Trails of Glory

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Pre-Flight Adventure in the Oregon Wilderness

After a long week spent in Salem, Oregon evaluating the Army National Guard Support Facility we relocated to Portland Sunday night in order to more easily catch our flights home Monday morning. I had an 11:30am departure so I would have a couple hours to kill Monday morning. Originally I searched the local area map and decided I would battle rush hour traffic and drive through downtown and across the Willamette River to Forest Park.
Another interesting option was suggested by a longtime friend of mine, Chris Winson, who lives in Southwest Portland. I stopped by his house on the way to the airport hotel Sunday night and we enjoyed a bratwurst and a brew. I told him my plan to run Forest Park the next morning and he quickly suggested driving 40 minutes east of Portland on I-84 to the Eagle Creek to Tunnel Falls trail. He had hiked the trail previously and emphasized that to get the most out of it you really should make the 6.5 mile effort to the tunnel. His description of the awesomeness of this trail became tantalizing. I had to come up with a time plan.

Backward Plan
1130 - plane leaves Portland
1045 - check-in and get through security
1030 - return rental car 
1000 - shower, pack bags, and load up car 
0945 - refuel rental car
0910 - leave trailhead after uploading Strava and texting Trish my safe return from the wilderness
0900 - finish route (actual run time 1 hour 59 minutes 55 seconds)
0655 - begin running (plan to average 10 minute miles up and 8 minute miles down with photos)
0645 - pull in to parking lot and pay $5 for the park fee
0610 - leave hotel
0600 - free breakfast starts in hotel lobby (muffin and apple; I still have the apple)
0530 - wake up

So this is how it works, at least for me anyway; and it timed out perfectly. I guess in retrospect I never accounted for any wiggle room except for about 10 minutes of photo taking.
I began my trek up the river gorge just before 7am. The temperature was 50 degrees so I wrapped a light jacket around my waist in case it got cooler on the way up or began raining. I never used it and it never rained although all of the vegetation was wet from last evening's showers. The first half-mile is paved as I didn't realize that I could have driven further into the park. The Eagle Creek trail advertises approximately 1600 feet ascent over 6 miles which is about a 5% average grade. This is very runnable albeit at a reduced pace. Except for stops to take pictures and a couple of rocky sections I rarely slowed to a walk and managed exactly 10 minute miles reaching the falls at 1:05.


The greenery, moss covered everything, and the sound of cascading waterfalls is never-ending. The trail is mostly on a somewhat even surface rather than sloping toward the edge. This is good because like the website states there are several steep drop-offs and recommends neither dogs or kids. I know my dogs would be fine as most dogs have common sense; they generally seem smart enough not to go jumping off of cliffs. That being said, I would not take children under the age of 13; well considering today's mindset maybe up that to the age of 16.
After only a mile and a half there is a diversion trail to go down to Punch Bowl Falls. You can get a great view of it from above along the main route. At the 5-mile mark I found a slippery log crossing and managed to carefully get to the other side without dropping my phone into the rushing stream below. At mile 6 it was eerily quiet as I expected to hear the sought after Tunnel waterfall. I could hear the river below but no thundering falls so I began to think that the trail was longer than advertised. After another 5 minutes all of a sudden I rounded a bend and there was Tunnel Falls, a plunge type of waterfall ever so gradually retreating over the millennia of time.

I stashed my water bottle on the side of the trail and put my phone on video mode while I entered the tunnel behind the fall. The experience of being so close to a roaring cascade of water and mist is quite simply breathtaking and awesome! Droplets of water fell on my head as I entered the tunnel and immediately I spied light at the other end. Once through the dynamite-bIasted tunnel I found the trail continuing up and around another bend. I was at my pre-planned time limit and after testing my wits and peering into the plunge pool I backtracked through the tunnel back to my water bottle.

I was completely chilled and wet from the mist and now ready to accelerate my pace on the 5% downgrade of the trail. I hand carried one of those flimsy free water bottles from the hotel and had not even taken a sip until I turned around. I would only drink half of it by the end. I guess the humid environment, adrenaline, and excitement of a solo wilderness adventure led to no concern for my hydration. The sun began to break through the clouds on the return trip and illuminated the mossy covered forest and hillsides in a different manner than on the way up. About a mile down the trail I encountered another trail runner near the slippery log crossing and another half-mile further seen another trail runner on his way up. I increased my stride and pace trying to see if I could beat the 2-hour clock. I did it by 5 seconds and called Trish to tell her I was ok.

Being able to do this is trail on a Monday due to a travel day was a blessing. According to reviews the Eagle Creek trail is very popular and crowded on weekends. I began to see small groups of hikers during the last two mile as it was now approaching 9am.

Needless to say, if you are ever in the Portland area I highly recommend taking the 35-minute diversion east of town on I-84 to exit 41 and experience the trail magic for yourself.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Message to Friends About Leaving Tucson and Career Change

Initially I planned to post a quick message to FB and let all of you know that I have been afforded a career opportunity which involves relocation to Washington, DC. Well, that turned into a blogpost because some of what I have to say is for those who really are interested and make the effort to read the blog and my message is a bit longer than the typical 100 word FB post.

I have been accepted to fill a Maintenance Officer position on the Army Resource Management Survey team based out of the DC region at National Guard Bureau. This is a start-up program so I will be stepping in at the ground level. The position is an Active Duty Operational Support tour for up to 3 years. My wife Trish, the dogs, cats, and I are moving March 1st. I will have the option to return to my current employment upon completion of the tour.

It's interesting that it is has taken 30 years of ascending the same career path ladder to finally have an opportunity to showcase my knowledge, skills, and abilities. You would think that after 12-18 years a person should have almost every qualification needed to be an expert in their field. For many in the civilian sector that may be the case. The typical person that joins the military comes from a blue-collar, lower to middle-class background with very little financial ability to seek advanced education. We typically are underachievers during our high school years, enlist in the military, gain a technical specialty, serve our country, start families, fight wars; and then maybe attend some college courses in our precious spare time taking 10-15 years attaining a Bachelor's Degree. All of this pretty much describes me.

I can recall back to basic training every step taken during my military career. I wasn't always careful about early choices especially the ones that got me in trouble or ended in divorce. After the Marine Corps and into my later 20's I gained a better awareness of the importance of military education and professional accomplishments. Before every seemingly meaningless school or absence from home I explained to Trish that each certificate or deployment created a building block. Over time all of these blocks can be assembled into a solid foundation that strengthens a Soldier and furthers their career. Becoming an Army Warrant Officer is the strongest part of my foundation and was initially built by leadership schools I attended as a younger enlisted person. You can't just stack a bunch of blocks on top of each other though; you need mortar to hold them in place.

The mortar that holds all of my blocks together has been my love of running. Yes, this is a running blog and we've finally arrived at the subject. When I re-discovered the joy and benefits of running and fitness in my mid-20's I didn't have a life-plan; I just went out and ran. Mostly I was replacing bad habits with good habits. Once I found I had a knack for running I started competing in marathons; I scored the maximum of 300 points on the Army Physical Fitness Test every time I took it; I became a member of the National Guard Marathon Team for over 20 years eventually. I received fitness related comments on evaluation report comments that went in front of promotion boards; I attained awards based on running accomplishments as well as my technical abilities. My running helped me exceed standards at every level of military leadership schooling I attended – combined with excellent academic test scores. Running has not only helped me physically but also strengthened me mentally. I think you get the point; running is the mortar that holds my foundation together.

Over the years I have dealt with superiors, peers, and subordinates who have questioned me about my dedication to running. Some have called me selfish; some said I wasn't properly focused; some were jealous; most said I was crazy; a few admired what I did and supported me. I have had to explain and defend myself countless times. I took advantage of physical training time afforded to us at work and did training runs during lunch breaks. For the most part I ran on my own time spending several hours on weekends preparing for 50 and 100-mile races. Running has helped me to meditate on how to deal with problems at work; family issues; career choices; and plain just made me feel alive.

I had a superior complain once, "There is a perception that Chase Duarte gets paid to run marathons; he doesn't know his job." "Very perceptive," I said, "But you're missing a couple things." I have gone on fitness related orders 81 times over 22 years using my earned vacation time and at the same time excelled at my job. The part my superiors never recognized was that I was responsible for influencing dozens of people to enlist in the military that were searching for direction in life and wanted to accomplish something meaningful. I also spent countless hours giving advice, mentoring, and making training plans for hundreds of Soldiers who needed help maintaining their eligibility just to stay in the military. I've influenced many Soldiers to seek a higher rank and accept challenging positions as aviators and maintenance officers. It's called recruiting, retention, and most importantly – mentorship. It's also setting the example and leading the way.

On the subject of leadership, if you are a leader then get to know your people. Have some fun at work. Don't be an asshole and don't allow assholes in the workplace. I once had a supervisor who told me, "You don't come to work to have fun; you're paid to do your job and nothing else." He was an asshole. I allow my employees to have fun. They rarely let me down. They always accomplish the mission and clean-up priorities with a sense of urgency. They're basically making me look good. I reward them often even if it is slightly under the table.  Learn from this; turn negatives into positives. It can be difficult and take time but perseverance pays off.

The last thing I want to mention here is some tidbits of advice. Take care of yourself and your career. No one will do this for you. Some people think they know what is best for you and will make decisions on your behalf without talking to you first. Don't ever allow this. When someone does talk to you, shows interest in who and what you are, and empowers you to do what you do best…recognize this as mentorship. Mentorship is a good thing but unfortunately it has become a rarity; too many people are self-serving and only concerned about their evaluation reports. Don't act self-righteous or become hypocritical in your actions. Strive to be fair and objective but also defend your morals. Improve yourself mentally, physically, and spiritually. Learn from life's experiences and develop some common sense. Learn from your mistakes and then quit repeating them. Set goals; short, mid, and long-term. It's ok if they seem unattainable at the time. I was good at goal-setting awhile back but I failed to make the long-term goals challenging enough, like writing and publishing a book. Now I'm in the process of doing it. Live life with a sense of adventure, get outside and soak up the sun. Don't let haters bring you down. Use experience to evaluate situations and take decisive action. Pave your own path.

The bottom line out of this rant is that you need to take care of yourself in all areas of your life. Prepare yourself for success. It may take awhile for opportunities to present themselves but when they do; you will be prepared to accept any challenge. Trish and I are looking forward to this new adventure and chapter in our lives. We're excited about the opportunity and eager to see what new experiences life has to offer.