Taking an eight-plus mile hike just to do an interview might be just a little bit crazy

During the summer months, sometimes it gets difficult to get new stories.

Two weeks ago was the high school moratorium week where coaches are not allowed to have contact with their athletes.

This past week, bothLON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - The author poses for a selfie on the pumice flats just before the steepest part of the climb up the South Sister. football and volleyball had youth camps in town. The cross country team also had a camp, but instead of holding it in town, they camped at Little Cultus Lake.

In the 10 years that I have been a sports reporter for the Central Oregonian, I have failed to cover the cross country camp, even though it is held annually.

This past week, I decided to rectify that. However, it is a long drive to Little Cultus Lake, so I decided to do something a little more fun.

Wednesday, the team was scheduled to climb South Sister, so I decided that would be a good place to do interviews for a story.

I didn't tell anyone on the cross country team that I was coming, instead choosing to get up early in the morning to head up the mountain on my own.

The plan was to beat the team to the trailhead, hot foot it up the mountain and be waiting at the top to do surprise interviews.

It seemed like a great idea, after all, what could possibly go wrong?

My wife was worried about me taking such a steep hike alone, so we finally reached an agreement that I would spend no more than five hours climbing. If I hadn't reached the top by then, I agreed that I would turn around and start my descent.

So Wednesday morning, my alarm began blaring at 4:30 a.m. I stumbled out of bed, grabbed my clothes, a camera, my recorder, and some beverages for the long hike into South Sisters.

When I arrived at the trailhead about 6 a.m., I was surprised to find no parking places. After all, it was the middle of the week and just barely after sunrise. Eventually I found a parking spot, filled out my wilderness hiking permit and started up the trailhead.

At first, the hike went fine as I slowly climbed through timber to the junction of a trailhead to Wickiup Plains and Moraine Lake. Coming out of the timber into a pumice flat, the views of South Sister looming in the distance were spectacular.

I continued to climb steadily into the morning. However, it quickly became apparent that I was not moving rapidly enough to beat the cross country team to the top.

You know the story of the tortoise and the hare. The moral of the story is slow and steady wins the race.

Well, I'm here to tell you that's an outright lie.

In actuality, slow and steady finishes last. It's fast and steady that wins.

I had just barely reached timberline when the first member of the CCHS cross country team caught up with me.

So just over 4 miles into a hike that is officially 6.5 miles one way, I was caught by someone who had left the trailhead nearly two hours later than I had.

And even worse, it didn't even seem that he was surprised. He just nonchalantly said hi and started to climb past me.

After stopping him to conduct an interview and take a photo, I asked if he knew how far behind the rest of the team was.

From his answer, it was obvious that not only would I not beat them to the top, but at the rate they were climbing, they would be well on their way back down before I managed to summit.

I thought about it for a second and then made the snap decision to abort my clime, finish my interviews and head back to work.

I honestly think that I could have made it to the top, but I guess we'll never know.

I looked at my watch and saw that I had just one hour left to climb and still had nearly 2 miles to go to reach the summit.

Reluctantly, I conceded defeat, turned around and started my trip back down, stopping each time I met members of the team to do more interviews.

When I finally met up with head coach Tracy Smith, he said, "How did you get up here?"

I would like to have said some smart aleck remark about taking the elevator, but the only thing I could think of was I crawled. After all, that's about how fast I went. Instead, I smiled, did my interview, and headed down the hill.

So anyway, I had a nice 8-plus mile hike, surprised some of the team and got a story.

I guess you could say I went the extra mile for a story, or maybe I'm at the top of my game. The reality is that I failed to summit and all 22 runners and the coaching staff did.

I guess next time, I am just going to have to start earlier.

Lon Austin is the sports editor for the Central Oregonian. He can be reached at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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