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You hit the jackpot!
A lot of you write letters and e-mails asking me to name my favorite trail. One sounded like this:
Dear Mr. Last Gasp,
You will win 12-billion dollars in the Foreign Lottery if you describe the details of your favorite U.S. mountain trails and all of your banking information immediately.
Mr. Robin Hyde, President of the Foreigns
I’ll go to extremes to find great trails, but that often takes money. So I immediately sent a list of my favorite trails (and banking information) to collect the $12 billion, so I could find some new trails.
Dear Mr. Hyde,
These are my favorite U.S. mountain trails to run:
1. Half Dome in Yosemite, California. Giant cliffs frame the drive beside the Merced River into Yosemite Valley. The trailhead to reach Half Dome is at Happy Isles Nature Center. Tall waterfalls and emerald pools flank your journey to the Dome, where the final pitch requires a hair-raising ladder climb to the summit. The view from there is beyond spectacular: waves of granite roll to the horizon in every direction, while rivers of water cascade from the peaks to the forested valley bottoms.
2. Capitol Peak in the Maroon Bells Snowmass Wilderness, Colorado. Trail 1961 from the Capitol Creek Trailhead leads to the monolith’s magnificent north face and Capitol Lake. It climbs sharply up lung-burner switchbacks to Daly Pass and “K2,” where the famous Knife Ridge arête, a scimitar of rock with 500-foot drop-offs on either side, challenges your resolve before the final push to the 14,130-foot summit. The view of the Pierre Lakes Basin—in which Snowmass Mountain caps the far end of a horseshoe basin dotted with high alpine lakes, fed by snowmelt from jagged cliffs—makes the 14-mile roundtrip worth it.
3. Elephant’s Perch from Redfish Lake in the Sawtooth Range, Idaho. A five-mile boat ride across Redfish Lake gains the three-mile run up to the crystal-clear Saddleback Lakes, at the base of Elephant’s Perch, a 1000-foot wall of golden granite. This was one of the most photogenic spots I’ve ever seen.
A few minutes after sending information on those three runs, I got an e-mail from the Foreign Lottery’s lawyer, Mr. Phillip D. Bagg. He was looking for awesome desert-like trails to run, and my credit-card information to process the cash-transfer fees.
I wrote back, of course.
Dear Mr. Phillip D. Bagg,
These are my favorite desert-like trails to run:
1. “The Wave” in the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument on the Utah/Arizona border. Wind-rippled Navajo Sandstone rises and falls in undulating forms, with crosscurrents of color on the Coyote Butte slopes. This trail begins at the Wire Pass Trailhead, but plan ahead, because permits are required, and only 20 people per day get in.
2. Rattlesnake Arches in the McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, Colorado. From the Pollock Bench Trailhead, travel across pinon-and juniper-covered canyons and mesas to the densest concentration of arches in the West. Spires, alcoves, windows and desert patinas also await your exploration.
3. Bryce Canyon Rim Trail and Navajo Loop Trail. Follow the Rim Trail at sunrise to Inspiration Point and drop into Navajo Loop Trail for amazing views of the hoodoos later in the day.
Mr. Bagg’s secretary, Lucy Ferr, sent me a quick note asking me to list great trails near water, and my Social-Security number for tax purposes.
Of course I had to include the Rim Trail beside Crater Lake in Oregon. This high-alpine trail flanks the west-end cliffs above the lake and Wizard Island. At Lake Tahoe on the California/Nevada border, one can sidestep off into the Desolation Wilderness near Emerald Bay for mountains of lake-filled fun. At The Narrows in Zion, one can run up the middle of the Virgin River below 2000-foot cliffs.
Or the beach! Like Cape Cod, Folly Island, Coos Bay. Galveston is good, too.
Shortly thereafter, the postal carrier, Justin Case, e-mailed asking me where the best trails were to spot wildlife, and if I could wire a money order for $3,000 to cover insurance fees for mailing billions in cash.
So I wired him a money order and told him that the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone, Wyoming, was my favorite place to find animals on the run. I told him to look for animal trails on the hillsides that lead to hidden meadows and forests, where he could see wolves run, grizzlies scratch, bighorns flock, buffalo roam, antelope race, coyotes howl, moose meander and elk shed antlers by the hundreds.
I know, some of you reading this might think it’s naïve to give out my favorite trails, but it’ll be worth it.
Bernie’s favorite trail is the one he’s never run.