June 23, 2013

2nd place in my first 50K race

Trail Rail Run award

I ran my first 50K race - the Trail Rail Run - yesterday and it turned out great!

I was a little slower than I thought I'd be and the route was a couple of miles long (33.5 instead of 31), but I came home with the second-place award for my age group, men 30-39. Granted, it was out of six. My official finish time was 5:16:10.43, for a pace of 9:26 per mile.

The run was quite nice, traveling through the forest along old railroad beds from Taft to St. Regis. The first 10 miles included a couple of trestles and a tunnel, adding a unique element. The first and final thirds were the most scenic, for the most part shady and near the St. Regis River, while the middle was under a full, hot sun.

This was the first race I've run at or longer than marathon distance since injuring my Achilles tendon in 2010, and it's become clear that work I've put in for the past couple of years has paid off. In both a 26-mile training run a few weeks back and the first 26 miles of the race, I bested my fastest marathon by more than 10 minutes.

Here's a look at yesterday's race:

June 21, 2013

Mom and mother bear at National Bison Range


One of our spring traditions is going to the National Bison Range near Moiese, on the Flathead Indian Reservation, where there are always plenty of wildflowers and wild things to see.

Recently, my mom was visiting us and got to see her first Montana bear!


We've always gone as early as possible in the day, in hopes of catching the animals before heat sets in, but this time decided to try early evening. After a short stop at the visitor center and turtle pond, we began the scenic 19-mile Red Sleep Mountain Drive.

At the start, we took a short detour around the West Loop, and caught sight of a pronghorn antelope backed by the majestic Mission Mountains.

The main drive travels counterclockwise, roughly south, east, north then west. After a short climb, the road drops into the Pauline Creek drainage and continues uphill past the prairie and into the trees near the top. Here, there's the short Bitterroot Trail, which you can walk out to a small, rocky point where the state flower blooms in abundance.


On the way back to our vehicle, I stopped to take a picture of a flower. After a few minutes of trying to get it right, I heard a low rumble and the faint shout of my name. When I turned, I saw a black bear cub scrambling down the hill past me and through a fenceline. Startled, I turned back looking for Jen, who shouted my name, but first saw the cub's mother uphill a short distance and looking at me. I slowly backtracked on the trail as the bear watched - switching my camera lenses while doing so - until I found Jen and Mom. The bear came in our direction, keeping its distance, but soon lost interest and began turning over rocks in search of a bite to eat. We photographed it as it circled and eventually made its way down into the trees.


Back in our SUV, we continue to the top of the drive, where there's an expansive view of the Mission Valley and surrounding mountains. Another short trail leaves from here, but we continued on after a few photos.

As we drove back down the mountain, we saw some bison in the distance, but never up close. Once at the bottom, we crossed the prairie to Mission Creek, where we found a small gang of elk resting and eating. Our last sighting on the way back was a pronghorn doe and fawn, the young one being a rare sight.


Between the animals of the Bison Range and a few short wildflower hikes earlier during her visit, Mom boarded the plane the next day having had a full Montana experience!

See more pictures of the National Bison Range.

Distance: The Red Sleep Mountain Drive is 19 miles. Near the top are the short Bitterroot and High Point trails.

Location: From Missoula, drive 35 miles north on U.S. Highway 93 to Ravalli, then turn west on Highway 200. After about 6 miles, turn north on Highway 212 and drive about 4 1/2 miles to the entrance at Moiese.

Memories of Mill Creek


Back in May, we took the dogs up the Bitterroot Valley to spend the day hiking at Mill Creek.

A clear, blue sky let the sun shine down on us as spring runoff cascaded through the canyon. Early wildflowers - especially trillium and shooting stars - were abundant.


From the parking area, the trail climbs west gradually on the south side of the creek, past irrigation canals that branch off of it, to a log bridge. After crossing to the north side, the canyon opens up. While a wildfire blackened this part of the canyon in 2000, the green regrowth is evident among the still-standing snags.

The trail continues west on the north side of the creek, past a rock wall that has become popular with climbers in recent years, and at about three miles reaches a rock bench above a cascade that tumbles into a pool - our destination for the day.

After some food, pictures, a dip in the water for the dogs and finding a few ticks, we backtracked to the trailhead.


Here are more pictures of Mill Creek.

Distance: About 6 miles round trip to the cascade, but the trail continues.

Trailhead: From U.S. Highway 93 about 41 miles south of Missoula and 4 3/4 miles north of Hamilton, turn west on Dutch Hill Road and continue 2 1/2 miles. Turn south on Bowman Road and continue about 1/3 mile, then turn west on Mill Creek Trail Road and follow it about 3/4 mile to the parking and picnic area.