Multnomah Falls to Larch Mountain and back

August 31, 2012

On Thursday, I hiked as fast as I could up to the top of Larch Mountain from the base of Multomah Falls, then ran back down.


The highways at the base of the falls (it’s accessible from both I-84 and the Historic Columbia Gorge Highway) are at an elevation right around 50 feet. Sherrard Point, the top of Larch Mountain, is at 4056 feet. So that’s a 4000 foot elevation gain over seven miles. It’s a relatively consistent climb.


The first mile is on paved switchbacks, getting up to the top of Multnomah Falls. The first quarter mile of that is wall-to-wall tourists, getting up to the bridge over the creek between the upper and lower falls. The rest of the paved way to the top is only a little less crowded. If you’re a runner doing this, don’t plan on running this part.

Up at the top, you can follow a dead-end trail branch to go over to the overlook at the top of the falls, or follow the main trail upstream along Multomah Creek. This is “Larch Mountain Trail 441” and you follow it all the way up. The next few miles along the creek are scenic and offer varied terrain, including some difficult-to-run rocky bits.


Eventually you leave the creek and head off into a section with some serious rocky bits. This was entirely unrunnable on the way back down.


There’s only a quarter-mile or so of this kind of exposed carved-through-the-rockfall trail, but long sections of the forested paths around there are also dangerously rocky to run through.

After slogging uphill forever, you get past all the rocks and reach the last stretches, angling up the side of the shield volcano that is Larch Mountain. The trails here are fairly evenly graded and runnable, though if you still have the energy left to run it on the way up, you’re a stronger man than I.

I took two hours and one minutes up and an hour six down, stopping for lunch at Sherrard Point in between.


Race Report: 2009 Hagg Lake 50K

February 22, 2009

When you live in Tigard, it’s a really long way to Hagg Lake. It wouldn’t be too bad if there were a good highway going straight to it, but you have to take some pretty slow roads instead. Of course, I’m paranoid about getting to a race late, so I ended up getting there an hour early anyway. I sat in the car a bit, used the porta-potties, and registered.

I was surprised to see T, a friend I hadn’t run into in a while. He was also running the 50K. Steve, from my PRC running group, was there as well. I also saw Heather Daniels in the crowd at the start. I didn’t say hi, because I wasn’t up for the “you don’t know me but I read your blog” introduction. Checking the results later, I saw she came in over an hour before me, as fourth-place female. I bet she didn’t taper either…

I chatted with a few other people huddling around the heaters set up in the covered picnic area. It was around 32 degrees for the start, but warmed up quickly during the day. No rain, partially cloudy. Two years in a row now the weather gods have shined on Hagg Lake. Even so, there was a rumor going around that the course was really muddy. I decided to change into my waterproof socks. As it turned out, though, the rumor was mostly wrong. I think there might actually have been more muddy trail sections than last year, but there was much less of the deep stuff. There was almost nowhere where you were forced to dunk a whole shoe.

And we were off. There was a dead skunk (not smelling bad) lying on the road about a quarter mile up the out-and-back hill. It looked unflattened and intact, and its arm was draped lovingly around a can of beer. Did somebody arrange this scene for us, or did that skunk really drink itself to death? I may never know. (Sadly, I am not the only one who thought the skunk was a highlight.)

Three miles in, back at the start area, I stopped for a pee and ditched my jacket and gloves. I ran the out-and-back and the first lap, a total of 17 miles, with T. He needed to change shoes and I decided to change socks, since the mud wasn’t bad and the waterproof socks (plus the toe-sock liners I wear under them) are really warm. I had an extra pair of Injinji toe-socks, but decided to change into regular Smartwool socks instead, since the toesocks take a long time to get on. I paid the price later. My toes came out a lot more beat up and blistered than they normally would.

After we finally got started again, T gave me the old “don’t feel bad if I drop behind” line and I told him he shouldn’t feel bad if I did, since he had been running pretty strong until then: he definitely dragged me to a faster first lap than I would have ventured by myself. (We were back in the start/finish area in 1:52 something, which meant we had averaged 10:07 a mile.) But I guess he had said what he said because he was starting to feel it. Not long after, I started pulling away and didn’t see him again until the finish area.

I would say I got to mile 24 or a little further before I felt completely out of gas. That’s two miles further than last year, and I got to mile 22 quicker this year as well. So things were, objectively, going pretty well. Objectiveness don’t count for squat when you’re arguing with yourself to get jogging again at the top of a hill you walked up.  

Speaking of which, I really need to more seriously train for walking up hills. My “power hike” just sucks. It leaves me as tired as if I’d just run it. And it hurts my legs to switch between the two. I’ve never seriously applied myself to training for this aspect of long races, and it would probably pay off if I did.

Other than that, I guess I had some pretty good “flow” going… I can vaguely recall endless jogging, keeping on going when it didn’t feel like I could, but just hours later the time seems compressed and the misery seems abstract. I think that’s a good thing.

I didn’t absolutely kill myself during the last mile like I did last year, but my level of pain and immobility when I was done felt about the same. I would describe that level as: “ow ow ow ow.” I panted and stretched and sat and bent over and huddled and moaned and shuffled around getting some food and drink. Olga saw me and wisely observed that I was “walking funny.” Driving home through the west-side traffic was not fun, but I made it. I enjoyed my ritual celebration hamburger later that evening, this time at Five Guys Burgers and Fries. (Good burger, bad bun, good fries, atrociously crowded.)

I am not running another ultra in two weeks. I’m looking forward to a spring and summer of marathon-length or shorter road races.

Official results: 5:39:58. That breaks the 5:42 PR I set two weeks ago, and improves on my time last year by 16 minutes. 10:58 pace, 62nd finisher, 50th male, 17th in my age group.