A couple of days after my 40th birthday, my friend Sue and I went up to Southeastern Idaho to do a birthday run. The plan was to do a run somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 miles. After talking with my friend Luke, he suggested the Portneuf Boundary trail in Idaho, just south of Pocatello.
Sue and I took off Friday afternoon (with Frank and Artie) after I finished work and stayed at the Best Western (which allows dogs). I was super-excited driving up to Idaho on Friday afternoon, and felt like I could not contain my excitement for the run the following morning.
Saturday morning we woke up at o-dark-thirty, and set off for the trailhead. The dogs looked like they were still half-asleep when we asked them to eat their breakfast at 4:30. Loaded up in the car, we set off for the town of Inkom, where my brother and sister-in-law live. The dogs got dropped off here, and were excited to stay with their cousins for the day. Contrary to warnings from my cousin Nikki in Michigan, her dog Scout (a border collie, whom Stefan and Abigail adopted a few months ago) was pleasant and playful with his fluffy-bun, muffin-dog cousins.
Just up the hill from Inkom is Pebble Creek ski area, where we parked the car. We were off and running (although slowly, in the dark... ) shortly before 6am. A couple of miles along the trail, we encountered some lights shining into the aspens: deer hunters spotting in the early morning hours. We smiled and waved, and wondered if they thought to themselves, "Did we just see that? Two women in skirts running down the trail in the dark?"
We took in the early morning views from the Boundary trail, headed south towards McCammon, and I was surprised by the depth of side canyons along the route. Robber's Roost canyon was especially spectacular, and the views just south of it from the overlook were amazing.
We passed a couple of hunters on ATVs just before Harkness canyon, and despite having explicit directions from Luke, still managed to get a bit off-track. We found the trail again, about 1/4 mile down the canyon (after visiting the "No Trespassing" gate at the top of the canyon) and were again on our way. The toughest climb of the morning was then in front of us and I felt as though I had no power at all in my legs. I tried to let the cliffs above Harkness Canyon inspire me, and the fall colors down below, but the gorgeous scenery was just not enough to get my legs moving at the rate I wanted them to. I had a slight mental breakdown, and admitted my lack of energy and bad attitude to Sue. Just verbalizing how I felt (crappy) seemed to help me through the next part of the run, and I actually started to feel a little bit better.
From here towards Bob Smith Canyon, the trail became a bit more gradual, and rolled along nicely with a downward trend. We were passed by a group of 4 motorcyclists, who were quite congenial and surprised to see a couple of women running in the middle of nowhere. All four of them waved and said hello. When Sue and I reached Bob Smith Canyon, we decided to refill our water at the creek: because it was running, and because we had been warned by Luke that there wasn't a lot of water in the next section of trail.
Despite the warning and the refill, I ran out of water several miles later. We were just more than half-way through our run, at about mile 21, at the base of the next big climb. I went for about 5 miles without water, until we reached a road and creek crossing somewhere on the eastern slope of the Portneufs. I refilled my water, but still had to wait 30 minutes for the iodine to work to treat it, and that was a very long 30 minutes.
Before long we were at the Big Spring-Pebble campground and were hoping to find filtered Forest Service water taps. Unfortunately, they had been turned off for the winter. We were forced to filter water from the creek, and I was very skeptical that it would be clean enough to drink, after seeing the cow-pies in and around the point of access. The iodine worked, though, and I never got sick (thankfully). We saw several more motorcyclists, who all waved, and a couple of middle-aged men whom I consulted with about directions to Inkom Pass. "Well, you're headed to the ski area? That's probably 10 miles away from here!" I pointed out to him that we had already come nearly 30 miles today, and that we were 3/4 finished with our run, so another 10 miles would actually be most-likely easily achieved.
One more long and steady hill of about 4 miles, and we made it to the top of the pass. Looking at the descent down into Jackson Creek and the I-15 corridor, I finally got some energy in my legs. I knew we were almost done, and probably had less than 5 miles to go at this point. Sue, on the other hand, would feel her injured left hip on the descent, bringing tears to her eyes. She caught me again when the terrain leveled out and became more rolling. We passed a couple of creeks, one being Green Canyon, and I was relieved to see the ski run just in front of us.
We finished the run with enough daylight to eat Pringles and salami at the car, and drove down-canyon to pick up the dogs at my brother's house. Sue drank a Fat Tire and I enjoyed some Perrier. I was tired, but not wiped out, and relieved to finish 38 miles with 10,000 ft of climbing in under 12 hours with my good friend. I thought about running two more miles down the canyon road to make it an even 40 miles for my 40 years, but decided it was close enough, and I would run 2 more miles in my dreams that night instead. We socialized with Stefan and Abigail for a few minutes, and I got to open some birthday presents: new Bose earbuds that will be used often and enthusiastically, and nearly 3 pounds of maple sandwich cookies, along with two 12-packs of Fat Tire. My family knows me all too well!
What an awesome birthday. I could not ask for anything more. Good friends, loving family, time in the mountains, and good health. Here's to another trip around the sun.
|sunrise from the Boundary Trail|
|looking south towards Lava Hot Springs|
|Sue slays the Harkness climb|
|Harkness Canyon cliffs|
|nice descent towards Lava after the killer Harkness climb|
|me, halfway up the Harkness climb, with Old Tom in the background|
|getting inspired by the fall colors|
|Sue sporting her hunter orange ~ safety first!|
|somewhere on the east slope of the Portneufs|
|consulting the map on the backside of Haystack Mountain|
|Inkom Pass, and almost home|
|heading off toward Jackson Creek from Inkom Pass|
|finished! 38 miles, 10,000 ft of climb|