In my last posts, I’ve delved into the exigencies of increasing outdoor participation. This week, I’d like to take a different tone and describe some of the amazing adventures we’ve had traversing this continent, over the last couple of months, on a research journey we call Expedition Y.
Expedition Y was originally founded to accomplish two things: 1) engage in a conversational exploration of Generation Y and 2) trail run in this continent’s most beautiful wildernesses. We’ve been on the road for 2 months and 10,000 miles and have loved, well not every second of it…but almost.
Our research has focused on asking Gen Y what strategies would most effectively encourage us to reach our intellectual and physical potential in both the collegiate and professional environments, as well as what solutions would reverse the decline in our generation’s outdoor participation. We’ve interviewed 600 people on college campuses around the country, and have put the journey on pause for the last 2 weeks to enter our data and begin writing a preliminary report.
The running portion of the journey has been as beautiful and as inspiring, as we’d hoped it would be…although annoyingly, I’m currently nursing a tweaked hamstring back to health. Our journey began in Chattanooga, TN in early June. If you’ve never been to Chattanooga, it is truly an outdoor mecca. Hailed by some as the Boulder of the east, Chattanooga offers outdoor enthusiasts ample opportunity to get outdoors and challenge themselves. The area offers world-class bouldering, paddling, hang gliding, mountain biking, trail running, and more. From Chattanooga, we drove up the east coast all the way to Maine, before veering sharply to the left across southern Quebec and Ontario. From Canada, we drove north through Michigan, to its gorgeous Upper Peninsula, and then down Lake Michigan to Chicago. From Chicago, we made two more stops in Madison and Minneapolis, before jetting out across the Great Plains of South Dakota, before camping in a thunderous lightning storm in the Badlands. From the Badlands we continued west, camping at one of the most breathtaking ranches I’ve ever seen in Saddlestring, WY, before heading on to the Tetons. From Jackson, we headed north through Yellowstone, Bozeman, and Glacier (the Crown of the Continent), and then across the Canadian border for the second time to Calgary and Banff National Park. We traversed the Canadian Rockies and then British Columbia’s coastal range, before stopping in Vancouver, Whistler, and then Victoria. From Victoria, we crossed back into the United States by ferry at Port Angeles on the Olympic Peninsula and witnessed the most unforgettable sunset of our lives on Rialto Beach. And then it was down the west coast: Seattle, Portland, the Columbia River Gorge, Eugene, Crater Lake, Redwoods, and on to the bay area to recoup, assess our data, and attend the Outdoor Nation Summit this weekend.
Everywhere we’ve gone, we’ve found amazing trails to run. Here are ten of our favorites (progressing from most recent):
- Redwoods National Forest, California: A run through these trees is an eternal experience. It is a run through natural history. The remaining Redwood forests engulf a human being in prehistoric considerations, and the immensity and silence within is otherworldly. As I ran by myself through the forest, on soft, reddish-brown single-track, I was overwhelmed with humility and veneration.
- Columbia River Gorge, Washington: This un-named trail (at least we couldn’t find a name) on the Washington side of the gorge provides 360 degree panoramas of the gorge, Mount Hood, and Hood River, OR, one of the world’s best spots for windsurfing. We ran at sunset through dense forest and open grassland. Sunset is definitely the time to run here!
- Stanley Park, Vancouver, British Columbia: Not a trail run, but the activeness of Vancouver’s Stanley Park was inspiring…hundreds of runners, bikers, skateboarders, sea kayakers getting their daily exercise in one of the world’s largest urban parks.
- Glacier National Park: Our run on Red Eagle Trail took us over dusty, hardened single-track, scattered with bear scat, and across alpine meadows dappled with wildflowers, as 10,000 foot peaks rose in front of us. We were without bear spray, so we yelled and clapped our hands, as we rounded blind turns, but apart from a few raptors and ground squirrels, we did not come into contact with any wildlife.
- 5. National Elk Refuge and Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming: Our trail run around Taggert Lake at the foot of the Cathedral Group was an exercise in keeping our eyes from wandering to the peaks and on the technical terrain in front of us, so as to prevent spraining an ankle. No sprained ankles, but a few clumsy falls as we couldn’t take our eyes of the Tetons, which move me more than any other mountains I’ve seen. I also recommend a sunrise run in the National Elk Refuge. It’s road, but nonetheless, it was a solitary and reflective experience that seemed to transcend time and place.
- HF Bar Ranch, Saddlestring, Wyoming: This run in some of the most pristine Wyoming ranchland we’ve ever seen took us over technical horse-worn terrain up and down wild-flower strewn meadows, pine-thickets, and aspen groves in the foothills of the Big Horn Mountains.
- Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan: After 3 miles on soft double-track in the thick, northern woods, we emerged onto the beaches of Superior, where we were greeted by Chapel Rock, a looming spire of sandstone, isolated from the cliffs behind it, by thousands of years of erosion. We ran on... The next five miles curved and snaked along the ledges of sandstone cliffs that rose between 50-200 feet from Superior's turquoise waters below. Every few hundred yards we would come across new panoramas that we could not help but photograph.
- Acadia National Park, Maine: We ran, or rock-hopped rather, up Cadillac Mountain in dense, cold fog, before descending the road at high speeds as the clouds cleared and gave us breathtaking views of the hundreds of islands that dot Maine’s rugged coast.
- Robert Treman State Park, New York: Part of the finger-lake wilderness, our run to Lucifer Falls offered a roller-coaster of a run that took us through soft, forested single-track into the Lucifer Falls gorge, which feels like a journey into a mythical, medieval land of knights and dragons. Very Lord of the Rings-esque….
10. Prentice Cooper State Park, Chattanooga, Tennessee: Our home turf…technical single-track that winds along the brow of the Tennessee River Gorge, known locally as the Grand Canyon of the Tennessee.