Saturday, October 8th, 2022
Start: June Lake trailhead
End: Johnston Ridge Observatory
Elevation gain/loss: 4551’/3077′
After the long and hot run yesterday, with deliberation I decided that I’d reassess my plans for today. The forecast was for another 80+ degree day with relentless sun and both the 40mi and 24mi routes had very few water sources. I decided to re-orient and go with the 17mi option. I had been excited to try for the entire Loowit Trail, but it was going to take 10-14 hours of my day and leave me physically exhausted and I suspected that the group would always be running 30-60 minutes late which would have me running more in the heat of the day. I also wanted to prioritize community building and interacting with the 40+ other people at the event, so I resignedly went with a shorter day.
The 17mi and 24mi folks were supposed to be up and ready to leave by 6am for a 2-hour drive to the starting trailhead. As was becoming habit for this trip, we didn’t leave until almost 6:30am and the ride there took a bit longer than 2 hours because people needed to go to the bathroom and we had a few people get carsick from the narrow, weaving mountain roads. We didn’t start out from the trailhead until 9am, and then they had us all pause for 20+ minutes at the lake to get a group photo (though it excluded the 40mi crew).
Once we were released to start moving again, I was stuck behind a dozen people slowly hiking uphill for a while. At the trail split for the 17 and 24 milers, I almost went with the 24 milers; if I’d had more water capacity, I would have. But instead, I went with my plan and headed down the 17mi direction. Within a few miles, I was further forward in the pack as the inital climb continued. Soon, I passed by the event photographer, who was setting up to take photos of the pack as people went by. Then I could only see two people in the distance – Justin and Pete. I continued to cruise along, and managed to find water in a small glacial pothole in a dry creekbed. I filtered a liter and drank a half-liter and then pushed on ahead. A few miles later, just after seeing 6 mountain goats, I came around a corner and found Justin and Pete having a snack – we’d been keeping a very similar pace! They continued forward and I went along behind, relaxing into the knowledge that we were the very front of the pack and feeling no rush or anxiety to push harder.
Much to my surprise, I kept pace with them pretty easily – I ran slower then them on the flats but hiked the uphill climbs and ran the more technical sections faster than they did. We ended up together at the first actual water source, and then stuck together running as a group for the next few hours. We took a detour to see the waterfall, and then headed on a long slow descent into a valley with frequent water, chatting the whole way. We eventually got to the bottom of the final 1000′ climb, and I peeled off to dig a cathole. Then I chased after them as we all ascended. I met them at the parking lot of the Observatory, arriving a few minutes after they did. We hung out in the parking lot, drinking cold beverages and eating watermelon and potato chips, as the local garage came to pick up one of the shuttle vans that had broken down. Perhaps half an hour later, another shuttle van took us the 20-minute ride back to the lodge. We were then able to find a ride down to the lake for a quick swim before our evening festivities.