If the miles behind me could be put into words before you, you would feel my efforts, my struggles, my desires. Most of all you would see my joy. Watch me from afar run the trails and hills and miles upon miles and you will see ...

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Buntzen Lake

I'm probably not going to do the first Diez Vista training run on Jan. 27th because of work so I thought I'd try a little exploratory run out in that area the other day. I haven't even run out in Port Moody since the DV race in '06 so it was like a brand new experience. Ian's program entailed a 2:15 run which I thought would be doable out around Buntzen lake. Armed with a fuzzy map of the area printed off the computer, I started running from the Equestrian Parking lot on the south-east side. Having only the map to go by and an old hiking book that indicated one loop to be about 25km I thought this would be perfect. What I didn't realize was the altitude this one was at and the complications therein.
Starting up it was basically like the Grouse Grind - nearly impossible to run. I would estimate I did 90% walking up this trail. To make matters worse, it got to be all snow but because it was frozen, you could walk on it but had to careful to avoid slipping. There were footprints in the trail which made it easier to follow and get traction but stepping in some of them. The only other saving grace was the little orange tags nailed to the odd trees to indicate where the trail went. I don't know how many times (here and on the other trail I went on later) that I had to stop and actually look for those tags because the trail was not identifiable by just looking at it. Sometimes after thinking I'd gone the wrong way I would look behind me and hopefully see a tag on a tree which meant I was on the right track as you'd see those ones coming back on the trail the other way.
After climbing and climbing (sometimes grabbing on to trees and literally climbing) for a bit it was my stubbornness that kept me going. I always like to know roughly where I am so if I ever plan another trip down the same road I know what kind of terrain and time it takes to cover it. On the map there was a lookout so I thought to make it to there at least. All I could see as I looked up was more and more mountain, never clear sky like you were reaching the top or anything. I reached the lookout in thirty-one minutes, covering about a mile and a half and there waiting were three hikers taking a rest, all decked out in winter boots and gear with backpacks. They looked at me like I was from another planet. I asked about the trail and if I was at the lookout on the map. Indeed I was and now that I knew where I was I was happy. Of course, the planned route would have to wait for another couple of months because there was still another thousand feet of elevation to be gained before reaching the top of the ridge and some level trails. As it was all snow now, I knew it wouldn't get any better further up. Time for a quick descent taking only half the time it did going up.
Now I was back on the Buntzen Lake trail going north towards the tip of the lake. It was a good little rolling path. At the north end there was lots of flooding from the weather over the last week. I made it around the dam and got to the start of the Diez Vista trail traveling the opposite direction of the race. With my "running" time of 1:10 so far, I thought I should be able to take the trail to the south end of the lake in time for my 2:15 goal time, which would also leave me lots of time to get the kids from school. On a map by the north end it indicated the trail to be 8 miles round trip, allow for 5 hours to hike it. That meant 4 miles and 2.5 hours one way. Piece of cake.
Like the first trail I was on this one goes straight up for the first thirty minutes or so. Again it was hard at times to discern the trail and whether I was on it. A lot of time was wasted looking for those orange tags. At least in the race they had pink ribbon tied to trees once in a while to let you know you were on the right track. I was glad hitting the first Vista because I could see on the map where I was. An extremely bright spot of this whole day were the views from various parts of this trail. With not a cloud in the sky it was amazing what you could see at 2,500 feet. The snow got bad again but was still runnable in spots. When I eventually came to a Vista with a little tiny sign stating "Vista no. 1" I was thrilled because time was getting tight and I knew I'd be heading down soon. On the map there's a little trail leading off this one heading south-west that says "to Sasamat Lake". I knew I didn't want to go there but after a bit of running I was going down some steep areas and kind of heading in that direction, away from where I wanted to go. It was still a trail because of the orange tags but I thought maybe I missed a fork and by mistake I was going the wrong way. I decided to back-track a bit and see if I missed something. This was all straight up hiking and after ten minutes I stopped and tried to clear my head. I figured if I kept going on the marked trail, even if I was on the wrong one, it would lead to Sasamat or at least a road or other trail and I could get more info on where I was. So I turned and went in the original direction and after a couple minutes saw what looked like a trail going down to the left, towards the south end of Buntzen and where I wanted to go. I jumped down it and although it was very rugged and probably 60 degrees, it still kind of looked like a trail. I could find no orange tags in front or behind me and I have to say I was getting worried. I didn't want to come to some cliff and have to claw my way back up this vertical stretch. I kept telling myself, "this looks like a trail, this has to be a trail". Funny enough I eventually stumbled across a path and could see an orange tag on a tree in both directions. I must have cut down the mountain and run into the same trail I was on when I first turned around thinking I was going towards Sasamat. Elated, I head off in the direction of Buntzen.
After descending for a while, I came to a fork with signs indicating a trail to get to Sasamat. This was that little path I could see on the map. Lesson learned. By now time was REALLY getting tight so my pace quickened, much to the dismay of my quads. I wiped out three times (good ones, too) in my haste to make it back to the car. I finally made it to the lake shore and the floating bridge. At the north end there were signs stating that the floating bridge (where I was now) was out of service due to flooding. I was looking at it and it didn't look so bad. The fact there were no signs or barricades blocking my way over the bridge, I decided to give it a go. At the other side where the bridge meets the land there had to be two feet of water as far as I could see into the forest. Crap. Do you jump in, suck it up and hope it's only a short distance to dry land or go around? I decided on the smart thing to go around. Back at the road it was 3 km to the car which I did at a 6:15 mile pace.
I left the parking lot at 1:35pm and got to the kids' school at 2:26. Perfect.
Lessons learned: Always know where I am and get a cell phone. Probably not going to happen on either count.

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