White Salmon and A Backyard Half


Sometimes a deal comes along so incredibly cheap, you just gotta do it, regardless of whether it’s insane.

A couple of months ago, my friend told me about a 1/2 marathon in White Salmon, Washington. Usually half marathons run from $80-$100+ dollars. Contrary to belief, running is actually a bit of an expensive sport, if you’re wanting to run in events. So when my friend contacted me with a 1/2 marathon trail run for a whopping $10 donation, I immediately jumped on it without a second thought.

Here’s what my second thought should have been: “13.1 miles, trails (i.e. HILLS), and hour + drive away, realistic?”

If you read my previous post, you should know I’m not a morning person. I’ll add that I’m also not a big running person. I dislike running with people, in rain and being timed. But I also see the merit in stepping outside of my comfort zone and doing something I dislike (if only to confirm that I indeed still don’t like it). If I’m being honest, I hate paying for gyms, so the odd race entry fee is a small but powerful fire underneath my butt to stay in shape. So I registered and forgot about it for a while.

Fast forwarding through the effort it took to get out of bed that morning and running late for my ride, we were on our way to White Salmon – a small quaint and often overlooked town on the other side of the Gorge from Hood River. It is a cute town, very “mountainy” in style with a few restaurants and cafes and an amazing view of Mount Hood in the distance.

Now let’s get to the Backyard Half. It is an event put on by the Columbia Gorge Running Club and all entry fees support the White Salmon Columbia High School X-Country Team. So you feel good even before you finish the run! This year they had the option to hike the 1/2 instead of run it. My friends and I were all game for a bit of a hike versus a run, so we started out at 8:30 for the trail.

hikers start

The course itself is only open to the public for this particular event as it winds through private property normally closed to the public. It winds along a creek and then slowly starts its ascent to an amazing view of Hood River, the Gorge and Mount Hood (right around mile 8). Given a slightly late start and a desire for a workout, we decided to power hike it. We started catching up to the tail end of the hikers, and I was surprised at how remiss people were to let us go by. Sure, it was technically a “race” but not all hikers walk at the same pace. Either way, after having to politely ask if we could pass a few groups, we came to a steady pace.

One of the big highlights was seeing a bear cub cross the path naught 20 feet in front of us. Not really ever having seen a bear cub in the wild (Yellowstone doesn’t really count – it’s like a Jurassic Park, everything is seen from a safe distance away), I was super pleased with our chance encounter. No, mama bear was no where to be seen (thankfully). We continued on to a beautiful vista, windy paths and changing terrain.

Top of hike

By mile 9 I was starting to feel sore and tired. We had started the decent but by this time, the first runners were starting to pass us (the runners started at 10am). As the path got windy and poison oak littered the trail, it became frustrating to have to constantly keep an eye open for runners coming up behind you and having to move off the trail to make way for them. Four miles later, the midday sun was beaming down and I couldn’t be more happy to have finished the hike.

Overall, it was a great little hike that I would normally have never done, supported a great cause (future runners), and had 4 hours of time with two close friends. The lunch afterwards was just icing on the cake.

If you’re in Portland or Hood River, check it out for next year. I would recommend hiking / jogging method as you will finish earlier and for much of the hike, jogging is actually desirable just to cover a bit more ground more quickly. It’s a homegrown event for a good cause, so keep your eyes peeled for 2014!


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