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Mount Rainier

Mt Rainier dominates Tacoma, Washington.

The post about running in the Grand Canyon of a couple of days ago reminded me of another spectacularly scenic run I did back in 1985 in the US.  Mount Rainier is a breathtaking mountain less than 60 miles from Seattle and the sea, rising to a height of 14,411 feet, and dominating the region.  It is located in a Mount Rainier National Park and skirted by a number of hiking trails, the best known of which is the Wonderland Trail, a 93 mile loop that encircles the mountain.

The Wonderland Trail approaches Mt Rainier
along the Cowlitz Divide.

When we visited, we did a few shorter hikes as high as we could go without guides and climbing equipment on the glacier-covered upper slopes, but didn't have the time to do the whole Wonderland Trail.  As a compromise, I found time one afternoon to run a 17 mile portion of the Trail over the mountain's eastern slopes from Box Canyon to the White River.

The Wonderland Trail.

It was basically an up-and-down route, with some very steep and technical sections.  After an initial tough climb away from the road and up onto the Cowlitz Divide ridge, the running became less difficult and the grandeur of the vista more easily appreciated.  It was a beautiful clear sunny and warm day, and the views were expansive in every direction.  Mt Hood, 80 miles away could be made out, as could the nearer, and recently-erupted (1980), Mt St Helens.  The trail, which passed through conifer forests at the lower altitudes and alpine meadows and bare rocky ridges higher up, headed towards the snow-capped peak of Mt Rainier, coming quite close to some of the glaciers and skirting the upper watershed of Boulder Creek before reaching the high point at Panhandle Gap (6,800ft).  Thereafter started a long descent and I remember falling heavily with just a few miles to go, escaping with some minor cuts and bruises, before reaching the park road at Frying Pan Creek and the end of a still-memorable long run.

Boulder Creek from Panhandle Gap.

I wished I had some of that 1985 fitness today as I circled Copa on a hilly 6km on a warm and sunny late morning run.  It was slow, but I expected that after yesterday's faster run.  I need to get rid of the extra 4kg I'm carrying, but of course it's not coming off as quickly as I put it on.  I'll do a longish run tomorrow, not at any great pace, and hopefully that will burn a few calories.  My experience in the past has been that weight doesn't start to come off until a month or two after training resumes following a lay-off, and that it is the long runs that make a difference.  If I wasn't worried about a recurrence of my heart problem, I would already be forcing myself to do long runs every three or four days to get fit and lose the weight, but this time I think I need to keep my approach more moderate.  Things will improve, but I have to be patient.