Sunday, June 14, 2015

The 1928 Trans-American Footrace

I finally got around to reading Tim Noakes's Lore of Running, and among the many gems in it, is a brief discussion of the race mentioned in the title. (That an American first learns about this from a South African's book is truly shameful.)

The Wiki article is short but valuable for compiling links about various maniacs that completed this and similar feats, and says:
...the inaugural Trans-American footrace which took place in 1928 starting at Legion Ascot Speedway in Los Angeles and finishing in New York City in Madison Square Garden for a distance of 3,423.5 miles. Out of the 199 runners who left Los Angeles, California on March 4, 1928 at 3:30 p.m. only 55 runners finished on May 26, 1928. The race took 84 days to run from coast to coast. It was called the Bunion Derby by the newspapers and was also held in 1929. Runners included Paul Hardrock Simpson and Andy Payne who won the event in 573 hours, 4 minutes, 34 seconds.
It turns out the first fame of Route 66 was not earned by west-bound experience-seekers in the 60s, but runners almost 40 years earlier! Here is a rather limited trailer, followed by some history of the winner Andy Payne, a Cherokee farm kid who wouldn't give up:

(Some original footage here.)

Once when I was driving out of Bryce Canyon National Park, I had a brief moment of despair when I noted a national forest trailhead just a few miles from the B.C.N.P. entrance - and realized that even if I quit working and foraged, I could never, ever experience every single trail. But this soon abated. For one thing, while it's fun as hell, there are more meaningful things to do in life - and I say that not to detract from the people who accomplish much bigger crossings than my comparatively meager Trans-California project, since most of them have families and productive lives in addition to their running projects. But more importantly, I think if somehow I lived a thousand years and ran every single trail, the day I take the last step on the last trail would be a much sadder day than knowing that there would always be more out there to explore on the spinning mote in the corner of the universe we've made our home.

Cherries and Metal on Mt. Penn, Reading, PA

While back in PA I didn't have time to do much of anything fun outside, but I did get out for a run from Antietam Lake, up to the Pagoda. Key observations:

1) On the east side of Skyline Drive, between the Pagoda and Drenkel Field, there is a cherry tree and the cherries are just about ripe. (Blogger tested during the run.)

2) Kuechler's old wine cellar at the intersection of Gravity and Ferndale Trails is metal as hell dude.

(If you are so inclined, don't miss out on this other also very metal gate to the underworld, and a whole catalog here.)

3) Thanks again to the B. family for ongoing support, fajitas, boxes, and Tylenol BM. During times like these you find out who your real friends are.

I Have Now Run From Rucky Chucky to the Golden Gate Bridge

Contiguously, but not all in one go. Previously I ran around the entire Bay. And finally I've crossed the entire Central Valley, until I connected in Benicia with my Round-the-Bay track. I was met by DM and AD (scroll down to the last picture if you click on this), whose identities are being protected out of the misconception that details of their misconduct that day could somehow sully what remains of their professional reputations. Private Pyle and Shizad turned up for dinner as well.

Ultimately I'll be running across all of California from Nevada to the Golden Gate. I'm just about half done with with Western States Trail (but only contiguously from Sac as far as Rucky Chucky, see below):

Are you looking at this and thinking "what an archaic way to record this"? Me too! Now that I've gotten lost on the Western States Trail a few times (and seen 4 bears in the space of a year!) maybe it's time to get one of them thar GPS watches.

Other projects probably for after I retire: the whole CA coast (I already did San Diego County, now I only have 1,000 miles left!), the Siskiyou Trail, and of course the PCT. If I'm not bored and/or disabled by that point the Laurel Highlands Trail in PA might be nice too.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Mercury Concentration in Lower American River Safe for Swimming, Most Fish

Mercury is a concern in California waters. There was a lot of gold mining here in the central and northern Sierras, and lots of mercury was used to get the gold out of the ground. So what? Because mercury can cause neuropsychiatric problems, even at what might seem to be low concentrations, especially in developing fetuses that are exposed to it.

Because there were so many gold mines in the American River's watershed, there has been concern about mercury pollution in the river, including in the lower American River. "Lower" is the part below Lake Folsom, all the way down to the confluence with the Sacramento River at Discovery Park.

I looked this up because I was told it was unsafe to raft or swim in the river. And it turns out that despite these (not unreasonable) concerns, the lower American River's mercury concentration is well within EPA standards.[1] In another source,[2], even taking the upper range outliers, at five sites along the lower American River the highest reading was 18.51 ng/L, well within EPA freshwater standards of 50 ng/L. (By the way, if you look in those documents - American River, okay. Cache Creek? Not so good.)

Again, this means it's safe to swim. But fish have to live in that water all day long and some of them tend to concentrate any mercury that's there. Consequently, if you're planning on eating them, here's how the California Office of Environmental health Hazard Assessment bottom-lines it about how much you should eat, not just in terms of mercury but also PCBs:

(Broken down that way to decrease fetal or childhood exposure. Adult men's brains are a lost cause, having already been damaged beyond repair by prolonged exposure to testosterone.) So swim all you want, and eat according to these guidelines.


1. Domagalski J. Mercury and methylmercury in water and sediment of the Sacramento River Basin, California. Applied Geochemsitry 16 (2001) 1677-1691.

2. Lower American River and Lake Natoma Mercury Control Program, Straw Proposal. State Water Resources Control Board, 3 Sept 2010.