Oregon had not been part of my travelling plans until around three days before I crossed the state line from Idaho. But it certainly contributed some amazing running to my travels. Outside of my race at Western States (the Race Report for that can be read here), which was a magical running experience, I would classify my six days in Yosemite National Park and my eight days in Oregon as the running highlights of my trip. I plan to cover the sections of my Oregon experience in greater detail once I catch up with some recent race reports from the next stage of my travels. So for now, I will cover it in summary.
A number of great ultra runners, both trail and road, currently reside in Oregon. It doesn’t provide the elevation that draws elite athletes to Boulder and Flagstaff. Many parts of the state are particularly wet, not contributing ideal weather conditions for outdoor training. But the state does contain some of the best trails in the country, and not just in my opinion.
I do love running through forests, with trees whizzing by on either side and ground cover brushing my legs (excluding poison oak), bounding along soft dirt (and even occasionally muddy) trails, navigating around or over rocks and roots and branches. They are my favourite types of trails and they are plentiful in Oregon.
But I did say “not just in my opinion.” The McKenzie River Trail has been rated as one of the twenty-five best trails in the country by Runners World. Bend was named “America’s Best Trail Running Town by Outside Magazine in 2006. I didn’t bother to look up any accolades that might have been won by Ashland, but as home to two separate two-time winners of the Western States Endurance Run I think its inhabitants spell out its accolades. Of course the state did also manage to spawn a little shoe company called Nike and happens to be home to a city known as Track Town USA (Eugene).
So now that I have talked about the state in general, let’s briefly cover my running experiences.
I started off my Oregon running with a couple of runs in the Columbia River Gorge. My first run was meant to be about viewing waterfalls, but after visiting the first one I took a wrong turn and started climbing. I decided to see how far up it went, and the answer was over 4,000 ft (1,200 m). Therefore the next day I returned to see some waterfalls that I had missed. Plenty of ascent and stunning waterfalls made for a great start to my running in the state.
Next up was Portland. Ignoring the beer and wine since this is a running blog, I went for a run in Forest Park and it is fantastic as a resource to have inside any city. I managed to easily fit in a nice 17.5 mile (28 km) run on trails, and the park is even big enough to host an ultra marathon each year, the Trail Factor 50K.
I had eyed off a circumnavigation of Mount Hood, a 44-mile (70-km) undertaking, but decided that the logistics would be too much to handle with the limited time I had to plan it. I settled for a much easier 12 mile (19 km) option, but it provided enough to make me consider the full round-trip if I am back in the area again.
Then I moved onto Bend, and it really did keep me busy. On my way in (after already having run at Mount Hood in the morning) I stopped at Smith Rock State Park, just north of the city and a big rock climbing destination, and enjoyed a short hike to the top of Misery Ridge for some views over the area. The next day I headed out to the Three Sisters Wilderness Area, running the beautiful Green Lakes Trail alongside a stunning river to some amazingly green alpine lakes. I then caught up with friends Denise and Ken for a short evening run through Shevlin Park, which is inside the city. The park does however provide trails that link all the way through to the PCT, and therefore does provide the option of continuing through to Canada or Mexico for anyone looking for a weekend long run.
My next run and a real highlight, is generally gifted to Eugene although it sits about halfway between there and Bend. The McKenzie River Trail is roughly a marathon in length, following the McKenzie river for that entire distance. I really look forward to writing up that run in detail but I will just say here that it deserves its status as one of the best trails in the country.
I stayed a night in Eugene and ran Pre’s Trail, a cross-country route of around 4 miles. I was advised not to expect too much, and it delivered finely against that expectation. It is a tan covered trail with minimal ascent or descent and was far from being exciting.
My final running destination in Oregon was Ashland. I would be there for a Saturday run so I popped into Rogue Valley Runners hoping that I could find a group run to join. Unfortunately I did not receive a lot of interest from the guys in the store so I was left to my own devices. I opted to run Mount Ashland, the biggest climb in the area. It delivered in terms of ascent but a large section of it was along gravel roads, so the main highlight was the view from the top where a great panorama was visible including Mount Shasta in the distance.
I look forward to writing up some of those runs in greater detail, but for now I will simply reiterate that my running experiences in Oregon were a real highlight of my travels around the US.