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Friday, September 2, 2011

Roadless Runner takes on Cutthroat Classic














In early July, I was researching events to include in the second annual Washington’s Great Outdoors Week celebration. My research focused on events that would take place in Inventoried Roadless Areas, which brought me to the Cutthroat Classic, a 11.1 mile trail race put on by the Methow Valley Sport Trails Association (MVSTA). This event made me grin for two reasons: it would take place in the Liberty Bell Roadless Area in the Okanogan National Forest and it was a spectacular trail run. Our tireless Conservation Associate, Katie, called the Cutthroat event planner later that week and I toyed with the idea of actually running the thing. STA graciously agreed to have the Cutthroat Classic included in Great Outdoors Week. I put my name on the registration waitlist (the event fills up quickly every year), figuring that nothing would come of it. Three weeks before the race I was invited to officially sign up, so I did.

Nearly a week has gone by since I ran in this event – and I CANNOT WAIT TO DO IT AGAIN NEXT YEAR!

“Utter Glee”

“Delightful”

“Delicious Runner’s High”

“Pretty Much the Perfect Morning Activity for Me”

That sums up my feelings for the Cutthroat Classic.

It wasn’t all roses, of course. Running up 2,000 ft was challenging, and I failed to remain upright during the 2,400 ft decent (I took a bit of a tumble just before mile 7, which resulted in some pretty impressive scrapes and bruises). Those bumps were minimal compared to the gratitude I felt for having a place like the Liberty Bell Roadless Area protected (for now) from resource extraction, road-building, ORV use and mining. I wish I had worn some manner of fancy head camera so that you could all see the in-your-face wildness of Cutthroat Pass.

There’s actually a lot going on policy-wise with the Liberty Bell Roadless Area right now. The Forest Management Plan for Eastern Washington forests, which includes the Wenatchee-Okanogan and Colville National Forests, is in its early stages of revision. Forest planning affects recreation, roads, vegetation and wildlife, and wilderness; it’s a big deal. To learn more about the planning process and what the current draft of the new Eastern Washington Forest plan looks like, visit our site.

Even crazier is the proposed bill to remove protections for roadless areas nationwide. Nearly 60 million acres nationwide and 2 million roadless acres in Washington may be opened up to logging, road-building, ORV use, oil and gas development and other destructive operations if roadless protections are repealed. Visit our site to learn more about how and why this threat is happening.

It is my hope that the smart actions of those concerned with protecting wild places will trump the efforts of those with more blasé or destructive attitudes towards public lands. For now, I will continue to feel lucky that gorgeous wild places exist, for my ability to get my body to these gorgeous places, and for having the time and resources to do so. And I highly recommend you all start training for next year’s Cutthroat Classic right now!

Christine Scheele is WWC's volunteer coordinator and fearless Roadless runner. For more information on the Cutthroat Classic or volunteer opportunities at WWC, contact Christine at christine@wawild.org.

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