Let's do this! From April 25 - 28, 2013 the 5Point Film Festival will take over your senses, transport you to another place and leave you inspired for adventure. Join us. Visit 5pointfilm.org for more information and tickets.
Weblog for the employees, friends and customers of the outdoor clothing company Patagonia. Visit Patagonia.com to see what we do.
by Jeff Browning
Two weekends ago, I had the ridiculously good fortune to watch Patagonia Ultra Runner Jeff Browning put on a display of trail running zen mastery at the San Diego 100. One could not ask for a better experience and the fact that so many friends had gathered for the event made it all the sweeter. Patagonia runners Krissy Moehl, Luke Nelson, Roch Horton, and Ty Draney joined Jeff and the other 150 souls brave enough to toe the line for 100 miles of dessert scrub, buff pine forests, intense heat, dust, wind, poisonous snakes, technical down hills and endless grueling climbs that make this a five-star, class-A event. A special thank you is definitely due to Scott Mills, the Race Director, and the dedicated crew of San Diego Rats who know how to put on a great old-school race that should definitely be on every serious runner’s list. Read on to hear the story of Jeff’s record-breaking journey in his own words. I guarantee you’ll be inspired. –George Plomarity, Patagonia Grassroots Sales and Marketing Rep
Where do I start. Wow. What a day. I truly had “one of those days” where it all clicked. I’m SO pumped to have PR’d on a technical course for 100 miles. I can’t say enough about the race itself. Super-well organized, well-stocked, well-marked and hot and technical. Fun course.
The course is held 40 miles inland in the mountains east of San Diego. There is 15,800 feet of elevation gain. The course is known for being pretty technical, exposed (no trees) and windy. June is usually hot, typically in the 80s and windy on the ridge, and 90s in the canyons. The hardest part is that, after mile 15, you NEVER, ever have shade until 72 miles into the race. The course starts and finishes at Al Bahr Campground on Sunset Highway and does a loop SW and then connects to the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail) and runs north hovering on a ridgeline between 4,500 and 6,000 feet overlooking the Anza Borrego desert to the east. The course then heads west and down into Noble Canyon (the hot part of the course) for a figure eight loop and back up Green Valley to the ridgeline and the PCT. Then a northern loop along the shore of Lake Cuyamaca, over Stonewall Peak and then down the drainage paralleling Hwy 79 as it descends toward San Diego, then back up to gain the ridge (at mile 51/80) and take the PCT back 20 miles south to finish at Al Bahr.
By Steve Graepel
I remember the feeling more than the sound; a palpable ‘crack’ shattered through the bones of our house. At first we thought it was a car accident or maybe a gas explosion, but as we looked out the bay window to the north, we knew it was far worse... a mushroom cloud vigorously boiled up over the Portland skyline.
The youngest of the Cascade volcanoes, Mount St. Helens has always had the geological temperament of a teenage girl, marked by no less than four Current Era outbursts rivaling that which we experienced the morning of May 18, 32 years ago today. The peak's personality played a prominent figure in Native American oral history. According to the Klickitats, she was caught in a love triangle with two brothers who destroyed villages and territory while vying for her attention. As punishment, the chief of the gods turned all three to stone: Adams to the north, Hood to the south, and Loowit, to the west, became Louwala-Clough—or smoking mountain.
[Above: Mount St. Helens's yawning breach from the northwest. Photo: Steve Graepel]
We recently received this email from Ross Curwen, a reader from, as he says, "rainy old England."
Just a letter saying thanks to The Cleanest Line community from rainy old England. About a year ago I injured my shoulder. This meant I had to cut right back on two things pretty huge to me: surfing and climbing. I was a bit mopey for a bit.
I needed to have something to maintain my fitness. Gyms, road running, cycling are all good but they're missing something. That's when I found trail running, through the Patagonia site. I don't have the huge expanse of mountains and national parks but I am spoilt with miles of cliff paths and dartmoor close to hand.
A year later and I am hooked. I love the rhythm of the trails, the temperature changes on your face emerging from dappled tree lines onto exposed cliffs. Like a lot of people in the community it becomes a bit of obsession. I'm at work knowing I've got shoes and a head torch waiting for me and trails to conquer later.
I wouldn't have this drive without reading the submissions on The Cleanest Line. I read the stories of all the different sports, trips and adventures and it inspires me to make my own. So all in all thank you to all of you and keep going as you are.
This short letter got us thinking about how we got started doing the things we love to do. Surely, we thought there are lots of interesting stories out there among our readers and we thought it'd be cool to hear some of them. If you have a story to tell, by all means chime in!
I'll go first...
I ran my last ultra on a warm, spring day in Wisconsin five years ago. The course was surprisingly tough – small roller coaster hills come at you like black flies. Crossing the finish line I didn’t feel the exhilaration that I normally do after a race. I chalked it up to burnout and decided to take the rest of the year off. I didn’t run the following year either and eventually packed all my running gear in a box and put it in the garage.
[The serene one, Craig Holloway, trots the Timberline Trail toward Mount Hood, Oregon. From his 2005 field report "Lost on Adrenaline." Photo: Scott Jurek]
Two years went by and I still hadn’t laced up my running shoes. I knew it wasn’t going to happen and decided to stop running – after twenty-six years. It felt like the right thing to do. Now I crew for friends and it’s satisfying to be a part of their race day experience. But I do miss pacing and the responsibilities that come with that role. I’d like to share a few stories about the experiences I had with runners on their 100-mile journeys.
Mike Colpo, associate editor of this blog and frequent contributor (as “localcrew”), died suddenly on December 7 while trail running on his lunch hour near the Patagonia Distribution Center in Reno. He was 36.
[Above: Mike and Skeena share some love. East Humboldt Range, Nevada. Photo: Old School]
All of us who worked with him are in shock: Mike was young, fit and apparently healthy, his loss unexpected. And Mike was so modest about his talents and accomplishments that, now that he has gone, we’re coming to realize how much he took with him. He was a graceful writer and fine editor and a Zen-like master of the 140-character Tweet. He was a committed, and knowledgeable environmentalist who had a special love for Nevada’s wild places. He was a monster on his mountain bike and his beloved Xtracycle, an excellent backcountry navigator, telemarker, fly fisherman and alpinist who took a month out every summer to guide for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) in Wyoming.
Guys like Mike never just disappear though. He’ll pull away and maintain a pace you can’t quite match. You see him cresting the hill way ahead and dig deep to catch him. He’ll drop in on the pow stash and you’ll just see him, a speck on the horizon until you’re not sure he’s still there at all. But like all adventure hounds, he’s there somewhere, among the trees and tall grass, his nose to the ground, thinking and looking for something fun. –Team Bacon Strip from “R.I.P. Mike Colpo”
- by Kevin Alldredge
I arrived in Knoxville early afternoon on Wednesday to spend some time with my mother before the Rock Creek Stump Jump 50K in Chattanooga on Saturday (Oct. 1st). I picked up the rental car and drove to Manorhouse, her assisted living home. Mom has severe dementia and is physically frail, no longer capable of performing even the most basic tasks necessary to sustain herself. She smiled when she saw me.
Nice…she still recognizes me. No doubt my brother Greg had reminded her several times that I would be here today. But for Mom to process and store that information for recall later might be, I fear, like explaining the Three Laws of Thermodynamics to Muriel, my five-year-old, and then expecting her to write an analysis of my lecture.
I pushed Mom in her wheelchair around the building and grounds, and then fed her dinner. It had been a good afternoon and evening; Mom was smiling and seemed content. Her verbal skills these days consist mainly of a cascade of sounds, with an occasional string of two or three identifiable words, almost expressing a half thought. Not too long ago, these sounds had been intelligible speech. Now, though, only her tone and facial expression suggest contentment, frustration or anger, statement or question. I always answer Mom with a smile and some response that most likely bears no relationship to what she attempted to say or ask. Nonetheless, she usually seems satisfied with my “Oh yes, I think so, Mom”, or “No, no, we’d better not do that, Mom.” Greg, who lives nearby, and sees her daily is Mom’s primary family link and caregiver. (He is scheduled for knee surgery this afternoon, thus probably putting all of his running days in his rearview mirror. So sorry, dude.) He always helps coach and prepare me on what to expect for my upcoming visits with Mom.
[The author's mother in 2006, with her grandchildren, Muriel and Ansel. Photo: Kevin Alldredge.]
Ty Draney, a member of the Patagonia Ultrarunning Team, and friend Luke Nelson recently completed the Great Salmon Run in partnership with Save our Wild Salmon. The pair were inspired to trace over 120 miles of the Snake River sockeye's migration route, motivated by facts like these:
• Thirteen populations of salmon and steelhead are officially in danger of extinction. The four remaining Snake River stocks are either threatened or endangered.
• The Columbia Basin was once home to the largest salmon fishery in the world — supporting tens of thousands of jobs, providing a nutritious food, and generating billions of dollars in economic activity each year.
• Up to 30 million wild salmon and steelhead once returned to the Columbia and Snake Rivers. Today, it is less than one percent of the number.
• Snake River sockeye salmon migrate higher than any salmon in the world: Adults swim 900 miles and climb 6,500 feet in elevation — from the Pacific Ocean to Redfish Lake in the Rocky Mountains of Idaho.
• With more than 200 dams, the Columbia Basin today is among the world’s most dammed landscapes. Removing four costly dams will restore salmon, create jobs, save money, and establish a clean energy blueprint for the future.
Here’s Ty’s report:
[Bighorn Crags, deep in the heart of the Columbia Basin. Central Idaho. All photos: Matthew Irving]
"I think we're taking this whole salmon metaphor way too far...."
That's all I could think at the time. We had been wandering off course for hours, trying to get up to the Bighorn Crags. As it turns out the 78 miles we ran along the river was the easy part. We had left Boundry Creek at first light, hoping to make good time while the weather was cool. The trail was very runnable and we were in high spirits.
Maybe we're all getting old, or maybe just obsessed with trying not to, but Kelly Cordes' ongoing series about Fighting Forty makes today's post - from runner and guest-contributor, Liz Mosco - particularly appropriate. As a friend of patagonia, Liz has come to know some of the folks around here. She's a fan of those who keep a low profile, which helps explain how she became interested in this particular patagonia employee, a gentleman whose ultra-running career didn't even get started until he was close to 40. Liz will tell you the rest. - Ed
On my morning runs, I occasionally see an older gentleman also out for his morning jaunt. He must be in his 70s and although he is clearly running, his style resembles more of a bouncy shuffle. When we passed one summer morning, he did not give me the standard runner’s tight smile or nod. Instead, he gave me a huge “hello!” and a vigorous double-armed wave. This man looks, and appears to feel, great.
I often think about my running future and how I still want to be lacing up in my 70s, spreading my joy to passersby. I love running. I am impressed by all kinds of runners, but I have a special awe and respect for older runners whose endurance has truly passed the test of time. One day I plan to stop this man and tell him that he is an inspiration- much like another inspirational runner I recently met who brought a new spring to my step.
As a friend and fan of Patagonia, I often hear about the incredible athletic feats accomplished by many of the company’s employees. So I was not surprised to hear that one such employee is an endurance runner; that is, until I learned that this particular athlete is 65 years old and that he has run over 40 ultra marathons in the past 20 years, including 7 Western States Endurance Runs. This man took my vision of being an older runner, leisurely meandering around the neighborhood, and blew it away. Not only is this man running, but he is running really frickin’ long trail races at 65. This smiling and humble gentleman, Milan Varga, graciously agreed to talk with me about running one afternoon.
[Milan crosses the line at the end of one run on his long list of successful finishes. Photo courtesy Ultra Signup.com.]