Forecast was stunning for the late fall, so my buddy and I planned to get one last crack of running in the wonderful Gifford Pinchot. Parked and started at the Lemei Trail and saw more people than we expected throughout the day, a few different groups of hunters (all friendly), a pair of backpackers, and two other small groups of day hikers.
Lemei trail was a great ascent trail, mellow grade. My GPS got a little confused at one point as part of the Lemei Trail has been closed and moved further down the Wapiki Trail, but it was obvious once we saw it. Fair amount of snow on the trail at this point but good fresh tracks to follow, and then we found the little bluff that gives the view of Wapiki Lake and beyond
And then crossed the scree field that was snow covered with wonderful views of Adams behind us.
Continued over to Lemei Rock and carefully climbed a lower butte to peak over the edge and check on Helens and then onward. I'd expected a little less snow up high so we were a little concerned, but we'd gotten to Lemei in about an hour 15 so we had plenty of time to move forward on the Indian Heaven trail a little bit before needing to backtrack if necessary. Fortunately, the snow was firm and the trail/GPS were clear and we really had no trouble keeping a good clip going besides a couple of very ice trail "chunnels".
Saw some wonderful frozen streams up there too:
Continued past Lake Cultus Lake, met up with the PCT and were able to start running more consistently. Some small sketchy icy moments on the descent down Cultus Creek trail, but nothing unexpected. Beautiful blue skies and warm temps the entire time.
To close the loop, we ran 4 miles on the road back to the car. We had at one point discussed leaving bikes chained up at the bottom of the Cultus Creek trail as I really do enjoy a good bike shuttle after a backcountry trail run, but opted to keep it simple and let my knees pay the price today. Great day in Indian Heaven!
Final stats were 14ish miles with 2800' of gain and a moving time of about 3 hours.
Strava info here: https://www.strava.com/activities/2839401104
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