To really appreciate how awesome this run was I have to go back a little bit. Maybe two years ago I stumbled on Alistar Humphreys, an adventurer, and author from England. He writes a lot about microadventures, this idea of making an adventure out of something small. Instead of having some huge plan and three-day trip, he promotes taking advantage and control of your 5-9 life.
While I have a really cool job, as I often lament here, it can be very difficult to find time for adventures or even just runs beyond the usual seven-mile loop from my front door. Figuring out my own microadventures is motivating in the offseason but a struggle when I don't really have a 5-9 life during the season. It's more like a 7-9 life. With that in mind, I've really tried to take full advantage of these road trips where we are spending an extra day in different cities.
I've always enjoyed getting a chance to run in different places. That's one of the big perks of traveling for my job. I get to travel at least 10 weeks of the year. In the past, I've felt pretty limited in terms of where I could run based on where we stay, but recently - with the help of public transportation and Uber - I've started to branch out a little and look for adventures that are further afield.
This all started in Oakland of all places. Last fall we had a two-day trip to Oakland. Not really being too thrilled to run there, I decided to jump on the train and head to San Francisco to run. An awesome 15-mile run to and across the Golden Gate Bridge and back later and a microadventure running plan was born. I followed that up with a bus ride to Boulder to run up Green Mountain a few weeks later when we were in Denver, which you can see below.
With those to adventure runs under my belt, you can imagine my excitement when I found out five of our trips for this year were going to be multiple days, including a three-day trip to Seattle. If you follow me on Instagram, you saw that I enjoyed the extra day. Sometimes I still just run from the hotel depending on where we are, but when getting ready for this trip I came across an Outside article about the top Five Wild Escapes You Can Access by Public Transportation.
The Second one? Tiger Mountain in the Issaquah Alps.
Seattle has a ridiculously good public transportation system for adventurers, but the best trip you can take might be to Tiger Mountain State Forest. Located in the Issaquah Alps east of the city, Tiger has more than 70 miles of hiking trails, some of which climb more than 2,000 feet to the summit. You can get there from downtown Seattle by catching the Sound Transit 554 bus to the Issaquah park-and-ride lot, then take the paved Rainier and High School Trails to the Tradition Plateau Trailhead, where you’ll find a half-dozen routes up the mountain. The West Tiger #3 Trail is a stunner, offering a five-mile round-trip hike with views of Seattle and Puget Sound at the summit. The bus runs every half-hour during the day, and your one-time fare is $2.75.
I tweaked a few things about this but it served as the basic inspiration for one of the best road-trip runs that I've had in my eight seasons of doing this. I ended up cheating a little and grabbing an Uber from the hotel as it was an hour bus ride compared to a 15-minute drive. A few of these other places I've done public transport adventure runs, the transit has been around 30 minutes which works with my schedule. An hour bus ride would have made the timing tight so I decided to spend a few extra dollars to give myself more time to run.
I had the Uber drop me at Issaquah High School and ran two miles along a couple of different trails to Tiger Mountain. These trails were fantastic. Freshly fallen leaves mixed with the crisp smell of the evergreens was exactly what I needed after waking up a little groggy from the five-hour flight the night before. Any cobwebs were quickly brushed away by the multiple signs I saw warning of cougars and bears. I took a minute to read the do's & don'ts of cougar encounters...you know...just in case.
Once I reached the High Point Trailhead, I followed the West Tiger #3 trail as it snaked its way to the summit over three or so miles. On the way up I crossed back and forth from deciduous to coniferous forest. I was again treated to vibrant yellow leaves, bright evergreens, and the orange hues of a pine needle covered trail. From the base of Tiger Mountain, the trail was mostly double track. It reminded me a lot of the Wagon Train trail that runs from Young Harris College to Brasstown Bald in Georgia. This trail had more steep twisting switchbacks, but both are nice and wide with long sections that vary in pitch from gradual to reach out and touch the ground steep.
The scenery was ripped straight from the forest moon of Endor or maybe First Blood. I felt like any minute I was going to look up and see an AT-ST or an imperial shield generator base. That or I was going to get arrested for vagrancy by Brian Dennehy.
|Seriously, tell me there's not an Ewok lurking around in here somewhere.|
|Portrait mode is clutch|
The pull-offs on the way up were better viewpoints, as the summit was really just a small clearing with a sign and cairn. I took a short break at the top and exchanged pleasantries with some of the other people that had reached the halfway point of their hike or run. I saw two guys come up to the summit from the opposite end of the clearing and I decided to do a little exploring. My watch read 4.7 miles at the summit, so I figured I needed to get it to five before turning around and heading back down.
I dropped down from the summit and back into deep woods surrounded by towering pines. It nearly went from full daylight to pitch black in about 200 yards as I descended. I came across a sign that read West Tiger #2 -> and decided to see if that summit was within reach. I am notorious for this move by the way. I've gotten a death stare from Amanda more than a few times for saying "I bet it's right around this corner" or "Let's just got a little further and see what's over this rise". I got a little bit of my own medicine, but it paid off as I scrambled my way to the top of an "I'll just get to the top of this then turn around" reaching the top of 2757 foot West Tiger 2. This summit still didn't provide a great view as it had a radio tower perched in the clearing at the top, but it was still cool to say I tagged two summits on the day.
After snapping a couple of pictures I made my way back down to West Tiger 3 where I stopped to chat with a couple of the hikers that I had passed on my way up. I got very jealous of the two guys talking about going skiing the next day. That would be amazing. It was 60 degrees and sunny on these mountain trails and a couple hours to the north or east you can go big mountain skiing. Okay PNW. I get why people are so wild about you now.
After thinking about whether I could get out of meetings on Sunday to go skiing for a few minutes, I started the three-mile descent back to the trailhead. The trail was actually a little bit muddier than I realized on the way up, which made going down a little tense. I wore Saucony Ride 10s, which obviously don't have a ton of grip so I had to ride the breaks a bit in some sections to make sure I stayed on my feet. I ended up paying for that the next couple of days with sore quads, but overall the descent was pretty fun. I opened it up a little on some of the more gradual sections and worked on having quick feet on some of the steeper stuff.
When I reached the base, I spent a couple minutes at the large trail sign trying to decide which route I wanted to take back to the high school. I settled on sticking with the trail that got me there, figuring it would be at least somewhat familiar, which would hopefully diminish my chances of getting lost. I actually really enjoyed these trails. I don't know if I was anxious about making it to the base of Tiger Mountain or worried about getting lost on the way out, but I don't think I fully appreciated the approach trails I took. I made sure to right that wrong on the way back. I would imagine that Issaquah has a good cross country team because the trail access those kids have from their high school is epic.
I followed the Around Lake Trail and Bus Trail (there was an old burnt out bus off to the side) back to the High School trail which, appropriately, led me back to Issaquah High School. After grabbing the water I stashed in the dugout of their softball field, I decided to see if there was somewhere to grab a coffee close by. I settled on Issaquah Coffee Company, about 1.5 miles away. This was a great idea by the way. I hopped on the Rainier Trail, a paved/gravel path that runs through the town. While it wasn't the lush forest of Tiger Mountain it was still a cool little section to run. I passed through the downtown and saw the Issaquah Alps trail headquarters and a historic train depot along the way.
I reached my destination after covering 12 miles and tagging two summits over two hours. I went inside and ordered a Cougar Mountain latte and some cinnamon apple bread while watching a little bit of college football. P.S. - that might be my favorite thing about the west coast, it was like 10:30 a.m. and the college games were into the third quarter. I could completely get on board with prime time games ending at like 8 o'clock too. After enjoying my coffee and pastry, I grabbed an Uber and made my way back to the hotel in time to finish up my credentialing duties and head over to the local high school for practice.
I wrapped up a full day in Seattle with a trip up to Washington to see the Huskies take on Utah in what turned out to be an epic PAC-12 matchup. My next couple of days of running in Bellevue weren't quite as exciting as Saturday's Rad Run, but I'm still a big fan of running there. I was treated to a fantastic view of Mt. Rainier, so that was cool.
Like said, Seattle has definitely vaulted its way toward the top of the rankings for my favorite cities to run in. I'm really glad I decided to make the trip to Issaquah for this run. It was well worth the $40 I spent on Ubers.
Here's what the full run looked like on Strava:
Just in case you are wondering, here are my top NFL cities to run in.
1 - Seattle (obvi)
2 - Denver/Boulder
3 - San Francisco (Really Oakland since the 49ers are like an hour away now)
4 - London*
5 - LA - We stayed in Santa Monica
Honorable Mention - Houston - Shut up. Don't even say it...28...to...you son of a...Seriously though, I had a rental car and ran at Memorial Park every day. Everything else was concrete but Memorial Park was cool.
*We stayed at a place called the Grove in Herefordshire. It was freaking amazing. Bridle trails everywhere. One day I ran for an hour before realizing I needed to turn around. If you take London out then LA would be fourth and Chicago would be fifth.