The Drift 100
Waking up with Eagles
by Terry Allen
March 5, 2018
The Upper Green River has a geologic history going back 6 million years. Bald Eagles began cruising the river for fish about 1 million years ago. Native American Indians harvested berries and meats in this high altitude area in the summers starting about 13,000 years ago. In the 1890’s, cattle ranchers began The Drift by pushing their cattle north around 70 miles into the wild Upper Green in the spring to graze in the forest and meadows. In the fall the cattle drifted back to the home ranches…with a nudge or two from cowboys.
This winter a new kind of Drift event was created called The Drift 100. It is billed as an ultra-marathon adventure race and was created by Josh and Laura Hattan and Darren and Kari Hull. The "100" is an aspirational number. This year they are testing their idea with a 28 mile race and then they will evaluate things for 2019 with a full one hundred mile race in mind.
To get to the start location, you leave Pinedale in the dark and drive north on highway 352. You go by the historic town of Cora where a two-holer is still in use, presumably an indication of friendlier and busier times. You continue on past the CL Bar Bison ranch. Further on the right, is the Bar Cross ranch once owed by John Perry Barlow of Grateful Dead fame. (Since I published this story, Linda Eggeman got hold of me and said she once taught John Perry in a little one room school house in the area. I mentioned this to Dawn Ballou and she thought the schoolhouse out at Cora Downs is the one.) All along the way will be herds of deer, antelope and groups of moose in the willows. Winding thru the willows is the Green River. Over the river fly Bald Eagles and Osprey looking for fish. After about 45 minutes of this, the pavement ends and the dirt starts, but this time of year the dirt is buried under a ton of ice and snow. It is a wide spot in the valley that used to turn into a lake in the spring melt. Logs would be cut into railroad ties and then floated 100 miles downstream to Green River where they were used to build railroads. This is where The Drift 100 starts.
18 athletes who love ultra-challenging events competed in the 28 mile event this past Saturday, March 3, 2018 on a course that wound its way thru the historic land which is still home to bear and wolf. 10 athletes chose to run the course, 3 chose to ski and 5 chose to ride fat tire bikes.
Waiting for the race to start, it was cold and the snow was drifting when the clouds were in front of the sun, but then it seemed warm when the sun came out. It was like this for the whole race. One minute they would be hit with blinding, drifting snow, and strength-sapping headwinds, and the next they would be in brilliant sunshine and blue skies.
Laura Hattan had been up since 3:00 in the morning grooming the trail and then stood duty at the first aid station. If an athlete was unable to arrive at the first aid station in three hours, they were not allowed to continue.
Chase Harber decided to ride a fat tire bike in the race and so I asked him how long he’d been riding. "About 4 months," he said. "But I just did a 25 mile race, and I’ve been drinking Fat Tire beer for years, so I should do okay."
Cassandra and Paula did not have a lot of experience on fat tire bikes, but that was their choice and when I asked them what they thought their odds of finishing were, their response was, "We never quit." I was not nearly so confident when the race started and about a half mile up the course one of the two sort of wobble-rode up to me, and put a foot down in the deep snow. She saw the question on my face and said, "No, I’m not quitting, I think I’ll get a handle on it," and off she rode.
Gabe Fancher decided not to race, but instead would be the sweep. That means he’d skate ski behind the athletes to make sure no one got off course or got lost. Gabe said he’d been skiing for three winters and also had good emergency training from the fire department.
I got word that little 2 year old Kayla watched the procession of athletes go by and said to her Father, "Look at all the happy people." The bear hat she wears on her head said, "There sure are a lot of skinny people around here, I sort of like the look of that chubby photographer over there, tho."
With the athletes headed off into the wilderness, we went to get warm and have a bite to eat at Kendall Valley Lodge, which was just a way across the river and thru the willows. Josh Hattan told me what had intrigued him most when he learned of Darren and Kari Hull’s Alaska adventure racing, was the specialized equipment and the mental fortitude required to finish a race of this type.
Radio communication from the first aid station gave us word an athlete had gotten too cold to continue. Tip Top Search & Rescue brought her back and Kari immediately put her into a hot shower at the lodge. Turns out the athlete had just gotten back from Brazil and may not have been able to get acclimatized properly.
I hiked a mile up the course from the finish in order to get some good mountain shots. I was up there for a few hours. Sometimes there was a 30 minute gap between racers. I lay down against a snow drift for a snooze, but kept my feet in the track so no one could get by me without a photo. I really did snooze, but a screech of an Eagle high above me also sounded like bike brakes so I decided that with just a handful of racers left on the mountain, I would go down to the finish line and get pictures of chests breaking the finish tape, and glorious shots of beer being tipped down dry throats…and maybe I’d have a beer, too.
I wanted to know what athletes under such harsh conditions thought about as they ran the race, and Leah Yingling and Mike McMonagle, a young couple from Utah allowed me to share their private thoughts with everyone. "We are in the process of buying a house together," said Leah. "I know that was on both our minds. I was wondering if he was thinking the same things I was thinking." "I was a little ahead of her and I was wondering how she was doing," said Mike. "I was wondering if she’d be able to recognize my foot prints in the snow." Mike and Leah have been together for three years.
Darren sent me a text Sunday morning. They and the Hattan's had stayed at the lodge so they could take down all the course markings the next morning. They had worked thru a huge driving snow storm that covered the whole course area, but had managed to get it done and make it back home safely.
Thank you to everyone who helped me understand this event and for posing for my photos. There are a couple photos I posted in the story that I need help identifying/checking if anyone is able.
You are all welcome to share the low rez photos in this story among yourselves for personal purposes. I do sell hi-rez photos. I also sell photos to organizations and businesses. I don’t sell people photos without the permission of the people in the photos. 50% of all sales are donated to our amazing Tip Top Search & Rescue organization. Anytime you see TTSAR on the job, you are seeing professionally trained volunteers looking out for our outdoor community.
Thank you to Dawn Ballou of Pinedale Online for sponsoring this story.
Terry Allen: firstname.lastname@example.org