley. Even though it was still morning, 38 miles and 95 degrees made a cold IPA appropriate.


Shawn cools off after pacing Gregg to his first Western States Finish.

We lounged under the canopy on the Placer High school Football field, eating popsicles and ice cream passed out by volunteers until the awards ceremony. It seemed to drag on forever until Lori’s name was called and we hooted and hollered and generally made a fuss before we made our way back to our cars to drive back to our lives, and a long nap. (I managed 12 hours straight when I got home)


Lori gets her Finishers Buckle. Photo By Chandra Farnam


Crew, Friends and Family.
Photo by Chandra Farnham

168 hours after that weekend, I’ve had plenty of time to digest what I was so honored to be a part of. It is still hard to convey the emotion you feel when “your runner” crosses that finish line. We were lucky to have such an upbeat and positive runner who ran a smart and strong race. I can only imagine the heartbreak of the 106 runners, and their pacers and crews who didn’t make it to the finish. That said, I will crew again if the opportunity presents itself. Despite the long hot hours, it is just too rewarding.

Categories: Running | 3 Comments

Create a free website or blog at