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trail running

Cautionary Tails

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Cautionary Tails

On my evening run through the Arizona desert last night I had a number of wildlife encounters. Expected during the summer season and remarkably common during my runs on my local trail route. I would encounter two Western Diamondback Rattlesnakes this evening which gives me almost as many sightings as all of last year (a record year for me). It is still June with about four months of watching where I step and hearing the occasional rattle, jingling while I sort out how close I am to the snake.


Of the many assorted and interesting critters I experience while I take in the desert environment, the most often seen, in this order are deer, rabbits and you guessed it, rattlesnakes. Twenty one at last count for the Spring and Early Summer season. Getting rather close to the number that welcomed me on my runs last year.


I love wildlife encounters and, well, snake encounters are a not quite a love affair but I do take on a trail runner crazy enough to run through the desert in the summer time, will trek through snake territory and will have a few meet and greet sessions with other inhabitants toting a rattle. It is their home and I do respect that simple fact.


Do rattlesnake's give my heart a jolt? No, but there is a bump in the heart rate when I take a quick dodge to the left or right to avoid a snake.  They can blend in very well to the desert floor but I have had to become great with those scaly senses.


Very, very thankful that of all the creatures on the planet, the rattlesnake rates high on the list of animals that let you know of its presence. A beautiful fact and one of the reasons I have an admiration for the scaly and sometimes noisy, scary creatures of horror films and jolting newspaper articles. Oh, those stories of people who get bitten after decapitating a rattlesnake are primal fear unleashed. 


I have adjusted my trail runs, slightly, due to encounters at the start of my trail. There are one of two 'friendly' slithery reptiles along the start of my trail time. Roughly eight or nine meet & greets within the first minute of the trail. I had to wonder about the fact that there was a r snake 20 feet up the trail. The photo below is another run-in that is at the exact start of the trail. Sheeesh! I now walk this lively section.


Clock is ticking toward my next run. Almost all of the wildlife I see on my runs is during the suppertime excursion. I will have my eyes dialed in for any and all wildlife, capture what I can with my camera and enjoy getting out in nature and continue to improve my health and diabetes care. And watch my step.

If you find yourself trekking through rattlesnake territory, do be ultra careful. I have read about some horrendous encounters with some devastating results after interactions with Mr. Rattlesnake.



Plan to share another angle on my wild wildlife experiences. Could include Gila Monsters, Tarantulas (yes, I pick them up!), Desert Tortoises, Bobcats, Javelina's (no, don't pick those up), Giant Desert Centipedes, and who knows what else might appear in my blog.

Black Rattlesnake

Black Rattlesnake

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2 Peaks Adventure in Alaska


2 Peaks Adventure in Alaska

2 Peaks Adventure in Alaska

Following the Canadian Death Race in July of 2011, I was open to another adventure, one a little closer to my home in Sitka, Alaska.  Out my window, opposite the Pacific Ocean breaking under my home, I could see 2 prominent peaks near downtown (Mt. Verstovia & Gavan Hill).  Gavan Hill is known for the ever popular and long suffering Alpine Adventure Race.  Mt. Verstovia is known for its wickedly steep, rugged trail that climbs 2550 feet in about 2.5 miles.  

Gavan Hill trail is no less brutal, with about 2400 feet gained in 1.6 miles.  This would be my own custom created event.  A signature event without the aid stations.

Video of the 2 Peaks adventure

I elected to run/walk from a parking lot (Sitka National Historical Park) between the 2 peaks, run to Verstovia, grunt up to picnic rock, zoom down, run to Gavan Hill and of course, up, up, up to a point that I felt was a high point.  Trail does continue from there but I wound be content with about 5,000 feet of gain for the elevation deposit for the day.

This is trail running/walking in SE Alaska.  One of the nastier sections.

The effort would take place in September, about a month after my 23+ mile, 6,500 foot (elevation gain) ordeal at the Canadian Death Race.  This was a momentous occasion as I signed on to run with the I Challenge Diabetes team.  I had recently had knee surgery and  was hoping for one of the easier legs.  That easier leg transformed into the toughest leg as others on the team withdrew or pleaded a little louder than I.  

The timing should have been perfect for the 2 peaks effort, but I managed only 1 hill training run before September rolled in.  Also rolling in was weather.......SE Alaska rainforest weather at its gnarliest. The teeth would bite later in the day.

1st view point on Mt. Verstovia (800? foot elevation)

I set off with a well stocked Osprey running pack.  The blood sugars were good and the day appeared to be in a stable hold.  It might be a decent day, weather wise in the rain forest.  Could it be?

Despite a lack of specific training, meaning, actually running up hills, I made my way up Verstovia.  Slow but sure, a mix of walking and running.  I passed 1 person (if memory serves me correctly), my only link to humanity on either trail.

I had brought along a camera that was lacking in quality and performance but was waterproof.  I shot footage at various stages, knowing that I would eventually piece together a somewhat rough film (see link above).  It would take 21 clips to create the short film that would be my introduction into the world of filmmaking.  I have been working on my first 'real', quality film as I work through the footage of a No Limits Sea Kayak Expedition,  tentatively, named 'Alaskan Waters'.  

Near the first summit of Verstovia

I would reach picnic rock, which is the first summit of Verstovia in good shape.  The Arrowhead is the true top of Mt. Verstovia was jutting just above me.  A more technical approach, which I was not willing to attempt without a partner. 

Goal #2, Gavan Hill

The weather was turning as I made my way down the mountain.  As evidence by my array of photos, running SE Alaska trails is a challenge and requires a major dose of concentration.  I had a lot of trail time and was somewhat skilled at the ballet on rocks.  Having diabetes increased my need for good planning and focus.  I had dealt with higher blood sugars for the first half of the run but would eventually level out.  

Gavan Hill

I hit the trail head of Verstovia and made a right turn.  On to Gavan Hill.

1st viewpoint on Gavan Hill, approximately 1,000+ feet up

A bit more tired, Gavan would require more walking and an onslaught of nature as the wind, rain and a thick,  layer of wetness became the next chapter in my 2 Peaks experience.

Gavan Hill near the first summit

I would glance at my watch and realize that darkness would begin to envelope the mountain terrain soon and the dismal day would usher in darkness quicker.  

Near the top of the first Gavan Hill summit

Reaching the trail head, I shot a final memory of the 2 Peaks experience.  Darkness casting its shadow across the Last Frontier. Deep in the woods the evening came at an alarming rate as I ran toward my vehicle.  There was an encouraging glow of light and life as I escaped the veil of forest behind me.  

7 hours after my first steps toward Verstovia, I slowed my run to a walk and unlocked my car door.  Done.  A tired, but happy thumbs up for another adventure check off the list.


The Nearly Endless Trail Book Project


The Nearly Endless Trail Book Project

The Nearly Endless Trail Book Project

In a zippered binder, bout 4 feet from where I am plunking on the keys on my piece of my junk laptop, sits a nice, neat stack of loose papers that are numbered 1-293.  Those pages are packed with stats, details, descriptions, maps, photos as well as many memories! 

Each of those pages reflect a journey to the stunningly beautiful mountains, dramatic desert canyons and magnificant alpine lakes that make up the glorious (and hill ridden) Idaho topography.  Those pages are slowly being woven into a new trail book for the Boise, Idaho area,

Boise Backcountry Adventures.

One afternoon in the summer of 2001, Boise rock climbing guidebook author, Sandy Epeldi, and I were discussing the boundless potential for trail running in Boise and came to the conclusion that a trail book was long overdue. Much of my paycheck each week went toward gear at an outdoor store.  That store had no Boise hiking/trail running books on its shelves as none existed - yet!  A week later we were at the Military Reserve trail system to begin the fieldwork for our book.  Since we were both trail runners dealing with some time contraints and some horrendously long trails to cover, we made a brave decision to run all the trails (except the canyoneering sections).  This seemed to throw in a little extra challenge to a duanting project. 

Over a thousand miles later and 11 years........a trail book is near completion.

smallest of the Warrior Lakes near Swanholm Peak (Idaho City area)

There have been many delays:  trail additions/subtractions, trail changes, kids being created, homes being purchased and remodeled, Dave moving to Alaska, other pressing projects........but Sandy, who has done the bulk of the work, has done an amazing job with incredible detail and accuracy.  I was a grime assistant, involved in the initial coverage of trails by 2 sets of running shoes.  Guess I was a partner in grime. 

Brown's Creek Canyon in the Owyhee's

Little did I realize that this project would slowly etch a mark on my life.  Within a couple summers we would cover mileage in Idaho's backcountry that the average Idaho Joe might have a difficult time covering in a lifetime. We saw amazing sights, ran nearly endless mountain climbs, waded through deep canyon pools, endured snow, ice, scalding heat, finished in eerie darkness, scrambled some challenging rock formations,and got lost (oops, I can't list that. We are guidebook authors!).  

Sandy Epeldi

The value of this piece of my rather unique life is coming into focus as the book nears.  Not just because of the actual product (book), but of the many opportunities that it offered.  In the gain category:

  • The memories pasted to the ceiling of my brain. 
  •  The value of being in good shape and almost being able to keep up with Sandy.  He may be a climbing guru but truth be told, the dude can run.
  • The experience of being involved in a publishing project and being a co-author
  • The diabetes element.  Not gonna let this disease stop me! I hope to encourage others through this slice of my life
  • The many invaluable pictures gathered en-route
  • The value of rising to the challenge of each day, no matter what the distance, elevation gain or what mother nature was chucking out direction
  • In the loss category:  weight.

  Sandy on the trail

 concentrating on non-runnable sections

Memories from the trail:

Favorite Trails:  Hart Creek Canyon, Red Mountain Lakes, Jump Creek Canyon, William Pogue National Recreation Trail, Jenny Lake

Most Difficult Trail:  Cottonwood Creek ( A rather rough day with the diabetes)

Time it took to nail a title for the book:  10+ years

When can you buy

Boise Backcountry Adventures?:  S

hould be this summer!

Favorite Area:  The Owyhee's.  The canyons are awesome!

a little canyoneering in the Owyhee's

wild horses in the Owyhee's (near Murphy, Idaho)



Tahoe Rim Trail Run - August 10-17, 2009

Photos by T.J. Jeffries - APEX Photography

Tahoe Rim Trail Run
August 10-17, 2009 (Due to an injury the Run has been scheduled for 2010)
168 Miles
8 Days
A Run for Diabetes

There are currently 5 runners and 1 crew that will be involved in the Tahoe Rim Trail Run.
We will have car support. Our days will range from 12-32 miles. Since we will have car support we are looking for more crew members and possibly 1-2 more runners (preferably with diabetes). It will be a group decision, but we may do some filming for the adventure.
We are also looking for sponsors.
More to come.....