Trip Report: UPWC Easy Pass route (Triple Crown went down!)

Last Friday I completed Easy Pass, the third and final route in the Ultrapedestrian Wilderness Challenge “triple crown.” (My trip reports from the other two routes can be found here and here.) Although I was the first to earn the triple crown, I definitely won’t be the last – I know there are at least a handful of people who will be right behind me in the next few weeks.

The Easy Pass route had been inaccessible earlier in the season due to wildfires, but a couple weeks ago they re-opened the area and I immediately started planning my trip. At 24 miles, Easy Pass is the shortest of the three routes, and a net downhill (assuming you go from Easy Pass to Colonial Creek Campground). I was super excited to do the route and figured it would be a nice day of Type I fun. I forgot that running downhill for 20 miles kinda hurts. Ouchie.

Thunder Arm as seen from Highway 20 just beyond Colonial Creek campground

The night before, I camped at Colonial Creek campground. It was a Thursday night, and rain was forecast for the weekend so I had no trouble finding a site, but the campground was still pretty busy. I found a spot next to a nice quiet retired couple and settled in for the night.

The next morning I was pleasantly surprised to wake up to stars, rather than the forecast clouds and showers. I realized I might have a chance of catching sunrise at the pass (as recommended by Dee, the first UPWC contestant to finish the route), so I started to hustle.

I hit the Easy Pass trailhead right around 430 am. I needed a headlamp for the first mile or so, but put it away as soon as I cleared the woods. Easy Pass in the early morning light was beautiful. As I neared the top of the pass I realized I was indeed going to make it just in time for sunrise. I logged one of my slowest miles at the top of the pass because it was kinda steep :), but also because I was wandering around taking endless pictures. It’s one of those mornings in the mountains that I will remember for a long time.

Heading up Easy Pass before sunrise.
Sun just starting to make its appearance as I climbed the switchbacks.
First light hitting Easy Pass.
Looking back down the trail at sunrise.
Fog rolling in around Fisher Peak on the other side of the pass.
Looking back at the sunrise from the pass.
Fog starting to obscure Easy Pass as I descend down to Fisher Creek. I accidentally timed it all perfectly.

After Easy Pass, it was approximately 20 miles of downhill running back to the trailhead. Except that I didn’t actually run all those miles, because my knees and ankles started to get a little cranky and demanded occasional walk breaks. I managed to miss the rain except for the last hour, when I experienced a brief refreshing sprinkle. I reached Colonial Creek campground just over 7 hrs after I’d started.

Strava link here.

Tempting swimming hole in Fisher Creek.
A flat and cushy section of the Thunder Creek trail. Wheeeeee!

This is a point-to-point route, and some people shuttle themselves from one trailhead to the other by bike. It’s about a 2-3 hr bike ride of 21 miles and approx 3300 ft of elevation gain from Colonial Creek to Easy Pass. I’ve done this ride a couple times before, back in my triathlon/cycling days, and it’s definitely not an easy spin.

Therefore I was grateful to have an excuse for skipping the bike shuttle – I had to pick up my daughter from preschool that day. I didn’t have enough time to do both the run and the bike and make it back in time for preschool pick-up. That meant I needed a ride from Colonial Creek to Easy Pass. I asked almost everyone I knew, and was very grateful when Stuke Sowle agreed to meet me at Colonial Creek around noon, and drive me back to my car at Easy Pass. I thanked him with gas money, beer, and snacks. He was then headed out to do the Devil’s Dome loop in the same area, so it was a win-win for both of us. Thanks again, Stuke!

All in all, this was a great day and a fun way to wrap up the UPWC triple crown. Thanks for another great route, Kathy!

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