This last week I went up with the boy scouts to attend Aspen Ridge scout camp in Idaho. It was a great week with the boys and I even got to go running a couple of times.
On Tuesday I ran the dirt road 3 miles up to an ATV trail turn-off which I followed another near 3 miles to a pass. I turned around at that point and headed back to camp for a great 11 mile run with over 5,000 ft elevation gain and loss. I checked a map at the scout office in the lodge and I knew that had I kept running another half mile or so on that ATV road I was on I would hit a trail that would run along the ridgeline running north to south on the east side of Aspen Ridge Scout Camp. There would be a cut-off trail down to a spring that would make it so the run would only be about 15 miles. If I missed that turn-off I could take the trail all the way to Willow Flat campground and then just run the main road back to camp for a total of about 20ish miles. As much as I wanted to do it on Tuesday I knew I didn't have time so I went after it on Thursday.
The run up to the powerline saddle was a little slower than Tuesday. I wanted to focus on moving slower and staying fresh for the ridgeline run and the drop back down. I had a 20oz handheld and two power gels. I ate the first gel and took my only salt pill at the saddle and 1:15:00 into the run. The trail turnoff was a little further than I thought, but it was clearly marked and a two track ATV trail leading southwest back towards the ridge, exactly where I needed to be going.
I wound through trees and thoroughly enjoyed the solitude and shade of the forest. I knew there would be no one around for miles. The trail turned south after another mile or so and even though it never crested along the ridgeline I did hike up and was able to look over once, exactly opposite of camp. I was now 10 miles into the run and laughing out loud at being able to run in such a cool place. I ate my final gel and drank a little more, being careful to conserve water . . . just in case. After another mile a single-track trail tapered off to my right staying along the ridge as my main trail headed downhill. Since the trail I was on was marked with a forest service sign I assumed the turn-off would also be marked since it was marked on the map. And while there were mountain bike tracks going along that trail I just didn't have the confidence to turn off yet. So I kept following the main trail I was on. I knew the worst thing that would happen was that I'd end up at Willow Flat. Little did I know.
After another two miles or so the trail flattened out and came out into a very large meadow and was now heading east, not the direction I was supposed to be going. I was paying very close attention and there was no turn-off besides the single-track one I had seen earlier. After almost another mile through the meadow and looking at the range to the south I couldn't see an exit back to where I needed to go. I knew something was wrong. I turned around and headed back towards the peak behind me. I left the trail and went straight up the mountain to get a better viewpoint. I had to climb about 500+ ft to the summit, but once on top I could see that I was well too far south. Looking back north along the ridge I could see the mountain bike trail, but no turn-off and no feasible way for any trail to get back down to Willow Flat. I was in a trouble. I was now 13.5 miles in, had about 2 0z of water left, eaten both gels, and was going on around 3 hours and had consumed only 300 calories. Oddly enough, I still felt good and was actually in pretty good spirits. The downside was that I needed to go about a half mile back north along the ridge and then take a very steep, rocky, cliffy, miserable ridge down to the campground.
Making my way down was rough. I had to descend 3 cliffs, all about 6 - 8 ft tall. I also had to boulder hop down a steep slope for about 100 ft (I thought I was done with that when I left the Uintas). Within a quarter mile of the campground the clear ridgeline turned into the worst bushwack I've ever had to do. My legs are wickedly scratched now. I was cursing outloud and mad at myself for getting into this position and being gone from my boys for so long. But I finally made it to the campground with one swallow of drink left. I filled at a spicket and then sat in the river for a couple of minutes before pressing on. I had just under 5 miles to go to get back to camp. Along the way I saw the two trails heading off into the trees that I was supposed to come out on, but no way for them to wind up the mountain, 3500 ft above. I don't know what went wrong, but either the map was wrong or I missed a serious turn-off.
After getting back to camp I went and sat in the polar bear tub, soaking my legs for a few minutes. It felt so good. Another crazy adventure.