The Burdo Zone


Thursday, October 23, 2008

The climber in me relishes every day that the rock is dry, but after a great string of perfect rock days, I am very ready for Nature to change things up, briefly. That is what She did yesterday, as I woke to rain pattering the roof and the filtered light of a socked-in forest outside. By mid-day the precipitation eased off, and I was in my running shoes and cruising down the dirt and gravel road towards Hart's Pass. This is a run that is too dusty and trafficked to be fun in the summer, but on a day like yesterday it was a perfect glistening path into the mountains.

The climb up to Dead Horse Point is one that winds along the base of Last Chance Point, a 7000' summit at the terminus of the Methow Valley. With a perfect running surface of firm dirt, sand and a little gravel, I get my rhythm, my stride opens up, and even as the grade steepens I feel more lifted than impeded. Golden cottonwoods and crimson maples pass by as I work through the evergreen forest, and soon I am at the dramatic viewpoint at the "Last Chance Switchback".

This is perhaps the most iconic view of the Methow Valley, with the river winding below through the peaking autumn colors through the widely carved valley towards Goat Wall and beyond towards the grassy hills of Winthrop and eventually to merge with the Columbia. On this day, with the sun emerging through the clearing storm clouds, spotlighting the glacier-sculpted ribs of The Wall, the whole scene has a peaceful yet epic ambiance.

I continue, and round a bend to get a view up a side canyon, with greens, golds and reds dancing up the sidewalls to a cap of freshly snow-dusted crags, thousands of feet above. Suddenly a black form appears midway up,the silhouette of a Golden Eagle as it wheels upward on a thermal. It is almost stereotypical of the grand beauty of the American West, but I have learned to accept these moments this for what they are, in the here-and-now.

I run past Deadhorse, with it's massive adjacent void of the silver-snagged West Fork of the Methow River valley beyond, back into the mountain firs and my turnaround. The descent, which if paved would be a knee-jarring drop of over 1000 feet, is instead a gravel and sand cushioned float, which I lean into slightly and lift my knees to cruise as lightly as possible, visualizing the possibilities of races to come.

The rain returns briefly in the final mile, hastening me to the warmth of the cabin and refreshment of a cold brew. Tomorrow I will put myself against one of the hardest climbs I've ever attempted. My mind is emptied and awaiting a new flood of instant memories.