Elwha Valley Marathon - Barefoot Jake

Elwha Valley Marathon

  I don't think I could ever pass up a chance to venture into the upper Elwha.  One of my old clients is training for a big trail run race, so off we went to run in the Park.  I just spend then night in the same area a few weeks before. There was still snow on the ground at higher elevations, so this would be a true winter adventure.

elwha trail run

 I suggested meeting at a local coffee shop to start this adventure a few hours before sunup. We arrived at the trailhead one hour before sunrise.  Traveling for the first 4 miles all by headlamp.  It was a perfect morning for a trail run.  Hearing the river off in the distance in the dark is great motivation.

elwha trail running
Photo by Alecia 

  After 6 miles is when all the excitement began.  Spooking up over 12 head of Roosevelt Elk, that were walking down single file in the trail; as we quickly approached their area.  That gets the heart going having the whole woods explode with massive powerful body's moving through the forest  (sad to not have pictures of the Elk).

elwha trail run
Photo by Alecia

  From that point on we reached the area of the Elwha were Elk really start using the trail.  I found especially when snow starts falling the in the high country, the cold weather brings them down to lower elevations.

 In some of these photos you can see where big numbers of Elk have been traveling the trail since the snow. That made running more challenging, because of the holes left by their hoofs.

trail run with elk
Photo by Alecia - Note I'm in a Elk Trail

  The snow was a few weeks old, it had a mostly frozen layer at the surface.  Most of the elk tracks were frozen into the snow.  That made the ground feel a bit more of a spiritual, since it provided a bit extra connection with nature.  Feeling every hoof with my feet, made that bond closer.

elwha trail run
Photo by Alecia

  Running in the upper Elwha is one of the most primal experience a man can have in the Olympic National Park.  Feeling pine needles under the feet, mud in the toes, chance of seeing Elk and Bear.  There is not much better for Valley running environments.

elwha forest

elwha river

  Once reaching Elkhorn, my energy levels were feeling pretty good.  It was not until the last 7 miles coming back out, until I really start dragging.  This was the longest distance I have traveled on foot in about 6 months.  So after the 15 mile mark, I was a hurting unit.

elkhorn olympic

A beautiful coffee table book on The Undammed Elwha River -  & - Hiking Guide.

Overview/Disclaimer:  Overall it was a good trip.  Total trail miles was 23.3 miles round trip.  I for sure needed the Trail Training.  Great exercise and way to experience the Wilderness in one of my favorite areas.    I would suggest training your feet for Winter environments before venturing into the wilderness in Vibram Five Fingers.