With a month of trying to figure out if we can hold the Bridger Ridge Run this year or not, I’ve really thought of nothing else! While hauling 112.5 gallons of water to Kay Newman’s garage with Darryl Baker (yes, we’re optimists, and Darryl had 10 gallons of water already up on the Ridge a few days later…) I realized Kay is a treasure trove of memories of how the Ridge Run all began. I urged her to write down what happened that fateful day almost 40 years ago when she accompanied Ed Anacker on a scouting trip to see what doing the “whole” ridge would be like. If you haven’t noticed, the Bridger Ridge itself does start quite a bit north of Sacajawea. Having finished the Western States 100, Ed was eager to find his own Ultrarun in Montana. He knew the Bridgers closer to home, but had never done the Flathead Pass to Sacajawea Pass part. So here’s what happened in Kay’s own words:
This is about all that I can remember about the hike with the Anackers, Bergs, etc. I'm not sure why I was invited to go but I'm glad that I was. We were always safe except for a long trek back to the start which was in the dark. It wasn't cold even though it was the day in the fall when we changed time. However, we probably wouldn't have gone had the weather been stormy or bad. Those that were along on the hike were Ed & Stella, Lloyd & Edna Berg, Phil McCandless (a colleague of Lloyds), Mary Alice Chester (an active Wind Drinker with lots of hiking experience), Celia Wood (a friend of Stellas I think), and myself. I don't believe there was anyone else. As I recall, the group stopped by my house about an hour later than expected and we took off. I drove my Chevy pick-up as it was to be left at Fairy Lake to transport folks back to their cars parked at Flathead Pass. I had been to Fairy Lake several times but probably had never driven there but the road conditions must have been good as I don't recall any problems or anxious moments because of the terrain. The group left Flathead Pass with Stella leading. She was going at a good pace when I heard Ed tell her if she didn't slow down, she could carry their pack with supplies. It was a congenial group and a beautiful day perfect for this particular excursion. After a late lunchtime break we headed out again. Ed suggested that Phil, Mary Alice and I lead the group and he would stay back with the Bergs, Celia and Stella. Probably in the late afternoon Ed caught up with us and suggested that Phil, Mary Alice and I head straight for Fairy Lake while he headed back to the start with Stella and Celia. Ed said he thought we could make Fairy Lake before dark but he knew the Bergs couldn't so they were headed back to the start. Well I thought this over and after recalling stories of being lost in the woods I decided I should head back with Ed who I knew best and trusted to get us out safely. So I told him I would go back with him instead of accompanying Mary Alice and Phil who I didn't know very well. In the end everyone decided to go back the way we had come. Dark was fast approaching but someone remarked that there would be a full moon so it wouldn't be too dark. There was one flashlight in the group and Celia's batteries failed after a few minutes. My flashlight was in my truck at Fairy Lake. When dark hit we were in the woods so there was little moonlight. We stopped again and ate what little food we had left from lunch. and rested a bit. Ed seemed to find his way easily despite the darkness. Finally we were out of the woods. We could see better and move faster. We could see a couple of men hiking up toward us who turned out to be the Sheriff and someone else. I think it was Celia's daughter who had called and reported that her mother was late in returning from a group hike so they sent someone out looking for us. They were happy to see us and didn't give us any lectures about how we should have been more careful, etc. One did ask if we had a pick-up parked at Fairy Lake and I said yes. I wanted to know what time it was currently and the sheriff asked if I wanted yesterday’s time or today’s time as the time had already fallen back to daylight saving time. I think it was about 2 or 3am. I don't remember anything about the trip home except I was glad to get to bed. The trail was easy to follow but a little treacherous with loose rocks and scree I seem to recall. I'm glad that I went. The scenery was beautiful and I would like to retrace my steps in the daylight. The group was compatible with no whining or complaining that I recall. Mary Alice and I became friends after that trip and we went to several runs around the area like Cody, Dillon and Red Lodge until she moved to Helena and we sort of lost contact. – Kay Newman
There you have it. Obviously, the BRR now starts at Fairy Lake – and that seems long enough for most. About 10 years ago I wanted to offer the opportunity to a few hearty souls to start at Flathead Pass on the Ridge Run day, and we did that two years in a row. I started the group off at 5:20am, and then I drove back to Fairy Lake in time to see the regular start at 7:00am. I then hiked up to the Sac summit to welcome the hearty gang of 6 as they went by. They all finished respectfully in the middle of the pack at the “M”. I believe the additional distance to be approximately 6.2 miles (curiously making it a “regular” marathon distance). So, there’s a little BRR history for those who want to know, and those 6 runners - Terry Leist, Rob Maher, Liz McGoff, Clem Izurieta, Greg Young, and Kurt Buchl - are true-blue Mature Runners in my book!
David Nutter Summerfield
The following blogs were first published in The Windrinker, a running newsletter published in Bozeman, MT (www.Windrinkers.org). There is a constant attempt at viewing the foibles of long distance runners in a humorous light so we don't take ourselves too seriously.