The Ultimate Trail Running Adventure: The Great Salmon Run

Ty Draney, a member of the Patagonia Ultrarunning Team, and friend Luke Nelson, recently completed the Great Salmon Run in partnership with Save our Wild Salmon.

The pair were inspired to run more than 120 miles of the Snake River sockeyes' migration route in the Idaho Rockies, gaining almost 20,000 feet. They were motivated by the fact that 13 populations of salmon and steelhead are officially in danger of extinction, including the four remaining Snake River stocks.

The duo completed their wild course, which covered the distance of more than four consecutive marathons, through the Frank Church/River of No Return Wilderness in less than two days. Here's Ty's account of this ultra trail run:

"I think we're taking this whole salmon metaphor way too far..."

That's all I could think at the time. We'd been wandering off-course for hours, trying to get up to the Bighorn Crags. As it turns out the 78 miles we ran along the river was the easy part. We had left Boundary Creek at first light, hoping to make good time while the weather was cool. The trail was very runnable and we were in high spirits.

By the time we reached the powerhouse rapids, there was heavy smoke in the canyon, but it passed quickly. At 25 miles Luke tweeted, "25 miles down, loving it." As we made our way further downriver, the heat and enormity of our task started to settle in: our only respite was lunch while relaxing on the lawn at the Middle Fork Lodge.

Next, the thought of a warm dinner at the Flying B kept us plodding on, excited to get off our feet and fill our bellies. It became painfully obvious by 9 p.m. that our progress was going to be too slow—we weren't going to be able to make dinner. About 7 miles short of our goal, approximately 60 miles into our trip, we decided to sleep on a beach along the river. There was a group there already but they graciously gave us a spot by the fire and some tube steaks. Never did a hot dog taste so good.

We slept for about five hours in just our tights and puffy coats. I poached a life jacket to lie on and actually slept quite well. By 3:30 a.m. we were running again. Miraculously the lights and breakfast were on at the Flying B.

We pounded our body weight in eggs, bacon and warm, buttery hash browns. This made slow going once we waddled back to the trail but it was well-worth the side stitch. By the end of the river section the standing joke was about the "Middle Fork Treadmill;" the trail seemed to roll and twist repeatedly and we were looking forward to getting to the high-alpine country of the Bighorn Crags.

It was nice to change our gait and to be able to hike a bit as we made our way toward the Crags. Suddenly the trail disappeared and we were now a couple of lost salmon ourselves, knowing where we needed to go but also understanding that things weren't quite right.

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