The Loowit Trail
August 1, 2020
All I was hearing was
the panting of my breath and the padding of my footsteps as I continued on along the Loowit trail. I was about 13 miles in, and the only thing I was thinking about was how I could bail from this trail. They say you are your own worst enemy, and dang! I was a terrible enemy to myself that morning! All I could think about was why I wasn't good enough and all the reasons I was going to fail. Granted, I had not really "properly" trained for something like this, so I suppose the odds weren't great in my favor. I tend to get distracted with climbing during the spring/summer seasons. Skiing distracts me during the fall/winter, and lets face it, spring season also.
But I still love running so much! I have been working to find ways to keep up with all these sports, and I suppose figuring out how to juggle things involves failing sometimes. As I continued on, I began planning ways I could bail in my head. My husband was my ride, and he was out day hiking and grabbing cold beers for my return, (best husband ever!) and I had an InReach Mini. "This means I could message him and get a ride from Johnson Ridge or Spirit Lake!" I thought as I ran forward. I usually don't look down at my watch much on runs like this, but after pondering quitting so much, I looked down to check my time. "Huh", I thought. I was doing great! I was right where I wanted to be, and my legs, though they were hurting, could definitely keep up this pace for more miles to come. Why had I been so stuck on planning a bail route? Why was I being so negative? I had mentioned this run to some friends the day before, and they had only positive things to say about this attempt. I realized I needed to be a better friend to myself, and look for the positive things happening that day. I had been making great time, got an early start, and there were CLOUDS which was the greatest gift ever on that trail, as the sun can get so dang hot. I kept on thinking about the positives as I pushed on.
If you saw a wild-haired, dressed in all blue, solo lady on August 1st, that was me! Thanks to everyone on that trail for being so bright and supportive!
I looked around me and saw wildflowers everywhere. So much magic on that trail. Lupine, tiger lilies, and tons of wild strawberries were covering the trails around me. So much beauty in this land that looks so desolate on a map. I had stopped to get water at my first water source (South fork of the Toutle) a couple miles back and began planning my next water stop. The next place I knew I could get water would be below Loowit Falls which flows to form the North fork of the Toutle river. Carrying one litre on me, I knew that would be the perfect stop to get water. I traveled along, having fun navigating from pillar to pillar and cairn to cairn. I was finding the trail to be, while steep at times, pretty runnable, as there were lots of flat stretches especially on the North side of the mountain. Around the time I hit the blast zone, I had settled in to a pace I liked and had come to better terms with what I was doing to myself. After filling up at the North fork of the Toutle, I realized I had done about 20 miles of the loop. "Woah! Only 8 miles of loop left to go!" I thought to myself, "I know what 8 miles feels like!" Before this run, the longest I had ran was 20 miles. I had ran 20 miles a couple times, all with lots of gain, but for some reason my brain couldn't wrap itself around the idea of running more. I simply didn't know what it would be like!
However I do know what 8 miles feels like. My brain latched on to that idea. As my watch buzzed with each mile, my brain thought "I know what 7 miles feels like... I know what 6 miles feels like... 5 miles... 4..." Until I hit one mile left. It was primarily downhill from here, and I decided not to hold back. I hopped down the rocky terrain, had a ton of fun zooming through the tree covered trail that led back to the intersection of the June Lake trail and the Loowit. When I got to the intersection, I stood there staring at the little wooden sign indicating the way to June Lake, which was the way I approached the loop. I was sweating like crazy, panting, mouth hanging wide open because I just could not believe I had done it. I looked down at my watch and realized I could make it down to my car in under 10 hours. One of my goals was to do the loop in under 10 hours, but woah! "If I could make it down to my car in under 10, that would be pretty cool too!" My body felt like an old diesel engine starting up again, as I ran down that little trail back to the car.
Looking back at the blast zone from Windy Pass. Look at that purple hillside! It's all Lupine!
Dirty running feet and dill pickles to get salt back into my body. Yum!
Halfway down the trail, I ran into my husband, who was planning on meeting me at the intersection of the Loowit. I quickly said hi, explained that I wanted to make it to the car quick, and took off again. I ran ahead and with my entire body hurting everywhere, all I could do is say to myself, "I can do this, you've got this, keep going". I had gotten pretty used to being my own friend on this trail instead of my enemy, and I've got to say, it felt dang good to be cheering myself on. I got down to the trailhead, stopped my watch, and looked at the time. I had made it car to car in 9 hours, 57 minutes and 49 seconds. "Ha!" I said out loud, still panting, and immediately sat down against a rock. That experience was the hardest physical thing I had ever put myself through, and I was just so proud that I didn't give up when I felt so down on myself. Ultimately I completed the Loowit itself (not including the approach) in 9 hours and 5 minutes. Definitely faster than I was planning on. I was happy to be able to be in the outdoors and push my body. It is exciting to do something scary and see what your body can do! My husband got down to the trailhead shortly after, handed me a cold beer and some pickles, and we sat for a bit talking about our days. I cannot thank him enough for being so encouraging to me in the days leading up to this, and also for supporting me the day-of. I don't know if I would have attempted it without him.
Here's a short list of my day in numbers:
Loowit trail time (approach not included): 9 hours 5 minutes
Car to Car time (approach included): 9 hours 57 minutes and 49 seconds
32 miles total
7,100 feet fain total
4 litres of water consumed on trail
1 Luna bar consumed
3 Justin's 1.5 oz chocolate hazelnut butter consumed
1 big handful of salted pistachios consumed
1 big handful of sour patch watermelon candies consumed
See here for GPS route: https://www.strava.com/activities/3851038936
Here are the water sources I used:
South Fork of the Toutle (strong flow)
North Fork of the Toutle (below Loowit Falls, strong flow)
Stream that was a runoff of the Shoestring Glacier on the East side (moderate flow, unsure how long it will last)
There were a couple other sources on the North side, near the North Fork of the Toutle but I didn't use them and forgot to mark them on my map. Did not encounter water at Windy Pass or Pumice Butte, however it was a cloudy day and this may have caused less water runoff to occur.