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Lizards Circle Mt. Hood – Joanna’s Story

By Joanna Harper

Torrey Lindbo is well known for planning epic trail running adventures. The third edition of the run around Mount Hood was the most recent of these trips. Torrey had planned this outing to occur on Labor weekend, and I was one of about 25 runners and support crew. We would run, walk or climb for 13 to 17 miles each of three days, and camp overnight on the side of the mountain.

We were going to meet at Timberline lodge at about 6000 feet on the west side of the mountain at 9 am on Saturday, and start soon afterwards. Some of us were carpooling from town at eight. While I’m not a big fan of tent camping, I thought the other amazing pluses of this weekend would more than compensate for roughing it for a couple of nights.

My Saturday did not get off to a good start, as I awoke to GI distress. I got up around 5:30, took my dog Holmes for a walk and had some oatmeal for breakfast. I then went back to bed for about 30 minutes, hoping that my symptoms would ease. There are few things less fun than having the trots during a long run.

I did indeed feel somewhat better when I met the others at eight. I caught a ride up the mountain with MarkieMo, Eric Collins, and Elle. When we reached Timberline lodge, I got out of Mark’s car, but left my car keys on the seat inside his. He asked me if I just wanted him to keep them there until Monday. I said sure. It would prove to be a big mistake.

By the time we got everyone gathered, our camping gear stowed into one of the support vehicles, and the requisite pictures (see below) and bathrooms visits, it was almost 10:30 by the time we hit the trail. It was a perfect day, with bright sunshine and temperatures hovering around 60 degrees. Our first day was going to be the longest run, with approximately 17 miles, but it was net downhill, with no killer climbs.

A group photo on Day 1.

I had another minor annoyance, as my nose started to bleed right at the beginning of the run. The blood soon stopped; but left my shirt stained, earning me several sympathetic comments.

We were not in any hurry, so our pace was mostly leisurely and we stopped for several photo opportunities.

There was plenty of time for photo ops.

Torrey also does a great job of taking action photos, while he is running.

Spectacular scenery on the run!

Everything was great until about 3 hours into the run, when my foot caught on something. I stumbled, trying my best to stay upright. I would have been better off just going down. I was going downhill at the time, and I only picked up speed as I staggered off the trail and onto my right side on some rocks.

I got up a little dazed, and tried to walk it off. After a few minutes, I tried running, but my back got very sore, very quickly and I was reduced to a walk for the rest of the day. Brian Hansen stayed back with me, and the scenery was still lovely but the day had lost much of its luster.

Joanna and Brian reduced to a walk.

I did, eventually, make it to our campsite, where I promptly retired to a supine position to take the strain off of my back. After some ibuprofen, food and wine I rallied somewhat, and joined the rest of our crew around the fire. But I knew my running was over for the weekend.

Amy Al-khalisi had planned on going home Saturday night, and she offered me a ride into town with her friend Ryan, who had come along to chauffer her. I told her we’d need to backtrack to Timberline to get my keys out of Mark’s car, but she said that was no problem. She was wrong.

It turned out that Ryan was low on gas. By the time we made it to highway 26, which leads up to Timberline lodge, we had a choice to make. We could go down the mountain to get gas, but then they’d have to take me home to get my spare keys. Or we could stop at the one gas station at Government Camp, just below Timberline. We chose the latter.

We arrived at the gas station just after eight in the evening, and it was closed. We were now in serious trouble, as the gas gauge was firmly stuck on empty. Amy called Timberline lodge, as they have a small gas pump. Unfortunately, it was locked down for the night and no one on duty could find a key. We asked them to look for the key, while we drove the five miles up to the lodge.

We got to the top without running out of gas, and I got my keys out of Mark’s car, while we waited and waited as the night clerk and her manager searched for a key to the gas pump. Eventually they told us they couldn’t find one, and they had no room at the inn for us that night. It was over thirty miles back down the mountain to the nearest open gas station in the town of Sandy.

Fortunately, it is also almost four thousand feet down the mountain to Sandy. We decided to coast down, with the car in neutral, and see how far we got. We could always call roadside assistance, if we ran out of gas.

We rolled out of lodge and soon started to pick up speed. We made it up to highway velocity, with Amy continually telling Ryan not to use the brake on the turns. We actually passed one other car on the way down, and I commented that it was my first time passing someone, while the car I was in wasn’t even in gear.

With all three of us firmly on the edge of our seats the whole way, we got to Sandy on fumes, and then gassed up. Soon Amy and Ryan were dropping me off at my car, and I drove the last few miles back home.

When I opened the garage door, my dog Holmes was not there to greet me. There was a message from a kind sole who had picked him up on the street, and one from my dog sitter wondering where he was. I called up the good Samaritan, and then checked the fence. Holmes had broken through the gate and there was a beagle sized hole in it.

By the time the woman returned Holmes, it was after eleven PM. My back was extremely sore; I was dirty, exhausted, but excited to get my dog back. I took a shower and went to bed. It had been quite a day.

The next morning I could feel that my injury was to the right side of my lower thoracic spine. The previous day I had been unable to localize the injury due to my all around back soreness. The fact that I hadn’t hurt myself lower on the back was good news, but I still took the day very easy. I did nothing more taxing than walk Holmes and repair the hole in the fence.

By Monday, my back had improved to the point where I could run. I hated the fact that I had missed the last two days of the trip, but it was good that I got home for my dog, and I could tell that I’d be back to normal in no time at all. I guess “all’s well that ends well”.


One Response to “Lizards Circle Mt. Hood – Joanna’s Story”

  1. Nice write up, Joanna! You could have also titled this “Adventures on and off the Mountain” or “You Don’t Need to Sleep on the Ground to Make Your Back Sore.” Glad it all turned out well, but man… that was a stressful day.

    Posted by Torrey | September 12, 2012, 5:41 am

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