Spaulding Lake Trail Run

This is one of those times when I truly feel grateful to be young and able-bodied. I was scrolling through different trails in the nearby Sierra Nevada Mountain range looking for a challenging trail run. Looking to get out into the mountains as I often do, I found the Spaulding Lake trail. Spaulding Lake was always one of those places that I have driven past so many times but never took the time to stop and explore. So, I figured why not? I’ll give it a try, get a nice workout in, and enjoy this piece of the mountains that I hadn’t seen before, I texted my buddy Ezra knowing that he’s always down for a little bit of an adventure, and said, “Hey, you wanna get a 10-mile trail run in tomorrow morning?!”. With a little convincing, he was in, perfect. So, we took the hour-long drive up into the mountains listening to Limp Bizkit, Wu-Tang, and anything else to get us pumped up for this run we knew was ahead of us. We reached the trailhead pumped up and ready to crush this run knowing that it was going to be a tough one with All Trails saying 10.3 miles and 1,335 ft of elevation gain (someday I will learn my lesson and not trust those numbers).

The run started with an instant couple hundred feet of elevation gain, nothing too bad we were fresh and feeling good. We kept moving on the trail admiring the views of the lake and the rushing water from the heavy snowpack this year (2023). We would stop and admire the views of the snow-covered peaks around us and occasionally get off the trail and navigate back to the sometimes difficult-to-find trail. Ripping around the switchbacks running through the countless streams and just truly enjoying the quality time with a good friend and nature. At about mile 4, we came around a corner to a raging waterfall that we again had to stop and admire the environment around us had changed to one that truly makes me feel at home, what I call the signature Sierra Nevada environment, rolling granite slabs, pine trees, towering peaks around, and the crystal-clear rushing water around. The trail continued over the granite slabs where anyone who has hiked in this area before knows that it becomes much more difficult to stay on the trail when you are just running on what feels like just one big piece of granite. Relying on the rock cairns as basically the only sense of direction at this point. As we went further into this trek, we reached a wide creek about knee high and maybe about 30 ft across. We stopped looking at each other and said almost in sync, “Let’s get it” and shared a laugh before jumping in and about 5 seconds later we realized how bitterly cold this water was. Being in the water for that long was all we needed to feel the stinging pain on any part of us that was in the water. About halfway through there was a little break and a place to stand on some stones out of the water and we both grunted in pain took a few seconds to recover, we shimmied on across the rest of the creek with the water pushing us back and freezing us in the process. We took a few more seconds after making it across joking and suffering through what felt like the coldest water, we have ever stepped foot in. Then we started up running again to warm up our legs, because we were on the hunt for a waterfall. After running for a bit and finding some great camps and fishing sites we had reached our turnaround point of 5 miles, but still no waterfall. We kept pushing on to 6 miles, but still no waterfall. We both looked at each other and said,” Dude we could just run a half marathon at this point”. That was our new goal, we made it to 6.5 miles and set up on eagle lake to enjoy the views crack open a couple of beers we had brought along and slammed down an energy gel. At this point we were feeling great. I looked at my watch which had been tracking the run and to my surprise the elevation gain at this point was already 1,800 ft, almost 500 ft more than the map had said for the entire run.

We were excited at this point, feeling good so we started our second half of the run back to the trailhead. We came flying down for the next 3 miles enjoying the downhill running and the technical aspect of trail running, laughing, and yelling down the trail. Then the incline started up again and our lack of food and water for this run started to set in. Muscles were cramping and he hobbled our way back down the trail. I decided to at any stream crossing dunk my whole body in hopes of getting a little burst of energy to power me through the rest of this run. We kept on going back through the trail which not long ago we were flying through. Finally, we reached the final ascent right before the trailhead, one last climb and that final descent back. We hobbled up the last hill and bolted down to the other side, finally seeing the forest service gate where we had entered, we let out a few cheers and fist bumps smiling to know that we had done it. We both had just done our first half marathons, no planning was done, little water, little food, and had no intention of doing it that day. We joked about how this is one of those things that we could only do while we are 22, young and healthy. I think we both felt really grateful for that.