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.

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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.

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

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Tempting swimming hole in Fisher Creek.
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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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